Tag Archives: Interview

An Interview with Artist and Illustrator Emily Jones

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Artist Emily Jones. They discussed her training,  being named runner-up in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2017 for graphic short story: Dennis and June and her most  recent work for Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.

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

Hello, I grew up in Tyneside but I’ve lived in Cardiff for many years now. I studied illustration for children’s books at art college as that’s the branch of illustration I’m really passionate about. Although, I do enjoy drawing cartoons of Donald Trump and other political figures that I find ludicrous! Being an illustrator isn’t my full time job as I prefer the balance of being able to draw and paint when I want, without the worry or pressure of relying on it for an income.

So what got you interested in Illustration?

I had two lovely teachers in primary school and they encouraged me to draw. They made me realise that you could draw pictures for a living. I loved picture books in particular and I had my favourite illustrators who I aspired to be like. I think I’ve always been fascinated with images and how someone has created them.

How has your career as an illustrator developed?

A few years ago, I began renting out an art studio so I had the space to work in a more professional manner rather than just working at home in front of the TV. This really changed things and along with posting my work on social media, I have slowly but surely become busier and better.

Your personalised pet portraits are particularly popular with your work appearing in 1000 Dog Portraits by Rockport Publishers? Can you tell our readers how you got involved in pet portraits? Do you have a favourite animal to illustrate?

I painted my partner’s dog Scooby and it all started from there. I showed the painting to a few people and before long I was being asked to paint their cat or dog. I think painting pets is a great way for any artist to get commissioned as it’s artwork that is really accessible for people to buy. I love painting all sorts of animal but the more animated the creature is, the more fun I find it to be.

Over the last three years you have been commissioned by  Sherman Theatre to produce images for the seasonal productions The Princess and The Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes and this year you have designed the posters for Hud y Crochan Uwd / The Magic Porridge Pot and for the first time the main stage Christmas production The Wind in the Willows . Can you tell us how you approach illustrating such popular classics for the stage?

Well I begin by doing a lot of research on how other artists have illustrated these classic stories. I then do my best to create an image which is original as well as instantly recognisable. The images have to grab attention of both children and adults and hopefully it will make people want to see the show.

The image for Hud Y Crochan Uwd/The Magic Porridge Pot, Sherman Theatre. 

Your Wind in the Willows illustration has been developed into an animated trailer this year. Is this a first for you?

Yes it was and it was brilliant to see the image move! The artwork I create for Sherman Theatre is always created in separate layers. This enables the designers to move around the different components to fit whatever format the advert will appear; be it posters, flyers, web-banners etc. Of course, this also enabled the designers to create an animated trailer which is just awesome!

Do you have any illustrators or artists that inspire you?

There are tons! Quentin Blake has always been there as a favourite, as has Edward Gorey. They are experts at depicting characters with seemingly simple pen lines. Shaun Tan’s work is incredible and I wish I had a fraction of his talent! I love Júlia Sardà, David Roberts, Isabelle Arsenault, Alex T. Smith, Michael Sowa, Mateo Dineen, Rebecca Dautremer. They are a just a few! I study their work and try to figure out how they do what they do. They make me feel totally inferior but at the same time, inspire me and enthuse me to create my next best piece; which is definitely a good thing.

Images by Júlia Sardà, Shaun Tan, Edward Gorey and Quinten Blake

Congratulations on being named runner-up in the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2017 for your Graphic short story: Dennis and June. This work is in a digital medium can you discuss how this differs from your painted work?

I recently bought a Huion Graphics tablet so I can draw and colour digitally. It makes illustrating in this comic style so much faster. When I heard about the graphic novel competition, I knew I’d have to create it digitally as painting the way I do, takes so long. Plus, the comic style suits the story much better. Creating digital work has a freedom to it. Mistakes can be easily erased and colouring is instant but physically painting an image will probably always be my favourite way to illustrate.

An image from Dennis and June you can read the full story at the link above

If any of our readers are aspiring illustrators what advice could you offer them?

Draw as often as possible. It seems obvious but you have to practice. Drawing from life is a brilliant way to improve your skills and develop your style. Having a recognisable style is important and it’s something I haven’t mastered yet. But the more work I do, the more I learn and develop. I just wish there was more time in the day to draw!

What do you have planned for the future?

Well, I’ve been having various successes in illustration competitions and I’m hoping this will lead to greater things in the publishing world. I have a couple of children’s books to work on, more images for children’s theatre and when I find the time, I’ll create another graphic story.

You have also designed the images for the 2018 Sherman Theatre Christmas productions  Hugan Fach Goch/Little Red Riding Hood and Alice In Wonderland. As a Wales based artist what does the support of Sherman Theatre mean to you personally?

I’ve created images for The Sherman for a while now and it’s always a proud moment seeing my artwork representing their shows. The Sherman has given me huge confidence in regards to my ability as an illustrator and I hope to work with them for years to come.

Image for Hugan Fach Goch/Little Red Riding Hood

Image for Alice in Wonderland

Thanks for your time Emily.

You can check out more or Emily’s work at the link

An interview with Jorge Lizalde

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Photographer/Videographer/ AV designer and Projection Mapper Jorge Lizalde. They discussed his training in Spain, his most recent work with Lucid Theatre Company on Little Wolf and his thoughts on the arts in Wales.

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

Hi, I am Spanish and was born in Zaragoza and moved 12 years ago to the UK when I finished my art studies in Salamanca and then Madrid. When I arrived in the UK I worked for four years as a cinema projectionist at Vue Cinemas at the Angel (London) as well as The French Institute (London) where the projection is still old school, swapping film reels every hour over two projectors, a job that I loved but digital cinema has killed it. In 2009 I moved to Cardiff and since then I have been freelancing as Photographer/Videographer and most recently as an AV designer and Projection Mapper.

So what got you interested in the arts?

My grandfather Jose Luis Cano (on my mother’s side) was a famous watercolour painter from where I come from, his son, Jose Luis Cano (both my grand father and uncle, share the same name as it’s a Spanish tradition to name your son after your father.) my uncle, is a well known painter/illustrator, he creates the satiric daily drawings on the local newspaper, Heraldo De Aragon. My grandfather had an art studio, known as Studio Cano that’s why I trade commercially with that name,  which is my second surname, in Spain we keep both surnames from the father and the mothers side. The different people I encountered at Studio Cano learned different painting styles and disciplines at the studio. I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years there, painting, drawing, etc. It is where I got ready for my University access as in Spain to study a BA in Fine Arts you need to know how to draw a life model as part of your A Levels. At Uni I learned many different disciplines of painting, sculpture and drawing as studies are quiet traditional, making my own canvas, paints, etc. My father was into photography just as an amateur but his brother was a commercial photographer. I didn’t really got interested in photography until my father passed away 18 years ago and I was passed down his  heritage and his equipment at the end of my first year at Uni. In addition, many friends of my parents are ceramists, architects, etc. Art was always around, so I guess it was inevitable that my brother (classical/flamenco guitarist) and myself would finally become involved in the arts as a career.

Jorge Lizalde, “Mnemonic” at G39 gallery

You have a wide variety of film and photographic skills. When you are photographing a theatrical production how do you approach the process of taking an image?

With every shot I treat it as individual, my camera settings and focus are manually set so I have total control of the shot. Having started as self-taught on film, before digital photography took over, has helped me to have a good understanding of the tech, so I just have to pay attention to what’s going on in front of me (actor interactions, movements, reactions, expressions etc.) I don’t like to retouch pictures afterwards in post-production, I just readjust the white-balance that sometimes the camera can get wrong. Foe example   theatre lights can have  new LEDs which can be can be really tricky on temperature and contrast, but what you see on the picture is normally what I initially capture. What I do particularly like is to move around a lot as this gives me some perspective and creates more interesting shots that just an on the spot view  from the auditorium. From a dress rehearsal session I can get around 150 usable shots,  its  then the job of the producer or the person in charge of marketing to choose the final images.

Credit: Gamta School by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk

What makes a good image for a theatre production?

A well composed and focused picture of a scenario or situation that through the actors expressions tells you exactly what’s going on. If on top of that it gives you a sense of the stage or space that to me is a hell of a picture.

Credit: Roberto Zucco – August 012 by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk

You also design and map Audio Visual projection for live performance, with new technologies this is a rapidly developing area, how do you see this art form developing?

Mapping projection is not new and has been part of theatre or arts for many years. Recently The Far Side Of The Moon by Robert Lepage was performed in Cardiff at The Wales Millennium Centre

LePage is known  for some great experimentation and mapping projections, that production is 17 years, believe it or not! What it is really developing fast it is the technology is becoming faster and cheaper. What a projector could give you 10 years ago in terms of quality for £25,000 you can have it now for just £1,400 and in a 1/5 of the size too. It’s the same with computers, they are faster to process the video codecs, I can edit and program a video on the middle of the tech session if needed, something unthinkable a couple of years ago, so AV is no longer  part of a privileged group with lots of money it can be also part of small budget productions or projects.

Untitled.mp4​Credit: Clockwork Orange / Curve Theatre – AV Mapping by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk

Continuing this theme of embracing new technologies you also utilise drone camera footage in your work,  most recently in “Little Wolf” by Lucid Theatre Company. Can you tell us how you have developed your skills in this area and again how you see this art form developing in the future?

I bought my drone this summer for my own project about Brexit and what it means to be an EU citizen today in the UK,  as at the moment I feel we don’t belong to any land. The model I bought has some great features as well as a quality image, you can control it with the hand. I took it this summer to Finland where I was part of Oulu Hack Week organised by Taikabox, three days of experimenting with new technologies and dance where we tested it and created a little presentation or dance piece with it.

Now I am developing and experimenting a bit more with its possibilities and limits for the stage. I will have a hack day with Lara Ward at the end of November and hopefully refine its use in the future to create a little performance with it . Since I bought it I haven’t stoped using it, for example as you mention with Little Wolf where I created some footage overlooking water, – a swimming pool, a lake and the sea, it was really helpful. It’s still early days to say where this tech will go but it has become cheap and really fast so I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone owns one, even if it is just for selfies which it is what my little drone was designed for in the first place!

Credit: Little Wolf / Lucid – Av mapping by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk

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/creatives?

Yes I am really aware, I am Spanish and have an accent that in many cases is judged as not educated or a knowledgeable person. I haven’t been able to get some jobs because of it. At the beginning it was annoying when people tried to maximise their mouth motion and slow their pronunciation when talking to me because they think I didn’t understand but now I just do the same to them if they do, I slow my talking and maximise my pronunciation, maybe that’s why I don’t get the jobs but who wants to work with someone that diminishes you by your accent? Also, I have been involved with Taking Flight Theatre Company

As well as  other theatre companies developing live subtitles,  I have been working on  creating theatre which is more accessible to all audiences. I believe I am the only person in the UK using the software I am working with, or at least this is what a programmer recently told me! It is  software created for film cinema subtitles but I adapted to theatre. It can be projected over projections, it can be programmed to be part of the stage and interact with actors, it can be shared in any device, Android or Apple, phone or pads and via a local network which can be used in a promenade performance without access to the internet. In addition I am developing  live speech to text subtitles (same language or a live translation of it as for example Welsh-English or Spanish- English) but the technology is not there yet, hopefully with the development of  home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa the interpretation of the language will get faster and better.

Credit: Yuri / August 012 | Subtitles and picture by Jorge Lizalde | studiocano.co.uk

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

I think it is pretty healthy,  a bit more funding would be great, especially after so many years of having cuts in the arts budgets. The only problem I am facing this days  is, I am in my late 30s so there are no prizes or opportunities for that age or not as many, most are focused on early career or under 30s.  If you are a mid 30s or early 40s creative and want to start an art career there are not many opportunities to build a good portfolio and be quickly part of the art community.

Credit: Own Installation, “Editing my father” at Ffotogallery

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

To choose an specific area  would be to discriminate against the others. I never understood targeting specific areas, all areas, race, social, cultural backgrounds, etc should be considered every year for equally and fund them according to the excellence of the projects and their outcomes. If that means some stablished organisations  loose funding after many years receiving it because independent or small projects are creating better projects to present, so be it.

Credit: “Cymru & I” Collaboration with Japanese choreographer Yo Nakamura

More information about the project linked to the above image: http://jorgelizalde.com/iframe-2/iframe/index.html

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

What really excites me it is the size of the art community, it is not big, so you soon know most of the artists working in Wales. This  also makes it really accessible, and that gives you great freedom to experiment and collaborate with other artists and start new projects or enterprises. It creates opportunities for pop up exhibitions, zines, performances, etc. I don’t think there are enough links with work which is  part of a performance or the theatre/artistic community with visual or more modern arts  groups but hopefully in the future there will be more collaborative work between art galleries – g39, Ffotogallery and Chapter – with the performance festivals – Festival of Voice, Cardiff  Dance Festival  – or venues like the WMC or Chapter – as well as artists from both backgrounds. When they have collaborated in the past at events such as Experimentica or Artes Mundi there are more interesting projects happening and everybody really gains from it, creatively and culturally.

Artes Mundi 2017 Winner John Akomfrah with artwork Auto Da Fé © Polly Thomas


Credit: “1865” prototype game app in collaboration with Yellobrick, Nesta and National Library of Wales

Link to more information on the project above https://www.nesta.org.uk/our-projects/digital-rd-fund-arts-wales-case-studies/arts-archives-and-technology

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

I have always been interested on working with lights and mapping lights structures these are getting more and more interesting, especially with LEDs stripes, with them you can have as many different colours and sync as you like. A good example of it is Robert Hencke’s Lumiere III laser lights installation which I saw at the Barbican main theatre at the  beginning of this year and it was one of the greatest art experiences I have ever seen.

Thanks for your time Jorge.

You can find more  information about Jorge and his work at the links below.
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An interview with Chris Durnall

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat with director Chris Durnall. We discussed his career to date, his new project focusing on the BSL aspects within Tribes by Nina Raine and his thoughts on theatre in Wales.

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

 I’m Artistic Director of Company of Sirens and also produce work under the name Winterlight. Company of Sirens stage Welsh premiers of powerful contemporary plays. Productions include Anthony Neilson’s Stitching and The Censor, Philip Ridley’s Tender Napalm, Mercury Fur and Dark Vanilla Jungle, Manfred Karge’s Conquest of the South Pole and Jennifer Haley’s The Nether.

Chris in rehearsals for Jennifer Haley’s The Nether

Plus new plays by Welsh authors Ian Rowlands, Troyanne, and Sean Tyrone by Mark Ryan. Winterlight as our sister company specialise in new work that focuses on autism and disability issues. We have recently completed a trilogy of plays tracing the life of an autistic individual Matthews Passion 2013, Touch Blue Touch Yellow 2015 and Quiet Hands 2017.

Matthews Passion

I was Artistic Director of Theatr Ffynnon for eight years working with adults with physical and learning difficulties. I also teach acting, deliver one to one sessions and freelance as a director. I was previously a professional actor for eighteen years.

 So what got you interested in theatre and the arts?

Well once you get the call it’s difficult to consider doing anything else. I went to the theatre all the time when I was younger and devoured plays, often learning whole roles just for fun. When I went to drama college I was amazed by many student’s lack of interest or lack of curiosity. It was really disappointing. Having said that drama college was the happiest time of my life. I still love those people.  The arts for me are split between those who dabble with varying degrees of success and those that have to do this without an option. Time and circumstances pretty soon determine which camp you are in.

Company of Sirens with the support of the Arts Council of Wales will be exploring the signing aspects of performance focusing on its use within the play Tribes by Nina Raine during October/November 2017 with support from Disability Arts Wales. Why have you chosen this as your latest production?

 I wanted to explore the potential of non-verbal communication within performance. Non- verbal narrative. I believe drama lies between text and that words are often an avoidance technique to avoid and circumvent real communication.

The play Tribes fits the companies remit in terms of powerful new drama and also through the two deaf characters use of BSL within the play, helps support the other strand of my work which is about empowerment and the raising of awareness.

What personal knowledge do you have of theatre for deaf audiences?

 My work with Theatr Ffynnon was concerned with giving a voice to the disempowered. We delivered projects through the medium of film, theatre, animation, visual art, music and poetry in order to explore routes of communication appropriate to our members and participants. The purity of their work moved me deeply and taught me a lot. We never patronised our members and listened to what they had to say as creative people. If I can merge this approach with professional actors working with a contemporary text I will be happy. In the play Tribes the deaf protagonist’s family communicate through cliché and verbal aggression. They speak in platitudes based on insecurity and often a sense of failure. Billy and his partially deaf girlfriend Sylvia communicate directly through gesture, eye contact and body language. We recognise the adage “actions speak louder than words”

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/creatives? 

 I worry that work may be compromised by having to fit into funding priorities. It’s a question of approach. There has been a surge of work and support encouraging equality and diversity and that has been wonderful. I do believe that within this framework there should be scope for “arts for arts sake” whereby funders say we like your work, we trust your intent, go and create. I feel those times may be gone forever due largely to our culture of accountability.

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

 See above. Its great the doors are opening up but I do believe any art form moves forward through the taking of risks and a culture of experimentation. Diversity need not suffer but our artists need full creative freedom in order to create the extra – ordinary.

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

 Fund the risk takers and chance takers. Back the artists themselves and allow them the freedom to create

 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? 

 The amount of young companies trying to work within a difficult culture gives me hope.

Pearson and Brooks, The Persians, National Theatre Wales.

The work of Pearson and Brooks (The Iliad and the Persians) for National Theatre Wales. Directors who try to break the mould like Mathilde Lopez. Goodcopbadcop’s experiments. Writers such as Ian Rowlands, Tim Rhys and Gary Owen are producing great work. A thriving experimental dance scene

Many thanks for your time Chris.

 

An Interview with Meredydd Barker

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat with playwright Meredydd Barker. We discussed his career to date, ‘Nye and Jennie’ a new play he has written for Theatr na nÓg and his thoughts on theatre in Wales.

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

 I was brought up on the ultra rural north coast of Pembrokeshire; potato fields, big sky and sea. My father, Gordon, was an engineer from Buxton in Derbyshire who came down to St Davids to wire up a moulding factory. Being a field sports and sea fishing fanatic he stayed. It was heaven to him. My mother, Ruth Barker, was a Welsh singer-songwriter – she was quite well known in the seventies and eighties – so the idea of self-expression through the arts was a natural one. Such a rural upbringing meant the winter nights were about reading and drawing. I was an introspective kid anyway. Somehow I got into rock music, and around the age of fourteen I read the Jim Morrison biography, ‘No-One Here Gets Out Alive.’

I wanted to study what he read as a teenager – the beats, French symbolist poetry et al – and so became a voracious reader. I also wrote some dreadful poetry. My other great love was visual art. I didn’t want a lecturer telling me what to read on literature course so it seemed natural to go to art college, all the while writing ideas for stories and observations in my sketchbooks. I ended up getting a degree from St Martins College in London. I did some teaching there at the Centre for Languages – mostly English to Japanese fashion students – but I wasn’t creatively happy. It was around that time I met my wife who was working at The Everyman theatre in Liverpool. I followed her there and found myself going to the theatre maybe three times a week. One night, after seeing something particularly dire on stage, I decided that I should try writing a play. I felt I could do better than what I’d just seen. So I wrote The Rabbit which was picked up by Terry Hands at Theatr Clwyd. It wasn’t only my debut but the first play that I’d ever written, so to have it directed by him ranks as one of the very most incredible things to ever happen to me. And here I am.

You are currently working on a new play called ‘Nye and Jennie’ for Theatr na nÓg. How did you come to be involved in this new production and can you tell us more about it?

 Geinor Styles, Artistic Director of Theatr na nÓg, had read Jennie Lee’s autobiography, ‘My Life with Nye.’ She was bowled over by the story of this woman: first ever minister for the arts, prime mover behind the creation of the Open University and so much more. But she was overshadowed, as anyone would be, by Nye Bevan, her husband. Geinor had a hunch that I’d be a good fit when it came to writing a play about them. I did some reading, took a very deep breath, and said yes. It’s a two hander and so I hope the play has an intimacy in and of itself as explores what it meant to be two people in love who also happened to be creating two political legends in a time of immense domestic and international upheaval.

The play is described as a ‘Working class tale of Life,Labour and Love’ With the recent production of We’re Still Here by National Theatre Wales portraying the lives of Neath Port Talbot Steel Workers and this new production examining the political background and personal inspiration of Aneurin Bevan and Jennie Lee do you feel that Welsh Theatre is presenting representative stories of its citizens on our stages?

Not as much as it thinks it does. If you want to get a sense of what sort of lives people are leading you need a sense of place. The psychogeography of a play is quite fragile and it demands a sensitive touch from directors which it quite often doesn’t receive. It doesn’t survive the director’s process or vision or whatever they might want to call it. There’s no point enlisting a local playwright if an outsider is going to butcher it to fulfil their own agenda, which can often be brimful with some quite inaccurate preconceptions about a place and its people. But if those inaccuracies are camouflaged by bright lights and pretty soundscapes with a couple of laughs and a tearful middle eight then what price being representative? The five-star review is what’s important, not the lessons that may be learned. But giving the audience what it wants isn’t the same as holding up a mirror.

You’re telling a story. It’s one of many stories. But you’re telling us that this is the story that needs telling. Is that because it contains an essential truth that’s not being expressed? Or is it because it fits the world view you arrived with and you know it fits it into your particular blunderbuss of theatrical tricks? There are truths in peoples lives – the way they talk, why they say what they say, the way they treat each other with such casual brutality, the way they love – that lie at the heart and the heart is a difficult thing to get to but it’s the playwright’s job to do that. Trust the playwrights. Even if it’s difficult, even if it’s something you don’t believe, go with them.

Saying something difficult is too often seen as synonymous with courting failure, especially if the production is on large scale. But there are communities in Wales that aren’t addressing their faultlines and if theatre can’t point that out then it doesn’t deserve to call itself art because art, if it’s about anything, is about saying the difficult thing.

There are times when an outsiders point of view is exactly what’s needed. But not as often as that sentiment is used by outsiders as an excuse to defend their misconceptions. But, as I say, those misconceptions can be hidden with the smoke and mirrors of theatre with the result that nobody learns anything. There are exceptions and I’m working with an exceptional exception in Geinor and Theatr na nÓg.

The production information describes Bevan and Lee as “Aneurin Bevan and Jennie Lee were comrades and flatmates who together fought and preached for socialism as they saw it; he the Tredegar firebrand on the Labour backbenches, she the miner’s daughter from Fife who became a Socialist MP before she was old enough to vote.” Get the Chance is partially inspired from a conversation between the comedian Billy Connolly and former Scottish trade union leader Jimmy Reid. At Reid’s funeral in 2010 Connolly stated;

 “I remember him saying that if you look at these housing estates and high-rise flats – look at all the windows. Behind every one of these windows is somebody who might be a horse-jumping champion, a formula one racing champion, a yachtsman of great degree, but he’ll never know because he’ll never step on a yacht or formula one car – he’ll never get the chance.

 Do you think opportunities still exist for young working class citizens from Tredegar or Fife to get the chance to actively engage in politics, the NHS or the arts today?

Two years ago I spent some time in Ebbw Vale working for the Shakespeare Schools Festival. I was able to see at first hand what the teachers in that area were like. Some were actually able to get some teaching done, but too many were just crisis managing. Provision for the arts in schools is dwindling so it’s difficult for pupils to get a good grounding in the craft. With the good grounding comes the ability to make an informed decision about whether it’s something you want to do with your life. But you need good examples to follow. Are any of the politicians around today worth emulating? There are some, but their philosophies are drowned out by the white noise most politicians mistake for public discourse. The NHS is being visibly driven into the ground in Wales so how can an adult recommend that a student devotes his or her future to something that’s being so devalued? In Fife good things are happening, but the ruling SNP is in a scrap with the Conservatives and Liberals over a new education programme which is stalling while they sort out their ideological differences. Who suffers? The pupil. Always the kids.

You are also Artistic Director of Narberth Youth Theatre. How did you come to be involved with this group?

 My wife and I formed Narberth Youth Theatre because there was a need for something less formal than what the schools were offering, a place where the members could be themselves while they learnt more about theatre. Teenagers came to us and asked us to do it. And I must say it gives me the opportunity to work on my practice as a theatre maker week in, week out. We have guest facilitiators to keep things fresh and a great sense of curiosity in the group. It’s all good.

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 specifically writers?

 The greatest barrier is the geography of Wales itself. Just physically navigating it is hard. And theatre – like the mafia – is a face to face business. We all need to be able to go and see stuff, talk about it with the creatives, then get home. There won’t be any real consilience in Wales until that becomes easier. I scratch my head over the lack of matinees in Cardiff. In Liverpool the Everyman Playhouse has been experimenting with evening shows at 5-30 and audiences have responded positively to that. It means people from further away can get home or spend time in town and meet and talk and plan new alliances.

 There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based writers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities for playwrights living and working in Wales feel ‘healthy’ to you?

 If you’re a playwright, then you’ve made a tough choice in life. There’s only so much networks and organisations in Wales can do for a Welsh playwright. You really need to help yourself somehow. I’m forming my own company called The Holding Cell and I want see who I can attract to work with me and see if we can attract an audience because that’s what it’s all about. There are superb actors in Wales who aren’t even being seen for parts and I want to work with them, again in some cases. Let’s see what we can do for ourselves.

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

Youth. It’s the law of initial conditions. Throw the ball high and hard – give it the best possible chance to travel far – then you’ll know it’ll go the distance. Invest in the beginning.

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?

We’ve got astonishing actors here. That excites me more than anything else. It makes me want to write because I know that if I’m lucky enough to get into a room with Welsh actors I’m going to walk out with an enhanced piece of work. It’s happened every time. The last truly great thing that I saw was the Jean Michel Basquiat exhibition at The Barbican. In Wales, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest at The Torch was ensemble work as good as I’ve ever seen.

 

An interview with Mathilde Lopéz, Artistic Director, August 012.

Mathilde with the Of Mice and Men Company. Photographic credit Studio Cano.

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to with Mathilde Lopéz, Artistic Director, August 012. We discussed her career to date, her new production Of Mice and Men at Chapter Arts Centre this October and her thoughts on theatre in Wales today.

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

Hi, I am a theatre director and the artistic director of August 012.  I was a founding member of National Theatre Wales, used to be Literary manager at Theatre Royal Stratford East and before directing, I worked as a scenographer. I trained at Central St Martins and Birkbeck College. I am French, I am of  Spanish origin and grew up in Morrocco and the West Indies.

 So what got you interested in theatre and the arts?

Drawing, painting and sculpting were first, then theatre happened. I don’t remember a particular moment so I either forgot or it was always there.

August 012 Yuri, Credit Studio Cano.

 Your company August 012 describes itself as “developed, shaped and questioned by the way we live here and now, and therefore profoundly and structurally relevant to the nation today.” Is it possible to explain how you approach this methodology when creating work for the stage?

I am interested in how we live today and where we make the work. Everything I do is profoundly anchored in our times, our current technical equipment, our politics and the space and people we make it with. I often work with new participants along with trained actors and set tangible challenges- either through space or casting- in the rehearsal room so that we all wrestle not only with the ideas of the play today, but its embodiment.

August 012 Caligula, Credit Studio Cano

 In October, August 012 is performing Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck at Chapter Arts Centre. I wonder if you can discuss why you choose to direct this play?

I love Steinbeck. Particularly Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. I read them in a loop for a couple of years when I was a teenager. In French and in Casablanca and it felt very close, I sometimes think that the combination of poverty with the sea and the sun-like Steinbeck Californian characters- must have had something to do with it. I also read Of Mice and Men which felt then and still feels now, like the essence of the United States of America in all its grandeur and catastrophe. Ultimately, I always wanted to do Steinbeck, and I might carry on, his novels are so generous and compassionate that they do help to breath.

Wil Young who will play the role of Lennie

The role of Lennie will be performed by Wil Young. Wil is a company member from Hijinx North Academy, one of 5 Academies in Wales that trains learning disabled and/or autistic adults to become professional actors. Hijinx have pioneered supporting the work of disabled and/or autistic actors on our stages, how did this new collaboration develop?

I’ve reread the novel trying to establish a contemporary view on Lennie’s character with Cardiff School of Psychology researchers. We concluded that Lennie would potentially be on the autism spectrum and it felt right to work with an actor who would understand and confront himself with these difficulties on a daily basis. We contacted Hijinx  for advice and they quickly became collaborators. They were thrilled by the idea of casting one of their actor in a main role and were very helpful and supportive.

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/creatives? 

I am aware that you only realise that there are barriers when you are different yourself or know and share time with people who are. August 012 tries to minimise barriers in the way we make and produce theatre like many companies do –I see more and more theatre companies that invest in making work accessible-but I am sure we could all do more and are largely unaware. What has become apparent and is now crucial is that we keep organising regular opportunities for consultation with people with different disabilities, from varied age groups and from different social backgrounds. This is the only way to get things right.

Mathilde with the Of Mice and Men company,  credit Studio Cano.

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

There are not enough opportunities in theatre in Wales but I think it is steadily growing.

I wish more was done towards creating bridges with international festivals and networks in the European Union and elsewhere, most of the efforts in Wales are UK centric (or London and Edinburgh centric) and I believe artists and cultural organisations ought to reach out particularly in the current political climate.

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

Fine Arts and Music. Because I think they inspire all the rest. Fine Arts definitely inspires me to create theatre. Always. I am not sure about the contrary.

Bedwyr Williams, Artes Mundi 2017

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? 

Some companies and artists in Wales embrace their cultural difference and celebrate their particularity which goes well beyond language and I like that freedom. There’s a lot of freedom in theatre making here and cross arts form widely happened in Wales before it was even a term! So I enjoy the work that manages to connect this specific originality with the world, like Bedwyr Williams piece for Artes Mundi 2017 or in a different vein, the choir in WNO’s Khovanshchina.

 Many thanks for your time Mathilde.

An interview with actor Wil Young

Wil in rehearsals for Of Mice and Men

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to actor Wil Young. We discussed his career to date, his work with Hijinx Theatre, his role in a new production Of Mice and Men produced by August 012 and his thoughts on theatre in Wales today.

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

“Hi my name is Wil Young. I am 26 years old. I am based in Holyhead, North Wales. I’m a professional actor with autism. Through Hijinx Academy I have received professional training in acting, singing, dancing and mask work. My professional experience includes ‘Soup’ for the Hijinx Unity Festival. I can travel independently. I can learn and memorise scripts. I particularly enjoy my comedy acting.”

A performance of ‘Soup’ for Hijinx Unity Theatre Festival.

So what got you interested in theatre and the arts?

I’ve worked with Tim Baker on two productions. I’ve been with Hijinx for 3 years. I’ve been acting, if you can call it that, pretty much since I can remember.

Wil in rehearsals for Of Mice and Men

You are a member of Hijinx North Academy, one of 5 Academies in Wales. What activities do you get involved with in the Academy?

I do drama on Monday & Tuesday. I’ve done Unity in Cardiff & Caernarfon. The performances included ‘Soup’ which is a silent piece and ‘The Market’

You are playing the role of Lennie in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, produced by August 012 at Chapter Arts Centre during October. Can you tell us how you came to be involved in this production?

I actually heard through Hijinx that they were auditioning for the part of Lenny and I tried out.

Wil in rehearsals for Of Mice and Men

Lennie is a very famous fictional character, Of Mice and Men is a set reading text at many schools across the world. How are you going to approach your portrayal of this character?

He’s basically like a big kid, so I thought of playing him younger than I would normally.

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

I would invest in the Ucheldre Centre in North Wales, because it would also bring money to the island and the arts.

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? 

There’s plenty of choice in Wales in terms of theatre. I recently saw the first Columbian Circus to be shown in Pontio, Bangor, North Wales. This was called Acelere by Circolombia.

Thanks for your time Wil.

An interview with Emily Wilden creator of ‘Sunday Night Stories’

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

Hi, I’m an actor and voice artist originally from Carmarthenshire. I studied acting at the Italia Conti Academy of Performing Arts and it was after graduating that my interest in voice over and audio editing started to develop. I began to record and edit my own work using home recording facilities. I enjoy performing and workshopping pieces from new writers and I’ve also worked with theatre in education and run workshops for children.

So what got you interested in theatre and the arts?

I had an interest in performance from a young age, but it wasn’t until I joined the Swansea Grand Youth Theatre that my passion for Theatre and the Arts started to grow and I decided I want to pursue acting as a career. Joining a youth theatre was a great opportunity for me to meet new people outside of school. It really built my confidence and brought me out of my shell; it’s something I would encourage all young people to do even if they don’t have an interest in being a performer, as it helps with confidence, and communication.

‘Sunday Night Stories’ is a project you have developed yourself which features stories/plays/poems by talented new writers. It provides a platform for new writers to get their work heard. Can you tell us more about this initiative please?

I started Sunday Night Stories after taking part in a few different new writing projects in Cardiff. I have always enjoyed taking part in new writing events and as I am also a voice artist I thought it would be an interesting idea to combine the two.

New writing events are incredibly rewarding and helpful for the writer, actor and director but I thought by recording the pieces and turning it in to a podcast/having an audio recording, you are opening yourself up to a much wider audience. Also, by having an audio recording you are able to listen back and make edits and also use it to showcase your work.

I really wanted to create a useful platform for all writers, no matter what qualifications or experience they may have so they can gain feedback and the exposure they deserve.

I’ve recently partnered up with writer Darius Nash for a Sunday Night Stories Special of Hamish and Bob, a radio play written by Darius about a young boy with autism and his dog. It’s going to be a challenging piece but we are really excited to develop and share it.

Hamish and Bob in development

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/creatives?

I was lucky enough to be a workshop facilitator for Omidaze Theatre Company’s recent production of Romeo & Juliet, running workshops on Shakespeare and politics for primary and secondary school children.

Schools workshops for Omidaze Theatre Company’s production of Romeo & Juliet.

This really highlighted for me how little opportunity there is for children to experience theatre and the arts, whether it’s the cost, content, or just a lack of interest. During the workshops the children were excited to be getting up on their feet, performing, playing and actively working through and understanding (quite complex) text. It helped them use their imagination and recognise that theatre is for everyone. I felt this was incredibly important and is something that needs to be developed and offered more to children, helping them to explore all aspects of theatre and the arts.

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

After working in London and now Cardiff, I have found that there is a great support system available in Wales and a sense of community with Welsh artists in general, as there are lots of opportunities to create and it’s improving all the time. It would be great to see more workshops available for all aspects of performance, and for there to be more casting opportunities in Wales for Welsh actors.

Monologue Slam UK 2015 supported by NTW Team

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

As I previously mentioned I think it’s incredibly important to develop more opportunities for children to experience theatre, not only by going to see it but also through creating it themselves.

I also think it would be great to encourage more new writing projects in Wales, encouraging people who have the urge to write but maybe not the confidence to do so. There are so many great companies around at the moment producing work from new Welsh writers and I think it’s something we need to continue to encourage 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?

What really excites me about the arts in Wales is how welcoming and accepting everyone is to new ideas. There is such a sense of community, and you truly feel like everyone is willing to share, offer advice and help each other along, which is what being an artist and performer is all about and is the main reason I started this project. It’s really great to have such a range of writers share their work with me and let me give a voice to their stories; it just highlights how important community is in theatre and the arts.

Thanks for your time Emily

Website – www.sundaynightstories.co.uk
Facebook – @sundaynightstories
Twitter – @sunnightstories

An interview with Geoff Cripps

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Geoff Cripps. We discussed his career to date, his band  Allan Yn Y Fan and his thoughts on music and theatre in Wales today.

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

I was born and raised in Pontllanfraith in the Sirhowy Valley and educated at Pontllanfraith Grammar Technical School, University College Swansea and UWIST Cardiff. My early interest in music and the arts came from my mother who gave me piano lessons when just an infant. Pont Grammar School with its annual musical theatre productions and very broad church school “Folk Club” encouraged the performer and participant in me. This was the fabled sixties (yes – I am an old git!) and I remember various peers showing each other in the school playground their mastery of the latest guitar riffs or chord sequences of the rock & pop music of the day…That, plus when I was in the sixth form, there was a sequence of wondrous gigs at the pre-refurbed Blackwood Miner’s Institute by the likes of Dave Edmund’s Love Sculpture, Black Sabbath, The Strawbs often supported by the Rhondda band which became Racing Cars. All heady stuff!

In Swansea I became the organiser of our hall of residence folk club – which was also where I first started booking performers. At this point I was mad about music, never recovered actually, and saw 137 bands in my three years there ( I was the nerdy boy who star rated them all in his diaries!).

At this stage apart from being taken to panto as a small boy and one trip to the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff I was not a theatre goer or knowledgeable at all on this genre.

You are a member of the band Allan Yn Y Fan. Congratulations on your 21 years together! What are you all currently working on?

Thanks Guy. Sometimes it is hard to fathom how the initial quartet of myself, Kate Strudwick (currently boss of Head 4 Arts), Chris Jones & Linda Simmonds have stuck it out for more than 2 decades…Even harder is for me to think quite how I managed to make 4 albums, tour to Germany, Czech Republic, France, Ireland whilst Artistic Director at RCT Theatres! The current line up now also consists of lead singer Catrin O’Neill and fiddler Alan Cooper and together we are working hard to try and get the gigs that keep a six-piece band on the road!

These are tough times…but we are excited that next month we perform for the first time at the Abergavenny Food Festival Community Feast (14th Sept.), followed by our first ever performance in Austria at the House of Regions in Krems (21st Sept.) and then are honoured by performing at the Welsh night of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on 24th September. We might all have a lie down in a darkened room after that lot!

http://www.ayyf.co.uk

As you mentioned earlier you are the former artistic director of RCT Theatres. Get the Chance has had a great deal of support for its work in the valleys venues of South Wales. The venues very often act as the social and cultural hubs of our communities. How do you see venues of this nature developing in the future?

I am so pleased that Get the Chance has been so well supported by the Valleys Venues. I came in to running a Valleys Venue – the Beaufort Theatre Ebbw Vale when I was first appointed as Arts Development Officer for Blaenau Gwent CBC way back in 1994. This was not long after the initiative from the old Welsh Office and South East Wales Arts Association which had enabled the refurbishment of a number of Valleys Venues in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This initiative brought back to life or reinvigorated some ex-Miner’s Institutes which had previously been the cultural and social hubs of the valleys communities. These days I am very fearful for the future of many of these venues in a period when money is so much scarce than in those heady days of the ‘90s but also when, it appears to me, that, despite all the evidence gathered over the past couple of decades, the value of the investment in arts and culture is still little appreciated by the political funding masters. I think that those local authorities that continue to invest in and support their cultural venues are to be applauded. Those residents in areas that still have their cultural venue operating and supporting professional and amateur artistic endeavours should cherish and use them – and shout about the opportunities they offer loudly and often to all their elected representatives.

The best venues and those which keep deepening the nature of their active engagement with their local population will be the ones which will survive and may ultimately thrive.

When you have any spare time you are also a board member of Creu Cymru and Theatr na nÓg.Creu Cymru is a development agency for theatres and arts centre in Wales. Is it possible to explain your more about this organisation and your role?

I have since retirement been proud to have had the opportunity to serve on the boards of The Borough Theatre Abergavenny, Creu Cymru and since 2016 Theatr na nÓg. I hope that whatever “wisdom” I may have picked up over my “career” I can share with and strengthen through good governance of these artistic organisations.

Creu Cymru is an organisation unique to Wales – its strength and appeal reflected in the fact that virtually all the professionally run theatres and arts centres in Wales are in the membership. It aims to be the development organisation for all those working in these arts venues – and links the big operations such as Venue Cymru or Wales Millennium Centre to places such as the Congress Theatre Cwmbran or Galeri Caernarfon.

Creu Cymru offers opportunities for theatre staff to go and see work – whether that be in Edinburgh, across Wales or – sometimes funded by WAI – for international visits such as to CINARS in Montreal. Visits such as these enable the programmers and marketers in the venues to see work across the genres and to debate with peers the merits or otherwise of all scales of artistic endeavour. This often leads to such work being brought to Wales for the benefit of Welsh audiences.

Creu Cymru arranges regular arts consortium meetings (Music, Drama and Dance) at which the work is discussed, members can bring to the table ideas they wish to or are about to develop and also identify strands of work that will enable them to reach out to parts of their audience ecology they wish to reach.

http://www.creucymru.com

I have been fortunate to have had two periods of board membership – coming to a conclusion in 2018 – and through my own membership it was the backing of or the interactions with my colleagues in Creu Cymru which emboldened me and my RCT Theatre team to start in our co-producing and producing role which I am delighted to see being continued by Angela Gould now.

It was this latter involvement which really set the seal on my support of and active involvement with Theatr na nÓg leading to us co-producing Tom in 2014 with the premiere being held at The Muni in Pontypridd. I am delighted to be on the board of such an inventive and exciting company – and also delighted that as one of the new strands of their work they are encouraging the participation of young people in theatre making via their Ambassador scheme.

http://www.theatr-nanog.co.uk

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/creatives?

The barriers I am aware of are our poor transport networks, lack of money and lack of equality of opportunity – often compounded by the first two factors. I hope that with the focus Get The Chance brings to certain projects/areas/opportunities more pressure will be brought to bear on those who can best resolve some of the infrastructural issues!

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

For Allan Yn Y Fan our best supporters are the Musician’s Union and TRAC (which I was delighted to be the first Development Director 2001-2003). In some areas there has been support from ACW and WAI enabling Welsh musicians to take part in show casing opportunities such as WOMEX and Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections. As a band we have been fortunate to have received modest grants from ACW to support our tours of Wales in 2010 and 2016 but with the diminution of Lottery funds – getting such awards are going to be increasingly rare. It is also a shame, in my view, that ACW has not supported the production of CDs in the way that Creative Scotland has and continues to do.

I do hope that in my lifetime we might see a showcasing event which will spotlight the current vitality and breadth of traditional music acts in the way that Showcase Scotland and Folk Expo England do.

folk development for Wales

I do hope that in my lifetime we might see a showcasing event which will spotlight the current vitality and breadth of traditional music acts in the way that Showcase Scotland and Folk Expo England do.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would

 

 

 

 

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

See above – I would fund for a three year period on a tapering basis a Welsh traditional music expo with opportunities for the general public to attend all the showcase performances – this would assist in breaking down the widespread apathy or ignorance to the “real music” of Wales.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

The blurring of the roles of “Presenter” and “Producer.” The contributions of artists across the country who do what they do for insufficient recompense or recognition.

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

Just because it is so fresh in my mind I nominate the NTS production of “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour” which I first witnessed at the Traverse in Edinburgh in 2015 and last week loved once again as it approaches the end of its’ London run at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I just wish that our National Theatre companies would develop and tour a show in the country’s theatres!! Site specific can be brilliant but please National Theatre Wales and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru – put something of value into the network of Theatres in Wales….. (retires to await the brickbats!)

Thanks for your time Geoff

 

An Interview with Campbell Lawrie, Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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

My name is Campbell Lawrie and I am the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. This is my ninth year with the company but have been working as the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator for the last three years.

The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

http://www.citz.co.uk/about/paul_hamlyn_foundation/

So what got you interested in the arts ?
In first year of secondary school my English teacher thought drama and storytelling would help boost my confidence because at the time I was quite shy. Drama wasn’t a course that was offered at my school so my teacher helped me find courses across Ayrshire – where I’m originally from. As soon as I started performing I fell in love with bringing a story to life and witnessing the effect this can have on others. I was hooked after that and knew that I wanted to use theatre as a tool to change people’s lives.

You coordinate the Paul Hamlyn Club at The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Can you please tell us more about this initiative and your role?
The Citizens Theatre was very lucky to be one of five venues across Britain to be gifted a sum of money to identify and tackle the barriers that local, disadvantaged people may encounter when trying to access the arts.

Paul Hamlyn Clubs

My role is to coordinate the different strands of work we deliver in order to do this and also to create relationships with those affected. The role is very hands on. I regularly visit groups and their members in the local community and also welcome the individuals we engage with into the theatre and gain their feedback.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is funding the Paul Hamlyn Clubs to “Attract and build relationships with audiences from disadvantaged groups within their local communities.” How has your organisation approached this objective?
The Citizens Theatre was originally approached because of the amount of work we were already carrying out in the local community and across Glasgow. Using the gift we were able to refocus our efforts in attracting the local community to the theatre and there are currently four different strands of work under the Paul Hamlyn Club banner helping to achieve this objective. For those who live in Gorbals area of Glasgow, where the Citizens Theatre company has been based for the past 72 years, we offer heavily subsidised tickets to those who sign up to the Gorbals Card scheme.

http://www.citz.co.uk/about/gorbalscard/

The area is still one of the most heavily deprived areas of Scotland and ensuring our neighbours can attend our shows is our way of thanking those who have supported us over the years. We also run a Deaf Theatre Club working alongside Inkblot Collective to deliver an accessible programme for our Deaf audience and we work with two local schools to help engage a new generation of theatre goers.

http://www.citz.co.uk/Take_part/deaf_theatre_club/

The Paul Hamlyn Citizens is the fourth strand of work. This involves visiting local organisations and charities to discuss the barriers faced in accessing theatre and inviting them to join the PHCitizens to access tickets to shows throughout the year at 50p per ticket. Our PHCitizens ambassadors are always on hand during shows and events to answer any questions or queries those attending through the Paul Hamlyn Club may have.


Have your new audiences chosen to see any specific type of work at your venue?
We have learned that our new audiences are willing to engage with most types of work because they know they have nothing to lose through attending. Our new audiences see coming to the theatre as a social event more than anything and the shows, the free interval ice-creams, the post-show chats etc are all just added extras. There is an amazing atmosphere at Paul Hamlyn events as many stay behind to discuss the shows and this in turn helps create a larger community network. In saying this, comedies and musicals, especially if they are Scottish shows, prove to be more popular than most but Shakespeare, classics and new writing still appeal and have drawn in equally large numbers.

What impact has had this project in your venue had on the larger organisation?
The impact of the project can be seen across the organisation. Every department has been involved in its delivery in one way or another: backstage have provided talks and presentations, FOH ambassadors greet and welcome the wide range of new patrons who come through our doors and one of our box office assistants is even completing Level 3 BSL. Our community work which has been aided through Paul Hamlyn has also been recognised in helping secure some money for our Capital Project. Accessibility is always at the forefront of people’s minds and this has helped emphasise our stance that we are the Citizens Theatre – we exist for and because of Glasgow’s Citizens.

http://www.citz.co.uk/press/release/2.5_million_regeneration_capital_grant_fund_award_marks_new_milestone_in_ci/

In the current funding climate many venues and organisation have very limited budgets. Is it possible to share some of your learning that organisations could implement to support new audiences that doesn’t require large amounts of funding?
Funding obviously plays a huge part in making theatre accessible to all but small things like listening to your local community and sharing your resources/spaces with local organisations or individuals can help strengthen relationships. Finding out what your patrons want you to be and how else they would like to use the building is important in making the patrons feel comfortable in coming through the doors. An extension of this is having dedicated, friendly staff to welcome your new audience. We held an open day event, for example, to promote the theatre and our learning work to local, disadvantaged people.

We held workshops, talks and demonstrations throughout the building while outside a local band played and local organisations and businesses promoted their produce and work. The event cost very little because the local community were very generous in donating nearly everything we required and this in turn strengthened our network and individual relationships. I feel that a lot of the time people prefer putting names and faces to the organisation. Offering unsold tickets to your local contacts is also a good way to engage your new audience.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision In relation to your own project are you aware of any barriers for audiences to access cultural provision.
I think the barriers faced will vary greatly depending on where you are based. The Citizens Theatre is in a highly deprived area with an extremely diverse cultural background meaning we have encountered barriers such as language, affordability and childcare. Some people also feel intimidated entering a building they have only ever walked past or think it isn’t physically accessible. We have heard that a lot of people think theatre is elitist and “not for them”. Transport and programming also come up as common answers to what stops people coming along.
Thanks Campbell, finally some more personal questions. What excites you about the arts? What was the last really great cultural activity event that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

The cast of My Country with director Rufus Norris, gatherer Campbell Lawrie and some of the interviewees from Glasgow.

I genuinely get excited when a theatre show tackles social issues and politics head-on. Any piece of art that encourages debate or triggers a passionate response from its audience while also being entertaining has, in my eyes, achieved its goal. I was very lucky to have worked on the recent production of My Country by National Theatre. My role was to gather information from the Scottish people on their views on Brexit and the political climate following the Brexit vote. Listening to each person’s unique story on how they decided they were going to vote and knowing that snippets of these stories were going to heard by people all over Britain really excited me because the project, like the issue, encouraged debate but this time it was a debate between everyday people – not the media and not the politicians.

http://citizenstheatre.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/my-country-work-in-progress-divides.html

There is, on the other hand, one show that has stuck with me for ten years and remains my favourite piece of theatre – Headlong and Citizens Theatres production of Angels in America in 2007. I have no words to describe how that show made me feel but it did make me want to work at the Citizens Theatre. I guess in that way, that show changed my life.

https://headlong.co.uk/productions/angels-america/

http://www.citz.co.uk

 

An interview with actor and director Gareth Warren

Hi Gareth great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hello! So, I’m an Actor from Cardiff and I trained at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. I’ve performed all over the world – from the West End to the Sydney Opera House to Hong Kong. And lots of other places in between!

So what got you interested in the arts ?

Funnily enough, I never wanted to be and actor when I was younger. I wanted to direct music videos or be a novelist. The same things that made me interested in those things interest me in being an actor. That is, telling stories. I always enjoyed making people laugh at school and playing around – so it just made sense. It just took me a while to realise that!

You are a director and an actor, can you explain how this role operates within the creative team on a production ?

Well, I’m not quite a director at the moment. For our production of Jason & The Argonauts I’m the Associate Director – and playing Jason – I’ll be honest it can be quite confusing to explain! I was part of the original production of Jason & The Argonauts at the Hereford Courtyard in 2013 and the original Research and Development of the play in 2012. I’ve also worked with Mark Williams (the writer) on several other projects and we have developed a very close working relationship – basically we’re massive geeks and love Star Wars and comics! So… for this production I’m going to work closely with Julia (the director) and the production team to support in any way I can. This could just turn out to be making the tea and providing an array of chocolate based biscuits.
Thanks for clearing that up. As you have mentioned you are currently working on a brand new version of the classic legend Jason and the Argonauts. I loved the movie as a child so this new production sounds very exciting! Can you please tell us more about your role in this production?

So I get to play Jason. He’s just like us – a normal guy caught up in an incredible adventure – and surrounded by great hero’s of legend; Hercules, Orpheus and Medea. This show is a nod to many things – Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek and of course, the original movie. Essentially all great, epic quests. It’s been very playful to be a part of. We’ve enjoyed creating the monsters and having sword fights or messing with magic. And I’m lucky enough to be right in the middle of it.

Jason is the captain of the Argo in this production, it sounds a perfect production for teenage boys to see who might be interested in Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. What do you think live theatre can offer to audiences that differs from cinema?

Hopefully the show will appeal to a wide audience. Anyone who has an adventurous spirit! Whilst we have been influenced by science fiction and fantasy, you won’t need to be a fan of the genre to enjoy the show. This is how live theatre can differ from seeing a movie or watching a TV show. It’s all happening right in front of you – there’s no CGI and stunt doubles. It’s all happening right there! I think that can be very exciting for an audience to be part of. Because we’re doing it for you!

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?

That’s an interesting question. I think that in the past there was a feeling that you had to be in London to be able to have access to creative opportunities. More and more I am seeing opportunities arising in Wales. The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama is here in Wales and is considered one of the, if not THE best Drama School in the UK. The College also connects with young people in harder to reach communities in West Wales and the Rhondda Valleys and potentially further afield. We have the incredible TV studios at Roath Lock, and we’re always hearing about films or TV shows being made in Wales. We have the great work of NTW which seems committed to taking performances and opportunities to every corner of the country. That being said I believe that as a country we can still continue to improve to make art accessible to all members of all communities.

RWCMD in Cardiff, South Wales

http://www.rwcmd.ac.uk

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

I have been working with schools or young people in West Wales and in the Rhondda Valleys so perhaps I’m biased by this, but I would like more funding to be made available to those hard to reach communities. The world can seem quite disjointed to us at the moment. So community engagement through art is what I’d fund. Art can be used to change mentalities or to challenge stereotypes. It can also be used to educate in a creative way. And it should be fun! Everybody likes to have fun right?!
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?

City of the Unexpected

We have such a rich tradition of storytelling and have produced an unbelievable amount of talented writers, actors and singers over the years – and hopefully we will continue to do so. The last really great thing I experienced in the Arts was the Roald Dahl ‘City Of The Unexpected’ event that happened all around Cardiff City Centre. It was truly amazing. It featured so many different creative, quirky and stunning moments. And what I truly loved was that it was different for everyone who saw it – as some of the moments just popped up for a few moments and then were gone. Another thing about it that really excited me was the sheer number of people who attended. It made me realise that we, as artists, can make bigger and braver choices and people will embrace it. If the arts in Wales can continue to do that then I’ll think we’ll have a very bright future.

City of the Unexpected

Many thanks for your time
It’s been an absolute pleasure!