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Group of actors in 18th century costume in the middle of a scene of "SALT" on Poole Quay, with boats and cranes in the background

SALT: AUB students bring community play to life with costumes and design

Photos by Jayne Jackson


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When Tamsin Fessey and Lynne Forbes, owners of Angel Exit Theatre, approached Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) about supporting their new play, SALT, the opportunity was too good to turn down. In total, 140 students were given the chance to put their skills to the test by creating a range of costumes and discovering how art can help engage the local community.

Even Poole locals might not be aware of the cod industry and its connections to Newfoundland, which brought millions of pounds of revenue to the town throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. You can still see the architecture left behind and the influence of this period.

SALT is an embodiment of community. A play about Poole, written for Poole, created in collaboration with 132 members of the community ranging from nine to 86 years old. It tells the “gutsy tale of fish, frolics and feisty women” as a group of fishermen prepare to leave on a challenging journey for the hostile shores of Newfoundland to fish for cod.

Essential experience for students

AUB students created a total of 44 costumes for the play, ranging from the lead characters to sea sprites. The project was a collaborative effort, with students across all levels of BA (Hons) Costume taking part.

The university’s strong relationship with Tasmin and Lynne from Angel Exit Theatre meant there was a clear vision. It was the perfect opportunity for students to work on a live project, where they had to overcome hurdles like negotiating with different people and developing skills in fitting etiquette.

From research to final result

Costume making began in January. However, the roles were not cast until March. This posed a challenge to the students, but problem-solving is a skill that is essential for working in this industry. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of materials has rocketed, so students also had to stick to a tight budget.

Senior BA (Hons) Costume lecturer Wayne Martin explains, “Students also carried out extensive research to get inspiration. Visiting the Oceanarium, going on a fishing trip from Poole Harbour and even gutting a fish were all part of the creative process.

“Like with any project, we give them a brief, but it’s up to them to run with it and come up with the ideas.”

Keeping environmental impact to a minimum was prioritised throughout the project, with fabric sourced sustainably and donated from film sets. The plastic used was from a local recycling company and students went beach-combing to find materials that'd been washed up locally.

Beaming with pride

Watching everything come to life was a magical moment for both students and staff. “We’re always proud of them but opening night and seeing their work on stage was special. It’s brilliant to observe students in the studio come up with the ideas and see what they go on to create”, Wayne shares.

“I’ve been a costume maker for 35 years and a teacher since 2004. I’m still learning from students – we had students crochet clam shells and one student even felted a sea horse. Those are skills I don’t have!”

New opportunities ahead

Since this project, the Lighthouse Poole team has already suggested working together in the future. The theatre has also asked to exhibit the costumes locally for the public to see.

Through AUB’s collaborative approach, the University aims to be the agents of positive change for their students, staff and local community.

If you’re an organisation interested in collaborating with AUB, visit the Innovation Studio page for more information.

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