Category Archives: Art

Review All About My Tits, Chapter Arts Centre by Helen Joy

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

All about my Tits

I know Anna, a bit. We worked together briefly in a local charity supporting people receiving mental health services. We stayed in touch as she moved her career into the arts. I interviewed her on Radio Cardiff about this play. Her play. Her life. Her tits.

Anyone thinking this was going to be about anyone else’s tits is mistaken. Any social-political commentary is suggestive rather than overt, Anna is her own one woman treatise on the elastic line between tit and breast, sexual objects and milk bar.

I really like the atmosphere as we walk in to take our seats. The room is dark, girls are dancing, pop is playing, pictures of breasts various on the screen.  White Russians are handed out. Not sure we get the significance yet. Much clearer when the breast milk samples are offered ’round later in the performance.

The dancing girls insinuate themselves into the audience. Hecklers and fighters for the views of others on breastfeeding as it progresses. A messy milky fight for rights.

It is a monologue of Anna’s experiences, a voyage ’round her breasts from girlhood to adulthood to motherhood and beyond. She refers to her book, diary perhaps, along the way. Stories are started, we are left to draw our own conclusions.

Anna uses her heckling dancers to good effect. A male heckler is used to make the point that it is not a show for titillation, ‘though Anna is fearless and shares her body appropriately and willingly and with a gentle self-deprecating humour.

Now. Here’s the thing. I haven’t had children and frankly, I don’t know much about tits as mother nature never felt much inclined towards generosity in that department.

This is a play about Anna’s tits. I have no idea what she is talking about for most of the time. I can see that the audience loves it – mostly women, mostly women with children I would assume, they are nodding in agreement and laughing with Anna throughout. She relates back. It is very nicely done.

Anna is sharing the intimate details of her life and most of the women, and a few men, are with her. Laughing with the relief of their own confusion, pain, embarrassments and pleasures being given air-time.

The atmosphere becomes heady with love for Anna, for her honesty, for the sisterhood. But I am lost.

I am sitting next to another woman equally detached from the proceedings. We want to love her too but we can’t. We are not part of this. But we admire her, enormously.

Afterwards, by invitation, the foyer is full of women signing the cartoon tits laid out on tables, they are groupies waiting for their heroine, their voice, to join them. Something powerful is happening here.

The clue was in the title. This is a brave, funny, honest autobiography and like many things we don’t quite like, don’t quite understand, it will stay with me far longer than anything I have enjoyed more.  It made me think about the changing roles of the breast in society and in nature. It made me slightly jealous.

PS typing this has been annoyingly tricky as predictive/corrective text replaces TITS with TITUS, BREASTS with BEASTS. Says it all really.

Seen: Friday, 7th July, 2017

Venue: Chapter Arts, Cardiff

Reviewer: Helen Joy for Get the Chance

Performer, producer, director, writer: Anna Suschitsky

 

https://www.chapter.org/all-about-my-tits

 

 

An Interview with photographer Nigel Pugh

Hi Nigel great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I’ve been a practicing artist for twenty four years, concentrating solely on photography for the last seven years.  I was born in Mid Wales the woods and rivers that surrounded me were my playground, place of solace and exploration. I absorbed the wildlife and it’s nature, whilst intuitively responding to the ever-shifting light upon the abundant textures and landscapes. During eighteen years of living in Mid Wales I began to note the ecology dwindling, and left wondering, why? Forty years on I estimate that 80% of the river ecology alone, has disappeared.

I went to Art College to study photography, typography and illustration. Four years later I returned to Wales to build and run a successful arts business in Cardiff. I became a father to two lovely children then returned to explore environmental and social themes in an attempt to seek answers to unresolved questions. Photography appeared to me as a modest way to retain a little bit of an ephemeral state; a record of what has been lost, to be lost, or regained.  I began to explore my photography practice as my part to play in the promotion of living within environmental constraints and the promotion of a more sustainable, symbiotic relationship with nature, the promotion of a more socially equitable society. I chiefly focus on environmental and social themes; the actions, narratives, interactions of individuals and their relation to their environment and community. I have sought to promote sustainable community resilience, to live within environmental constraints. My nature photography usually documents and promotes native ecology and the worth of its reinstatement. Over many years I have campaigned for, promoted and supported many environmental organisations, that adhere to the above principles.

So what got you interested in the arts and specifically photography?

My fathers relationship with us was often via a lens, he was a very good photographer. We had several family albums in our home, since I can remember, when at the family home they would always be poured over. I loved the documentation, the relationship with moment, place, time and people. I was always praised for my art work, never imagined doing anything else. The hardest thing was settling on a medium. Even though photography was part of my degree, it took having children and being a full time dad to return to this medium. I never liked the blank canvas, although I have created, sold, exhibited, both 3D work and illustration. Photography re engaged my sense of community, took away the blank canvas, fitted perfectly with my social and environmental campaigning and activism. Initially as a medium of evidence, then increasingly as a component part of story telling, socially engaged arts practice, given over to creating positive change.

As part of Refugee Week you are currently showing at Wales Millennium Centre with an exhibition called ‘Creating Sanctuary’ can you tell us more?

‘Creating Sanctuary’ identified human commonalities of purpose, work, security of home, family, friends, community, creativity, camaraderie, healing, sharing loss and grief. The subjects sort shared the commonality of volunteering their time to working with refugees. Refugees, whoever they are and regardless of where they are from, have had their basic human requirements wholly or partly removed. Creating Sanctuary recognises and illustrates the core human requirements that volunteers, or the ‘sanctuary makers’ are assisting to recreate and reinstate. The exhibition was co-ordinated to coincide with Volunteers’ Week and Refugee Week and my hope was that the project will encourage others to accept and assist in the integration of refugees in Wales, and lead to increased voluntary action; to further Wales’ journey in becoming a ’Nation Of Sanctuary’. The exhibition features six volunteers that have worked with refugees in different ways, from right around Wales. Three portraits of each, loosely based on the themes of, voluntary work, home and community. These portraits are then followed by quotes extracted from written responses to seven questions that I asked of the volunteers before taking their portraits.

“I have held a teenage girl while she cried for her mother who she will probably never see again and heard women speak in hushed tones of their past that they struggle to share even with women who suffered the same. These people are just people, alone in a new place, they are professionals, students, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers.”

Catrin – The Birth Partner Project

Barry & Cardiff, South Wales.

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/350509/350514/

Link to an audio interview with Nigel on FFoton.

https://www.ffoton.wales/interviews/2016/5/nigel-pugh

‘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 or audiences? 

The Arts Council; I feel is doing its best in ‘out reach’ and ensuring accessibility to all. It will always be extremely difficult to cover all bases, due to cost. All Arts Council funded Arts Centres should do their utmost to reach into disenfranchised, or non-engaged, disadvantaged communities.

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

If I were to wave a creative wand, it would create ‘creative hubs’ central to all constituencies. These hubs would have affordable co working spaces, and would house access to facilities to deliver a wide range of the ‘creative arts’. Many a creative is born from a bedroom with an online connection, a computer, and the related software to be able to explore, learn, create and deliver. This access should not be a privilege. Think ’Creative Arts Youth Centres’

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? 

In all honesty, I barely have time to see enough of the Arts from right across Wales. I am usually tied up with what I am trying to achieve, whilst parenting two children. What does excite me is, if all had the realisation that where ever you are from in Wales if you raise your voice Welsh politics is extremely touchable. If you work together we can create more localised viable economies which include the Arts as a vocation, as being viable, without having to permanently move to a city region. Or if you wished to return to your birth town with your acquired skills it is an option.

Days of Melancholy © Tatiana Vinogradova

As a photographer living in Cardiff I was lucky enough to be included in the ‘diffusion festival’. The exhibition or works that touched me the most within ‘diffusion’ was Tatiana Vinogradova’s ‘Days of Melancholy’ a series focusing on the life of gay people in Russia. Works such as this strongly illustrate the relative freedoms that we do have in Wales to express and be, whoever we wish to be; this should be a right, again, not a privilege.

Lastly, the best things that I have experienced of late on a personal level, were 1) being awarded an Arts Council Grant, 2) getting to work with caring compassionate people from across Wales, 3) completing a project and seeing it on the walls of the Wales Millennium Centre, 4) how positively ‘Creating Sanctuary’ has been received.

It was a journey, that I fully intended to extend further, but whole heartedly not just for my own wellbeing, as my photography is not separate to my activism, or to who I am.

http://www.nigelpugh.co.uk/-/galleries/social-documentary/creating-santuary-final

nigelpugh.co.uk

Nigel gives an overview of the images from ‘Creating Sanctuary’

The Portrayal of Muslims In the Media, A Personal Response from Amina Elmi

 

Diversity in the media is already a huge issue that is still largely unsolved. As a Muslim, I have found that Muslims are often neglected from talks about diversity. This article aims to start a discussion on why this is and what needs to be done. Even the smallest gradual change will make a difference and will celebrate Britain as a multi-cultural nation.

In the media, we see Muslims play the role of terrorist number 3, speaking in a foreign tongue to intimidate the viewer. Many television shows and films are guilty of this. It’s tiring, stereotypical and only helps to further Islamophobia rhetoric. If that is the only version of Muslims people see, then it is no wonder that people harbour such negative views to a religion they know little about expect from what the media has shown them. Bigotry flourishes in this environment which is why change is required now more than ever.

As well as spreading prejudiced views, it is also giving the younger generation of Muslims the idea that they do not belong. With little to no representation it leaves young Muslims to perceive that the there is no play for them in the media industry. By excluding them, a whole narrative is missing, a unique perspective that won’t be shared. Yes, anyone can write a Muslim character or play one, but they will not be able to understand the unique British Muslim experience. It’s a whole generation of young people only seeing negative portrayals of themselves and accepting that’s how society sees them.

The solution? Muslims in influential roles such as directors and producers. Perhaps most crucially writers. Muslim writers have the ability to write from their own experiences that would resonate to not just Muslim viewers but to everyone. We have far more common than what divides us. If negative perceptions are tackled, then less people will be influenced by bigotry and unjustified hate. With the creation of more Muslim roles we could have more Muslim actors and actresses breaking into the industry.

However, we have seen an emergence of Muslim characters in the past few years. Riz Ahmed, whose career has exploded in the past year has grown from strength to strength. Raised in a Muslim family, he has starred in the Star Wars and The Night Of, the latter earning him a Golden Globe nomination. He is even an advocate of more representation. I highly recommended his speech to Parliament on the lack of diversity in Britain.

Watch Riz Ahmed warn Parliament about the danger of failing to improve TV diversity

Another example of positive Muslim representation, perhaps the most significant is Kamala Khan. A Marvel female Muslim superhero. It is difficult to get across how outstanding and crucial Ms Marvel (a.k.a Kamala Khan) is. She is the superhero the world needs right now.

I am envious of the young girls who get to grow up with a hero that they can see themselves reflected in. Yet I am more overjoyed that she exists and is inspiring girls all over the world.

However, this is a starting point. We need more positive Muslim representation in the media to overpower the toxic portrayals that are being shown today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms._Marvel_(Kamala_Khan)

http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/2/2/14457384/kamala-khan-captain-america-protest-icon

  • Amina Elmi, @queenchester, Young Critic

Get the Chance announced as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award at this years Epic Awards

 

Get the Chance  have been announced as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award at the 2017 Epic Awards organised by Voluntary Arts. The ceremony took place on Sunday the 19th March at the Sage Gateshead as part of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival.

 The Epic Awards were set up in 2010 by Voluntary Arts, an organisation that works across the UK and Republic of Ireland to promote participation in creative cultural activities. They celebrate the amazing contribution voluntary-led creative groups make to their communities.

https://www.voluntaryarts.org/epic-awards

The Celebrating Diversity Award is selected from across the full shortlist of 32 groups by a panel of judges representing  teams in each nation. This award celebrates groups that have taken an innovative approach to highlighting the positive effects that come from living in a diverse society and is something that is central to the work that Voluntary Arts does all year round. Get the Chance were unanimously praised by the Epic Awards judges for

The project’s unique approach to encouraging a diversity of voices

 Guy O’Donnell, Director of Get the Chance said;

Get the Chance is honoured to be selected as runners up in the Celebrating Diversity Award. We strive to reflect the diverse nature of society in our voluntary membership. We learn from our team about barriers to sport and cultural provision and seek to work together to provide responses which are representative of all citizens in the UK.”

https://www.voluntaryarts.org/epic-awards-2017-winners

Membership of Get the Chance is free for further details please contact Guy O’Donnell, Director of Get the Chance

 getthechance1@gmail.com

Get The Chance

 

 

An Interview with lecturer, artist and designer Becky Davies

Hi Becky great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Currently, my work involves three core roles. I’m a freelance Set and Costume Designer for Theatre and Performance, I am an Artist who mainly produces artwork via commission, and I am a part-time Senior Lecturer on the BA(Hons) Creative and Therapeutic Arts course. I am also an Associate Artist of Taking Flight Theatre Company (who produce accessible and inclusive performance), and a resident designer for new musical theatre company, Leeway Productions.

http://www.beckydavies-theatredesigner-artist.com/about

So what got you interested in the arts ?

It may sound a cliché​ (but it is the absolute truth!). I was obsessed with drawing and painting from as soon as I could hold a pencil. This was my absolute first love and my way of telling stories and inventing worlds. I have always had a vivid imagination and I used to routinely dress up in elaborate costumes and build cities out of cardboard, towels, sheets, rope, chairs​ and pegs, whatever was available.

I was very lucky as I was encouraged by my parents and teachers to pursue my passion and follow a path towards a creative career. I had a romantic idea that I would end up as a Parisian Bohemian in an attic studio in Montmartre! To earn money while at school and then university, I facilitated art workshops in holiday playschemes for a Welsh language charity from the age of 15.

By the time I had reached Atlantic College, I was making wearable sculpture in my art lessons and I thought I was going to go into fashion, or a Foundation Art course if all else failed. I went round all of the University Open Days, and the atmosphere everywhere I went was not the right fit for me. I was more taken by the prosthetics department in the floor above the fashion department when I went to an Open Day in London which should have told me something!

It wasn’t until the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama toured their annual puppetry performance to Atlantic College that I met Christine Marfleet (or ‘Marf’ to most of us RWCMD alumni) that I knew I had to go to an Open Day for what was then called the BA(Hons) Theatre Design course. I saw a room crammed with tiny, lit models for opera productions, a gloriously messy scenic painting workshop and beautiful garments being embellished in the sewing rooms – I was totally sold! It was RWCMD or nothing for me by that point, and I was over the moon when I was accepted. Everything moved at lightening speed from that point onwards.

RWCMD Annual Puppetry Performance

You are a visual artist as well as a theatre designer. Do the skills required to work in these art forms relate to each other?

A lot of my making skills and language of creative expression came from my training as a Theatre Designer. At the start of my Master of Fine Art course at Cardiff School of Art and Design, I could make an installation art piece or a sculpture pretty much exactly as I had planned it. I was used to being resourceful, problem solving and making under pressure. However, this foxed my Fine Art lecturers quite a bit as my process was very different from a Fine Art process. I very quickly realised that I needed to begin to discover what my work was about at this point through a more unpredictable process, to use this opportunity to explore not planning for an end product. As a designer, I can be playful in my preparatory model boxes, drawing etc., but as an artist, I started to push myself to play through the entire process of making with no pre-defined end product. This created an interesting tension and challenged me in a whole different way. I am very grateful to have explored the distinction between these two roles as a creative practitioner at that point. I graduated feeling confident in how I work.
As an associate artist of accessible and inclusive theatre company, Taking Flight, you are often breaking new ground with regards to access relating to areas of design. Do you think this is fair to say?

As an associate artist of Taking Flight, my role is incredibly exciting as I have opportunities and support to push the boundaries of creative access within the realms of design for their productions year on year. It is a constantly evolving area of research and most of this is done through Research and Development periods and whilst engaged in preparatory work and rehearsals for the show.

Increasingly, I have developed the sensory potential of the costumes, props and site dressing. These are rich in texture and detail which, whether an audience member or performer has a sensory disability or not, adds conceptual and experiential depth to the design. BSL interpreters and audio describers have roles in the production. I inform audio description from a design perspective and consider the sounds my costumes and props make in helping to define and identify a character. For Director, Elise Davison, and I, access is never an afterthought or an add-on, it is an integral part of the show​. The creative potential is massive and enthralling – it enters my dreams at night!

Taking Flight’s ‘Breaking Out of the Box’ symposiums bring theatre and access practitioners together to discuss the inherent challenges and creative developments. I cannot wait to explore creative captioning and audio description in ways informed by the works of Ramps on the Moon, Solar Bear and other interesting companies. I have been inspired to produce tactile pre-show boxes and models with advice from Robin Bray-Hurren from Graeae Theatre in addition to designing for touch tours. Being at the forefront of accessible and inclusive theatre, being part of a vital creative conversation, is a wonderful place to be making work.

And as if you aren’t already busy enough you are also a “current Senior Lecturer for the BA Creative and Therapeutic Arts, one of only two courses of its kind in the UK promoting the development of refined workshop facilitation techniques for inclusive and community benefiting creative interventions.” I wonder if you could tell us more about this role?

I was initially employed as a visiting lecturer, teaching art skills to students on the course. It was very different when I started in 2011, where students went out on placement, delivering art workshops only in education settings. I very quickly became Senior Lecturer and then Course Leader for 4 years and during this time, the course developed in a very exciting way. The placements and types of participants the students worked with opened up to incorporate elderly care homes, homeless charities, refugees and asylum seekers, women and children with experience of domestic abuse, people with disabilities of all ages, and the list keeps growing. This is to reflect the growing need for creative interventions, alternatives to the norm, to help participants grow, develop, connect with others and achieve a sense of wellbeing. The course incorporates placements every year, art studio practice as a prominent component, and supporting theoretical subjects such as Therapeutic Principles, Inclusive Practice, Human Development and many more. We feel that our students are very much at the forefront of this area of work, and they are supported by lecturers who are also engaged in current practice. I now enjoy lecturing on the course part-time, and my colleague Beth Pickard is Course Leader. Her vision continues to take the course from strength to strength.

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 or designers?

I am very fortunate that in my own work I am usually surrounded by theatre practitioners, artists and creatives in general who are exploring the potential of inclusive practice with great enthusiasm. The role of a set and costume designer naturally demands that you deliver something beautiful, engaging or striking within restricted and often short time frames, under pressure, within a budget and against the odds that come your way. It is therefore frustrating when access is not a part of the process from the beginning. It is difficult for a designer to ensure that the vision for the show is cohesively applied across the production if the access requirements are added on at the end. It should be a dramaturgical decision really. However, the reality is that this conversation regarding creative access is far from mainstream and is still a very new concept to some companies. Consequently, I feel it important to champion this in my work.

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

I think the more research into creative access, the better. More funding will enable a rich exploration of potential methods and strategies to be adopted more universally.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

The ability to regularly work bilingually in a prolific Welsh language arts scene.

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

I went to see F.E.A.R. by Mr and Mrs Clark at Chapter Arts Centre. This was an intimate, one man performance that had me gripped the whole way through and anxious about everyday, life worries and getting older! It also had an accompanying film that operated as a collage of nostalgic footage and impending doom – signature Andrew James Rock!

FEAR by Mrs & Mrs Clark

Thanks for your time Becky

F.E.A.R. by Mr & Mrs Clark, a review by Helen Joy

F.E.A.R.

An autobiographical tour of the constructed fear that society, religion and family place onto young shoulders.

Mr & Mrs Clark

There is someone in front of me who is bored, who doesn’t like it. There is much loud huffing and shrugging. But as far as I can tell, everyone else is in thrall to this captivating performance. Most of us are about the same age as Mr Clark and he is describing us. To a tee.

These are our fears too. Nostalgia and angst. Nuclear war and homemade bunkers. Overhead cables and safety belts. Clunk click. Superman y-fronts and God.

Being watched, getting a proper job, having sex, getting AIDS, getting a girl pregnant, not having children, having a mortgage, taking drugs and dancing. Hair, too much in the ears, too little on the head. Farting. Weeing. Keeping it in. Keeping it up.

God, this is so uncomfortable, so perfectly awkward as we confront the identities of our public information inspired youth and our middle age of worry.

It is inclusive – we want to bop about with him on his dance floor, we don’t want to admit to being the 1 in 3 who voted to keep immigrants out, we want to relax into our group hug. We remember terrorism then and now, we remember war, then and now. Why would you want to join the army? Get a proper job. Put your hand up if you have taken an AIDS test.

We all hide in our masks – our crocodile facade, we feel responsible for everything bad in the world and wonder constantly how we are still here, how we didn’t catch diseases from loo seats and get run over by trains. But we are being watched by God, by Jesus, by cameras, by the internet. Brilliant.

This is brilliant. It is funny, challenging, difficult, joyous, hard viewing. Mr C’s eye contact is hard to return. We feel guilty, the collective conscience of the ‘70s.

FEAR. And the really clever bit is its accessibility. Signed and spoken as part of the production, not something outside of it. This is most properly inclusive and even better for it.

Maybe we have learned something after all. It is these children who became the adults who changed our social makeup, who challenged the divisions between sexuality and race and class and ability, who invited everyone to join in, who broke the boundaries we inherited.

Perhaps FEAR is not always such a bad thing. I wonder what that man in front of me was really feeling.

 

4 stars

 

Project Details

Directed by: Agnieszka Blonska Performed by Gareth Clarkcroc

 

Criw Celf A2:Connect working with artes mundi, Bedwyr Williams and Gareth Clark

Earlier this year our director Guy O’Donnell met with  Tom Goddard, Project Producer at Criw Celf, A2:Connect to discuss their work.  Criw Celf is is a visual arts project for ‘More Able & Talented’ young artists at secondary school. Tom discussed the current Criw Celf project which is linked to artes mundi. Tom had invited Welsh Artist Bedwyr Williams to work with the young people and they were also able to take a tour of Artes Mundi as well as taking part in workshops to produce art work of their own. This article gives us an update of their progress. The original article can be found at the link below.

An interview with Tom Goddard Project Producer at Criw Celf, A2:Connect

“Hi Tom, would it be possible to give our readers some information on what happened during the recent workshop at NMW?”

“Yes, it went really well thanks! Each of the group have now embarked on their own self initiated project. Through working and getting to know Bedwyr each of them began to consider a position or a problem that they wanted to tackle, investigate or even solve through the creative process. It all sounds a bit over the top when put like that when really it’s about refocussing on them as individuals instead of being given a theme that’s been thrown at groups of young people for over 20 years.”

“What came out of this process was questions, questions about why things are the way they are as well as what they are passionate about; whether those things are absurd, annoying or interesting.”

Criw Celf members feedback

The workshop opened my eyes to the many different ideas of art, the January workshop I thoroughly enjoyed although it was slightly less independent than the February one. This is why this time I preferred it because it was a more hands on experience, as we developed our ideas and played on what we thought they could be presented as we each decided and are going to show them in an exhibition.”

Amber

“It was good fun, met some new people, look forward to carrying on with future activities, interesting people in the class.”

Llyr

“I thoroughly enjoyed the workshops this week as we experimented with a range of different materials and techniques. I tried pinhole photography for the first time which was interesting and an experience.”

Rubi

“In February they’ll be working with two artists with questioning at the heart of their practices, Tiffany Oben and Lisa Saunders. The workshops at Llanover Hall will continue to focus on creating a studio environment where the self led work is supported through the sharing and discussion of context, specific artists, influences and relevant thoughts, people and theory.

During the three February half term workshops they will complete their tour of Artes Mundi seeing the work of Nastio Mosquito and Lamia Joreige at Chapter and they’ll all be learning how to make, take and develop pinhole photographs inspired by Lamia Joreige’s work. On the final day we’ll be going to a workshop led by Mr & Mrs Clark in Chapter’s Theatre then seeing a performance of their one man show F.E.A.R. I saw it last year at Experimentica and was struck by its honesty and power after meeting and getting to know the group I felt it would be exciting for them to see something this bold.”

Criw Celf participating in a workshop with Gareth Clark from Mr & Mrs Clark at Chapter Arts Centre.

“What plans are there for the development of the project.”

“In March once the project work is nearing completion and even while some of it is still very much in progress!, Criw Celf will be working with a curator and a technician to design, build and curate their own exhibition in the centre of town. The idea is that Criw Celf will learn how to do it themselves, the groups average age is 15 so I think it’s really important to demystify all this stuff early on, to get hands on and to have a go yourself. All of these adults might work really hard but none of them do something these young people couldn’t do, if they put their minds to it and I’d like to think that Criw Celf would probably do it better too. I’ve been lucky enough to have the support of Cardiff Council and that’s meant I have been able to secure a building to house the exhibition for the whole of the month of March so if you’re in town do pop in and check out the exhibition.”

Criw Celf Exhibition opening – 2.30pm on Sat 4 March
Venue: 11 High Street, Cardiff City Centre

Exhibition open
Thurs, Fri & Sat throughout March 12 – 4pm
9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 March

 

An interview with Rachel Pedley-Miller, founding director of Avant Cymru

Rachel Pedley-Miller

The Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Rachel Pedley-Miller, founding director of Avant Cymru. Rachel discussed her career to date, Blue Scar Avants latest work in development, the support she has received from Angela Gould/RCT Theatres and the importance of working with local communities in all aspects of her professional practice.

Hi Rachel great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I started dancing aged 2, my Mam had learned to dance in the Ponty YMCA with Pat and Heather Rees and she wanted me to learn to dance as well. I loved every dance class and by my teens I was training 6 days a week in various styles and had started drama and music lessons. There were also various community arts opportunities I could join in with to keep developing my understanding. I had amazing teachers who trained me to teach, which meant I could afford to do extra classes, through gaining work at the dance studios.

I was really lucky to start training under Maggie Patterson through the Pineapple Performing Arts Troup. Maggie created opportunities for me and the rest of our crew to gain professional work opportunities while training, we danced for TV, Film, theatre and live events. It was here that I started training with Jimmy Williams (lockin’ dancer) and Kate Prince (of Zoonation) who started my introduction to Hip Hop Dance.

It was great to grow up in the dance community, it taught me the importance of sharing experiences, giving back and that you can always continue to learn, not only because there so are many dance styles to learn, but also because these styles have come from diverse communities and learning about the history behind the techniques is just as important as performing the moves themselves.

You are one of the directors of AVANT Cymru and support a lots go great community arts activity in the Valleys, could you tell us more about this work?

During the school holidays I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather is very community minded, he was part of ‘Cor Meibion Male Voice Choir’ (who sing at community events all over Wales and beyond, including the  Principality Stadium before internationals!) He also looked after the community, shopping for the elderly and doing carpentry work for others as favours to friends. His community ethics have played an important part in my desire to come home to the Rhondda. It has created a desire to make work with a community who create opportunities for themselves and who love to celebrate culture.

Avant was founded at the end of 2014 when I had moved back home to the Rhondda and had started to go to networking opportunities around Wales. At these networking meetings (such as NTW TEAM workout, Ponty’ Arts meetings, Sherman JMK training opportunities, Equity Branch meeting, What’s Next Valleys meetings to name a few) I met likeminded artists such as Alan and Darius (co-directors) who wanted to create high quality, relevant and imaginative work.

Killer Cells

Our work includes ‘Over By Here’, ‘Killer Cells’ and now ‘Blue Scar’. In all Avant’s  work we create opportunities for either our students from our weekly classes or for the community to shape the shows. We firmly believe in going out into the community to hear what is relevant and working with the community to develop art that is wanted and needed. Even though we are theatre makers, this means that we have also collaborated with other art styles. For example visual artists such as Claire Louise Prosser, on projects such as the Bus Stops in Tonyrefail. When researching for Over By Here we found out that the public wanted the beaten up bus stops to be more colourful, Claire came on board and led project Bus Stops which led to one teenager commenting “Thank you for doing this, the bus stops show that people care and it makes me feel safer in town”.

Artist Claire Louise Prosser

We are also about to undertake a film project with Gary Lewis called ‘Land of Our Fathers’ for the Age Cymru Gwanwyn Festival. We have chosen the media of film as the residents of the care home we will be working with may not be able to access live performances, by creating a film this can be played back to them in their care situation.

Avant are a forward thinking theatre company who have plans to create versatile work in the Rhondda and perform this work locally, nationally and internationally, to celebrate the Rhondda and its people in all sorts of creative ways. We are really excited to be working with RCT Theatres on a number of these projects.

More recently you have been working towards a sharing of a production called Blue Scar, I believe this production involves Urban Art Forms is that correct?

Blue Scar is a Hip Hop inspired project. We were asked to research and develop a hip hop dance project with RCT Theatres and Creu Cymru’s  welsh dance consortium. Our first plan of action was to speak to the community. We were inspired by the history of ‘Lockin’, which was created by young people at the end of the 1970’s early 1980’s watching cartoons such as the Loony Toons and recreating the actions that the cartoon characters performed. The style of dance is very animated with big facial expressions and poses. So we wanted to know what young people in the late 1970s/early 80’s were doing in the Rhondda to make Welsh hip hop.

We visited audiences at the Park and Dare and Coliseum before the Pantomime, we went to the local libraries and we spoke to people on Rhondda Facebook groups. The answer that came back was that the children liked to play up the mountain, occasionally some of these games resulted in cuts and bruises and because of the coal dust they often resulted in blue scars.

Blue scars became a point of discussion, miners had them from their work down the mines, but they were also a mark of the area. People spoke proudly of the time they earned their blue scar, from falling off their Gambo (go cart) or from playing kiss chase on the tip. These stories became our inspiration.

We then set out to speak to students in our regular classes and at Treorchy Comp who hadn’t heard of blue scars and wanted to help us make the show relevant to their generation. So as part of the R&D we worked with the young people and involved them  to lead the narrative, asking them how they share stories at home. Niamh performed with us on the night of the R&D, her character learns of how her mother gained her blue scar playing up the mountains. Niamh’s grandmother came to watch the show, which prompted her to tell Niamh tales from when she was young, and how she too used to play up the mountain.

Blue Scar, shaped by the community became a cross generational project because of the narrative, which made it vital for us to work with the right artists. To really create a Welsh hip hop piece we wanted to blend traditional welsh music and dance with hip hop styles. We did a call out for artists and we began to develop ideas.

Angharad Jenkins and Dean Yhnell working on Blue Scar

James Humphreys created a script based on the comments from the community, Gary Lewis created a film showcasing Avant’s students participation. Dean Yhnell from BeatTechnique got in contact; he had previously worked with musician Angharad Jenkins on the 10 minute musical project produced by Leeway Productions.

The Blue Scar Dancers

They were keen to work together again, working with Darius they created the tracks and Bethan England came in to sing. Tommy Boost, Ahmed Zada and myself were able to bring three different hip hop techniques breakin, lockin and poppin and then we were lucky to bring in BBoy Slammo and Patrick Thomas. BBoy Slammo has been teaching breakin in the Rhondda for over a decade and Patrick is a member of his crew, having these two bboys on board has been vital to showcase the legacy of hip hops dance community that already exists in the Rhondda. Bboy Slammo is an internationally known breaker who is one of the founding organiser for Breakin’  the Bay at the WMC.

Blue Scar

The whole team were able to bring different elements to the project and inspired by the communities ideas we got to work, creating a Welsh hip hop dance piece.

Angela Gould, (Theatre Programme and Audience Development Manager RCT) and the RCT Theatres staff have been strong supporters of your career, why is the support of someone like Angela important?

Angela Gould has created the #CreativeHub at the Park and Dare, which is creative space for companies to produce new work. The Park and Dare staff are the most amazing team an artist could wish for. The tech team provide staging and tech, they bend over backwards to make sure we have everything required to provide the best audience experience possible. The venue team are amazing, Tom helps to get in place translations and timetables so everything is accessible and the team help produce programmes and marketing so we can facilitate the community outreach. Angela is incredible, she is there from the start to discuss ideas, then bends over backwards to mentor and challenge us. She takes the time to listen to audiences and know our community, we are so grateful to Angela and RCT theatres for their support. We firmly believe in collaboration and the #CreativeHub has been an amazing place for Avant to grow and develop. We are looking forward to producing Killer Cells over the summer and developing Blue Scar into a production for next year together with RCT Theatres.

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? 

We love to invite Get the Chance to all stages of our work, we are aware of the fantastic work they are doing promoting theatre and culture in Wales, demonstrating that there is a variety of cultural experience that appeals to diverse audiences. We know the reviewers have the opportunity to see a range of work and are informed on current theatre practices, so their reviews help shape future developments. For example Get the Chance critic Gemma Treharne-Foose came to watch the small production of Killer Cells, we had been working on the characters and story and her feedback confirmed to us that the digital aspect needed investment. So for the 2017 tour we have acted on this feedback and we are investing in the digital aspect of the story.

REVIEW: ‘KILLER CELLS’ BY GEMMA TREHARNE-FOOSE

We have found that fear is a barrier for new audiences because the unknown can make people anxious. By inviting Get the Chance in the stages of development and by sharing our ideas and plans we are able to inform new audiences, so they are guided and have an idea of what to expect when they attend a show. Get the Chance is breaking down these fears and bringing new audiences to the theatre.

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

This is a difficult question as I would like to see more spending in the arts all over, I believe arts and participation is good for health, wellbeing education and regeneration. I would like to see more funding going into buildings such as the Park and Dare. They have already started work on improving the building, which includes new carpets, paint in the foyer and the lift is being rebuilt, however further funding is still needed to help complete the other jobs the team have planned.

http://www.rct-arts.co.uk

I’d love to see money put into a collaborative CPD programme. In dance, for example we have fantastic dance teachers and studios, but it would be amazing to have collaborative spaces such as Pineapple or Broadway Dance Studios in Wales, where the public can access dance and professionals can access the training needed 7 days a week and during the day time. It is important to create new training opportunities in Wales, so we can continue to learn and develop.

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 truly believe that Wales is an exciting country for the arts. There are so many cultural opportunities and emerging companies and individuals who are being shaped by established and experienced venues and organisations. There are networking opportunities, training performances and jobs it is evident that the people of Wales, want to make cultural experiences happen in a variety of places and in a variety of ways. From engaging in local opportunities in the Rhondda, taking part in Age Cymru’s Gwanwyn Festival, being a Sherman 5 member at the Paul Hamlyn Funded project at Sherman Theatre and by being a TEAM panel member for National Theatre Wales. I have personally found that no matter who you are there is a cultural opportunity for you. It is hard to name one event because the variety of experiences is exciting. I know that I am looking forward to seeing ‘Hard As Nails’ at the Park and Dare and ‘Killology’ at the Sherman, I have my tickets booked for both!

I am really proud to say that Avant are part of the Welsh art community, creating work in the Rhondda, with fantastic partners in RCT Theatres, at the Park and Dare and traveling to exciting venues such as the Sherman, the Willow Globe and Volcano later this year.

 

An Interview with scriptwriter David Lloyd

“Hey everybody, my name is David Lloyd and as much as I hate to blow my own trumpet, Im going to be like Marvin Gay and tell you my life story. You see, I’m 22 years old and I am currently attending my third year of BA Hons Scriptwriting at the University of South Wales based in Cardiff. From my past writing experience I find myself drawn more specifically to psychological dramas, but I do try to widen my genre field. Admittedly, I would jump higher than a grass hopper on a pogo stick at any opportunities, but I do prefer writing for film and television where I find myself working on amateur short films with the master film production students.”

“Since I was a child (where others say I still am!) I have held a passion for creative writing, but it wasn’t until I had performed in my first self-written theatre play where I knew which career path I intended to pursue. The performance, title ‘The Mask of Eldernon’ was a psychological drama based upon a mass murderer who suffered from a split personality disorder where the protagonist was both the victim and the culprit. It was performed by myself and four of my peers as part of our course at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) in Hereford.”

http://www.rnc.ac.uk

“Oh… perhaps this would be a good time to mention how I am in fact visually impaired- it’s funny how some things slip your mind. Anyway, the diagnosis for my sight loss is a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and I have a detached retina which was caused from fluid seeping in beneath my eye. From six months of age. I also have an extremely rare metabolic disorder called LCHAD where my liver is unable to process fatty acids so I must stick to a three gram diet and I sustain my energy from an overnight feed. In result of this condition I have problems with my muscles and my energy levels and it attacks the nerves in my hands, feet and eyes which is what caused the site loss, but enough about the reason that would make me the perfect Olympic athlete, let us return to the topic of RNC.”

“Being a college which specialises in visual impairment, the purpose of me attending was mainly to be taught independence and mobility skills. As well as this, in the two years I attended I managed to obtain a Level 3 Diploma in Performing Arts, a single award in Brail and a C in re-sitting my A Level English Literature. I feel  my biggest achievement was the confidence I had built with the help from my friends. Being amongst other people who had gone through the same experiences and had tackled the same difficulties as I have has really opened my eyes. The whole experience has change my life completely and inspired me to chase my dreams and overcome any obstacles that stand in my way… except from a Rubiks cube, those things are very hard!”

“Speaking of difficulties, despite the little deterioration that I already had, I have lost a significant amount of site in my right eye during my A Levels and couldn’t see how I was going to cope, especially when I was studying art and design, but I suppose If Van Gogh was able to paint with one ear missing then surely I could do it with one eye… yeah? you see what I did there? One ear, one eye- oh forget it. Anyway, this sudden site loss meant that I had to apply drastic changes to my work method, like studying films in class, but having to wait until I went home to hear the audio description, reading out of large print text books and perhaps the cruelest… sitting in the front row to see the board. The changes in my artistic techniques however, did allow me to stumble upon a hidden talent of drawing surrealistic images derived from my imagination with the smudging of compressed chalk.

Now for those who don’t know, compressed chalk can get extremely messy and stick to pretty much anything it comes into contact with, so you can imagine the site of it being used by a visually impaired student and then going home to a recently cleaned house… to a recently cleaned house with white walls… a recently cleaned house with white walls and an angry mother following the fingerprints… well you get the idea. So despite the change in methods, the giant printed books and the cloak covered fingerprints, I was able to obtain my Alevels in English Literature, Art and Media Studies, I had been accepted into RNC and I didn’t even have to bribe anyone either, which is always a plus.”

“Which then ledd me to the most scariest three letters I thought I’d never meet: U… N… I (which is just an abbreviation for the ten letter word, but this sounds cooler). I remember when I first started and feeling so scared of joining a new university in a city I wasn’t familiar with, but I kept thinking to myself ‘I just need to bite my tongue, hold my breath and jump into any opportunity that comes my way’ … but then naturally start breathing normally otherwise I wont be there for long. I understand how this may seem easier said than done, but with the support of the lecturers and my fellow peers and the provided equipment university became a life changing experience. Admittedly it was difficult adjusting to uni life what with the independence required for maintaining my condition, the continuity of eating and finding a healthy balance between work and social activity, but reflecting on it now makes me realise how these difficulties and mistake I had made have helped me become a better person and do you want to know what else… I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”

 

Review: Babulus, Gwyn Emberton and ilDance by Helen Joy

Babulus

4 Stars

Tower of Babel, says a friend next to me.

 Communication, that’s what it’s about, she says, all the different ways of communicating.

 I’m not sure about the bear, I find the bear creepy. Oh, she says, I like the bear.

Did you like the dance as a whole? Oh yes, mesmerising. I like going to things with you, I see things I wouldn’t otherwise see.

I see things I wouldn’t otherwise see. This is one of them for me too.

 

I was facilitating art classes last week with older people in hospitals and care homes and one of them, Brian, was unable to speak or hear. Don’t worry, the nurse said, he will make you understand him. And he did. Brian painted flowers, big colourful flowers. We chatted with our hands, our faces and our paint. We did not need to use our voices. It was a dance between two people.

Babulus is a dance between five people, one of whom is a bear now and again. A bizarre, fluffy, comedic yet sentient and sympathetic character to foil the darker elements of tied hands and closed mouths. I still found it creepy. The clown in the classroom, the slapstick to the poignant. I realise that this is just me – everyone else loved the softer element, the balance, the reference to a childhood toy. I still have my Bear, he sleeps with me still and he is my most valuable possession so I do get it, I get the thinking, I just don’t like it until I watch her loose a dancer’s bonds, quietly, softly.

But the dance itself? Oh it is superb. The dancers come together, push apart, come together, push apart using movement, chatter, language, sticky tape, song and light. They are beautifully choreographed, they are beautifully lit. It is mesmerising. There are two themes I particularly like: the holding of hands over each other’s mouths; and the bunching together babbling in their mother tongues. I like that they emerge from behind us, that they make eye contact with us, that they threaten us and engage with us. They laugh with us too.

It is the dance between two people, one with his hand over her mouth with her twisting away to speak, that I will remember most – they roll into and over each other in a balletic, deceptive, controlling, power struggle. I wish I could see this again and again. It called to me.

It is also one of the best after show discussions I have ever attended. The performers, dancers, are as engaging vocally as they have been throughout their piece. Clever, open, responsive to their audience, they are indeed communicating at all levels. Not babbling at all, really.

 

Event:                   Bablulus

Seen:                    1930, 17th February, 2017

Reviewer:            Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:               Friday 17 February – Saturday 18 February

Cost :                    Tickets: £12/£10; Age 11+

Running time: approx. 50mins  

Links:     http://www.chapter.org/babulus

Production:         Gwyn Emberton and ilDance collaboration

Music:                  Oscar Collin

Lighting and design:         Joe Fletcher

Direction:            Sara Lloyd

Babulus was created and toured with the support of Arts Council Wales, Gothenburg International Theatre and Dance Festival, The Work Room, Wales Arts International, Göteborg Stad, Västra Götalandsregionen, NDCWales, Ballet Cymru, Balettakademien Stockholm, Konstnärsnämnden, and Arts Promotion Centre Finland.