Where We Dream

Francois Matarasso

Where We Dream: West Bromwich Operatic Society and the Fine Art of Musical Theatre

This project resulted in a book written by François Matarasso with a film by Benjamin Wigley and images by Kate Jackson; commissioned by Multistory.

Where We Dream tells the story of West Bromwich Operatic Society (WBOS), an amateur group that has been performing musical theatre in the Black Country since the 1930s. WBOS produces ambitious shows in big regional theatres, and is entirely self-supporting. It has over a hundred members and its own youth theatre section but, above all, WBOS puts on great shows that are loved by their audiences.

WBOS is ‘an amateur company with professional standards’. The members perform at major theatres in the West Midlands, selling thousands of tickets to enthusiastic audiences. According to government statistics the Black Country is an area of ‘low engagement’ in the arts – although four of its many amateur theatre companies, including WBOS, are older than the Arts Council itself.

Where We Dream follows WBOS as they stage Mel Brooks’ The Producers from rehearsals to curtain call at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham in November, 2011. Along the way it tells the story of a company that has thrived while so much of the world around has gone. It celebrates resilience, friendship and fun, and people’s determination, always, to put on a great show.

The book describes the whole project but also ranges widely over the company’s history to explore the place of amateur theatre in a disadvantaged urban area. It includes a short film, made in collaboration with Ben Wigley, which captures the group’s performing spirit, and images by Kate Jackson.

Where We Dream is the culmination of a year’s work in West Bromwich, commissioned and supported by Multistory as part of the ‘Black Country Stories’ programme. The project celebrates what is missed by official statistics: the things that matter in people’s lives.

Where We Dream is available as a book and DVD package from Multistory for £7.00 including postage (UK) or £10 including postage (outside UK). Please visit our online shop to buy.

Alternatively please send a cheque made payable to Multistory to: Caron Wright, Multistory, 4th Floor, The Public,
 New Street,
 West Bromwich,
 B70 7PG.

The book is also available as a free download.


Regular Marvels

Where We Dream is the first publication in a programme by François Matarasso, called ‘Regular Marvels’ and which aims to find better ways of representing the place of art and culture in people’s lives, through both artistic and theoretical approaches. In each case, François is working with a different artist to explore experience in text and image. Two other books will be completed later this year:

• Winter Fires, on artists in old age, with Baring Foundation
• Bread and Salt, on migrant artists, with Vrede van Utrecht.

More information about all these projects and the ‘Regular Marvels’ process can be found on the programme blog.