National Theatre of Scotland is looking for stories by the lorry load

The launch of SHIFT. This six month project will engage with the people of North Lanarkshire and their stories of work past, present and future. Photo by Julie Howden
The launch of SHIFT. This six month project will engage with the people of North Lanarkshire and their stories of work past, present and future. Photo by Julie Howden

A large, articulated lorry hoping to pick up a very special load is heading to Cumbernauld.

Its cargo? Well, stories. Specifically, your stories, all about the work you do or have done, here in North Lanarkshire.

The SHIFT Lorry is coming to Cumbernauld from 23-24 November and you can find it in the car park at Tesco Extra on Tryst Road.

Gathering your work stories are the first part of Shift, a massively ambitious project for the National Theatre of Scotland, which will involve all of the area’s communities.

From closed steel works to booming high-tech industries, the lorry and its lockers will gradually fill up with memories from around the whole of North Lanarkshire.

Sad, funny, nostalgic, inspiring ... that’s up to you.

All of the stories will be recorded and people will be asked to bring in relevant items – for example, old work shoes or uniforms – so that eventually, people will be able to open the lockers and see the artefacts and hear the memories.

While the articulated lorry, which will be emblazoned in the National Theatre logo, is on its way, you may have already come across a wee ‘howff’, which is already out and about on its mission.

“To do the interviews, we are inviting people into their howff for a cup of tea, and a teacake and chatting about their life and work,” explained the artistic director Simon Sharkey.

“We’re really keen to hear from anyone with a good story about life and work!”

The people they are asking are young and old – from men’s sheds and oral history groups to students and from retired steel workers to people working in places such as the high tech BioCity in Motherwell.

“We’re also working with students in New College Lanarkshire, asking them to interview their grandparents about their work,” said Simon, who is also associate director of the National Theatre of Scotland.

One of the things the project aims to look at is how work has changed – particularly in North Lanarkshire where there has been a shift away from the heavy industry that once defined it.

But while some of the stories will chronicle that massive change, they also want to hear smaller, personal stories, which will be woven into the tapestry.

But the lorry and the howff are just the first part of Shift, which is running until March next year.

Simon has the task of pulling the many strands of the project together.

“One of the really exciting things is the idea of North Lanarkshire,” said Simon. “Cumbernauld, Motherwell, Wishaw – they all have their own sense of place and identity but when you send a drone up and look at it from the air and listen to the history, they also have an identity in common.

“It was very industrial and yet very rural at the same time.”

“The second stage of the project will be touring the collected memories to places where work used to happen,” explained Simon. “We’ll invite audiences to come in and hear the stories.”

The scale of the project means that NTS is working with CultureNL Ltd, North Lanarkshire Council and many artists and theatre makers are also involved.

One of those is artist Allan Grieve, who will turn many of the stories into a mural, to be unveiled in February.

Other people include Culture NL’s Youth Theatre who are going to make a story in the style of Top Gear in front of a live audience.

CultureNL arts, venues and heritage teams, museums and libraries will enable the National Theatre of Scotland to reach into the heart of local communities to collect stories and insights which will be transformed into art works.

All of these many strands will be brought together in the third part – when the National Theatre of Scotland assembles a community cast along with professional actors to create a massive piece of theatre.

“It’s possibly the largest show that the National Theatre of Scotland has ever put on,” added Simon.

“I can’t reveal the location where it’s going to be performed but it’s going to be a massive spectacle, full of sound, light, video and dance and full of stories of history and heritage!”

The National Theatre of Scotland would like to hear your stories – and they also want to hear from people keen to be in the community cast for the final spectacle.

Contact project manager Leonie on leonie.gasson@nationaltheatrescotland.com or 07906 515 838 to arrange a time to meet and chat about it.

Or you can share your story on the Facebook page at facebook.com/NLShift.