The Director of Get The Chance Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to meet with actor, facilitator and audio describer Owen Pugh. We discussed his career to date, recent audio description training with Coreo Cymru for The Family Dance Festival and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.
You can listen to this interview through the sound file below
Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?
Hello! Right, well I am an actor and facilitator based in North Wales, originally from Penarth, via London now living with my family in Mold. I’ve been a performer for quite a few years now and worked on numerous theatre tours, film as well as radio and voice over. As a facilitator I’ve worked with young people on various topics as well as in more corporate environments.
You have recently received audio description training from Dr Louise Fryer, BBC Radio 3 Presenter and Audio Describer, and Anne Hornsby of Mind’s Eye, both pioneers in UK audio description as part of the Family Dance Festival. The training was organised by Carole Blade, Creative Producer for Dance in Wales with Coreo Cymru. Can you give us more information on this training?
Certainly, well I heard about the training after going to Taking Flight’s ‘Breaking out of the Box’ symposium at Theatre Clwyd a couple of months ago and I jumped at the opportunity. The theme of the symposium was Access and how can access across the board be improved by the industry in Wales. Audio Description was brought up in the conversation briefly along with many other access issues. I’ve always had an interest in radio drama and have done a couple of radio plays myself, that I was really intrigued by the idea of potentially using skills I have as an actor and applying them to a role I didn’t know too much about. We started with introductions meeting Louise, Anne and Carole, from whom I heard of the training via her company Coreo Cymru. We then flew into the training, learning about various sight afflictions and what effect the have; to get an understanding of how vast and varied the pool of people are who require AD services. We also discussed the possibility of how you could incorporate AD into a performance, making it more of a fluid form of access, which really appealed to myself. We learnt about scripting the action; this was particularly hard in the medium of dance as it is so visual that you feel you are describing absolutely everything. Through the company’s dress rehearsals you’re looking out for everything; subtle movements or the environment or specific dance moves. It was incredibly challenging, yet highly rewarding.
We then took part in a seminar where we heard from representatives from the Cardiff Institute for the Blind about their experiences; positive and not so positive, in theatres and other cultural venues across Wales. As well as hearing from Megan Merrett from HYNT who represent Welsh cultural venues that push for better access in their buildings as well as getting people who have additional access needs into cultural venues. It was particularly key to hear from the people who actually use this service, I definitely picked up some good tips! On the final day we took a performance each and Audio Described the whole piece. It felt great to be chucked in at the deep end, you really learn to understand the challenges that are faced in a live performance. The whole process was really rewarding, it has definitely encouraged me to explore AD as a career path, I’ll definitely be looking for future opportunities.
Prior to this did you have any knowledge of audio description for theatre/dance?
Very, very basic. As I mentioned before it was briefly mentioned in the symposium I attended earlier in the year. I have also seen it is available to use at numerous cinemas as well as TV channels and streaming services, but hadn’t much prior knowledge of it in regard to live performing art at all.
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?
Speaking from experience I have seen first hand at castings the lack of diversity, or perceived lack of diversity and equality. It’s a hard industry to get seen for projects in general: work is of a premium. I feel gatekeepers at organisations have the biggest responsibility to how wide they spread their nets, as well as more encouragement from producers to new writers that demonstrate something that represents the wonderful diversity that is available in Wales so that their voices are heard in the places that matter. And I really hope we are seeing a shift toward that.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
I would give it to the Arts Council and encourage them to back every company that has strong beliefs in promoting their work in communities all over Wales, not just the popular spots!
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
It is a forever growing menagerie of talent across the board. Such brilliant new writing, acting and directing. Such exceptional theatres and companies producing top quality, award winning work. We are pretty spoiled really!
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
‘Black Men Walking’ was a brilliant piece of theatre from Eclipse Theatre Company that I saw at Theatr Clwyd, a bold and diverse piece that struck you in your soul. A great mix of storytelling, music, rhythmic poetry. Loved it.
There will be Audio Description at The Family Dance Festival at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday the 14th April.
Audio Described performances and Touch Tours Sat 14 April @ 12.15 for Welsh show and 15.45 English show.
Welsh language taster workshop led by Cêt Haf, (S4C’s Nansi in Follow M) following the 12:30 shows each day.