A graphic novel adapted from a stage performance planned by Streetwise Opera has been created by Teesside University students.
Streetwise Opera, an award-winning charity that works with people affected by homelessness, spent time before the current pandemic working with performing artists to run a programme of singing and creative workshops in homeless centres and arts venues across the country.
The charity had planned to stage After Winter, a production based on Schubert’s song cycle Winter Journey – but the pandemic meant plans for the summer production at Middlesbrough Town Hall and Ryedale Festival had to be shelved and was instead presented online.
The charity partnered with students from the University’s BA (Hons) Comics and Graphic Novels to create a graphic novel adaptation of After Winter. The graphic novel has been printed in a limited edition first-run, with copied distributed to all those who participated in the production, including students, performers and partners.
A digital copy of the graphic novel is available on the Streetwise Opera website and TU Extra website.
Julian Lawrence, Senior Lecturer in Comics & Graphic Novels, in the University’s School of Computing, Engineering and Digital Technologies, said: “A mere two weeks before the first lockdown last year, Streetwise Opera invited us to attend the launch of their adaptation at Middlesbrough Town Hall.
“Then during the last half of semester two in 2020, the students worked collaboratively from home to create a 60-page graphic novel which adapts Streetwise Opera’s performance of Schubert’s Winter Journey.
“While working on the project, students contributed to a blog on the Streetwise Opera website SWO blog. The students really enjoyed this community art education (CAE) orientated way of learning.”
Julian added: “The students were inspired by the welcoming sense of community established by the performers. This inspiration informed the narrative of our graphic novel, which tells the story of a heartbroken outsider. The students’ empathy and warmth shine through in the art they created for this project.”
Jamie Sample, a performer from the Streetwise Opera group based in Middlesbrough Town Hall, said: “It is great to see this story come to life in these pages. I love the mix of different styles of the illustrations, from Sunday morning comic strip to manga and Marvel/DC style. This graphic novel represents really well a man’s inner journey as he comes to terms with his broken heart.”
Media and Communication students from the University’s School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies, also worked with Streetwise Opera to help promote the production with a PR campaign.
Rachel Dodd, the Senior Lecturer in PR & Digital Communications, said: “The SWO event was unable to run in its original format during the summer and instead evolved the production as an online event.
“Our students created comprehensive public relations campaigns, including strategic research, audience demographics, audience testing and campaign planning to help promote the project.
“This is all part of our University strategy to prepare students for working in the industry, through the experience of working on live briefs with real clients and external partners to provide live-brief experiences for students to help them develop industry-ready skills.”