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            Past to Present 

In 2012, artist Slain McGough Davey began creating arts events in Plymouth, under various guises. The first event in November 2012 was held at the Pipe Gallery on the Barbican, Plymouth, showcasing illustrations and photographs by Slain in response to the writing of Kenny Knight's book, 'Honicknowle Book of the Dead'.

In the first year, Slain created monthly art events at various people's houses around Plymouth. They showed art in all forms, including film, belly dance, pottery, visual art, prose and poetry. They were known as "Art Happenings", involving the local artists of Plymouth. They were very popular events and lots of fun. Slain also created pop-up art events in unused shops and roots based arts venues, such as Flameworks in Plymouth, and Maker Heights in Cornwall.

In September 2013, these events then evolved to become monthly spoken word events in local pubs around Plymouth, involving local writers, originally under the name of 'BlackBooks'. Black Books was the name of a British sitcom created by Dylan Moran and Graham Linehan (2000-2004) about an insanely run book shop, a show that Slain loves because the sense of humour is very chaotic, surreal, wacky and creative. Slain wanted to create an arts platform in the same vein, that marries literature and performance with fun and laughter.

Gradually people became drawn to helping and supporting WonderZoo at its various stages from 2012 to present (2024). These people include Gabi Marcellus-Temple, Mike Green, Nick Ingram, Dominic Marcellus-Temple, Mike Whittam, William Telford, Jackie Wacha, Pete Golding, Alan Butler, Donna Maughan, Jenny Eden, Caitlin Brawn, Chi Bennett, Claire Bower, Jonathan Spurling,  Danny Blackaller, Samanta Norbury-Webster, Purdy Giles, Autumn Stevens and Jonathan Brooks.


Around 2014, BlackBooks branched off into two further platforms, PennyComeQuick (PCQ) Arts and The Word. Each platform was doing different things. BlackBooks was doing a mixture of spoken word, singer-songwriting and theatre, whereas The Word concentrated purely on poetry and prose. PCQ Arts was doing a mixture of all of these art forms. For the first couple of years, the platforms were quite chaotic.


"It took a while for it to all settle down and for us to know the direction we wanted to go in. I allowed that time for things to develop organically, rather than force it. These events were all funded by private donations", said Slain.


In 2014, Slain created an online magazine called WonderZoo, two issues only, which included visual art with written text. The word 'WonderZoo' came from an article from a 1920's German surrealist magazine. 

"We wanted to create different events doing different things with their own names, but then we came up with the concept of the magazine called WonderZoo. Then for a few years we used the name "WonderZoo presents...The Word" or "WonderZoo presents... BlackBooks" and so forth. Then what happened was we became part of Plymouth Festival of Words in May 2017 when we sat on the steering group, and then we changed our branding to call ourselves 'WonderZoo'" - Slain McGough Davey.

From 2017 onwards, WonderZoo has continued without fail to produce monthly performance events, spearheaded by Slain. This includes 15 online monthly gigs from March 2020-May 2021 during the Covid19 pandemic.

Influences and Inspiration 


Slain's artistic influences have been the Punk 'do-it-yourself' movement with its 'Bottom-up' non-hierarchical philosophy; the 1970's experimental art scene; the 1920's Berlin cabaret scene and the Free Festival scene.


Slain has been influenced by bands like The Levellers, Crass, Chumbawumba and Public Enemy to fight for civil rights, animal rights and the environment. He's also been influenced by writers like William Burroughs and artists like The Chapman Brothers, Vivienne Westwood, Poly Styrene, Louise Bourgeoise, Diane Arbus and Robert Frank  He has been a life-long lover of arts and culture, with two first class art degrees, and a Masters in Art and Entrepreneurship. 

All of these artistic influences and outlets have helped to form the philosophy, ethics, values and aesthetics of WonderZoo as an arts platform.

100 Homes Project

From 2014-2019, Slain was co-ordinator of the 100 Homes Project in Stonehouse, Plymouth, which was an oral history archiving project, recording the stories of 150 people and bringing the community together in creative ways. The project won two national awards with CAHG in 2019: Best Overall Project and Best Community Engagement. Slain has always had a deep interest in history and this project was a way for him to combine his passion for history, community and art. 

ACE Funding

WonderZoo successfully gained two consecutive years of Arts Council England funding in 2020 and 2021 to develop as an organisation and produce monthly gigs, workshops, and a bi-monthly book and film group. 


WonderZoo has been involved in many festivals since 2017, including the Port Elliot Festival, the Festival of Words, Plymouth Art Weekender, Pride in Plymouth, the Union Street Party, Plymouth Respect Festival, Plymouth Fringe Festival,Plymouth Poetry Festival and PlymLit Festival. WonderZoo have also written and performed plays for the Barbican Theatre.

Since 2017 WonderZoo has taken part in the Plymouth Respect Festival with performances and being part of the steering group. During the 100 Homes Project, Slain researched local historical figures linked to Plymouth. In 2021, he was asked by the organisers of the Plymouth Respect Festival to theme the festival. He themed it around ten hidden historical figures of Plymouth, including Bill and Claude Miller, Cora Pearl, Jack Leslie, Jimmy Peters, Ann Wilkinson and Mary Seacole. These figures were highlighted and taught about in school workshops online. 

In July 2019 WonderZoo organised an exchange with Brest in France, with performers coming to Plymouth and vice versa, called Twin Sounds Festival. 

In 2021 Chi Bennett of WonderZoo hosted an online 5 hour event for International Women's Day, featuring performances and art by women from diverse backgrounds in the South West.

Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council (PDREC)

One of the organisations involved in creating the Respect Festival is PDREC. WonderZoo works closely with PDREC and is on their subcommittee, which was created to support the work of PDREC and its anti-racism activity. In 2020 WonderZoo produced 12 online monthly workshops for PDREC during the pandemic, aiming to give diverse communities a voice and a way to connect with others.

Nudge Community Builders

From 2019, WonderZoo has produced several unique performance events commissioned by Nudge Community Builders:

- 'Silent Protest' -2019

- 'Hearts and Houses' - 2019

- 'Peace for VJ Day' - 2020

- 'WonderQueue' - 2020

-  Romeo and Juliet 2022 

-The Snowman, with a twist 2022

WonderZoo created an outdoor gig of music and spoken word performances on Union Street, alongside Nudge's Manor Street Market event called 'Mellow Yellow' during Covid19 restrictions in August 2020. WonderZoo has had its own stage at Nudge's Union Street Party for last few years 2020, 2021, 2023, and this year 2024 as well as organising theatrical performances at the street party in 2018 and 2019.

2021 onwards

Stronger North Stonehouse

In March-April 2021, WonderZoo was commissioned by the Stronger North Stonehouse project to produce 8 short films, set in North Stonehouse, featuring music, theatre, and spoken word performances from local artists. 

Pilot Festivals

In May 2021, WonderZoo created a four-day hybrid online and in-person pilot festival called Lost Time, under Covid restrictions, funded by Plymouth Octopus Project (POP). POP have funded WonderZoo to pay an independent researcher, Caitlin Brawn, to help develop the ideas and connections that will lead to a large-scale festival. 


In September 2021 WonderZoo created a ticketed pilot event at Cawfee, Union Street, with performances from the three Laureates of Plymouth (Laura Horton and her play performed by comedian Suzy Bennett, Holly Peters and former poet laureate Thom Boulton) to a fully-booked audience. Funded by POP.

Love for Paula 2021

This show supported local Artist the amazing and beautiful Paula Thomas featuring music, theatre, and spoken word performances to help raise funds for Paula a well known and loved drummer and artist who has helped so many with her teaching and support in the South West. She was involved in a vehicle accident where she incurred serious burns and this show, helped financially supported her recovering from her injuries.


Storyteller Pilot Festival

WonderZoo created our 2nd pilot festival in June 2022, funded by POP. This consisted of five days of in-person events at different venues around Stonehouse, Plymouth. This will be a stepping stone towards creating a large-scale Storyteller festival in the city, incorporating many art forms, collaborating with many local organisations and engaging diverse communities. 

Adelaide Park Events

During the summer months of 2021 and 2022 WonderZoo have produced Six outdoor Fun Days in Adelaide Park, Stonehouse, funded by Mayflower 400 and Pop collaborating with various local organisations to produce events for the community, incorporating food, football, music and spoken word performances, market stalls, hip hop dance, and a magician.  

Vinyl Lounge 2021 and onwards

Twice-a-month social events where people gather to listen to classic vinyl albums, play board games and make friends. With home-made vegan gluten free soup, tea and coffee at Union Corner. This has been running since September 2021.  Supported by Nudge Community Builders.

The Plot 

We are moved into our first office on Union Street in March 2002 at The Plot supported by Nudge Community Builders, and have been staging events and workshops at Union Conner since the summer.  This is a stepping stone on the road to getting our own arts space. 

Peace Show 2022 

The British Red Cross Society Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal a time when the community of Stonehouse come together in solidarity to raise money for the Ukraine refugees. The event included up to 30 performances of music,spoken word, comedy, dance alongside stalls and food. Supported by Nudge Community Builders, Stonehouse Action, Street Factory, Pride in Plymouth and Omnium Radio

Romeo and Juliet vs Roald Dahl's The Enormous Crocodile' 2022 


We where booked to perform at Ocean Studios on the 19th May 2022, in a show organised by Hope In The Heart CIC around the idea of Lived Experience, which will included veteran Stefan Daniel talking about his lived experience in the army, as well as music and theatre by art assembly - Friends of the Apocalypse. 


WonderZoo at the The Clay Factory Dartmoor Edge Literary Fest 2022 and Ivybridge Arts Centre 2023 


A 20 minute walk from Ivybridge train station. It’s a disused clay factory  that has been turned into a shared working space and arts venue super fab space a weeks festival called Dartmoor Edge Literary Fest, which included writing workshops, performances and children’s activities. We were invited to come along and do some performance and creative workshops with the kids, inside one of the shopping containers that’s in the building. It was a cosy space and very fun day out for WonderZoo. We went back and staged another live show this time on a stage for family's called The Roald Dahl's Enormous Crocodile meets Romeo and Juliet, with Star Wars and Cowboys. 

The Storytelling Collective  2023 

 3 month project with four groups:

  • Mindful Art Club 

  • Omnium Radio 

  • Marbles Lost and Found

  • WonderZoo


Plymouth Octopus Project Funded £5000


To conduct research into how to strengthen each organisation through collaboration, and how to improve services for the community to improve lives using creativity. The funding paid for an opening gig, three workshops per group, an independent researcher to survey service users and write a report. With a final closing gig on 14th July.

 WonderZoo 11 Events 2022-23

WonderZoo was funded £5K by Plymouth Octopus Project to put on 11 events with Omnium Radio and Shekinah. We created a park event in 2022, a Winter Warmer all-day event in 2022, and three Stripped Back Sessions in 2023, which are low-key intimate spoken word performances, headlined by an acoustic music set, which celebrates 10 years of WonderZoo.



Union Street Party 10th September 2023

WonderZoo stage at the Union Street Party for four hours of theatre, spoken word and music.


Friends of the Apocalypse 2021 0nwards 


Is a WonderZoo collaboration that collects artists together to make theatre and spoken word and music shows. Since it started over 3 years age there have been over 20 shows staged from Plymouth to London involving over 40 artists.  With 4 shows in 2023 and a CD out called ‘RIP IT UP - BURN IT - THROW IT AWAY - FUCK IT AND PAY NO MORE THAN 50P’. (Released as limited edition 100 signed copies sold out)

13th - 17th September: WonderZoo Storyteller Festival 2023 

5 days of daytime workshops and evening events, across small venues in Stonehouse. In collaboration with A Press of Suspects, Mindful Art Club, and others.

Plymouth Octopus Project Funded £5000


National Lottery Community Fund 2023

We were given £4.5K from National Lottery for one year of activities, including paying rent for our office space in The Plot, monthly Film nights at Union Corner, and monthly Zine Making workshops at Oasis Project. 



St Luke’s gallery at The Box part of Culture Club, November 2023


it was a direct response to a trip to Sheffield Millennium Gallery and meeting the artist Kedisha Coakley. The exhibition showed paintings of exotic flowers that were taken from colonised countries, as a sign of wealth and power. The performance was a direct response to the idea of different elements being brought together that might not normally co-exist, with the aim of reflecting upon the past and present and was unique installation performance which comprised of movement, sound, spoken word and imagery and included the artists Slain McGough Davey, Chi Bennett ,Leonie Prentice and writer Helen Thomas.

Winter Warmer Part 2 2023 

This year's Winter Warmer was a collaboration between WonderZoo and The Plot, with stalls, food and workshops in the day between Union Corner and The Plot, and an evening performance featuring spoken word, comedy and live music at Union Corner working alongside Earth Cafe. 

Celebrate Respect History Project (2022-2024)

Celebrate Respect History Project completed


Since February 2022, WonderZoo have been archiving the Plymouth Respect Festival, which is an annual multi-cultural celebration of diversity in Plymouth, founded by Ann Wilkinson and Dan Thompson in 1998.


This two-year project was funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund £56K. In partnership with the Respect Festival, Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council and The Box Museum.


Over the two years, we collected 12,012 artifacts, including digital and physical photos and film clips, booklets, clothing, brochures, posters, badges, keyrings, CDs, flyers, leaflets, reports, letters, and other paraphernalia. We recorded 80 oral history interviews with people who have been involved in the Respect Festival over the years, including organisers, performers and participants.


The project has been archived at The Box Plymouth and will remain an 'open archive' indefinitely, so that other materials can be added over time.


The next stage of the project will be to create two short films with Fotonow CIC. One film will be for social media and online purposes, and the other will be a 360 film to be used at the immersive dome in Devonport Market Hall, using archival film footage.

Hidden Figures History Project (2023-2025)

Since February 2023. This two-year project is funded by National Lottery Heritage   Fund £82K. WonderZoo is supervising this project, which aims to highlight and celebrate the outstanding achievements of People of the Global Majority past and present, in Plymouth, who have not previously been highlighted due to racism.


Two booklets (one for past figures and one for living figures) are in the final stages of being created and 26 interviews have now been recorded alongside video interviews out of 40 which will be done by the end of the project. The project is run by Rachel Hawadi with support from Jackie Wacha and Mingma Lhamu. So far, the project has done exhibitions, talks, information tables, and interactive educational workshops and is working on History walks.



WonderZoo Stories


In April 2024, we launched our new umbrella project at the Box which will house all our history projects – 100 Homes, Celebrate Respect, Hidden Figures, and future projects. Much has got be done on this by end of Summer. 


 Plymouth Community History Festival - 2023 and onwards


The first Plymouth Community History Festival (PCHF) took place last year (2023) and we hope be back again this year (28th Sept – 4th Oct 2024) followed on by 12 months of community engagement to involve more people in the creation of the following year's festival, including training workshops, community outreach events at libraries and community centres, and a steering group.


In 2023 WonderZoo created the PCHF as Plymouth's first diverse history festival coinciding with Black History Month, including talks with speakers from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, history walks, an Opening Day with stalls, vendors, DJ, speeches, spoken word performances and other activities inside The Box, and an African themed closing event. With last year's success, we wish to create a similar festival this year along the same themes, with the aim of training and guiding new people from diverse backgrounds to create the following festival, with their own ideas. This Project is done with the full support with the Box and have applied for funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund and Tamara Sponsorship. In collaboration with The Box, DBI, Arts University Plymouth, Walks with History, Queer Out Loud, Jack Leslie Campaign, and others.



National Lottery Community Fund (2023-2025)


We were given £20K from National Lottery for two years of community activities, monthly Film nights, monthly Brunch Talk at Plymouth Food Bank, Art Club at The Plot and Vinyl Lounge at The Plot.


In all, we put on 5 community activities per month inside Stonehouse, with roughly 100 participants per month (many of whom are regular participants). Over 2 years that should equate to 2,400 participant interactions.

Our events are supported by Plymouth Food Bank and Nudge Community Builders. 

Plymouth Poetry Festival 2024 


As part of the new Plymouth Poetry Festival, WonderZoo created an intimate gig featuring 6 spoken word performers at the Green Space with Jackie Wacha – Our Headliner was born in Uganda during a time of political turmoil and upheaval a fab evening of interesting and diverse performances. 

Wayfarin’ Workshops (May - July 2024) – with Plymouth University

Wayfarin’ is a community arts project about going for walks, playing games and sharing stories together. This project is working with 30 local residents of the Stonehouse area, creating walking trips around the Plot and Union Street and other place has a springboard for inventing board games about the local area and use this to think about how the neighborhood is now and how it might change in the future.

The walks and game sessions are taking place over period of six weeks with 12 workshops between May and June. The project is organized by Jamie Harper, a researcher at the University of Plymouth, with support from WonderZoo. This will lead to the games being made by the University to show at an exhibition games evening. 


Radio Show - 2023 ongoing


‘Dimensions in Vinyl’ on Janner Radio Stonehouse Every Monday, 7-9 pm, Kai and Slain playing real vinyl 7 inch, 12 inch singles selected by Slain, with research done by Slain. Every 2 weeks will have a guest from the arts community on the show too. Funded by WonderZoo.



Union Street Party 15th September 2024

WonderZoo will have a stage at the Union Street Party for four hours of theatre, spoken word and music and our theme this year on our stage will be Dance. 

WonderZoo has Supported


2023, 2024: Freedom Community Festival, Plymouth, this year Slain was site manager for the 2nd year.


"Our long term goal is to acquire our own space, where we can hold performance events and bring communities together" - Slain



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