An Interview with Angharad Lee and Beatbox Tangent

Hi Angharad and Beatbox Tangent great to meet you both , can you give our readers some background information on yourselves please?

Angharad: Hi I am a theatre director, educator, facilitator and lecturer. I studied and worked as a performer before turning my hand to directing. I have worked for many organisations throughout Wales, but am now a freelance director and Artistic Director of Leeway Productions. I am also a mam and the proud owner of cuddles the cat. I love Women’s rugby and until I broke my ankle a few months ago was scrum half for Merched Clwb Rygbi Cymru Caerdydd.

Hi I am Beatbox Tangent I  am a beatboxer from the UK, I currently live in Cardiff but I have performed  gigs; workshops and collaborations all around Wales. My love of art and music inspires me to create compositions that take vocal percussion to extraordinary heights.

So what got you interested in performance and the arts?

Angharad : I have always been actively involved in the performing arts since the age of 10. I guess my Welsh language education was quite enabling as I was steeped in the traditions of the Eisteddfod and therefore had plenty of opportunities to perform so to speak. It was a toss up between sport and the arts though as I was a nifty rugby and hockey player, but am glad I choose this path.

Angharad in Hen Rebel Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

Angharad,  Beatbox Tangent has recently been involved in your 10 Minute Musicals initiative, can you please tell us more about this innovative project?

Angharad: 10 Minute Musicals is an innovative development programme to support musical theatre professional in Wales, with a particular focus on the writers and composers. Organised and delivered by Leeway Productions the development project 10 Minute Musicals is held three times a year at The Other Room in Cardiff and is also rolled out across the Regions as a part of our ‘Best of’ project.

We aspire to encourage and nurture new and existing creatives to write for musical theatre in Wales.International collaborations between artists is of huge importance to us. Over the next few months, we will be calling out to some more creatives who are keen to try their hand at writing a musical, and also, more established artists who may want to up skill and network with new creatives and artists. Creative participants can include composers, playwrights, librettists, poets, musician and lyricists.

10 Minute Musicals includes networking, development of current practice and examining and providing the support artists need when evolving, progressing and advancing their writing skills for this genre.

We encourage a continued conversation with creatives and believe that this creative development project is a great springboard towards casting a new light on how you usually work. Leeway Productions provide mentorship support throughout the process, and support artists as they find their way through what could seem like a daunting task. There is a sharing of your work at The Other Room as a culmination to the process and the participants’ hard work.

Thanks Angharad, as you mentioned 10 Minute Musicals has supported artists who wouldn’t think of writing for the musical theatre genre. Beatbox Tangent as you have mentioned you are a primarily a beat boxer do you think you have developed new skills through the process of being involved in 10 Minute Musicals?

Beatbox Tangent: I think I have to be honest. Collaboration is always an integral part of pushing your practice, so doing different activities and working creatively, especially with my partner on the project Rufus Mufasa has really pushed me as an artist and I’ve explored different avenues of creativity. Also, to break down those conventional barriers and really explore something new and using the Welsh language to do that has really opened my mind up to possibilities of language and music.

Musical Theatre as a form is rapidly developing and embracing new forms and styles. Musicals such as ‘In the Heights,’ ‘Hamilton’ and companies like ’20 Stories High’ are utilising a range of urban art forms in their work. Do you think this can bring new audiences to theatres which might be thought of as predominately white, middle classes cultural spaces?

Angharad: I don’t think we should burden artists with thinking about their audiences when we create work. I think that by activating all forms of culture to write for musical theatre, what willl happen is that the stories they want to tell will resonate with their communities, thus giving context and relevance to the work we create in Wales. We have a terrible habit in Wales of lifting existing models that work outside of our own communities and Country and imposing them onto our own landscapes. What this creates in a standardised approach to the arts. I am not personally interested in building mini London’s and mini England’s within our artistic infrastructure in Wales. We have a terrible obsession with critics outside of Wales, and 5 star reviews, but what about our audiences who are still terribly disenfranchised. So I guess the short answer to your question is, start with a story an artists wants to tell. Throw out all the pre existing models and build our own.

Beatbox Tangent: As an urban artist, I would say yes because the boundaries of Beat Boxing and vocal percussion are being pushed every day. Beatboxing has a very theatrical element to it. We have some great performers now, the likes of ‘Berry Wam’ from France who do all these covers of great commercial songs but some of them are classically trained, and you could easily take your whole family to see one of their shows. So yes, I believe it can pull new audiences in and ‘waw’ them. Beat Boxing is basically vocal percussion and what is musical theatre? It’s using the voice.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Access for diverse citizens is a key priority for a range of arts funders and organisations Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?

Beatbox Tangent: We are living in a very interesting time. We are living in a time where, how I like to describe it is a half light environment. We are living in the dark as well as the light when it comes to diversity and equality. We realise it’s important and relating this with music, and Welsh Culture, well…. actually, I believe the Earth is but one country and mankind is a citizen, so I believe I am a World citizen and although I have a nationality I belong to this earth. I think when it comes to arts and music it’s so important that you have that diversity. It’s like a man and a woman are two wings of the same bird and creativity doesn’t rise within one sex or culture. It’s a gift and as long as we have projects that bring different people together from every background I think we can create something so very beautiful and really expand Welsh Culture because we have so much to give.

Angharad: There are many, as there are barriers to a whole host of other provisions in Wales. I am currently working with D/deaf artists developing a musical and the infrastructure to support this kind of work is still very ambiguous and fragile. We have to work with artists who are deemed to have ‘protected characteristics’ (I hate buzz words by the way), in order to reach those diverse members of the public we seem to be forgetting about constantly. If the artists themselves are not represented then why would the audiences come and watch a story which is not relevant to them? Artists need more spaces at the heart of this cultural provision, within communities, to create work in order to reach out to a much more diverse audience. We are still so reliant on venues, and I believe this is a barrier in itself. There is such a drive for ‘excellence’ in the arts at the moment. Well, ‘rising tides raise all ships’ and I don’t know that giving so much focus to our venues helps with this little quote. I am such a believer in this quote and I am very concerned that the divide in this ever confusing world is growing and growing. The arts have a role to play here, because it is through storytelling we find truths and remind ourselves what humanity should look like.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?

Angharad ; This is a tough one to answer as it’s such a complex time for funding in particular in Wales.The word ‘career’ in the arts is a dangerous one, because unless you work within an organisation, I don’t know that there is such a thing. Is there? I know of established artists who are still only earning about £13k a year, having worked for years and years. I’m not sure how this is sustainable to be honest, especially when kids come along, so then you get a fall out, and once again it’s all about ’emerging artists’ because all the established artists have had to take other jobs in order to survive, a vicious circle. So at a time when artists are ready to create outstanding work, they just can’t afford to do it. I have no answer, but this is a reality. I think venues have a duty of care towards artists, and Welsh artists, because they are the lifeblood. Jut to add to this also, because funding has become so fragile we don’t seem to be taking risks on those artists who create work that splits audiences right down the middle. That explores the extremes. I would much rather hate or love a piece of work rather than just sit through another piece which panders to the status quo.

Beatbox Tangent: I would like the help to be more visible. More transparent. At the moment, it’s hard to find those organisations. But it’s a learning curve. There are so many schemes at the moment, especially within education, and it’s great for me as a looper, beatboxer to have those opportunities to share my practice within schools, I just wish I could find the opportunities much easier.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

Angharad: I would give 10-20 freelance artists a paid yearly salary and give them the flexibility and trust to self regulate the work they do within certain communities in Wales. Simple. No box ticking.  I believe this could foster sincere change at grass roots and community level, because they would not be working towards prescribed objectives and would be able to shape shift and respond accordingly to what is in front of them. Artists like to make, I would give them absolute freedom to do just this.

I would also de-centralise our monster cultural epicentre in Cardiff, which consists of the Wales Millenium Centre, The Senedd, BBC Orchestra, Wales National Opera  it goes on and on. What’s that all about? Lol. It feels like a case of ‘ all the great and good may reside here’, and I don’t believe that is healthy at all.

Beatbox Tangent: There are more and more different types of creative art forms all making a contribution to Welsh culture and society. This will only increase through social media. I always feel in Wales though that people are not empowered and empowerment is necessary for them to feel confident about their practice. More funding is needed from different organisations to help creative practioners, empower other creative practioners. Thats why the Creative Practioner training is vital as you are linking up with other artists. It gives different artists the change to make connections. I am a beat boxer I might meet a skate boarder how can we work together to create something awesome? The Welsh Government really needs to understand that no matter what happens in our economy if its Brexit or something else, I don’t want to get political but the arts need to be at the forefront of everything in our society, money can be stretched, I believe everything that we have in our society is because of the creative arts.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Angharad: We are in a privileged position that we can foster relationships and networks which can be cohesive because we are such a small Country. Artists excite me. I have been working as a Creative Agent for Arts Council Wales for three years now and the artists I have come across are breathtakingly beautiful. There are art forms I had never even heard of and a generation who are creating and nurturing new and innovative art forms for themselves. I love this.

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

Beat Box Tangent : The UK Beatbox Championships were incredible! Foe me personally getting the chance to work with Angharad on the 10 Minute Musical performances have been amazing. I am interested in pushing the boundaries in Beatboxing in Wales.

Angharad: I took my 10 year old daughter to see Slava’s Snow Storm at the WMC. A poetic, visual piece of brilliance when it comes to story telling. My daughter turned to me 10 minutes in and said ‘Mam, there are no words’. I explained that communication is not about words. It is about a visceral tempo rhythm one finds within the piece they watch. That communication begins with a buy in to a moment. She was confused. She kept watching. She came out and she cried. I asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘I don’t know. I just feel really sad’. That’s my kind of theatre. It hit her in a space and place she could not articulate.

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