Category Archives: Literature

Review Teimlo Llais (Feeling Voice), Arcade Cardiff Exhibition, Artists: Penny D Jones, Gemma Green-hope and Sally Richmond by Tafsila Khan

Teimlo Llais (Feeling Voice) exhibition

Artists: Penny D Jones, Gemma Green-hope and Sally Richmond

An installation of touch and sound.

The exhibition is in the gallery ArcadeCardiff Queens Arcade, Queens Street, Cardiff CF10 2BY arcadecardiff.co.uk

Opening Night:18th April 2018 from 6pm-8pm

The exhibition continues from Thursday 19th April until Saturday 5th May

It is open Wednesdays to Saturdays 12:30-5:30

The Gallery ArcadeCardiff is situated within the Queens Arcade shopping centre, the Gallery space opened in 2011 and aims to provide a place for upcoming and established artists to experiment, test out ideas or show new work.

The latest exhibition by Penny D Jones brought together her two interests, women’s voices and the Welsh language. The exhibition was a feast for the senses, with a textured quilt and tactile ceramic work which played a recording of Welsh women speaking in Welsh.

Penny wanted this exhibition to be inclusive and accessible for visually impaired and blind people, this was done well as the exhibition was enjoyed through touch and sound. The pieces of art were all black so worked a little as a leveller for sighted people and people with visual impairments.

One of the pieces had no sound so you were able interpret from it what it made you feel. I have to say this was my favourite piece as I am not a Welsh speaker, however, Penny was on hand to interpret for the other pieces.

This is the first accessible exhibition I have visited, it has my wetted my appetite to find more exhibitions like this.

For more information on this exhibition please go to https://llaismenywod.wordpress.com/

Tafsila Khan

Review Mary and the Witch’s Flower by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

With the fate of Studio Ghibli still uncertain, what are all the talented artist and storytellers to do that worked there to do? Get up, form their own studio and make a movie. Good for them!

Mary and The Witch’s Flower is the movie debut of Studio Ponoc and they take it upon themselves pick up the baton to create accessible movies for children that are just as filled with whit and inspiring images that would wow an adult.

From its first scene, it is here to intrigue and impresses. A hooded figure runs away from other hooded figures, they carry something. They grab a broom and fly away on it, grey, blobby being chased them and the tree city they came from explodes. While being pursued what the hooded figure has is dropped into a forest and so is their broom. We instantly have many questions and there is a lot of color, sound, music and beautifully realised animation to kick off the movie already.

We then see a little house in the countryside and a young girl by the name of Mary (Hana Sugisaki) is moving in. She wants to help but she is a terrible clutz, not even being able to tie a flower or pick of a box of her stuff without causing a mess. While exploring her new home she comes across two cats, one grey one black. They lead her into the forest and there she finds a broom held by a tree with vines and a flower that is so blue it seems to be glowing. One night the broom starts moving by itself and takes Mary through the clouds and to a place like no other, Endor College for witches.

It is the sequence where Mary is introduced to the headmistress Madame Mumblechook (Yuki Amami) and is shown all the facilities of the college that is easily the best part of the movie.

The animation is just like that of Studio Ghibli, with thick lines, blobby movement, and simple but expressive character designs. Being that the new studio is composed of almost entirely former Ghibli staff this isn’t really a surprise.

There is a wealth of generosity paid to the animation. Sure it’s pretty and smooth but the generosity comes in little things that most people wouldn’t even notice but they did and put in the extra effort. Take a moment where Mary is being guided through the school, we see the big establishing shot and when the camera is closer to her face we can still see something going on with someone else. Animation, particularly hand-drawn animation requires one drawing at a time to be produced to create the illusion of movement and when it’s done must be colored in, which is also time-consuming. These little things which take up much time and go by so unnoticed shows that the people working there are passionate about bringing the whole world to life.

Eventually, sinister intentions are revealed, our hero must use her wits and bravery to overcome them and we are left with a satisfying ending.

The movie is the tale of a normal person being swept up into a world of magic and having to maneuver this new world where there are stakes and plenty of creative visuals along the way. It will entertain your children with it’s easy to understand plot, likable character and vivid color pallet. Adults will also be sucked in.

 

Review Peter Rabbit by Jonathan Evans

 

(1 / 5)

Ow, my. What a waste of talented animators time and effort. Such a shame that pretty cinematography would be used to portray such pandering material. A cast that could lend itself to much better material yet is stuck in this feature that is trying so hard to impress yet comes off as desperate in the end.

Is this really the hardest thing to get right? A family of rabbits need to survive and there is a source of food in a nearby garden, so they go and take what they need from it, but the owner of the garden is the mean old Mr. McGregor. This is essentially a tale of Tom & Jerry but with a rabbit and a human.

We have the titled character Peter Rabbit (James Corden) getting up and getting ready for another day of stealing from old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neil). He takes his triplet sisters Cottontail (Daisey Ridley), Flopsy (Margo Robbie) and Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki) and their cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody). Instantly the problems start, Peter, is a motor-mouthed, obnoxious twit that believes themselves to be so great and even speaks right into the camera and addresses the audience telling them about how smart, fast, well dressed etc. he is.

The special effect people really have created good work in bringing the animal characters to life. They do look like the actual animals they’re based on and have found a way to have them stand on their hind legs and emote their faces without looking off or ending up in uncanny valley territory. The rendering of the fur and the denim jackets they wear are also rather convincing. It’s such a shame that all this effort was wasted on pandering, obnoxious characters.

One day, in the midst of a conflict old Mr. McGregor, dies of a heart attack and with his dead body laying there Peter repeatedly pokes him in the eye. Survearly distasteful. So with him gone his great-nephew Thomas McGregor (Donmhall Gleeson) has inherited him home. So now the rabbits have a whole new McGregor to deal with.

The dynamic between a hero and a villain is simple really. We root for the hero because they inhabit goals and morals we connect with while the villains oppose them. So through experiencing the story playout we root for our hero and hope they overcome the villain. There are variations on this but this is a basic staple. I more morally complex material we can understand the villain and why they do what they do but a sign of failure is when we agree with the villain. Thomas McGregor is uptight and quite odd but it is shown that he is indeed a hard worker and is capable of being considerate as well as having a reasonable goal. Now, these obnoxious rabbits break into his property and give him such a hard time. Sure the argument is made by Bea (Rose Byrne), the neighbor, that they’re animals following they’re basic instincts, but they’re not, we see that they talk and discuss and wear clothes, they are aware of their actions. So I’m rooting for the “mean” human that has a dream and is willing to put in the work while the hero is selfish and would support cooking him into that pie.

How is it that the moments with the human characters are so much more concise than the moments with the animated animals? It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to render these talking animals on-screen and yet the filmmakers seem to fall in love with the material the actors were either improvising behind the microphone or reading from the script and decided none of it need editing down or being cut out. It does, so much of this, a waste of time or isn’t funny and sometimes both.

When I was sitting in the theatre one child was laughing and the adult next to them was on their phone, I can’t say I blame them. This will probably make the children laugh but it won’t make them any smarter by the end of it and when they’re older they’ll probably realise it’s tripe.

If we took out all the animated rabbits and had an off-beat story about a city slicker coming to the country and being charmed by someone then we might have had something here. Yes, I know that that formula has been done to death but at least it would have been something stomachable. I have no patience for these rabbits.

For a well made, charming, intelligent children’s movie based on a British series of books, I point you towards Paddington.

 

Get the Chance in the running to be named Wales’ most deaf friendly organisation.

 

Get the Chance in the running to be named Wales’ most deaf friendly organisation.

Get the Chance is in the running to be named as one of Wales’ best organisations for being accessible to deaf people.

The shortlist has been announced for the Excellence Wales Awards 2018 – the annual awards run by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru.

The charity’s awards recognise businesses that take steps to make their services accessible to the 575,500 people in Wales who are deaf or have hearing loss.

All organisations either nominated themselves or were put forward by a person who is deaf and has received a good service in the past year.

The shortlist is now in the running to be awarded one of four titles;

  • Service Excellence
  • Excellence in Health
  • Excellence in Arts and Entertainment
  • Excellent Employer

The awards will be decided by an independent panel, made up of people who are deaf or have hearing loss. A People’s Choice Award will be chosen by the public, to vote for Get the Chance in this category please click on the link  here.

Rebecca Woolley, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru said,

“The judging panel now have a difficult job to decide the winners from an impressive shortlist. All the shortlisted organisations prove that simple changes can really improve the lives of people with hearing loss. I hope that organisations across Wales are inspired by this shortlist and start thinking about the simple changes they can make to ensure their services are accessible to the one-in-six people who are deaf or have hearing loss.”

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

“Our volunteers produce unique content which supports Deaf audiences and artists to ensure a range of opinions are seen and read relating to sport and cultural provision. We are honoured and humbled to be shortlisted as part of this years awards.”

The awards will be held at Cardiff’s St David’s Hotel on 4 May 2018, presented by ITV Wales News reporter Megan Boot.

“How well do you know Cathays Park, Cardiff?” A research study

The Civic Centre area of Cardiff known as Cathays Park is the subject of a new piece of research by Mari Lowe and Carrie Westwater. They teamed up with Nerys Lloyd-Pierce of Cardiff Civic Society to take a walk around the space. Nerys wrote her reflections after a slightly chilly but very peaceful walk…

“I recently read Rob Cowen’s Common Ground, a beautiful, reflective book in which the author becomes immersed in the minutiae of the natural environment of the ‘edge lands’ on the outskirts of his home town, Harrogate.

Cowen gets to know this relatively small patch of forgotten land intimately: he knows its moods, feels the vibrations of the past, fears for its future.

Last week’s walk around Cathays Park made me realise how little I really know an area I would consider to be familiar to me.  Take Alexandra Gardens. I have walked through them many times,  have sat on the grass on summer afternoons, but until last week, I hadn’t noticed the Wallenberg memorial stone and tree.  The story behind it was one of humanity and heroism.

Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat, posted to Budapest in 1944, with a mission to help the city’s Jews.

Wallenberg had the authority of the Swedish government – neutral in the Second World War – to issue certificates which protected named Jews from deportation. He had carefully designed the documents to look like Swedish passports. He issued far more than the number he’d agreed with Hungarian officials, and also forged documents to protect individuals at risk.

Thanks to Wallenberg and his associates, more than 100,000 Jews were still in Budapest when the city was liberated by Soviet forces in February 1945. Tragically however, Wallenberg himself disappeared in January 1945. He was arrested by Soviet personnel, possibly on suspicion of spying. One report claims he died in 1947 at the KGB’s Lubyanka prison.

I felt immensely moved by this story, and by the human capacity for compassion and self-sacrifice.  It also set me thinking – how many other corners of my home city have I overlooked, and how many more stories will unfold if I start looking properly…”

Mari and Carrie are interested to find out how people think and feel about the Civic Centre and how they use it on a day-to-day basis. The research is funded by the Cultural Participation Research Network (led by Eval Elliot, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University Ellie Byrne, Research Associate, Cardiff University) and supported by Cardiff Civic Society and Welsh Centre for International Affairs. To find out more or to share your thoughts on the Civic Centre email: marilouiselowe@gmail.com

Nerys is secretary of Cardiff Civic Society. To find out more or to join the society visit: http://www.cardiffcivicsociety.org/

Sharing Positive Action to support Access, Inclusion and Diversity

In this article we interview a range of arts professionals to share good practice in the areas of Access, Inclusion and Diversity.

Meredydd Barker 

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m a playwright, artistic director of Narberth Youth Theatre and the west Wales rep for Youth Arts Network Cymru – YANC

 Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

It begins with the young. Youth Arts Network Cymru – YANC – is doing tremendous work in this regard in the hope that as the young people involved grow older and, perhaps, make a career in the arts, best practice can spread through the industry . Then, one day, access, inclusion and diversity will not be issues that have to be continually addressed. They won’t be issues at all.

Helena Davies

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi, I’m Helena Davies, and I’m a linguist with a background in Technical Translation and English as a Foreign Language. I have a BA in Italian and Spanish, an MA in Literary Translation and I am currently preparing for my Welsh Mynediad exam in June. I moved to Cardiff from London last year, and over the last couple of months, I have been training to become a Captioner, working on producing film and TV subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. I 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. I am now looking to establish a career in Captioning and Audio Description. I dance samba de gafieira and samba funkeado, and am passionate about media and arts accessibility.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

With a strong interest in dance and accessibility, I was delighted to be invited by Carole Blade, Creative Producer for Dance in Wales, to attend a three-day audio description training course based on the Family Dance Festival at Chapter Arts Centre. Over an intense three days, we learnt how best to audio describe dance, which is considered to be one of the hardest mediums to describe. We all concurred that “Drifter” by Jukebox Collective, featuring the talented Kate Morris, was by far the trickiest to describe. The Family Dance Festival is presented by Bombastic and Coreo Cymru, and features four short audio described dance performances in Welsh and English, with accompanying touch tours. It is a great initiative and exciting to see dance being opened up to all. The Family Dance Festival is running from 24 March to 14 April 2018

Elise Davison

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m the co founder and Artistic Director of Taking Flight Theatre Company, the company I co founded with Beth House in 2008. Before this I was an actress for 10 years, a teacher, a presenter and a facilitator. Taking Flight is an inclusive company originally set up to break down the barriers, or perceived barriers to participation in the arts. We have been integrating access tools into our work for a long time now and act as creative access consultant for many other theatres companies. We have produced over 17 tours of Wales, run many residencies and trained many facilitators in our 10 years. We have recently become a disability led organisation, as over half of our Board of Directors identify as disabled, and this is really important to us.

Currently we are touring our inclusive family show You’ve got Dragons which gently raised the issues of Mental Wellbeing in young people and accompany this with free resilience building ‘Dragon Taming’ workshops which have been created in collaboration with clinical psychologists. This is touring the whole of the UK and is a really exciting development for the company. It’s been great to find so many theatres in England keen to programme inclusive work. We are a company that seeks to nurture the next generation of theatre makers, we have taken risks with casting, with our creative access, with our marketing materials. As creatives we take risks with everything else we do so we need to be prepared to do so with regards to diversity and access. It’s great to see some of our former employees ‘take flight’ and set up on their own e.g. Sami Thorpe and Chloe Clarke of Elbow Room and we continue to wish them every success on their new adventures. TF offer support and advice when we can and do everything within our power to ensure we make our work and our process as accessible as possible. We make mistakes, we often get it wrong and we continue to learn and to develop our work and we love to collaborate…many heads are better than one!

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

Fio – Abdul is doing so much to raise the issues around the lack of diversity in Wales and is producing some cracking work. We hope to work more closely with Fio in the future.

Mess up the Mess – a ‘quietly inclusive’ company that really nurture the young people they work with creating strong, independent theatre makers with excellent ideas about access. Can’t wait to work with them again – we continue to learn from them.

Hijinx Theatre – producing excellent touring work and taking the international scene by storm, this company is changing the attitude towards in inclusive work featuring learning disabled actors. Meet Fred continues to tour across the world and the next show The Flop is sure to be another success. Additionally the academies which are now running pan Wales are a real example of the kind of training that we need to have in place to nurture the next generation of learning disabled performers. We would love to have the capacity to run an ongoing training forum for D/deaf/HOH and disabled performers and are in conversations with a number of organisations about this.

Ramps on the Moon – an amazing initiative in England which is placing disabled performers and accessible productions on main stages and in producing houses across the UK.

Stopgap Dance – they have been so generous to us over the last year, giving us advice and putting us in touch with like minded organisations and really are the leading lights in inclusive dance. Love their work. www.stopgapdance.com

WMC – Jenny Sturt is making massive changes and embracing access and inclusion in a huge way. Her drive and passions is infectious!

Yvonne Murphy – has produced some excellent all female work and is enthusiastic and determined to challenge any inequality which may lead to people being excluded from the arts.

Bath Spa and The Atrium – I’ve worked with both these organisations as a creative access consultant and have worked to integrate a BSL interpreter ( the wonderful Julie Doyle and Tony Evans) into their shows and to integrate audio description. It’s great that the Universities that are training the next generation of actors feel so strongly about making accessible work. The students have loved the process and have been inspired to think more creatively about access as a result. Long may it continue!

Creu Cymru and hynt – Still doing fab work with venues via the hynt card scheme. It’s also been great to host our 4th access symposium Wales – a diverse nation? at Theatr Clywd with Creu Cymru in Feb, such a great bunch of people attended and so many ideas were generated and will hopefully start to be put into play. As a result we are hosting free access meeting – practical access solutions at WMC once a month and the first one sold out in 12hrs! So there is obviously a want to be more diverse and a desire to be part of the conversation, we all just need to be a tiny bit braver and not worry so much about getting it wrong!

Ucan go! app – also needs a mention here – an app to help orientate blind or partially sighted visitors at theatres, it’s so great it would be wonderful to see more venues investing in this.

Adeola Dewis

Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Adeola and I am an artist and researcher working across visual arts and performance. My practice engages conceptual, performative and aesthetic notions on Carnival, ritual, folk and emancipatory performances.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I highlight Carnival as an area that exemplifies good practice in terms of inclusion, diversity and access.

Jacob Gough

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Jacob Gough, I’m Production Manager for National Theatre Wales, which in a nutshell involves the logistical planning for productions.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I would like to highlight the amazing work of companies that don’t just champion but incorporate access into their shows; companies like Taking Flight, UCAN Arts, Hijinx, Llanarth Group and artists like Jonny Cotsen amongst others. Companies and artists are doing a lot more work now to provide captioning, BSL and audio-described performances, which is great to see. Access forums are a fantastic mechanism to help organisations and artists share knowledge and learning, and a lot of new technologies are being developed that help accessibility; all of which helps develop this all-important feature of the arts.

Jafar Iqbal

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m a freelance artist and arts critic. I’ve written for publications such as The Stage, WhatsOnStage and Wales Arts Review, as well as regional and online publications over the course of my career. I’m also a scriptwriter and storyteller.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I’d like to raise awareness about Where I’m Coming From, a monthly Open Mic event hosted by writers Durre Shahwar and Hanan Issa. Currently at the Tramshed in Cardiff every month, the spoken word event is aimed predominantly at the BAME population. Going to one of these events is an enlightening experience, as its attended by people who you usually wouldn’t see at other such events. It’s become a safe space for writers to express themselves in a welcoming environment and, for many of these people, the first time they’ve ever shared their creativity to an audience. A fantastic event.

Rachel Pedley Miller

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I run Avant Cymru. At Avant we aim to be acceptable creating work with audiences and delivering projects that are accessible to many individuals. In the past we have used apps such as swipe to caption our performances and we have worked in venues which are acceptable to those with mobility issues. We work with the community into raise our awareness of the needs. We also look to highlight a range of needs especially through our continual drama Rhondda Road, which is directed by Shane Anderson. Rhondda Road will be starting again in May 2019 and we would love to have a character in the show who would want to raise further awareness of the difficulties people who have a disability have accessing the arts. As a dyslexic person living with a chronic illness, I refuse to let my conditions prevent me from trying new things and will always work with audience and cast members to make the shows as accessible as possible. To date Avant have not produced one show without BAME cast members, we have also employed LBGT cast members on various projects. This has not been something that we have shouted about as we have seen our staff as the best people for the job, the fact that they identify as disabled, LBGT, disabled or from a BAME background is for them. We just see everyone that is hired as the best person for their role and we are proud that we see diverse people as equals.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I think that it is important to look at each project, Consider if it is relevant to 2018. What I mean is if there is a pre-written script is it possible to make it appealing or relevant to audiences now. Because if it isn’t then Avant are not interested in producing that show.
When we have established a compelling idea we look to hire someone who has the correct skills, energy and enthusiasm to create the work. Looking for a cast member who can ply the role with the right drive, rather than worrying if they can tick a diversity box. Seeing each individual on their own merit and supporting them to make a career in the arts, or to participate in the arts should be considered on a person by person basis and implementing various tools to make work and audience opportunities accessible to all should be considered. We always evaluate after each show, so far our audiences have been happy that they have been able to access Avants work. We need to keep evolving to have more tools in place so we are able to cater for different individuals.

Yvonne Murphy

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I run Omidaze Productions. I set it up back in 2008 specifically to use drama and theatre to shake stuff up, entertain new audiences and inspire change. We make politically grounded theatre, run workshops in schools and produce annual Summer Schools for young people which give full scholarship places to those for whom economics make the arts harder to reach. Our first production and tour (Things Beginning With M) examined how women learn from each other about everything from Motherhood to the Menopause, Miscarriages, Menstruation, Masturbation, Men, Money, Marriage, Mysogyny, Media Images and Maturity. Everthing begins with M!

I am really interested in smashing down boundaries between different art forms and exploring the difference between for example a visual art installation and set design or dance and movement/physical theatre. I love to smash the fourth wall and explore how audiences behave when you break the rules, or even have none at all. I like theatre to break beyond the confines of the designated space and like using unusual public spaces to entice and spark curiousity in those who might not otherwise enter a theatre.

I use visual artists, stand-up comedians, circus choreograhers and aerialists and movement directors to help me discover what will entice new audiences into the theatre and allow text to become relevant, accessible and visceral.

I created, directed and produced the Shakespeare Trilogy (co-productions with the Wales Millennium Centre) which consisted of two all-female productions immersive site specific productions in the WMC roof void (Richard III 2015 & Henry VI 2016) a ‘gateway’ Shakespeare production which strived to reach younger audiences and used a BAME strong and gender balanced cast.

I am deeply concerned by the inequality within our society and within the theatre industry where we tell and share our stories which help us to connect and make sense of our world and what it is to be human. I therefore strive to make work which challenges myself and the status quo and attempt to raise awareness of that deeply ingrained inequality, issues of social injustice, conflict and stuff which I believe needs to shift and change through my work.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

The Young Vic did some good work on how we should think and act differently as cultural organisations when recruiting. Where and how we recruit for positions at all levels is key. Recruitment processes could be so much more creative and reach people from different sectors and walks of life. They have walked the talk with the recruitment of their new Artistic Director, Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Taking Flight have taught me so much about inclusivity in theatre and I would love to see the day when they no longer need to call themselves an inclusive theatre company because EVERY theatre company should be an inclusive theatre company.

The Clore Leadership Programme gave me phenomenal training in so many areas including governance and is striving to change the face of cultural leadership within the UK and make it more equally representative. It made me realise how key governance is and if the board of an organisation is not leading the way in challenging systemic inequality then the organisation most likely won’t be either. Any board which is truly diverse and ensures that trustees step down after a set period of 5-6 years is good practice.

Kaite O’Reilly

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi of course, please find some information on myself below,

Kaite O’Reilly is an award winning Playwright who works both in the so-called mainstream and disability arts and culture. Awarded the Peggy Ramsay award & Ted Hughes award for new works in poetry for ‘Persians’ with National Theatre Wales (NTW). A leading figure in disability arts and culture internationally, she received three Cultural Olympiad commissions and her Unlimited commission production with NTW of ‘In Water I’m Weightless’ was part of the official festival celebrating the 2012 London olympics/Paralympic and created an important political and cultural precedent – the first production written from a disability perspective with an all Deaf and disabled cast performing on such a high profile national platform. She is currently touring ‘Richard iii redux’ – reclaiming Richard iii as a disabled icon and her 2018 Unlimited international commission ‘and suddenly I disappear – the Singapore ‘d’ monologues’ premieres in Singapore in May and comes to U.K. to tour in September. Her acclaimed collected ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ are published by Oberon. She is patron of Disability Arts Cymru and DaDaFest and publishes widely about diversity, inclusion and disability.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I think it’s about changing the whole way performance is made, how, about, and with whom, it’s the content and material as much as including innovative use of the aesthetics of access. Theatre is supposed to be the study of what it is to be human and yet it still has a very narrow perspective – we need to broaden this in the stories we tell, the protagonists we create and the theatre languages we use (integrated Sign interpretation, captioning, audio description, etc).

I have written widely about what I call ‘alternative dramaturgies informed by a Deaf and disability perspective’ when AHRC creative fellow 2003-06 and 2010-2017 when fellow at International Research Centre in Berlin. We could be far more inventive – and work, like mine, had been going on for decades but is still marginalised. We need to make this central . But not just access as add-on – we need disabled and Deaf writers, makers, directors, designers, performers etc and this should be mainstream not ‘inclusive’ for brownie points.

You can read more from Kaite on this subject matter at the links below,

The Necessity of Diverse Voices in Theatre Regarding Disability and Difference

Cripping the Crip—Is It Time to Reclaim Richard III?

Chloe Philips

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m Chloë Clarke, a visually impaired actor, director and theatre maker and cofounder of Elbow Room Theatre Company in Cardiff. I have been working as a performer for 8 years and now focus on making my own work, both as an individual and with ERT partner Sami Thorpe, which champions creative access and truthfully representing disabled people within the arts. ERT is committed to producing new writing that does the same while showcasing relevant and cutting edge work.

I also work as an audio description consultant, which means I work with companies, venues and artists to integrate AD into their work through joining their devising and R&D process, or find creative ways to add it to existing work in a way that is inherent to the piece’s unique style.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

The recent discussions and debates surrounding diversity in the arts, within Cardiff and on a global scale through events like the Oscars and the promotion of the inclusion rider, are vital and long overdue. If you’re not from a minority it may not seem relevant, it may in fact feel quite uncomfortable, but we all have a responsibility to ensure that we, as artists, provide fair representation of our society through all facets of our practice, and to date we have fallen worryingly short of this. However, the very fact that these debates are taking place in our industry is a very positive sign. Now it’s time to act.

I, for one, can only speak from my own experience as a female disabled artist. As well as stipulating the need for wider and truer representation of people like me in the arts, I’d also like to highlight the importance of considering access from the outset of any project – namely the writing of a script or the start of R&D wherein a piece is being devised. Once we start committing to this idea across the board the arts will become fairer.

I will always advocate for creative, integrated access rather than ‘traditional’ methods (an attitude that I have encouraged and nurtured within many companies I have worked with over the years to great effect), as this is the best means by which access can become relevant to every audience member and not just those with access requirements. It’s wonderful that the collective consciousness is growing in this regard and that more creatives are becoming aware of the opportunities afforded them by considering access as inherent to their work – we just need more. More awareness, more action, more choice.

We still have quite a way to go to overcome a lot of the barriers faced by audiences, performers and companies, but as long as we talk AND act (and start engaging diverse people in these conversations rather than just listening to white, straight, middle class, non-disabled people talking about what ‘they’ need) the positive changes we’ve started to notice happening will gain momentum.

So, no one shut up! Let’s keep this going and hear from the diverse array of people we actually have in this industry.

Good practice (very generally speaking) is to openly discuss issues surrounding diversity rather than shying away from them because they’re awkward. In more specific terms, Graeae are the obvious UK trailblazers with regard to best practice surrounding access, particularly for d/Deaf audiences and performers. As everyone who works in disability arts knows, nobody ever gets it 100% right all the time, that’s where open dialogue needs to be continual. It never hurts to ask questions.

Gagglebabble really impressed me with their commitment to having a VI consultant involved from the outset on one of their latest of projects and their commitment to auditioning VI performers for at least one role in the show. They have taken a very natural approach to it without any hint of wanting to tick a box, and their high standards can only help to improve general perceptions of what a quietly integrated cast can do.

If all ‘mainstream’ companies could adopt the same attitude – very openly and naturally deferring to those with lived experience to guide them on best practice and having the intention of also representing this on stage, while not making a big song and dance (sorry, couldn’t resist) about it – things would move forward much more smoothly and there would be little need for drum-banging from those of us who are marginalised.

Elena Schmitz,  Head of Programmes at Literature Wales.

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Elena Schmitz and I am the Head of Programmes at Literature Wales. In this role, I am responsible for the development, effective management and operational delivery of Literature Wales’ varied programmes including high-profile projects in Community Participation; Arts & Health; International Development and Writer Development. So quite a varied role. I am particularly interested in collaboration, co-production, interdisciplinary work and in achieving social change through arts provision.

We have been running many inclusive literature community projects for a number of years, most notably the South Wales Literature Development Initiative (SWLDI) which is now called Lit Reach and has been extended further to areas in North Wales. We are also currently facilitating a number of health and wellbeing projects, including the delivery in Wales of the UK-wide Reading Friends Project, as well as our new Health & Wellbeing Funding Scheme.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I think many arts organisations in Wales are exemplary in this and others can learn a lot from their approaches. Some of them have focused on access, inclusion and diversity for years and this is absolutely part of the raison d’être of the work that they do. For example, Hijinx Theatre is brilliant at co-producing high quality theatre with disabled and non-disabled artists, while Valleys Kids focuses on providing opportunities for disadvantaged families. Head4Arts has worked tirelessly in providing meaningful, empowering arts experiences to the disadvantaged communities of the heads of the valleys. NTW’s TEAM is a great model of widening access for larger arts organisations and allowing for more shared decision-making and wider reach of the organisation’s work. The new BAME community-led Where I’m Coming From collective organises regular literature events in Grangetown in Cardiff, arising from the need for more diversity in the literature sector.

Across the UK there are a number of really inspiring projects. One that I find very powerful is the Fun Palaces initiative, conceived by writer and activist Stella Duffy. At the heart of this growing and influential project lies the believe that everyone is an artist and everyone a scientist, and that creativity in the community can change the world for the better. Fun Palaces is an ongoing campaign for cultural democracy, with an annual weekend of action every October. The campaign promotes culture at the heart of community and community at the heart of culture.

I think the model of co-producing work with (rather than for) communities and shaping things together is increasingly important for all arts organisations. Arts and culture that truly matters and changes minds needs to be shaped by all, not just by an elite minority.

Sami Thorpe

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hi, I’m Sami, I work as a performer and also as a qualified British Sign Language/English Interpreter. I am also a cofounder of Elbow Room Theatre Company. I have a longstanding passion for inclusion and accessibility in the Arts ever since training at a unique degree course at the University of Reading; Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I thought it might help to share the dates for the British Sign Language Interpretation for the productions below over the next few months which I am providing.

All But Gone – The Other Room Theatre,  7:30pm (plus post show talk) 05/04/2018 (Thurs)

BSL video info:

Almost Always Muddy – Wales Millennium Centre
11am & 3pm, 08/04/2018 (Sun)

The Girl With Incredibly Long Hair – Wales Millennium Centre
11am & 3pm, 13/04/2018 (Friday)

Fleabag – Wales Millennium Centre
8pm, 27/04/2018 (Friday)

The Effect – The Other Room Theatre
7:30pm, 03/05/2018 (Thursday)

Rhiannon White

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

I’m a Cardiff born, Cardiff based theatre director. I mainly work with my theatre company Common Wealth but I also work on freelance stuff which has ranged from taking a circus to Gaza to making a show on a beach.

I think it was growing up in St.Mellons, Cardiff  that got me into theatre. We didn’t have very much growing up but what we did have is loads of kids to play with. I spent my childhood playing in the street, dressing kids up in my mums old clothes and on plays on in the garden. I think that’s where my DIY spirit came from in those early lessons of making the most of what you’ve got.

My company Common Wealth grew out of those roots – we were a group of people that came together to make theatre. We started with nothing, making shows in large empty buildings, without funding and with the generosity of people who wanted to get involved.

Over the years Common Wealth has grown, we’ve made work in many different places, with incredible groups of people and have worked  on shows in places like Neath, Chicago and Germany.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

Last year I completed a report called  CLASS  ‘The Elephant in the Room’s it was researched, written and performed as part of my Arts Council Wales supported Clore Fellowship (2015 – 2016) and was funded by the Arts Humanities and Research Council. The purpose of CLASS The Elephant in the room is to investigate the inherent social conditions that exist in the creative industries today; social conditions such as social class and geographic location that can influence and determine a career in the arts. It pays attention to the contradictions that play out where class is considered, and how these contradictions continue to reproduce and reinforce class divisions.

It is an auto-ethnographic study that draws from my own personal experience and combines it with interviews with others who share a similar position. It provides a personal testimony on working in a sector that is dominated by white, middle-class, males.

This report was first and foremost delivered as a live performance debate that provides a resource for theatres, artists and institutions to use if they would like to form their own discussions around the themes of diversity and class.

You can access the full report at this link

 

Common Wealth are also starting a Youth Theatre Lab in Cardiff. The aim of this youth theatre is not to play games or train to become an actor (although this might happen too.) The Youth Theatre Lab is about developing the skills to make theatre that has something to say. The YTL will be a place of experimentation – we will collaborate with highly experienced theatre practitioners, choreographers, visual artists and composers to develop important work by and for young people. The Youth Theatre Lab is  FREE but booking is required. Its or ages 13-18 6pm-8pm and starts on Wednesday 4 April.

Nickie Miles-Wildin

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

My name is Nickie Miles-Wildin and I’m a theatre maker. I’m currently Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme, Resident Assistant Director based at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. I am also Artistic Director of TwoCan Theatre Company based in Gloucestershire, where I’m originally from. Alongside my colleagues Becky Andrews and Louise Partridge we set up TwoCan to promote diversity in the arts and enable D/deaf and disabled people access to the arts, something that was lacking in the county. We have a successful youth theatre and have produced work made by professional disabled actors, writers and directors.

Which area/s of good practice in the arts relating to the themes of access, inclusion and diversity would you like to highlight?

I would highlight the work of Graeae as they have been going for 30+years and continue to push the barriers of access. They have taught me what I know and I continue to admire their work. Ramps On The Moon builds on the Graeae model and will hopefully change the views of directors and audiences as it progresses. In Wales I admire the work of Elbow Room who are challenging us all about creative use of audio description. We all fall in love with sign language (have our epiphanies) and Elbow Room are making us do the same abut audio description.

Any companies pioneered by D/deaf and disabled artists are the ones for me. We face the biggest barriers as sometimes we can’t even get into buildings to see work. Or even into training establishments. Extant, Birds Of Paradise, Fittings, Access All Areas, Daryl Beeton theatre maker, PAD Productions  are all up there as some of my highlights.

 

Review Wave Me Goodbye, Jacqueline Wilson by Jennifer Owen

(5 / 5)

As a Jacqueline Wilson Fan, I found the story very moving and realised. This story of a child evacuated from their home during World War Two, is one of the most moving stories I have ever read.

I felt sorry for Shirley being evacuated away to the country from her parents.For Shirley to find a best friend called Jessica but Jessica was a rich person, so she stayed with sister Josephine, but Shirley wanted to stay with Jessica wasn’t allowed too, she was put with two boys Kevin and Archie.

Archie was acting  like a baby and Kevin was tall and he likes playing Cowboys games and would often ask Shirley and Archie to play with him. Kevin and Shirley sit next each other in classroom at school.

I found it really interesting how Shirley was so clever and liked reading books, likeing  Ballet shoes and she was very sensible too.

I would recommend this book to anyone.

Jennifer Owen

Review Comedy at HOWL: International Women’s Day special by Hannah Lad

As a celebration of intentional women’s day Comedy @ HOWL gave the stage to an all-female line up featuring some hilarious comics and hosted by the wonderful Lorna Prichard.


The night consisted of 5 comedians, Karen Sherrard kicked us of introducing us to Iris Evans and her village fête, the set was fun and included some really interesting audience participation that engaged the crowed instantly.

This was followed by Jessie Johnson a Transgender comic with stories of her running’s with the Russian Mafia her witty response and good use of comic timing put everyone in high sprits.

Leading into Ems Coombes a disabled comic with stories about periods and songs about social edict that inspired me to not be so self-conscious in public.

Then fourth up we had Alice Taylor Mathews who was expecting a little ray of sunshine soon! An example of how women have more to deal with than men when it comes to biology!

Then ending with the brilliant Anna Keirle who had a well-crafted set that was delivered with brilliant timing and presence.  I can’t not mention the hosts Lorna Prichard’s brilliant interludes between this fab five. She set up each act in the perfect way so the audience were excited and in anticipation of what was to come.

I found the atmosphere of the night very interesting. It was a true celebration of diversity with a discussions after the show about women in comedy and women in the industry in general and some of the things women have to put up with. Listening to story`s from other women about the experiences they have had and things have been said to them gave the audience the majority of whom were women  a support network, this gave the evening a “gritty feel” said Lorna Prichard.

It posed the question me of “What can we do?” the treatment of women in society and the arts is said to be constantly improving, but I don’t believe it is. I only last week experienced myself an uncomfortable  rehearsal room. On top of being the only female in the room, I had to put up with sexist `jokes` some mocking the brilliant ME TOO campaign that has made massive strides for women. But are the strides really making a difference if they are mocked? All I can say is the way to stop this absurdity is by having these nights of celebration and create these support networks. We have to continue these conversations so change can happen.

I would invite men, women and others who may have opposing views to join me to talk about these issues safely so we as a society can progress. The only negative comment I would make about HOWL was the under representation of BAME performers and audience members, after just finishing with FIO on their brilliant project Declaration this was something that really stood out to me. But overall the night was exciting, thought provoking and was the centre of some interesting conversations.

Hannah Lad

Connor Allen on Opportunity

In 1964, There was a little girl sitting on her mother’s floor in Milwaukee watching the 36th Academy Awards. She watched as Anne Bancroft opened the envelope for Best Actor and said five historic words: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.’

This little girl had never seen a black man being celebrated for his talent and to quote her “I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses

That little girl grew up to become one of the most influential people on the planet – Oprah Winfrey.

And at that moment of celebration at the 36th Academy Awards she was truly inspired by what she saw. She watched history unfold from her cheap seat, took inspiration and the rest as they say is history.

Fast forward over 50 years and Oprah has joined Sidney Poitier in becoming a recipient of the Cecil B DeMille award and when accepting the award she recounted that memory of the cheap seats and went on to add “there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award

At that moment and later on in her speech all over the world girls and boys and men and women were inspired and in awe. With that inspiration and determination those little girls and boys will become the next Oprah Winfrey or the next Viola Davis or indeed the next Denzel Washington.

After the #OscarsSoWhite movement two years ago The Academy has implemented drastic diverse change and many others have followed suit because after years of feeling unappreciated and uninspired and pretty much fed up, many people thought enough is enough.

If we don’t show diversity in our nominations and winners then how are the next generation meant to be inspired like Oprah was all those years ago.

By having more diverse nominations and shortlists you are giving the opportunity for the next generation to be inspired. And the key word here is opportunity.

Now more than ever we need the next generation of BAME talent to be inspired and its so great that the #OscarsSoWhite movement has taken effect and we are now finally seeing a hugely diverse and more equal nomination and shortlist spectrum. Closer to home in Wales its not the case. The Wales Theatre Awards for one have not embraced the diverse change needed to inspire the next generation of BAME talent.

Now Wales is quite small in comparison to the rest of the world but we’ve still managed to nurture brilliant talent in all fields and all I ask is that diversity is implemented like with the Oscars and many other global awards. That way the next generation of actors of colour can have a platform to look to and aspire to be on. That way we can inspire and empower the next generation of BAME talent. That way young actors like myself can look to the awards and be inspired to work harder and be in a position to celebrate their talent like Sidney Poitier was all those years ago.

We need to ask ourselves how do we encourage the next generation of artists and creatives to strive and aim for the stars? A big factor in encouragement is inspiration. If they never see role models they can relate to win awards how are they ever encouraged to become the next Octavia Spencer or the next Steve McQueen.

But let me take you back to that word I mentioned a few lines ago.

Opportunity

Because when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion, opportunity is a massive factor.

If opportunity is not given to people then how are we ever going to be in a position where we can showcase our talents?, be nominated for awards? and inspire our peers and the next generation?

Diversity has become this big hot topic over the last couple of years and its just about equality. Being treated the same regardless of your skin colour, disability, religion, gender, sexual orientation and many other labels that are handed out in our day and age. We are all equal. We are all human.

Finally in our society we have seen a positive shift in diverse action and we cant afford to get left behind whilst others continue to implement that change. We have to embrace it.

Without embracing it we risk loosing much talent to other locations. A prime example of this is the current crop of actors going overseas in search of better opportunities. Idris Elba highlighted it during his recent speech to Parliament.

John Boyega, Daniel Kaluuya, David Oyelowo, Naomie Harris and Lenora Crichlow are just a few other names who have also ventured along with Mr Elba over to the States in search of better opportunities.

A statistic recently showed that according to government data from 2013, there was a 500% increase in one year in approved visa petitions for UK actors and directors seeking to work in the US.

That number is staggering but only goes to show that this issue surrounding opportunity and representation is real.

We live in a multi-cultural world and this isn’t being represented on stage or screen. If we don’t see ourselves or our culture on stage (and screen for that matter) how are we meant to be engaged? If young people don’t see themselves represented on stage they won’t go to the theatre, if they don’t see themselves represented on TV they’ll turn the TV off. We have to show all walks of life to engage all people. Period.

That same situation is at risk of running its course here in Wales. If we don’t champion opportunity and give representation the platform others have then we run the same risk of loosing home grown talent to the likes of other more diverse locations like London, Bristol or Manchester for example. For many new and upcoming actors/performers America simply isn’t attainable yet but the likes of closer inclusive locations are very much a reality. For minority actors to be considered for awards they have to be cast in productions. To be cast in productions they have to have the opportunity to be seen for the roles.

Once again I echo the key word in all of this … Opportunity.

Seeing that I’ve mentioned him already I will bring up the case for Daniel Kaluuya. Daniel Kaluuya has got huge attention lately as he earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role in the film Get Out. With this nomination, Daniel becomes the first black actor under 30 to garner a nomination. Only one word can be used to describe that achievement and that is phenomenal.

But many people think that this success just happened off the back of one movie. They don’t realise that Daniel put in years of hard work from his time at the Royal Court in Sucker Punch.

to Blue Orange at The Young Vic

to his time on Black Mirror to name just a few. But without opportunity would he have got to this stage in his career where he is now the first black under 30’s actor to be nominated for an academy award? Who knows?

And then we have the global box office hit that is Black Panther and the success that has followed this movie.

As I write this article the global box office of the movie stands at $704 million and its broken into the top 20 for highest grossing movies of all time. There are even rumours of it becoming the highest grossing Marvel movie so far. Not bad for a movie with a predominantly black cast featuring a black superhero in the title role.

But why is this movie such a milestone many people will ask. Well simply put 1) Its massive progress in a positive direction and 2) Its shown that you CAN invest in diverse talent and it CAN be successful.

All they needed was the opportunity.

I guess what I am trying to say and I will echo Viola Davis here when I say that “All that separates actors of colour from anyone else is opportunity

Talent is everywhere in all shapes and sizes. So we have to make an effort to go and seek this talent out. Look for it. Everywhere.

So with all this being said I’m going to challenge every person who holds a degree of power to embrace the positive shift that has begun and implement change so that we don’t get left behind. Don’t hide away because if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.

This goes for everyone in all industries, not just people in the creative arts. Embrace and Implement. Those two factors will allow diversity and talent to flourish magnificently. The world is now beginning to show us that our possibilities are boundless. And we have to keep on striving to achieve every possibility. Striving to achieve every dream.

Keep dreaming

Keep striving

Much Love

Connor Allen

Review Gaslight, Eloise Williams by Jennifer Owen

(5 / 5)

 

I had never imagined that I would  have enjoyed reading something with so much imagination as this book! I thought that it did not want to put it down because I  enjoyed it so much,  it really fired up my imagination to see if Nansi finds her mother and they save themselves!

As a new reader I think the author has really fired up everyones imagination especially mine and I would recommend Gaslight to anyone as a great book for everyone to read.

I hope the author, Eloise Williams puts out other book soon so I can enjoy her work again.

Jennifer Owen