The Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Elise Davison Artistic Director of Taking Flight Theatre Company. Elise discussed her career to date, the arts in Wales, access issues and Breaking out of the Box 3.
This short video is an introduction from Elise Davison Artistic Director of Flight Theatre company. Elise introduced herself and briefly discusses Breaking out of the Box 3. There is an audio sound file interview with Elise below and a written one below that.
Hi Elise great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi, I started out as performer and toured for about 10 years living out of suitcase and having a reasonably successful career. I was also a drama teacher so that plugged any gaps on my theatre work. In 2008 I set up Taking Flight Theatre company with Beth House and in 2009 I moved to Cardiff, had my first child and I started directing. In 2010 I hung up my acting shoes and began my life as a theatre director and I love it!
So what got you interested in the arts?
My mum and my grandmother both danced to a high standard and despite some really exciting opportunities – neither of them went on to pursue it as a career and I think they both regretted it. I always thought I would be a dancer and studied ballet until I was 21. I realised, however, years before that that my real passion was for acting and so I went to Warwick University to study theatre – it was a very academic course and after graduating I felt I needed more practical training so I went to drama school in Birmingham ( I wanted to come to Cardiff then but it didn’t work out!)
Taking Flight have organised an event called Breaking out of the Box 3, I wonder if you can tell us more about this event?
Yes – it’s an access symposium focussing in particular about ways to increase access for blind and visually impaired audience members. We’ve got a really exciting line up and we will explore practical approaches to audio description and tactile access materials. We will discuss ways to access the blind and visually impaired audiences and hear about the innovative Ramps on the Moon initiative happening in England at the moment. I am really looking forward to it.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists?
There are always barriers especially surrounding with access, but as a country need to recognise these barriers and realise that we have a joint responsibility to start breaking these down. I feel there has been a lot of progress in the last few years in Wales to tackle some of these barriers but there is still such a long way to go.
As an inclusive company Taking Flight also carefully consider their potential audiences. I wonder if you think there are any barriers for them to access cultural provision in Wales? On a positive I wonder if you can think of any examples of good practice?
One thing always strikes me as odd – there are often a lot of forums discussing access with no one who will be using that access present to say what they actually need. In 2015 TF did a lot of work with the D/deaf community in Wales to find out why they weren’t accessing theatre and how we could start to address this. The stories about mistrust of venues came flooding out. Stories of broken hearing loop, broken captions and shows billed as being interpreted not being. We realised that so much need to be done to make people trust that access would be provided before we could even start to build our audience. The blind and visually impaired audience also struggled to trust that their access requirements would be met. In addition it was hard to get the message out to the right people that shows were accessible. It was then that we started to look at our marketing and began developing BSL and audio flyers and made sure that the correct access symbols were clearly displayed.
The Hynt card is a great scheme and Sherman 5 have done some excellent work engaging new audiences.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I’m going to be a bit predictable and say access but I feel so strongly about this. I feel people are put off by the cost and the fact that it eats into your budget so much. I would make access costs an extra pot which sits on top of grant limits. This is because – I believe it is a human right to be able to access the arts and sometimes this is denied due to financial constraints – or companies are forced to choose which access to provide. In an ideal world -all shows should be captioned, be BSL interpreted and be audio described – or have that provision available so that D/deaf and disabled people have the same choice as non disabled people. Access is expensive, so I would like to take the barrier of cost away so people can be freer to experiment with creative access.
What excites you about the arts in Wales? What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I love the arts community in Wales – it’s a wonderful place to live and make theatre. It’s a generous and support network and I feel honoured to be part of it. I’ve just comeback from an access forum (organised by Rhian Lewis at National Theatre Wales) where Jo Verrent spoke about Unlimited and it was wonderful, there were some amazing discussions, passion and desire to make a change.
I’m massively looking forward to seeing Graeae’s production of House of Bernarda Alda especially as one of TF’s associate artists Chloe Clarke is performing in it!
Thanks for your time Elise.