Guy O'Donnell

Hi I am Guy the project coordinator for Get The Chance. I am a trained secondary teacher of Art and Design and have taught at all Key Stages in England and Wales. I am also an experienced theatre designer and have designed for many of the theatre companies in Wales.

Access in the Arts. Are Things Getting Better or Worse? Avant Cymru.

Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”

After the publication of the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all” we interviewed a range of arts professionals in November 2018 to discuss the intentions of Arts Council Wales and suggest ways that their ambitions may be best realised.

A year one from this article we spent time broadly discussing the aims of the Corporate Plan and what change (if any) has occurred in the sector. The questions we asked elicited a personal response from everyone involved. We are publishing our second response below from Rachel and Jamie from Avant Cymru. Avant Cymru describe themselves as “A forward thinking theatre company from the South Wales Valleys. Creating relevant, distinctive theatre, dance, Hip Hop and artistic activity with and for our community and championing this work at home and afar.”

Hi Can you tell us about yourself please?

Hi Avant Cymru are made up of many different individuals. We have key members for the company who come a different range of backgrounds

BAME

LGBT

LOW INCOME/HIGH INCOME

There are two elements we can relate to with each other, all have mental health issues or have family members who have had long term mental health conditions. The other is that we all have Dyslexia and for some, other learning disabilities including ADHD and Dyspraxia. 

 What was your personal pathway into the arts?

 We have all had different pathways, one thing which we all have in common is that our parents were not in a position to be able to pay for classes and training which others could afford as we were growing up. For Rachel Pedley our Artistic Director this resulted in her assisting classes to cover the cost of her classes and taking on multiple jobs to pay for the clothing, equipment and assessments.  

Do you think your class; gender or ethnic background has impacted on your education or career?

All of us have found prejudice for our backgrounds from certain individuals. This has helped us find strength in each other. We appreciate that none of us sound, look or have experienced the same as the other and this means we can enrich each other by sharing our differences. 

 What have you found to be your personal barriers to accessing the arts and being able to develop a sustainable career? Is a sustainable career even possible?

Money – Money, Money and most worryingly segregation.  

Do you feel comfortable within your personal arts environment or is the different class, gender, ethnic background or privilege of colleagues something that impacts on you?

There are many environments we find ourselves in where there are middle to upper class people. As a majority working class company we do find it difficult to be able to explain that the places we perform, teach and train are very different to those accessed by the people we see outside of the Valleys and outside of the areas we perform across the world with our Hip Hop work. We have been to the purpose built buildings, with equipment and resources. We are grateful for the spaces and people who support us, without them the Valleys would be falling behind, they have kept opportunities available helping companies like ours to excel and grow. However the Valleys need purpose built spaces and talent to be championed. 

Are things are getting better or worse?

Worse – Segregation is happening through policy led decisions. 

ACW have the target of “We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.” Do you think this is acheivable?

True diversity happens when you have all involved who want to be. All financial backgrounds, race, religion, abilities, ages accessing and participating. 

Do you think ACW will be able them to deliver on their targets and why?

Unless the funding is focused on actual practice coming from the people and the varied communities looking to open their doors, it will never be achieved, you can’t buy diversity by forcing people into areas, jobs, etc without them having their heart and soul in that area. There are already many diverse projects happening across Wales – not funded by anyone in many cases. The funders need to look beyond those they think they know and see the amazing work being developed from the ground up. There you will find achievement that will be sustainable, diverse and rich as it comes from those who may not have the ability to write a funding form, or deal with the networking meetings, but those who love the area, the people and the art of where they live and what they are inspired by.

How do you think ACW would be able to best realise their intentions?

 Come to hear from audiences and participants, see what is being achieved and who is achieving it. 

From your personal lived experience what needs to change?

That funders fund what the community want and need, instead of pushing statistics.

If you are interested in the work of Avant Cymru, further information on their next event can be found below.

Open Art Surgery with Breakin’ Convention
Ty Pawb Art Gallery, Wrexham, LL13 8BBFri 14th February 2020

Open Art Surgery Wales invites you to delve into the mind and souls of some of the UK’s finest hip hop artists as they dare to try something new, dangerous and exciting!Artists present brand new short works devised and developed in just one week with mentorship from hip hop theatre aficionados Jonzi D, Ivan Blackstock and Anthony Lennon.This unique event, which takes place at the end of a week of intense research and development, presents six new works to the audience who are then invited to critique, feedback and ask questions to the artists involved.

Open Art Surgery is not about presenting finished work. The focus is to develop theatre skills within hip hop artists and to experiment with new ideas that could be developed further in the future. Breaking down of the fourth wall to allow the audience to engage with the artists, Open Art Surgery is an unmissable event in the Breakin’ Convention calendar.Hosted by Breakin’ Conventions Jonzi D

https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/avantcymru/open-art-surgery/e-bmqjvl

Review Roots, National Dance Company Wales, Theatr Clwyd by Gareth Hall

I’ve never seen contemporary dance live onstage. I’ve seen glimpses of it on TV – just enough to be fascinated, baffled, then fascinated again. My relationship with classical music is much the same. A simple melody can weave its way through an orchestra with astounding grace – but when a composer tries to tell a story, to my ears, the music lacks the vocabulary to express it. The artistic intent fades in and out, like a conversation half overheard across a crowded room.

My first experience of live contemporary dance was full of grace, but also not without half-heard sentiments. The first of four short pieces was Nikita Gole’s Écrit – it was my favourite. The story (a passionate affair between artist Frida Kahlo and her partner Diego) seemed disjointed, but the dancing was bursting with energy and full of feeling. With Frida in spotlight and Diego in silhouette behind a curtain, there was a striking visual contrast onstage. Another striking contrast: Frida begins with flowing hands suggesting a young flower in bloom, then, as she sheds petals from a rose covered headband, suddenly I felt wrenched forward in time. This was brilliantly mirrored by Diego, who opens as a painter slashing and swiping on a canvas, then shrinks into a rocking chair as a man whose days have all been spent. The story lingered on from there – Diego taking on a strangely demonic presence that I couldn’t understand – but the vivid imagery and gorgeously evocative choreography held me from start to finish. I’d see more of this.

Ed Myhill’s Why Are People Clapping!? tapped into a more primal, almost tribal energy with his piece, which hit its peak with a mesmerising succession of solo dances. The momentum ebbed with the persistent intrusion of sports related choreography, which, for me, was an unwanted distraction.

Anthony Matsena’s Codi was the piece I was looking forward to the most – bringing contemporary dance down into the dark of the Welsh mines promised to be a thrilling clash of different worlds. I was mightily impressed with the innovative use of lighting, which made a bare stage seem full and ever changing. The choreography, however, did not feel hard or harsh enough to emulate the desperate, dangerous lives of those brave mining men.

Last on the bill was Fearghus Ó Concchúir’s Rygbí: Annwyl/Dear, which likewise advertised an appealing fusion (this time, dance and rugby), but seemed to flit and fly around its subject matter without ever really going for the gut. With so many complex orchestrated movements to draw inspiration from, it felt like a missed opportunity that the geometry of the game was only intermittently recognisable.

What impressed me in every piece was the enthusiasm and athleticism of a remarkably talented dancing ensemble – the choreography did not always connect with me, but the pure intent of every performer was a sight worth seeing. And yes…it makes me want to lean in and hear more of what they’re saying, too. Next time!     

Gareth Hall

Theatre Company exports Welsh Hero

Welsh company Theatr na nÓg continue to innovate and increase awareness of Welsh Theatre! The company have just announced that they will present their original play “You Should Ask Wallace” in Indonesia.

The play tells the inspiring story of Alfred Russel Wallace, who was born in Usk and who left Wales in 1854 to document the diverse fauna, flora of the area in Indonesia now known as the Wallacea Region.

Ioan Hefin as Alfred Russel Wallace, credit Simon Gough.

The British Council has invited the award-winning Theatr na nÓg to take part in the Festival of Inspiration, Education and the Arts to celebrate the diversity of the Wallacea region. The Festival will be held in Makassar from the 22nd -28th of November 2019.

We asked the companies Artistic Director, Geinor Styles about the relevance of the work of Wallace today.

With the Welsh Government recently declaring a Climate Emergency the themes of this production seem especially relevant. What do your think Wallace might make of our Climate Emergency and organisations such as Extinct Rebellion if he was alive today?

I think he would definitely be part of Extinction Rebellion.

He was extremely aware of the impact man had on the environment, he certainly didn’t forsee the crisis we are in now. During the Industrial Revolution he was working in Neath as a surveyor for the railways , and although he had a love for nature and in particular beetles  he was conscious of the fact  that  “I was cutting up the land and beneath me a whole new universe teeming with life”.

Also whilst in Indonesia he explains that when he first discovered the King Bird of Paradise he describes it’s fate  as “should man ever reach these distant lands, we can be sure that he will disturb the balance of nature so that he will cause the disappearance, and finally extinction, of this creature.”

Paul Smith, Director of The British Council in Indonesia explained how delighted they are about the collaboration, “Here in Indonesia we are thrilled that the Welsh Wallace is returning to the Archipelago. In our Wallace Week in Sulawesi we are not just exploring biodiversity but also the cultural and ethnic diversities that Wallace encountered. Theatr na nÓg’s production will contribute greatly to the understanding and inspiration of young audiences along The Wallacea Line and we are thrilled that the company will transfer the production to local performers to ensure its own ‘sustainability’ here.

Each year Theatr na nÓg create original productions for over 5,000 young people which integrate live theatre performance with innovative creative learning resources. The organisation will be sharing their successful model of presenting theatre and education in workshops and symposiums in Makassar. The company is grateful to Wales Arts International and British Council Cymru for supporting this exciting opportunity.

Theatr na nÓg’s Artistic Director Geinor Styles said :- “It is an incredible opportunity for us to tell the Welsh story of Wallace to an area that celebrates and recognises this often forgotten scientist who co-discovered the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin, and to be here in the place where Wallace wrote the theory is inspirational.”

Styles together with actor Ioan Hefin, who originated the role of Alfred Russel Wallace, will not only perform the original play but will subsequently work with Indonesian actors and director to enable them to formulate their own version of the drama which they can continue to present to local audiences. “Our first performance of ‘You Should ask Wallace’ was in 2008. At the time I thought we were revisiting an important but forgotten historical figure. I now realise that ARW is very much a voice for today and tomorrow. He was, and still is, a visionary influence”

This terrific opportunity tops a great year for this small Neath based company where they started the year with another British Council invitation to present their hit musical “Eye of the Storm” in Hong Kong and which has just completed a UK tour captivating audiences and receiving rave reviews.

Review tic toc, Parama 2 by Helen Joy

Reminiscence is a tricky thing. It can border on the nostalgic if you’re not careful.


Those factory workers faced a lot of tough times and made a lot of tough decisions. But they laughed a lot too. They made life long friends. They forced some change. They probably sang a fair bit along the way as well.


I like a sing song, I’m very fond of a musical and I like a good story. I like characters I recognise and a history I know just enough about to give that story ballast.


Clearly, I am not alone. A whole audience agrees with me for sure. What a glorious romp! Parama 2 gives us an all singing, all dancing romp of a performance with every body on that stage playing to her natural strengths effortlessly and with joy.


Such witty pithy solos and duets with heart, a heart ripping trio trips us towards the end of an excellent saga.


I love it. I am watching everyone around me, sitting around candle lit, cloth covered club tables laughing, listening and sad for times past and people too. Touched by the factory workers, wondering how much has really changed and what this future holds. No woman is an island.


I am sitting with Olwen’s daughter, ‘that’s my mum, the one in the silly skirt’ and when she sings her ballad, we are both a little moved, a little teary.

It would be impossible to single any one actor out for particular accolade – each song matched their style, each scene matched their character, each laugh and each sigh was earned.


Please join this troupe, this band of friends, at their reunion and prepare to tap your toes and reminisce and glimpse behind the aprons of our past.

Seen: Friday, 1st November at Chapter Arts

Access in the Arts. Are things are getting better or worse?

Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”

After the publication of the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all” we interviewed a range of arts professionals in November 2018 to discuss the intentions of Arts Council Wales and suggest ways that their ambitions may be best realised.

A year one from this article we spent time broadly discussing the aims of the Corporate Plan and what change (if any) has occurred in the sector. The questions we asked elicited a personal response from everyone involved. We are publishing our first response below from X who has requested that we publish their response anonymously.

Hi X Can you tell us about yourself please?

Sure, I’m a performer, facilitator, theatre maker and all round professional idiot based in South Wales.

What was your personal pathway into the arts?

 Quite roundabout really! I’m from quite a privileged background and going in to the arts was considered “a waste” and the best way to end up unemployed and homeless, in my parents view. I received a lot of threats from them over the years about what would happen if I pursued it and was heavily pressured to attend a “good” University, which I dutifully did – St Andrews in Scotland. However through a combination of undiagnosed (at the time) mental health issues, lack of support network and the 2008 financial crisis I ended up unemployed and homeless anyway. So it sort of seemed silly to let worries about that stop me pursuing a career I wanted. Once I was back in a more stable living situation I took out a career development loan and went back to uni in 2013. And to give my parents their due they did assist in the paying back of said loan once I graduated.

Do you think your class; gender or ethnic background has impacted on your education or career?

 Massively. Firstly it was a barrier, which is weird when I think about it now. The arts is almost solely the playground of the middle/upper class so for there to have been a social stigma around pursuing it from the very middle/upper class background I had seems odd. For the record I went to private school in Edinburgh, almost entirely white etc etc. However I absolutely wouldn’t be in the position of where I am now where it not for my colour and class – I’m very aware of the fact that overcoming the hurdles presented by my period of homelessness (complete with arrest and criminal record as the whole thing coincided with one of many mental health breakdowns I’ve had, this being the first and the one that led to me getting a formal diagnosis) is down to my privileged background. My colour kept the charges and sentence from being too serious and my parents wealth allowed for a decent lawyer and eventually for me to easily re-enter formal education without accumulating a large debt. Basically although I have faced pretty large barriers I’d be an idiot if I didn’t also acknowledge they’d be a hell of a lot worse were it not for the fact I come from a nice comfortable rich white family. It’s just a shame none of that makes you a particularly nice person.

What have you found to be your personal barriers to accessing the arts and being able to develop a sustainable career? Is a sustainable career even possible?

My age, weirdly enough. Lots of schemes and things for newer artists are aimed at those under 25 (or at a push under 30). I’m 34 and was 28/29 when I graduated so by the time I’d found my footing professionally and started to accumulate experience to qualify I was too old for a lot of things! I mean the obvious one is my mental health, which crops up in all sorts of ways. As you’re freelance you have to stay on top of opportunities and time consuming forms, and I struggle with focus a lot so a form that might take a neurotypical person a day could easily take me a week. Then there’s the lack of any sort of confidence in myself that requires friends to read over forms for me and to reassure to its OK to send and I don’t sound strange, or weird, or crazy, or stupid. I guarantee that my responses to this will have been read over by several people before I send them to you even though I’m just writing about my own experience! It’s not exclusive to the arts but the lack of support as a freelancer is kinda hard. One barrier I come up against loads is information not being easy to find or clear: application deadlines (one application I did recently didn’t have the deadline anywhere online, google brought up ones from last year as the site hadn’t been updated, even employees got it wrong when I phone and asked), even questions and criteria (why ACW ever thought an application to look at an application form was a good idea I don’t know). Basically what I’m getting at is with any sort of mental health illness or disability every day tasks are already pretty overwhelming and tiring. Make your application as pain free as possible and information applicants need easy to find and clear. Be so upfront and clear, more than you might think you need to be. So many companies don’t even use contracts when working with freelancers, not even bothering to set out expectations of the role you’re doing and what you can expect from them in terms of support.

Man it really feels like I’m just listing every day annoyances and I suppose they are. But I guess that’s the point, these things are an irritant but or someone with my type of access issues they can be insurmountable. Even a phone call can take a whole day of build up, support and coaching. So do your best to make sure as few of these sorts of things are in the way. While I’m here, and this is from my days training to help long term unemployed people back in to work, I may as well mention that the more specific your person specification role the better, people can literally just work their way down and say how they fit each section, which helps with structuring cover letters and so on. The most accessible and person friendly job advert is one that asks for a CV and cover letter with clear person specification, in my opinion. Your person spec is your companies order, my CV is the whole shop and my cover letter is the sales assistant showing you how I stock exactly what you’re looking for. So the clearer your needs the better!

Do you feel comfortable within your personal arts environment or is the different class, gender, ethnic background or privilege of colleagues something that impacts on you?

Honestly I constantly feel like an outsider and like I don’t belong. I’m also very aware that’s a common symptom of BPD regardless of working environment but it’s one of the many buggers of mental illness that being aware of a thing as having come from it doesn’t stop you intensely feeling the thing.

Are things are getting better or worse?

In the arts or in general? In the arts I think it varies from company to company. Some companies are very understanding and adaptive and will offer things like Skype interviews for people with difficulty travelling etc. But then Welsh arts as a whole also knows really well how to seem austere and close ranks when it wants to.

On a personal level and in general I’d say getting worse. It’s been ten years since I received a formal diagnosis for an illness that kills 1 in 10 people that have it. There was little support offered to begin with and what little was there has been withdrawn and whittled away as time goes on. They’re currently referring mental health patients to the drug and alcohol services in the Vale of Glamorgan, for example, as they have free counsellors and don’t turn people away. I received a secondary diagnosis of PTSD at the start of the year but because it’s not from military service I don’t currently qualify for support under the NHS. I personally can’t think of many life threatening illnesses that are just left to get worse over time and people left without treatment but in the case of severe mental health disorders we do. It’s hard to remain cheerful or hopeful about that. And considering the great big Brexit Elephant in the room it’s hard to see it getting better any time soon.

In the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all” there are a series of Commitments which they aim to realise by 2023. Commitment 2 states; “We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.”

Do you think the key areas above will be delivered and why?

It certainly seems like a positive change. They seem open to listening and have made real, genuine efforts to change, which is often the hardest step. It won’t be right first time but an arts council that is open to listening and agile enough to be reactive and make changes as needed, even if it means things next year look different to this year. Part of being reactive also means having new, radical staff and life coming in to their building regularly. The world changes so fast and so often I don’t think any position should be for longer than a few years, let alone more than a decade. They expect us as artists to respond to and integrate the world in to our work, I think we can expect the same from them.

How do you think ACW would be able to best realise their intentions?

A kinder, more welcoming application process and corporate headquarters. They want to meet with artists before they apply so make them feel welcome in the space and by the people they meet. Technically we’re all artists and capable of great things and as residents of Wales we all technically qualify for ACW funding. It’s their job to make hard decisions on a case by case basis, not create an application and corporate structure that makes people question their value as artists in the first place. Everyone’s a bloody artist, making art is a beautiful, soulful and human experience. ACW should be facilitating that ethos.  Let’s face it whatever your access barriers (gender, sexual identity, race, disability) you’ve probably had a bad time of it with traditional corporate structures and attitudes. So why any group that wants to be more welcoming, especially in the arts, would want to mimic this set up is beyond me.

From your personal lived experience what needs to change?

A friendlier face, if people are made to feel like they don’t belong from the moment they make contact, even if its done with the best of intentions of ensuring only “serious” applicants access public money, they usually just won’t engage. Which means plenty of people who should get support and funding don’t. A clearer application process that also allows people to feel like it’s ok to get it wrong and ask questions also helps, previously it felt like there was a lot of assumed knowledge and had you not access to that knowledge then you weren’t a serious artist and remained an outsider.

An Interview with Sam Pullan Nominee for Young Person of the Year, National Rural Touring Awards 2019.

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

I am a 15-year-old who is very interested in the technical side of theatre. I do a lot in the hall which is closest to me which is Neuadd Dyfi in Aberdyfi . I help out with all types of events that happen in the hall from small touring shows, dance and talent shows to our local pantomime.


So what got you interested in the arts?

It all started when I moved down here at the age of 7, my mum became involved with Aberdyfi Players the 1st year we moved down here.

Aberdyfi Players directors Su Tacey and Des George outside the Neuadd Dyfi earlier this year with the two awards for Best Pantomime overall in their District in Wales and Best Stage Management and Special Effects. Amateur Theatre National and Operatic Dramatic Association (NODA) for their 2018 production of Aladdin.

I was pretty much dragged along to watch the performance of their yearly pantomime. From the moment I walked into the hall I wanted to know how to work the lighting. Most children at that age wouldn’t have continued to think about it but after talking to mum she introduced me to Des George who runs the hall and he fuelled my interest even more. I didn’t join Aberdyfi Players straight away but it wasn’t long as I was inching to get involved with the tech side with Des’s knowledge, help and experience it has got me to where I am today.

Congratulations on your nomination for Young Person of the Year in the National Rural Touring Awards 2019.The awards recognise the valuable work of productions, venues, promoters, schemes, and staff in the rural touring sector. What is your role at Neuadd Dyfi?

Good question, I don’t feel I really have one specific role at the Neuadd, I try my best to help with as many things as I can. Obviously my main interest is lighting and sound which I help all the touring companies or events which come into the hall with.



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 accessing high quality productions for audiences at Neuadd Dyfi?

I would have to say it would be the size of our auditorium, we have had half of the hall levelled out, but we would like it to all be retractable seating. If we did have retractable seating installed it would open up so many more opportunities.


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

I have to say it is difficult to choose one area to fund, it would have to be backstage in general. From props to tech


What excites you about the arts ?

The fact that everyone comes together to form one big team and works together to create one big show. Everyone has their own part from technical to costume to performing.

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

It would have to be ‘I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost’ by Little Earthquake. By far one of the most mind twisting shows I have ever watched, if you get the chance ( no pun intended) to go and watch it please do. The meaning behind it is amazing but that’s all I can say about it.

The next productions to play at Neuadd Dyffi are,

Mrs Peachum’s Guide to Love & Marriage by Mid Wales Opera

Roots by National Dance Company Wales.

National Dance Company Wales are also running a free Day of Dance at Neuadd Dyfi on Saturday the 23rd of November. Booking details are below.

Dance and Audiences at Neuadd Dyfi with Sarah Verity

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

I have been dancing since the age of 3 and have trained in many dance styles such as ballet, modern, jazz, street dance, freestyle and Cheerleading. I completed the IDTA Dance Teaching Diploma in Freestyle and Modern Jazz with Distinction and I am qualified Cheerleading and Fitness Instructor. I have been privileged to work alongside many industry professionals such as Wayne Sleep and Darcey Bussell.

Since graduating from the University of Manchester, I performed and taught overseas before moving to Leeds to own a dance franchise which involved teaching dance in schools and the wider community.

I was a member of the National Youth Theatre and have gained much Musical Theatre experience over the years. Since recently moving to Aberystwyth I have already acquired many dancing opportunities and teach at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Dreams Dance School and set up my own Dance School ‘The Sarah Verity School of Dance’ as well as teaching freelance in local schools and the wider community.

So what got you interested in the arts?

I have danced since the age of three and despite my peers stopping dancing in their early teens, I have always had the desire to continue. During my academia studies at school and University, dancing and the performing arts has always been an escape for me and a form of self-expression.

You run your own dance school called, The Sarah Verity School of Dance. Your dance provision is obviously very important as its the only dance school in the area and teaches a range of dance styles to all ages, including adults. What do you hope to achieve with your dance school?

The positive effects of dancing whether it is as a hobby or as a career are significant and I have been fortunate enough to live in different places across the UK where dancing has always been an option. Therefore I wanted the people of West Wales who live in the more remote areas to have the same opportunities, without having to travel a great distance. I have been fortunate with my dance career and have seen the positive impact dancing has on children and adults. My aim is to continue to have a positive impact on people’s lives through dance.

You are collaborating with National Dance Company Wales to support a Day of Dance at Neuadd Dyfi,Aberdyfi on Saturday the 23rd November from 3-5pm. Do you think its important for organisations like NDCWales to work with community dance organisations such as your own?

I think it is amazing that we can offer the opportunity for people in this area to be able to work and be trained by National Dance Company Wales and have the experience of watching them perform, without having to travel to the city. I hope it will be a valuable experience for the National Dance Company Wales artists too, to work with dancers with mixed abilities and dance experience.

NDCWales then play at Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdyfi on Sunday the 24rd November as part of their autumn Roots tour. This is the first time the National Dance Company has performed at the venue, what piece of work are you most looking forward to seeing from the Roots programme and why?

I’m looking forward to seeing Why Are People Clapping!? by Ed Myhill as it has similarities with the musical ‘Stomp’ which I have been a fan of from seeing it at a young age. I love the simplicity of making a rhythm out of a simple sound and then gradually layering different sounds and movement onto the beat to produce an amazing result.

Neuadd Dyfi,Aberdyfi is an Arts Council Wales Night Out touring venue and is clearly an important asset to the local community. We interviewed Des George who runs the venue, in 2017,  how is the venue important to you personally?

Theatre Rum Ba Ba performing “L’Hotel” at Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdyfi, under the Arts Council of Wales ‘Night Out’ scheme Sunday 14 August 2016 ©keith morris

The venue has ‘West End’ standard facilities such as amazing lighting and sound equipment and sprung floor rehearsal space, which we are so fortunate to have in a small village in West Wales. We were able to rehearse and perform our dance school shows at the venue, which is so important for the pupils and their parents to have this opportunity as it is the largest venue in the area.

Theatre Rum Ba Ba performing “L’Hotel” at Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdyfi, under the Arts Council of Wales ‘Night Out’ scheme Sunday 14 August 2016 ©keith morris

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 accessing high quality Dance provision?

In deprived areas, it is difficult for parent/guardians to have extra income to pay for their children’s dance tuition. Therefore cost of dance tuition is reduced which means that the income is also reduced for the dance teacher. Even reduced fees may still be a considerable expense for some of the parents paying it.  

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

Enabling funding for underprivileged children to be able to partake in dance lessons.  

What excites you about the arts ? 

In a world of ever changing political situations, climates and technological advances, the arts still remain a form of liberation from the pressures of modern society, yet it also has the opportunity to enable expression around such issues and has the potential to influence the future.

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

Despite living far from the city, we are very fortunate to have a local cinema that portrays the ‘live theatre screenings’. Therefore last year Matthew Bourne’ s adaptation of ‘Cinderella’ did a live performance from Sadler Wells that was screened to our local cinema in Tywyn. It was an hour to watch. We are lucky enough to have his latest version of ‘Swan Lake’ coming to our cinema as live screening at the end of November, which I am very much looking forward to.

Many thanks for your time

Working with Welsh Playwrights at Coleg Gwent

Get the Chance is a strong supporter of Welsh/Wales based Playwrights. Wales as a nation does not have a literary department to support Playwrights. When we found out about the exciting Playwright module from lecturer Viv Goodman on the Extended Diploma in Performing Arts course at Coleg Gwent we got in touch to find out more this new initiative.

Hi Viv, great to meet you, what got you involved in the arts and education?

I loved Drama in school from a very young age and it was always going to be something I would pursue further. About the time I was in sixth form in Cardiff I decided I wanted to teach Drama; I had gained so much from my own teachers and through provision such as The Sherman Theatre Youth Project. I did the Secondary Drama teaching degree that was run between what is now Cardiff Met and RWCMD, then went straight into working in secondary schools. I’ve been at Coleg Gwent for 12 years now; moving to FE was the best thing for me, I have really loved working on a vocational course with the students.

You are about to embark on an exciting new project with a range of writers, please tell us more!

Certainly, my year two actors are on the Extended Diploma in Performing Arts course at Coleg Gwent. The project is an assignment for two units, Performance Workshop and Exploring Theatre Practitioners.

Year two actors on the Extended Diploma in Performing Arts course at Coleg Gwent


We start on 24th Oct when we go to see Pavilion, Emily White the productions writer will be coming to us the following day to do a workshop about the play. I anticipate that some of the students will select an extract to rehearse for performance. Owen Thomas will be able to join us for several workshops during November, we will be exploring extracts from his work Grav, An Orange in the Subway, Richard Parker and The Night Porter. The pieces will all be performed on 11th/12th December at Coleg Gwent and will be delivered as a promenade theatre experience, touring the audience between different locations that create the right mood/atmosphere for each play. Jeremy Hylton Davies will also join us in November, he will be taking a workshop on TV and radio acting/writing and sharing some of his BBC scripts with the students.

Why do you think its important for your students to engage with living playwrights?

I really want the acting students to have interaction with performing arts professionals, it’s something I am currently trying to develop for the Level 3 Year 2 Acting course. Working with these three playwrights will give students the opportunity to understand a bit more about the writing process, but mostly I think it will make the scripts and professional world seem more real somehow; I’m sure that very often a playwright or an author can appear simply as a name on a book and this project will allow them to talk to real people and work with them to bring their concepts, themes and characters to life.

What has been the response from the writers as regards getting involved in the project?

I am genuinely bowled over and delighted by their response to the project! All three playwrights came my way during August while I was considering materials and projects for the new academic year. I knew I wanted to do something contemporary with the Year 2 group during the first term before they go on to a classical/historical project, but I couldn’t decide on a play. I was in touch with Emily first and got swept up in the excitement for Pavilion! I knew that she wanted the play to reach a younger audience and I felt that the students would connect with this. She was thrilled to learn that we were coming to see it at the Riverfront and was really happy to come and see us for a workshop. I then got in touch with Owen, having also read his Get the Chance interview and learned a good deal more about his work.

I was really interested to know more about The Night Porter as we had done a ghost storytelling project at Coleg Gwent a couple of years previously. He was also very positive about coming in to share his work with us and it was at this point that the idea of making it into a project occurred to me. I asked to meet Owen, he was involved with the Edinburgh Festival, taking West to NAFoW and then a research and development week on An Orange in the Subway, so by the time we finally managed to catch up I had about 50,000 questions for him… but I managed to rein myself in and keep to the matter in hand! He was very enthusiastic and supportive. I was also delighted to hear back from Jeremy; his writing across the fields of theatre, BBC TV and Radio Drama really interested me and he will be invaluable to our students. He has local connections as well, so it’s great that he is able to come and work with us. Everyone has been incredibly kind.

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

I would love to see more funding for youth drama projects. Early opportunities and building self- confidence, self-esteem and a sense of belonging to something are essential to well being and growth; during my time as a secondary school teacher in particular I noticed that the pupils involved with Drama, Music and Sport were usually the most content and fulfilled learners.

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

I loved On Bear Ridge at the Sherman Theatre, incredible writing and performances. A number of people have commented on how great it was to see the auditorium full for a new play. I’m glad Jeremy will get a chance to see it at The Royal Court!

Playwright Owen Thomas tells us more about why he got involved in this new initiative.

When Viv first approached me about working with her students, I accepted immediately. As well as writing plays, I have taught Drama for almost 20 years and I have always thought it essential in their development that young people have the experience of working with people making their living and working in the arts. It is vital that people who have experience of making work are able to interact with the next generation. If there is anything that I have learnt in my writing career then I would be glad to share it, be they tips for how to be successful or some of the many mistakes I’ve learnt from.

You will be running workshops during November, where the students will be exploring extracts from your plays Grav, An Orange in the Subway, Richard Parker and The Night Porter. How will you approach this process and what do you hope the students will gain from studying your work?

With a play like ‘Grav, it has only ever been performed by the brilliant Gareth John Bale. I am excited to see how a younger performer will approach it. I would certainly encourage them to be bold and to give it their own unique stamp. ‘Grav’ and ‘Richard Parker’ are the two plays of mine closest to my heart in terms of the doors they opened and the people they introduced me to. ‘Richard Parker’ has been performed by a range of companies over the years, and I am often struck by how different people interpret the play. I have seen it played as an out and out comedy, or as a more darkly sinister piece.

‘An Orange in the Subway’ and ‘The Night Porter’, are new plays of mine, and for my own development I am interested to see how these young performers interpret them. Having had the pleasure of doing research and development on both of these plays in the last 12 months I am always excited to learn new things from actors and directors who always come at projects with their own unique viewpoints. It is great to think that a group of talented performers will be spending time with my words and creating a kind of retrospective. I am sure it will make me feel old. I am excited to see what they do. Above all, I hope they enjoy the project and I am looking forward to meeting them.

Do you feel the role of the Playwright is sufficiently understood by those studying drama?

Overall, yes, but a lot depends on how they are taught. One of the good things about GCSE, AS and A Level Drama is that young people are encouraged to study plays. The earlier this can happen in school, the better. Often young people are initially attracted to study drama by the urge to perform. It is important that they learn about the ground breaking writers and directors as well as actors. I have worked with young people who have been inspired to give playwriting a go after studying Playwrights such as Arthur Miller, Shelagh Delaney or Roy Williams. Without the Playwright, there is no play.

What one piece of advice could you share with any aspiring Playwright?

When you are starting out as a Playwright there is nothing more valuable than seeing and hearing your work being performed. With my first play, ‘The Dead of Night’, I roped in various friends and called in favours to help me to stage it. I learnt a huge amount from this process. How what looks good on the page doesn’t always translate into the mouths of the performers, or the fact that what a writer might spend two pages wrestling to communicate, a good actor can communicate with a single look. One of the things that first attracted me to being a Playwright is that, if you have the passion and the time, all you need to stage a play is a script, willing performers and a space. Don’t sit and wait for a theatre to approach you. Get out there and make new work. Trial and error. It is the best way to learn.


Playwright Emily White tells us more about why she got involved in the new exciting initiative.


I am really passionate about getting more young people coming to the theatre, so I had already agreed to lead some workshops while Pavilion was running at Theatr Clwyd as part of their engagement program, in order to try and encourage some of their younger groups to come and see the show.  So when Viv from the Extended Diploma in Performing Arts course at Coleg Gwent reached out to me on Twitter and said she was bringing her students to see Pavilion and would I consider meeting with them I was totally up for it.  I’m new to running workshops but I think it’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes, theatre and dance meant everything to me when I was young if I hadn’t found that calling I’m not sure what I would have done.  I was really lucky to have the opportunities I did, so I want to give something back.

The students will be going to see your play Pavilion at The Riverfront Theatre in Newport. You are then going to run a workshop with the students. How will you approach this process and what do you hope the students will gain from studying your work?


I really feel this play in particular is exciting for young people to watch because there a large number of young characters that they can identify with, it takes place at a bar/nightclub so it’s fun but it also addresses harder hitting issues that they are facing.  Out of all the feedback we’ve received about the show, my favourite comment was that one of our techies brought his 16 year old son to see it, and he loved it so much he went and bought himself and his girlfriend tickets with his own money so he could see it again.  I was really happy to hear that it spoke to him so strongly.  We’ve also had students from Wrexham come along to the show and some members from my old youth theatre MPYT (Mid Powys Youth Theatre) and they have all responded positively to it and wanted to study or perform it, so hopefully the Newport students will feel the same.   Viv and I have talked about a Q&A session and then some work on particular scenes.  I think these workshops will be primarily about performing whereas the ones I lead at Clwyd were writing exercises on developing character.  Although some of those exercises could apply to performers as well in terms of creating a backstory for your character that goes beyond the information given to you in the text.  For example asking the students to list twenty things a character remembers, twenty things they want etc. to help to build a more complex inner world.


Do you feel the role of the Playwright is sufficiently understood by those studying drama?

In a word: no.  At least I didn’t fully understand it – I did a BTEC in Performing Arts at Hereford and we did a bit of devising/writing and at RADA we did a little writing but mostly of monologues as a way into characters but I didn’t really start to understand playwriting until I tried to write a play.  Only once you try, and get feedback, and then redraft and redraft and redraft, can you start to understand how much work goes into writing a play.  Acting is in a walk in the park compared to writing as far as I’m concerned.  Even with all the theatrical experience I had as an actor and having read loads of plays (I love reading plays so I buy them more than I buy other books) I didn’t have any idea about how a play is structured.  Characters reveal themselves to me quickly but structure and plot I find much more difficult.  I had no idea how much editing and rewriting went into playwriting. 
I’ve never worked on a play with a living playwright so I had no idea what to expect going into the rehearsal process for Pavilion in terms of what would be expected of me and I’m not sure any of the actors did either.  We were still rewriting bits and adding lines or editing lines out, right up until press night.  Plays can take years to write and then years to get on – Pavilion started four years ago and then right at the end of the process it becomes a collaboration – so I was on my own for years and then for the last few months I’ve had all these other collaborators come in: literary advisors, producers, directors, movement directors, fight directors, designers, sound designers and of course a company of actors and suddenly it’s not yours anymore it becomes a company effort: everyone is there working really hard to make your imagination come to life which is overwhelmingly moving.  It’s also strange and exciting and frightening too because you have no control anymore.  And of course if Pavilion ever receives another full production it would be completely different again, with a different set of people involved, creating a entirely different show.  That’s one of the unique things about plays as opposed to other art forms, it’s never finished, it gets recreated and re-imagined every time… and I’ll probably still be doing rewrites.

What one piece of advice could you share with any aspiring Playwright?


Get some friends together (actors if at all possible) and get them to read your play out loud and then have a discussion about it afterwards.  It is a short cut to knowing what works, what nearly works and what will never work.  You’ll hear what bits are heavy handed and overwritten, you can make notes as you go along and then you can redraft.  This is really helpful even in the very early stages of writing a play and may spark ideas that will help you create new scenes or even new characters.  

Writer Jeremy Hylton Davies us more about why he got involved in the new exciting initiative.

I think Viv and I bumped into each other online and she found out that I come not so very far from Crosskeys originally and I do often write Welsh themes or use Welsh characters, including in network drama. Viv asked me if I could help out and I was only too pleased to. I think looking at the world of professional theatre and film and TV, it can seem like it’s made by a select club which is difficult to join. I would think all of the professionals involved would say that they want to demonstrate that that’s not the case and you just need the urge and the will to get involved and make it your working life, if you want to.

How will you approach this process and what do you hope the students will gain from studying your work?

Well, by happy coincidence some of my work has just been broadcast on tv and radio and the students will be able to compare the scripts with the transmitted versions. There can be many changes along the way, not least due to demands of budget and schedule (anyone who works in drama or television will tell you all about those!), but reading the scripts also gives a good insight into how to write to the technical demands of a particular medium and how these demands differ, ie with regard to tv and radio. In radio you can say ‘Here we are on Mars’ and the audience is instantly with you on Mars. In tv or film, if the story is set on Mars, it’s pretty much got to look like Mars. And recreating Mars is expensive!

Do you feel the role of the Playwright is sufficiently understood by those studying drama?

If you say ‘writer’, then it’s a broader question. In theatre the writer is paramount (unless they don’t want a writer at all!), but in film and especially in television, you are part of an enterprise that is dictated by schedules and money, as above, ditto technical demands, but also deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, especially in continuing (serial) drama. There’s a cast, crew and back office production team of about 80 waiting for your script to land – so you’d better land it.

In a historical context, playwrights and writers are also subject to social and political forces of their times. So getting the work staged and finding an audience are difficulties in themselves. A novel you can write in isolation, a play needs an audience if it is to come off the page.

The role of the playwright is tied with the role of the theatre. We live in times when journalism, or at least fewer journalists, are really holding power to account. And when opinions are supposed to be binary, my view vs. the other view. What’s missing is the examination of the degrees of experience and the fact that humans are complex and contradictory beings. Theatre and drama can do that.

But, really, the role of the playwright has been debated since Aristotle – and probably before him! So maybe that the question needs to be constantly asked is an indication that the role of the playwright is actually alive and well and continues on.


What one piece of advice could you share with any aspiring Playwright?

Watch all you can, see and hear all you can. Be curious. Don’t be scared. Write what you want to write. But write. Always write.


An interview with Artist Jeannie Clarke

Hi Jeannie, so what got you interested in the arts?

I have been drawing and painting ever since I was a child – and I went to a Grammar school where the only subject I excelled in was Art – so it was inevitable that I would go on to try to make a career in the Arts somehow!!

You are fairly new to drawing and painting contemporary dance, can you tell us more about your work in this area?

For a time my professional work was centred around racehorses – As a child I was obsessed with drawing and painting them and especially the way they moved. I have always been interested in the human figure too – not particularly portraiture but the figure itself, especially in movement.

Only a year ago I was invited to a National Dance Company Wales, Open Rehearsal in London where the company were rehearsing for a show that night – that was my introduction into seeing dancers at work and I have been trying to capture my response ever since!

How has your relationship with National Dance Company Wales developed?

Well, I think I am hooked! Since that first encounter with the dancers I have worked almost exclusively on studying the way they “work”, whether they are resting or rehearsing and have been fortunate to be able to come to Cardiff and spend some days with them in the studio sketching and photographing and in particular I am building up a body of work depicting their production of “Rygbi” which I hope to exhibit next year, fingers crossed…The dancers themselves are hugely enthusiastic and supportive of what I do and are genuinely intrigued to see what I produce. As for me, I am completely in awe of what they do – obviously!!

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 artists?

Hm… for artists? I haven’t personally hit any barriers in that sphere. I was a teacher in mainstream education many years ago before I left to pursue a career in commercial art. but I am sure that my own involvement with the art world has placed me in a bubble which has shielded me from exposure to barriers and I am sure they DO exist.

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

For some years after I left mainstream art teaching, I worked with children and young adults who had special needs and varying disabilities (as they were then called)… Our art and creativity sessions were a joy! Hugely beneficial but hugely underfunded and undervalued and certainly would get money!!

What excites you about the arts ?

Wow, where to start!……how much space have I got?….Lets put creativity, in whatever form, back into peoples lives! … Its transformative and life enriching…..

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

You mean apart from watching the dancers from National Dance Company Wales almost flying across the stage so beautifully and bringing me to tears……it don’t get much better than that!    

National Dance Company Wales are touring Roots to venues across Wales this autumn.

Mold Theatr Clwyd Thursday 7 November 2019, 19:45 BOOK

Friday 8 November 2019, 19:45 BOOK

Cardiff Dance HouseTuesday 12 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Wednesday 13 November 2019, 13:00 BOOK

Wednesday 13 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Thursday 14 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Blackwood Miners Institute Tuesday 19 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Ystradgynlais The WelfareThursday 21 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Narberth The Queens Hall Friday 22 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Aberdyfi Neuadd Dyfi Sunday 24 November 2019, 19:30 01654767251

Caernarfon Galeri Tuesday 26 November 2019, 19:30 BOOK

Pwllheli Neuadd Dwyfor Wednesday 27 November 2019, 19:30BOOK

An interview with Writer Tess Berry-Hart

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

Thank you so much! I’m a playwright and novelist living in Cardiff. I was born in the Midlands but grew up in Oswestry along the Welsh border. I spent my teenage years at school in Denbigh, before going to London for university and work for some years. Some of my writing has been produced in London theatres, as well as at the Edinburgh Festival, and also in the States as part of human rights campaigns. I’m also a refugee rights activist, volunteering with two charities, Calais Action and a choir of refugees and friends, Citizens Of The World Choir.

My latest play, “Cargo,” about a group of refugees travelling in a cargo container was produced at the Arcola Theatre London in 2016 and later toured by the Turkish State Theatre last year, and I’ve also previously written a couple of young adult novels about climate change called the Genopolis series. My new show “The Story” was commissioned by The Other Room Cardiff, as part of their Violence series, and will be on from 8 – 25 October 2019.

So, what got you interested in the arts?

My dad was a painter and my aunt was an actress, my brothers are musicians so it’s definitely in the family blood. I read a lot from an early age so I always wanted to write, but also I think I probably moved into writing because it was a toss-up between that and music, but with two brothers as musicians there was more space to find my way in books and theatre for me. Family dynamics (I’m the baby of my siblings) are responsible for an awful lot!

Why do you write?

Therapy! I suffer a lot from depression and anxiety, and unfortunately I’m not one of those people who can do yoga or meditation for calming myself because my brain turns into a screaming bear pit. Instead I manage intrusive or cataclysmic thoughts by creating and writing, whether influenced by or as a direct block to worrisome stuff so I can immerse myself somewhere else for a few hours, or process things that are happening to me. I don’t find that depression and anxiety stop me writing, quite the opposite in fact; my last two pieces were written in the pit of depression earlier this year when I could barely get out of bed, and writing was pretty much the only thing that got me through. It’s a bit like playing beautiful music to block out the neighbours fighting, if you turn it up loud enough, then you can escape for a while.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based writers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you? Is it possible to sustain a career as a writer in Wales and if not what would help?

To be honest, it’s always going to be really hard to be a “full time writer”, wherever you are in the UK, because there’s only so much resources to go around, so both in London and in Wales I’ve had to juggle various things to keep going. I’ve noticed in Wales that the Sherman and Clwyd have been supporting many writers and well as the various writers rooms at the BBC. If I could identify anything it would be that it would be targeting the missing areas of representation in supporting writers, do we need to support more female writers, more writers of colour, etc. The Violet Burns Award by The Other Room Theatre is a very good example of supporting female artists, and I think that it would be good to see more of initiatives like this.  

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

I’m very interested in mental health and neurodivergence so theatre and groups by and for people affected by various learning or communication conditions, such as Hijinx, or shows like Splish Splash by NTW last year are really valuable. I’m increasingly interested in types of communication that don’t depend on language, because theatre is all about communication, so to try to find ways of telling stories that don’t hinge on words themselves is something that I’m thinking about now.  

Splish Splash, NTW

Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas come from?

Ideas get triggered by a range of things; my experience volunteering for instance, or a news story, or domestic events in my family perhaps. There’s always a period of downtime once a script is finished or a deadline met, where I’m the most uncreative person ever because it feels like I’m all used up; but having a few new hot ideas always in my back locker to plan or feel excited about helps my mind feel active.

Can you describe your writing day? Do you have a process or a minimum word count?

I think of writing as a daily practice, like yoga or meditation or tai-chi perhaps, because it has therapeutic value for me personally. The process does change according to whether or not the work is commissioned or whether it’s an idea that I’m working on as a spec script, or a deadline is approaching, but essentially I try to do a bit every day, whether it’s simply allowing myself time to let ideas germinate, or taking half an hour to try to get some raw material down, or editing over something that’s been written. I think most writers have different periods when they find it easier to either edit or create or ruminate, we’re not word machines. Luckily I’m quite a quick writer if I know a deadline is coming, so deadlines really help me to pace myself. I’m definitely not one of those writers who sits down and knocks out a thousand words every morning, but keeping it in the active part of my mind where I’m either writing something or thinking of writing something helps me.

A friend helping Tess write at home!

You are a verbatim storyteller, how do you resolve the challenge of telling a gripping tale and sharing the truth of the diverse voices you work with?

Interestingly, I don’t see myself as a verbatim storyteller. The majority of my work is not verbatim (The Story for instance is fiction), so collecting verbal stories and contributions from people in order to shape it into an artistic work – is something that I’d only use if it was a real-life non-fiction story I was telling.

However, being a writer can be quite lonely so verbatim offers a nice collaborative environment of talking to people and getting out of your own head for a while and into someone else’s. You get to meet hundreds of different people from different backgrounds that you might not otherwise have known in life, and open yourself up to all sorts of interesting possibilities. Right now for instance, I’m working as a librettist with four different choirs to listen to the members’ stories and help transform them into an opera by collaborating with a composer as part of the “Singing Our Lives” project.

And yes, sometimes it’s hard to balance the objective truth of what you’re told with the endless writer’s itch to edit and augment reality, but I switch on different parts of my brain to shape what’s best about the material that I’m given into the themes and actions of the contributors themselves. I find that quite easy to do, as it takes the pressure off to “create” – and in most of my verbatim projects, the story is there waiting to be found anyway.

You were commissioned by the King’s Head Theatre to write the verbatim theatre piece Someone To Blame (2012), to highlight the real-life case of Sam Hallam, a 17-year old convicted of a murder he did not commit. Could you describe how you approached this commission and the subsequent developments in Sam’s story.

This was perhaps the most unusual commission I’ve received, which was part of the campaign to highlight the inconsistent evidence that convicted Sam of murder although he wasn’t even there. It was the first non-fiction play I had done, and given the legal issues I decided to work in a verbatim style, reading my way through huge stacks of court testimony, police interview reports and witness statements to use people’s own words about the events to create a piece of theatre. We also visited, interviewed and transcribed the words of people who were there at the time, including Sam in prison a couple of times.

I have a law degree which helped me get through and absorb the mass of evidence, and put together a script which started off with a gang fight in north London during which a young person was tragically stabbed to death. It then followed the various characters implicated in the murder, and critically examined the testimony which had convicted Sam.

The play was produced by the King’s Head a few weeks before Sam’s appeal. When Sam’s case was finally heard, the cast and crew of the play were all in the gallery at the Court of Appeal in London listening to the lawyers outlining the evidence. One of the actors leaned over and whispered to me, “It’s just like your play, isn’t it!”

What we hadn’t expected was that the judges, having heard only three hours of evidence, decided to free Sam there and then as his conviction had been so demonstrably not proven. Sam walked free from the doors of the courthouse that day and got sprayed with champagne by his friends, and there was a huge party in Hoxton for him afterwards. Sadly Sam was denied compensation for his unlawful conviction as the government had abolished automatic compensation for victims of miscarriages of justice.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

I spent a long time in the London arts scene after I graduated from university, and what I really love about the Welsh arts scene is that it’s smaller yet has a vastly more supportive feel from the theatrical community, as well as from the audiences and community towards practitioners. Artistically there seems to be a lot more dedication to process in rehearsals and development support.

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

I was shortlisted for the inaugural BBC Wales Writer in Residence award this year which really excited me and made me feel honoured to be included. It was especially meaningful because I had written the script whilst getting through a very difficult emotional time in my life, and was a deadline that I really struggled with. I’m very glad I managed however, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.

And finally, your new play, The Story, commissioned by The Other Room Theatre as part of their Violence Series, explores the language of violence and the stories we tell ourselves to justify violence against others. In an extremely polarised society what can this new play offer to inform, educate and entertain?

Since I volunteered in Northern France from 2015 and also in Athens and Lesvos in 2016, the rising populist right-wing rhetoric has really exposed how language has been weaponised and how words matter, whether it be the murder of Jo Cox or the rise in racist attacks and nationalist sentiments in the UK post-Brexit. The Story is also an examination of how the idea of humanity and what it means to be human is being increasingly deconstructed. Volunteers have been criminalised for pulling people out of the sea or giving out food because the recipients aren’t seen as “legal”.

On an artistic note, it’s also probably the most “theatrical” play I’ve written, and really demands a lot of the actors and team! I’m very grateful to The Other Room for giving me the opportunity to create something around these themes, and watching The Story come alive in rehearsals has been epic. People watching it are definitely not going to know what will happen next!

“The Story” plays at The Other Room, Cardiff, as part of their Violence series from 8 – 25 October 2019.