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Frame Distance in Rolling Role

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Morwick Village: "Manor House" Domain

Above is the planning chart produced by the "Jarrow Three" (Malcolm Davison, Ida Cochrane and Norma Berwick) for the "Morwick Village" project.  

There is an obvious "tension point" in this strand of the project, in the mysterious discovery of a skeleton. 

Each class takes on a different "frame," with a different relationship to the "event."

The first class were put in the frame of builders, working on repairing a marble floor inside a "folly" in the grounds of Challenor Hall.

It was agreed that they would uncover the "skeleton" at some point in the drama. To begin with, however, the focus was on building their "frame" as builders. As Dorothy observed:

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Their tasks at the beginning … were to look at a pavement, a broken marble pavement, and prepare estimates: how many hours will it take us to lift this up, and re-lay it, and put new marble down - where we need new marble. We’ll have to send a note or telephone somebody, to tell them about our estimate. This builds the belief in the floor, you see, and our capacity to do jobs; because, if you dig marble pavements up, you've got some sense of how long it will take you, and how many tools you’ll need on site [etc.].

The tasks create the frame or way of seeing: the children are looking first at the floor, to estimate the labour costs, materials etc. 

After the discovery of the skeleton, they produced a report about it: 

They reported to me, who was [in role as] the local press, what they’d found. 

At this point, then, they became "guides."

So what we have now is: a report. It then moves to another class.

The second class were framed as police trainees, "learning how to conduct proper investigations," and given the task of investigating the discovery. They were given the bones to reassemble; and the report. In the chart (above), this is defined as an "agent" frame: "I must record the event so that it may be understood." Dorothy observes:

They were told to read the report as police trainees. ... They read a report, and they have to decode that report: "What on earth is this report about?" ... Now, you see, the policeman's eye is different than the workman's eye. The workman's eye [on finding the body] is shocked. ... But the policeman's eye is: the location; who might this be? [etc.] They've got all kinds of different responsibilities.

The "police trainees" produced their own report. The next class were framed as "forensic scientists," who were given the police report to study. This was an "authority" frame: "I must reconstruct the meaning of the event." They have to consider: "textures, ageing, testing for age, how long has it been there, are there traces of soil," and so on. 

The next group were reporters. This was a "recorder" frame: "I clarify for those in the future so they may know the truth of the event." They have three reports to decode: from the local newspaper, the police, and the forensic team.

Their job, you see, is to ask questions, interpreting the reports, and writing their  story for a newspaper. ... With three decoding exercises, it's much more complicated than the first one. Each of these decoding exercises is a different style. ... So they're reading three kinds of language, from which they will make a fourth. 

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So now, we've got a news story.

The next class were in an "authorityframe, working as guides on the Challenor Hall estate, to answer the questions of visitors keen for news about the discovery of the body. They picked up what they could from the various reports that had been produced. Dorothy herself took on the role of visitors with a ghoulish interest in the story. 

What I can get from that particular class, is records of who came, and the kind of information we felt they should have.

The final class in this plan, were


re-enacting how they think that body got to be placed under that beautiful marble pavement. So you  see, they are villagers in the wood on the night when that body was secretly buried. ... Now, what that is about, is alerting the self-spectator to understand the pain of a young man, burying his dead wife, not in the cold cemetery, not in the mausoleum of the family, but in a beautiful - he's a "Taj Mahal" case. And that's what you want them to understand.

The project moved through different frames, from participants to guides to agents to authority to recorders - with increasing distance from the event; but returned finally to participants again. However, in the case of the final group, while they were "participants," they were also witnesses and "guides," and even "recorders" who "clarify for those in the future so they may know the truth of the event."

"Tales and Legends of the Estate"

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In the original plan for the Morwick Village project, the third domain focused on a fresco in the local church, dating from Norman times, but which has to be covered for protection most of the time, and only revealed to the world every 10 years.

However, there are no records of work having been done in this domain.


Instead ,there is a planning chart for a third domain which focused on local tales and legends.

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The primary teaching resource here was a map of the Challenor Hall estate.  You can see from the image that it has been annotated with features such as "shallow water" and "stepping stones."


In later stages, advertising agencies produced designs for brochures about the estate; and local villagers recounted legends about the estate, which were passed to the writers of ghost stories, and even to the authors of books on the occult!

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It seems that the Morwick Village project took place over a limited time-span - perhaps just a week - which may explain the way it was structured. It is clear from the planning charts for the Morwick Village project, that there were a number of different classes involved. The work rolled from one class to another, within the same domain (e.g., the "Hotel" domain / the "Manor House" domain, etc.). 

Most classes only worked on one aspect of the project - for example, Class 2:2 were "forensic scientists" examining the skeletal bones. Some classes, however, were involved in different parts of the project. For example:

  • At one stage, 4:3 were  the "Personnel Department" who prepared interviews for applicants for hotel staff; at another stage, they were an advertising agency preparing the hotel brochure

  • At one stage, 2:3 were "police trainees" investigating the discovery of the skeleton; at another stage, they were "villagers" recounting legends of the Hall.


In this project, then, it seems that when a class took on a "frame," it was for a particular task (such as Job Centre workers preparing  job cards), and for a limited time; and they could be asked, at another time, to take on a different frame, to do a different task.​ The majority of the groups were English or Drama classes.

This is a video of a meeting of the "Dorothy Heathcote Seminar Group," where members of the Erasmus Plus project on Rolling Role analysed and discussed the concept of "Frame Distance."

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