Opera Film

Cohere Arts are delighted to have been awarded funding from Arts Council England to make a film of HerStory, an opera celebrating the artistic talent of the Parkinson’s community.  Written by Suffolk-born composer Amy Mallett, the piece incorporates music, libretto, choreography and visual art co-created with members of the Parkinson’s community. 

Working with partners Britten Pears Arts, English National Opera, Trinity Laban and MuMo Creative, specialist Parkinson’s practitioners have led a series of singing, dance and art workshops in Suffolk, London, Sussex, Oxford and online enabling around 120 participants to learn repertoire from HerStory, and/or create visual art for animation. Throughout November 2022 our film-making team has been visiting each region to film and record sections of the opera.


Supported by Britten Pears Arts, we recorded & filmed members of the East Suffolk Skylarks at the Kiln in Snape Maltings.


We were fortunate to have the support of Trinity Laban & English National Opera to film & record our London-based cast.


In Oxford we worked with the lovely MuMo group filming at Oxford Town Hall courtroom & Wesley Memorial Hall.

Our aim is to produce a 30-minute film that will be launched on World Parkinson’s Day, 11th April 2023, in the words of our original 2019 cast; ‘showing the world what people with Parkinson’s can do.’

A historical tale

HerStory is inspired by the extraordinary exploits of historical Suffolk heroine, Margaret Catchpole.  Margaret achieved notoriety when she stole a horse and rode it from Ipswich to London. She was imprisoned but later escaped, recaptured and eventually sentenced to transportation to Australia in 1801. We know about her story largely due to the letters she continued to exchange with her former employer, Mrs Cobbold, back in England.

You can find out more about Margaret’s story, including historical documents and letters, via the links below:

BBC Myths & Legends
State Library, New South Wales
Sydney Living Museums
TROVE – National Library of Australia

Making the opera

In 2019 artists Amy Mallett, Nicola Wydenbach, Danielle Teale and Sarah Lewis, formed a collaboration with the aim of developing a participatory performing arts project that would:

  • Extend the artistic experience of people living with Parkinson’s by developing accessible and inclusive performance opportunities
  • Celebrate the artistry and quality of art created by and for people living with Parkinson’s
  • Raise the profile of the positive impact of arts participation for people living with Parkinson’s

Throughout 2019 we worked with 20 members of the Parkinson’s community in Suffolk and London to co-create a new operatic work; HerStory: The Catchpole Chronicles.  HerStory combines dance, music, film and animation, celebrating the exploits of historical Suffolk heroine, Margaret Catchpole.  The piece was showcased in a workshop performance with a small cast at the Peter Pears Recital Room at Snape Maltings in August 2019, and as a result the company was invited to further develop the work with an expanded cast for a public sharing at London’s Royal Opera House in 2020.

“It’s given me confidence and reduced isolation. It’s given me new friendships.  It’s given me something to look forward to. It’s given me happiness and a sense of something achieved. It’s made me feel a little bit special in the fact that we all have something to give creatively.”


Lockdown projects

In 2020 alas our Royal Opera House plans were scuppered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we continued to meet virtually with members of the Parkinson’s community from across the UK in three lockdown projects that explored themes from the opera.

HerStory: The Covid Chronicles

Our first experiments with film, exploring themes of water, sea and emotions.

HerStory: Turning the Tide

Another short film exploring themes of transportation, transition & journeys.

HerStory: Ev’ry Stitch in the Quilt

A ‘digital quilt’ containing visual, audio, spoken and written word artworks

Ev’ry Stitch: impact film

Hear from our participants about the impact of our ‘digital quilt’ project

Sharing the story of HerStory

We are passionate about sharing the learning from our HerStory project and promoting the creative talents of people living with Parkinson’s. If you have an opportunity to help us share our story please contact Project Director Nicola Wydenbach: nicolawydenbach@yahoo.co.uk.

The Story of HerStory – Everyday Creativity: Towards an International Research Network, University of Brighton June 2022

Making Music Theatre, Making Communities – Watershed Festival – Reimagining Music Theatre, Queens University, Kingston Ontario Canada May 2022

Perspectives on Practice: online adventures in dancing with Parkinson’s – a People Dancing Perspectives on Practice online event Nov 2021

British artistic collective begins its latest online creative project for people with Parkinson’s – EPDA article Sept 2021

ICCM online seminar March 2021

The Covid Chronicles: connecting performers with Parkinson’s disease – Parkinson’s life article Dec 2020

‘Performing arts help shake off the burden of Parkinson’s’ – Parkinson’s Life article Sept 2019

HerStory projects are supported by: