Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru – in collaboration with Literature Wales, Adra (Tai/Housing) and the lead artist Iola Ynyr – are delighted to announce a year of activity for people affected by addiction through the project Ar y Dibyn. This new development has been made possible thanks to the support of the programme HARP ( Health, Arts, Research, People), financed by the Arts Council of Wales, and Y Lab (Cardiff University and Nesta).
Ar y Dibyn gives people affected by addiction – whether they themselves are living with addiction, or supporting other people with their addiction – the opportunity to come together and share those stories in a creative way and through the medium of Welsh. With the artists Iola Ynyr and Mirain Fflur at the helm, the aim of the workshops is to promote creativity to celebrate the possibilities of addiction, rather than the obstacles it presents, and to develop heart-felt creative work to share more widely. Iola Ynyr, lead artist and founder of Ar y Dibyn, said: “It’s a pleasure to begin another series of Ar y Dibyn workshops within a year of activity funded by HARP. It takes great courage to participate in activities such as these after periods of isolation in the grips of addiction. But we offer an environment of acceptance without having to reveal any details. Creativity is the tool we will be using to open the door to our inner treasure. We look forward to discovering what will be created by our participants over the coming year!”
This year of activity will expand on earlier projects held face to face at Galeri, Caernarfon, and on-line during the lockdown periods. One participant who took part in a workshop at the end of 2020 said: “Fear held me in a tight grip, and I didn’t mention to a living soul apart from my husband that I was attending the workshops. Fear, shame, nervousness… but by the end I was looking forward to the next session. I hadn’t realised that there was an intention to create a film or script or anything – I had no end goal in sight, I just wanted to give myself some time and space to recover, to be in a room with people who were similar to me, people who understood, and to have the opportunity and the permission, in a way, to be myself, in my own language.”
With support from the North Wales Area Planning Board for Substance Misuse, Adferiad Recovery and Stafell Fyw, Ar y Dibyn also highlights the importance of the relationship between the arts and the fields of health and well-being, and responds to the need to develop the support that is available through the medium of Welsh. Professional health specialists are at hand in every creative session to give support as required. Rhian A. Davies, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s Executive Producer, said:
“We are very grateful for this grant provided by Nesta, as part of their HARP (Health, Arts, Research, People) scheme, to develop the Ar y Dibyn project that gives people throughout Wales living with addiction an opportunity to come together to share their stories in a creative way and through the medium of Welsh. Our ambition is for the project to become permanent – in collaboration with partners in the health, care and third sectors, both current and new – and to show the importance of the role of the arts in recovery and health, and the health and well-being of Welsh-speakers.”
The HARP programme also focuses on giving the arts an opportunity to play a leading role in the health and well-being of the people of Wales. Rosie Dow, HARP’s Programme Manager for the Arts and Health, said:
“We’re delighted to be working with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Iola and their partners to explore how Ar y Dibyn can reach as many people affected by addiction as possible. We know that there is a need for Welsh-language creative interventions to support people’s recovery and wellbeing, and the team’s combination of passion and expertise will really help to change peoples’ lives for the better. HARP is all about how innovative projects like this can grow and become embedded in health and care in the long term, so we look forward to exploring with the team how that might be possible.”
The first series of Ar y Dibyn workshops in this new year of activity started on 6 July 2021 – but a warm welcome is extended to any participants or artists who are interested in joining the project. Go to theatr.cymru/arydibyn for information.
Hi Brad great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi Guy, it’s great to meet you and be here for the interview and to share some about the exhibition with your readers.
A transplant from Alabama, I’m a visual dramaturge with a diverse practice – from set, costume, and projection design to assistant directing to more management/producing/development roles across a variety of genres, from opera to theatre for young audiences to new and queer works. I am the resident designer for Chicago Fringe Opera; was the program coordinator for Prague Quadrennial 2019; run the online magazine Ascending focused on emerging theatre designers, scenographers, and visual dramaturges; designed the award-winning British pavilion Make/Believe at PQ 2015; and have had work selected for World Stage Design 2017.
For me theatre is the ultimate art of collaboration – which I define as the exploration of ideas that do not exist until everyone is in the room. Really great theatre (wether narrative, musical, dance, opera, physical, or any other type) thrives on the intersection of a diverse group of people bringing their talents together to create a unique experience for audiences, and I try to always approach my work in that spirit.
What got you interested in the arts?
Originally it was music – I have vivid memories of these concerts on public television with two nested grand pianos playing full orchestral scores, so for most of my childhood I wanted to be a concert pianist. This led into choir and eventually theatre. However, I have always been interested in both the theatre making itself and the wider system, having studied business management and organizational theory at the undergraduate level. I’ve also always had a deep love of literature and history which have fed into theatre, as well as growing up around some great storytellers.
Some examples of Brads work below
You are curating a new exhibition at the Wales Millennium Centre called Your Voice which runs from 22 July – 29 Aug 2021. On the WMC website, the exhibition is described as “During the first lockdown the Wales Millenium Centre invited people of all ages to share their stories and experiences during this challenging time through art. The call out captured the imagination of the nation, and you received hundreds of pieces that responded to lived experiences over the past year – from lockdown to Black Lives Matter, to reclaiming the environment and our hopes for the future. Artworks were sent from all parts of Wales – from Pembrokeshire to Newport, Builth Wells to Caernarfon, and by artists aged 4 to 90 years old. The pieces include paintings, spoken word recordings, digital art, photography, installation, mixed media and film.”
How did you decide what artwork to exhibit and what are your hopes for the project?
Actually we didn’t decide in most cases – that is to say that almost all of the art in the exhibition was submitted through the open call and there was no curation in regards to what was included – everyone who submitted has their piece on display! There are a few pieces which were commissioned from community-based artists and some pieces which have come to the centre through partner organizations or other community groups, but overall the exhibition has emerged from the wide range of work submitted through the “Voices of Change” open call. We have also really striven to treat each of the over 400 individual pieces with real integrity – treating each equally as a wonderful and exciting contribution and having all photographs and digital creations professionally printed.
A selection of artwork from the exhibtion below
What I was charged to do was more curating the experience looking at the visitor’s journey through the building and how the art would all be installed. We looked at a number of approaches and ultimately settled on a series of thematic galleries, which give some sort of narrative frame to each group of works. We have also tried to create a unique one-way journey through the building, which includes all the major public spaces, three different views into the Donald Gordon theatre (including walking through a tech booth), and number of interactive engagement points. I have sought to be inspired by the spaces in the building and to create dynamic conversations between the physical space and the works in being placed in them.
Examples of Brad’ design for the exhibition below
I hope that people get a sense of the diverse communities and groups that not only make up Cardiff but all of Wales and of the creative force that lives here. The exhibition should not only be reflective, but also a real celebration of the creative resilience that has lived on and thrived over the last 18 months.
You are also exhibting work from the Theatre Design course at RWCMD, how did they come to be involved?
Actually, we are exhibiting work of emerging designers from 4 different courses across Wales –University of South Wales, Aberystwyth University, Coleg y Cymoedd, and RWMCD. We have some of the best training in the world for theatre designers in Wales, and many of the course have been industry leaders in the last year of finding ways to continue practical training and making work under all the COVID challenges, and I wanted to celebrate these amazing artistic incubators that contribute so much to Wale’s cultural life.
When I was offered the role of curator, part of it was a commission to design an installation to be part of the exhibition. Instead of which, I decided to showcase the work of these emerging artists working in Wales. The last year has particularly hit emerging theatre designers, who are often making less than minimum wage to begin with in addition to the emotional and mental stress that the industry places on those just starting out. And yet, there are a good number of designers who are working in Wales regularly with smaller fringe companies but are often overlooked by more established producers who go after London-based designers. So, I wanted to really bring some of these creatives to the forefront.
We are hoping that the general public gain a greater understanding of what designer’s do, with 4 of our designers offering more in depth looks into their process. It might also inspire some young people who have not considered theatre design to think of it as a possible career path or to pursue at university. There are so many opportunities developing now for those interested to get involved and for fresh voices to be developed, and I hope that this part of the exhibition plays some small role in encouraging people to become storytellers themselves.
You are an ex RWCMD student yourself what designers inspire you practice?
There are so many thst I find that really difficult to answer. Last summer I was on a podcast called Beyond the Lights and on listening back I realized I mostly just talked about other designers.
I’m definitely inspired by the work of Gary McCann and of the late Paul Brown, but also that of Sophie Jump, Vicki Mortimer, Stefano Poda, John MacFarlane, Colin Richmond, Leslie Travers, Luboš Hrůza, and so many others. I’m particularly interested in how different genres and disciplines intersect and can create new or more impactful audience experiences.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers that creatives in Wales face? If you are, what might be done to remove these barriers?
Specifically in theatre, I think there are three big barriers. One, at least as an emerging designer, is the list of skills that you need to even get someone to look out the window – let alone get your foot in the door – is immense and basically only acquirable through doing a good university degree, which are often competitive entry. However, courses like RWCMD are eager to have a greater range of voices on their courses, but really struggle in connecting with young people who might consider that a career. So the whole industry has to do the work directly and support degree courses in planting the seeds early with people from all socio-economic backgrounds that encourages and inspires them to pursue theatre as a career.
Secondly, the performing arts industry is almost exclusively operated on a “who you know” basis, so there is a huge pressure on networking and continuously putting yourself out there despite a continuous stream of rejection (or in most cases unanswered inquiries). Adverts for roles as a theatre creative (whether designer, director, or choreographer) are few and far between, with theatre’s inviting artists to make work with them most of the time. So it becomes a very insular system with breaking in being a game of sheer luck. When I moved back to Wales in autumn of 2019 I reached out to almost every company I could find in Cardiff and the surrounding area, some of whom I had met previously or had mutual connections that encouraged me to introduce myself, and only 3 even returned my emails, and all of those responses were “thank you for your interest but we have the people we like to work with and have our next three seasons already planned out”. I can’t think of any other industry like that.
And finally, there is a real barrier to establishing yourself in this career, which is now at least being discussed more widely thanks to platforms like Scene Change, but still in nowhere near as honest or dynamic terms as it needs to be addressed.
Most emerging theatre designers are working obscene hours – sometimes 60- or 80-hour weeks – making far less than minimum wage trying to make it all work and often getting almost no credit for their contributions to productions or projects. It is absolutely emotionally, mentally, and financially draining. Many of the people I would have said would be the greatest designers of my generation have already left the industry – people whose work was so beautiful that it would catch my breath and leave me speechless in brilliance far beyond their experiences – they have moved onto other brilliant careers, and that is terribly sad. The industry really is overdue a reckoning about career development and paying people a living wage at all levels.
With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues and theatres. If theatres want to attract audiences what do you think they should do?
Venues and producers really need to consider and actively listen to their audiences. They need to find authentic voices and ways of connecting with those who they want to attend the work and ask themselves how they can better serve the communities that surround them, whether that is a small local organisation or one with a national pull. Far too often decision makers think they know what audiences want or engage projects which are only superficially giving voice but at the heart are quite hollow or ego driven by an artist. Why this story? Why now? And why is this person (or group of people) telling it?
And a big soap box of mine is don’t just ask global majority artists to work on or tell stories that are uniquely theirs. Engage artists and ask them what stories they want to tell and support them in doing so!
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
It would definitely be smaller companies that are doing really dynamic work both in engaging young people and new audiences and those taking chances on new creatives! There are some really wonderful people working hard to produce work on tiny budgets and what they could do with more funding would really be industry shifting.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
The shear breadth of quality work that happens across Wales. But also I look around and see so much potential – there are so many places, building, and institutions that are ripe for a renaissance of sorts and I hope that potential really blossoms into an even more dynamic and flourishing global arts scene.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
I got to sit in on a dress rehearsal of the RWCMD puppetry performances inspired by the Artes Mundi artists – there were some absolutely inspiring moments ranging from reflectively poetic to slapstick style comedy – the creativity and dedication of the first year designers never ceases to amaze me!
National Dance Company Wales’ young Associates premiered their new Dance film titled ‘Now Begin’ at the U Dance Cymru 2021 Digital Dance Day on Saturday 15 May, it was made in collaboration with Artes Mundi, and creatives from across the theatre and dance sector in Wales. The Associates film has now gone on to be selected (along with other dance films) to represent Wales at the National U Dance Showcase 2021.
NDCWales’ Associates meet weekly at the Dance House, Cardiff between September and April through workshops led by a team of NDCWales dancers and leading instructors in dance. Each year the Associates work towards creating a final performance.
Guy O’Donnell, NDCWales’ Learning and Participation Producer said of this years final performance “We were really looking forward to creating a new piece in collaboration with Artes Mundi 9, which would have been a performance at the Artes Mundi exhibtion at National Museum, Cardiff and at the Youth Dance Night event held each year at the Dance House. Fortunately we were able to evolve and adapt this performance for online audiences, which has resulted with us working with some exciting creatives and now results in a special premiere for us at U Dance Cymru 2021.”
‘Now Begin’ is a reflective piece inspired by the current work exhibited at Artes Mundi 9 by Indian artist, Prabhakar Pachpute. The film portrays young dance artists sharing their desires for change in the world. Inspired by Prabhakar Pachpute’s Artes Mundi exhibition’s themes of protest, these dance artists share their vision for a new beginning through movement and voice. Choreography is by Kokoro Arts and The Associates. Music by Tic Ashfield and Film by Gavin Porter.
You can watch Now Begin below
Below you can watch a Behind-the-Scenes look at the making of ‘Now Begin’ featuring interviews with Prabhakar Pachpute, Kokoro Arts, The Director of Artes Mundi 9, Nigel Prince, Curator of Public Programmes, Artes Mundi 9, Letty Clarke and Associate Dancers Ellie Gale, Heidi Thomas and Harly Videan.
The National Dance Company Wales Associates programmes is currently open for applicants to audition for the term starting in September 2021.
For over a decade, National Dance Company Wales has been nurturing some of the most talented dancers from across Wales and developing their skills
Based at the Dance House, the home of NDCWales, the Associates (ages 14-19 years old) follow a programme created by Faye Tan, our Learning Lead Dancer, with the guidance of our Artistic Team. The Learning Lead Dancer is a member of our Dance company and is a point of contact for the Associates. The LLD gives feedback and support during the programme.
Over the course of the year, our Associates programme focuses on improving creative and technical skills, along with developing work for performance opportunities that the Company creates for them through the year.
We have a limited number of places available and successful applicants are chosen through a free audition workshop. The audition workshop consists of a contemporary technique class where dancers can show their skills and potential to our Company dance experts.
NDCWales Associates provides high level contemporary training for young dancers. Sessions run on Sundays during term time (Welsh schools’ term timetable) from 10:30am – 12:30pm and are taught by Company Dancers and guest artists.
As part of the Associates programme, members can access;
Assessments and guidance from our Learning Lead Dancer.
Additional creation and performance opportunities available to those interested.
Mentoring opportunities from NDCWales Associate Artists.
Access to reduced price tickets at The Dance House and Wales Millennium Centre.
Opportunities to access dance activity in collaboration with National Youth Dance Wales.
Career Development Talks
Work Experience Opportunities
The Associates programme also offers two bursaries, applicants are invitedto apply for the bursary upon acceptance on the programme.
With bursary one, you’ll need to pay £202 for all of the weekly contemporary training classes and Dancer Wellbeing Days. The optional Creation Week package will cost an extra £77. (Total amount payable, £279).
With bursary two, you’ll need to pay £50 for all of the weekly contemporary training classes and the Dancer Wellbeing Days. The optional Creation Week package will cost an extra £20. (Total amount payable, £60).
You can apply to audition at the link below, applications close on Friday the 4th June. Auditions take place on Saturday the 10 July and Sunday the 11th July. Applicants will audition in small groups for approximately 150 minutes.
Hi Kate and Jo, great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Kate: I was born in London and spent my early years in Tanzania and Mexico before returning to the UK aged 11 to go to a quaker boarding school in North Yorkshire. After school I trained as a dancer at Thamesdown Contemporary Dance Studios in Swindon and then did a BA in Dance Theatre at Laban, in London. Then I started a feminist dance company called Nomads which ran from 1989 – 1995, doing performance and education work. When the company ended I spent a few years doing all sorts of things, car maintenance courses, creative writing courses, stunt training, delivery driving, caretaking. Then I got a job as a dance lecturer at University of Surrey where I spent 10 years. In 2010 I moved to North Wales to be in the mountains and feed my passion for rock climbing. I got a part-time job at Bangor University as a lecturer in performance. During the 10 years I have spent here, I began my own vertical dance company, Vertical Dance Kate Lawrence (VDKL).
Joanna: I’m an artist from North Wales, I grew up on the coast near Conwy. I left Wales when I was a teenager to study art. I ended up living in the USA, working in a really eclectic range of jobs that included furniture maker, running a market stall, selling pizzas, working in a shoe repair shop, photographer for the US government and then working in the art department of film and theatre productions. In 2001, shortly after September 11th, I got a job as a videographer on a sailing boat doing a global circumnavigation, as part of an pioneering interactive, online education project. That was a turning point that eventually bought me back to Wales and took me into working in documentary, in many different forms.
What got you interested in the arts?
Kate: I come from a family of professional musicians on my father’s side (although my father was an amateur) and my mother is a visual artist and potter so I grew up in an arty environment. I did a lot of dancing alone in my bedroom as a child – the pandemic has reminded me of this as I have returned to my bedroom as a dance studio. I think what I love about the arts is that it is really a way of thinking, a way of being in the world that is centred on experience, expression and communication.
Joanna: I grew up with a parent who had a severe mental illness. In the 80’s in North Wales mental health services were poor to non-existent, both for those with mental illness, and their families. In the arts I found a way to express ideas and connect with others that I hadn’t been able to previously. I specifically credit the generosity of the wonderful artist and teacher Dave Pearson who I met as a young art student, he saw some of the weight I was carrying at that time and encouraged me to tell stories with my work and experiences, and also to find playful ways to get it out into the world.
Kate I believe you are working on a new project called ‘Portrait and Landscape’ its described as “a series of online bi-monthly events for the international vertical dance community and beyond. It was conceived by Wanda Moretti incollaboration with Kate Lawrence and Lindsey Butcher. The series runs bi-monthly until the end of October 2021 “.
For those who may be new to the term what is ‘Vertical Dance’ and how did you come to be involved ?
Kate: Vertical dance is a newish term that refers to dancing in suspension – the dancer is suspended using climbing or access equipment, such as harnesses, ropes and abseil devices. Often this is against a vertical wall (hence the term vertical) which becomes the ‘dance floor’. So it often takes place in public space, on the sides of buildings.
I got involved with vertical dance when I started climbing in the late 1990s – as part of training to be a stunt woman (that never happened!). I found the movement of climbing very similar to dance and when I began teaching at the University of Surrey I asked if I could run a module called vertical dance. That began in 2001 and was the beginning of my development of the practice. I began teaching dancers to climb in the climbing wall and getting them to develop choreography from that and then gradually I introduced suspended dancing. In 2005 I embarked on PhD study into vertical dance and that led me to meet other vertical dance artists from around the world. The first two I met were Wanda Moretti from Venice and UK- based Lindsey Butcher, and we are still working together. I finally finished my PhD in 2017 – it took me a long time because I was working and creating at the same time!
Kate, what is your ambition for Portrait and Landscape?
During the pandemic it has been impossible to do vertical dance practice for me and I spent 2020 doing other things – gardening mostly and some writing – this has been quite a healthy break from a very busy time. This series of events was the brainchild of my colleague Wanda Moretti and she invited Lindsey and I to collaborate with her on running it.
The ambition is to bring international vertical dance artists – and anyone else who might be interested – together at a time when we are all isolated and distanced. The current time is an opportunity to connect across borders and learn about how different artists practice the form and also to keep our artistic minds working! My company, VDKL, has received some funding from Wales Arts International to support this project which means we have offered 3 bursaries to Welsh artists. It also enables us to explore making the series more accessible.
You are both working on a project researching into Dance for people who are blind, this sounds fascinating please tell me more!
Kate: Yes, Jo and I are working on a project called Yn y Golau/In-visible Light, which began in 2016 as a collaboration between myself and photonics scientist Ray Davies – a Synthesis project funded by Pontio.
Photonics is the science of light – I didn’t know that until I met Ray. The project developed and in 2019 we did a research and development project funded by ACW with a couple of test performances. Our purpose was to make a show that tried to build accessibility for blind and partially sighted people into the creation process, rather than audio describing a finished product. It was a huge challenge and we were assisted by a visually impaired actor and aerialist, Amelia Cavallo.
We constantly asked ourselves: what would this experience be like if we couldn’t see? And this led to some new ways of working for me as a choreographer. Sometimes I would close my eyes and listen to the dance… It also reminded me that dance is a kinetic art form not a visual one. Sometimes I think we focus more on shapes we see than movements we feel. We invited blind audiences to the test performances and then interviewed them afterwards to get feedback on how successful our approach was. We then received further funding from ACW to develop a touring show, but the pandemic has made us change our plans. We are now working on a film and we also have some seed funding from Clwstwr to do further research into access for blind and visually impaired people to performance.
Joanna: Kate first asked me to work on Yn Y Golau as a documentary filmmaker. In my work in documentary I’m especially interested in how new technologies can be used in storytelling. In Yn Y Golau I felt there was potential to explore how to share the work in an interactive, non linear way, which might better enable us to think about how to move beyond the screen, and think more deeply about how the embodied experience, that was central to Kate’s live work, can be expressed or shared digitally. There are also a lot of documentary elements in the project, and we are exploring how the project audience can choose which aspects they want to engage with.
Prior to this project did you have any knowledge of areas such as audio description for theatre/dance?
Kate: Yes, I first started thinking about audio description back around 2008 when I was asked to do a workshop at an audio description seminar at University of Surrey. The topic then lay dormant for me for several years, and then in 2016 I was asked by Mari Emlyn to make a piece of work for the foyer of Galeri. It was the year of the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth and so we made a new story built from the drawings of primary school children of their favourite Roald Dahl characters. The piece was called Omnibus and was performed in the foyer of Galeri with the dancers flying in the space overhead.
We created a bilingual (Welsh and English) recorded audio description alongside the soundscore so that everyone in the audience could hear it. From our current research I know that this is sometimes referred to as ‘open audio description’. The traditional method is that an audio describer is in a booth describing events as they unfold, straight into the ears of the visually impaired person, who wears headphones. Headphones can however be distancing, muffling and isolating so I felt it was important to search for ways in which to make the work with accessibility built in.
Joanna: Absolutely none, and that is really motivating me. When I started looking and learning about it, I am not proud to say, I realised how I had never really considered this aspect in any meaningful way. I know I was also, unfortunately, in a majority.
If a dancer wanted to stay and train in Wales and then pursue a career, what support system would you suggest they require in order to be able to do this?
Kate: I can only speak for North Wales, where it is virtually impossible at present for a dancer to train in the conventional, vocational sense – I think there is more capacity in South Wales, but even there options are limited. To make a career entirely in Wales I think it is necessary to take every opportunity available and to be very self-motivated and resourceful. VDKL employs mainly North Wales based dancers, who I have trained in vertical dance techniques. This is because I want to build a community here, however small it is! The dancers I work with have trained in dance outside Wales and returned. I also want to provide employment opportunities for local artists and persuade them to stick around! My company used to run affordable twice weekly training sessions of 3 hours each but we lost our space in 2017, and now with the pandemic training has become impossible. But we are hopeful for the future – the beauty of vertical dance is that we can go outside! In an ideal world a dancer building a career in Wales needs regular affordable access to dance training sessions and also affordable access to space to dance. A vocational/degree programme would also be very helpful.
Are there any examples of training systems or support networks that exist in other nations that Wales could look to utilise?
Kate: France has a great system of support for artists that pays them whilst they are ‘resting’ between jobs. This gives them time and financial support to continue their training and professional development. Many European countries have arts centres that offer space and residencies for artists. Access to affordable space to practice is essential and it would be great if each region of Wales had dedicated spaces or ‘homes’ for dance. I have been doing daily practice sessions during lockdown with Wainsgate Dances in Hebden Bridge, England and this is an excellent example of an artist-led initiative that has built a community of dancers who are now contributing to the provision of residencies for other artists at the centre.
Joanna: I’ve been very inspired by people who have built their own networks where none exist. I’m part of the Arts Territory Exchange project, it facilitates collaborations in remote locations that are cut off from the networks which usually sustain a creative practice. I think as an artist it’s very important to be part of a community of support, to develop and challenge your work and ideas, and to share skills with others. There are some great DIY examples out there, the Artist Residency in Motherhood set up by Lenka Clayton is another inspirational network
What does Wales do well in dance or cultural training and delivery?
Kate: In my experience support for the arts in Wales is a friendlier affair than my previous experience in London and the South of England. I have found local venue managers and programmers to be great collaborators and the Arts Council of Wales officers are approachable. I think cultural training and delivery in Wales is ‘on a shoestring’; the positive side of this is that it is extremely adaptable and mobile – it has to be due to the geographically dispersed activities. But it needs centres too, and not just in Cardiff. The bizarre thing is that it is quicker to get to London than Cardiff for North Wales dance artists looking for training.
Joanna: In my experience Wales supports it’s creatives well and gets a lot out of small budgets. However there are real impacts currently in relation to access to arts education, and the financial barriers for those who want to study. I feel strongly that this will further negatively impact diversity in the cultural sector. About the centres that Kate mentions, I’d say something about the impact of Covid this last year, there has been more cross Wales collaborative working, in my experience, which is great, but the Cardiff region still has a hegemony in terms of cultural projects, and I’d like to see that be distributed more widely across Wales.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers that creatives in Wales face? If you are what might be done to remove these barriers?
Kate: Well we are working on access for blind and partially sighted audiences. Our research so far is showing that provision for these audiences, particularly for dance, is very limited. A perceived barrier is that it costs of a lot of money to provide access and independent artists/small companies with very limited resources can’t afford to spend extra money; this is also true for the larger companies. I would like to challenge artists to see how they might begin to build accessibility into their work so that it can be appreciated by all. A big barrier for many in rural areas is getting to and from performances, so any schemes that provide transport can be really helpful.
Joanna: To build on my comments above, barriers to access can be many, including financial, but there’s also a lot of potential positive learning from the online way of working that’s been adopted because of Covid. Personally, as a carer and parent of a school age child I’ve been able to take part a lot more, due to events being online. It would be a shame for this to be abandoned when things open up physically, because in my opinion it’s cracked open cultural provision MUCH more widely. I’d like to see ways of live-online access being continued for people who can more easily engage in this way, and supporting people where access to stable internet is an issue.
With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues and theatres. If theatres want to attract audiences what do you think they should do?
Kate: I think first and foremost, theatres need to ensure that they are safe spaces and then market that fact very clearly. Perhaps look at small, socially distanced audiences, and commissioning work for this kind of audience. Working outdoors is a great option for providing safer access to arts and this can then be a draw for people to return to the theatre.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
Kate: Dance of course! I think dance is always the Cinderella of the arts and tends to receive less subsidy. We all have bodies – we all move – and our physical and mental well being can be enhanced through dancing. I would love to see the creation of small dance centres around the country so that local artists and the community in general have somewhere to meet and dance. They don’t have to be for dance exclusively, but should provide the space necessary for dance – and rigging points for vertical dance of course.
Joanna: Really good interdisciplinary arts education. The studio based art college system that supported so much groundbreaking creative work across the UK has been decimated. Artists are great problem solvers, and skills in the arts are widely transferable.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
Kate: I love the maverick nature of the arts in Wales. People are making work in the most surprising places and this gives rise to exciting new techniques and approaches.
Joanna: It’s collaborative & supportive, there’s some great, innovative work happening in cross disciplinary settings. The arts in Wales is embedded into our culture in quite a unique way, the Urdd does amazing work with children and young people. There were 12000 creative works across music, dance, spoken word and visual arts made by children who entered the online Eisteddfod T this year for example- That’s amazing!
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
Kate: In our last Portrait and Landscape event San Francisco based choreographer Jo Kreiter shared with us her project called ‘The Decarceration Trilogy’ a long term project looking at the US prison system and its effects on citizens. It was a really moving and inspiring offering to our community and a great example of the power of dance and the arts in general as a tool for examining issues of social justice. Here is a clip of Jo talking about her work in general
and here is a link to a film of The Wait Room that she showed during our event:
Joanna: I am currently a research fellow at the Open Documentary Lab, MIT where I recently saw a presentation of Hatsumi VR It is an amazing project in development that uses virtual reality to allow participants to visually express experiences of pain, emotion and sensory experience in audio visual body maps.
In the article below members of the Get the Chance team share why the work of Get the Chance is important to them and their lives.
You can make a donation to support the work of Get the Chance here
Guy O’Donnell, Volunteer Director
Hi my name is Guy O’Donnell and I am the director of Get the Chance. In this short article our team share with you how vital Get the Chance is to them and their lives. If you can support our work, please donate at the link above.
Get the Chance is a social enterprise based in South Wales. We are Wales based with an international outlook. We work to create opportunities for a diverse range of people, to experience and respond to sport, art, culture and live events. We use our online magazine website as a platform to showcase our members activities. We provide a fantastic opportunity to develop cultural critical voices and ensure that people from certain groups of society, people that are often forgotten or unheard, are given a platform to share, review and discuss their lives and critique work in a public platform.
Not only have we supported conversations about the arts and culture in Wales, but we’ve also broken-down barriers and asked questions about who actually gets to critique art. It is this democratisation of criticism that is crucial to a healthy and thriving artistic community that listens to everyone. Thank you.
Gemma Treharne-Foose, Volunteer Director and Critic.
Hi, my name is Gemma Treharne-Foose. I’m a board member and volunteer with Get the Chance. We’re a community of volunteers, activists and enthusiasts dedicated to expanding the reach of arts, culture and sports in Wales. At Get the Chance, we exist to create a space and a platform for people to participate, engage in and respond to theatre, arts and culture. In particular, we help people who are perhaps traditionally hard to reach and support them to access and experience these spaces.
Part of the work we do with our community is to encourage and support them to build up their skills, responding to, vlogging about, and writing about their experiences accessing arts, theatre and culture, and also helping them access particular schemes and initiatives with partner organisations.
At the moment the arts and live event industries in Wales are hurting and they’re struggling right now as they try to access support and gain audiences in these uncertain times. I believe this is an arts emergency and I want part of my work with Get the Chance to support the industry to get back on its feet again and to get audiences enjoying live events and theatre again.
If you also want to support and highlight Welsh theatre, arts and culture then I’d encourage you to get involved. Let’s shine a light on the amazing work happening right now in Wales. The show must go on!
Barbara Michaels, Volunteer Critic.
As one of the most senior reviewers who has known Guy O’Donnell for many years, I can’t stress enough how important it is that Get the Chance continues to support the youngsters who want to become involved in the arts, many of them with the aim of a career in the media.
During the time over the years I’ve been reviewing, I’ve been really impressed by the young people who are coming up into the ranks, who have become very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about their involvement with theatre. Unless we get some financial support, it’s going to be so difficult to continue with an organisation like Get the Chance which does so much good, giving opportunities to young people who wouldn’t have them.
With the cost of seeing the performances of opera and ballet and theatre rising, and inevitably it is going to rise more, it is absolutely vital that we have some support both financially and in all aspects of an organisation like Get the Chance. Thank you.
Kevin B Johnson, Volunteer Critic
Hi my name is Kevin, I work in an office, I like long walks on sunny beaches and I’m Sagittarius. Apart from that, I’m a member of Get the Chance because I like seeing new shows, new films and sharing them with other people, bringing my discoveries to others and getting a chance to view them. I like to highlight what I love about the shows that I’ve seen.
Becky Johnson, Volunteer Critic
Hi my name is Becky Johnson and I’m a member of Get the Chance. I’m actually a freelance dance artist based in Cardiff and I’m a member of Get the Chance alongside that. So with my practice I tend to create work, I tend to perform and I tend to teach, and a big part of me being an artist is making sure that I can see as much work as possible and then also understand the wider perspectives, on not only dance but also the arts in general and the things that are going on in our current climate and our local area.
So with having Get the Chance alongside of it, it allows me to access these different things and to get opportunities to see these, which I wouldn’t necessarily financially be able to do otherwise. Also, it allows me to have that time dedicated to just look at these things analytically and also just to really try and understand what is going on in what I’m watching and what I’m seeing, rather than just watching it and acknowledging what’s happening. Writing with Get the Chance gives me an opportunity to use my voice to promote the things that I really care about and things I’m passionate about, the things I think need to be highlighted, whether that’s something that’s problematic that I see in a show or something that I think’s wonderful that needs to be shown more of and we need to see more of.
Another opportunity that I’ve had recently which has been amazing is the opportunity to interview people that I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to and to be able to give them a voice to speak about their platform and what they’re doing. This is really important to me as a lot of these issues are very important and very close to home and I think it’s something that without this platform I wouldn’t be able to do.
I’ve always loved writing, it’s something that I did always want to pursue but by being a member of Get the Chance I’ve been able to continue my writing in a way that’s still linked with my practice. It means that I can find the balance of both of these feeding each other. I’m really grateful for having this opportunity.
Leslie R Herman, Volunteer Critic
Get the Chance has been one of the ways I’ve been able to maintain a connection to the arts and culture in Wales. I’m writing this message from New York City. It is mid-August 2020. I’ve been unable to get back to Wales due to the Covid pandemic and the global lockdown. Not only am I really missing Wales, I’m missing connection, to people, to places and to the arts and culture that I’ve grown to love and live for – arts and culture that have helped me thrive throughout my life.
At the moment it really feels like we’re all of us spinning in our own orbits and cyberspace is our most vital tool but if that’s all we’ve got, I’m afraid it’s way too nebulous for me. I need to feel more grounded.
Get the Chance really has given me the opportunity to get grounded and to connect to people, to the arts, to culture. It’s given me the opportunity to mentor young people and it’s given me the opportunity to extend and rebuild my own career. What’s marvellous about get the chance is its open and flexible approach to giving people a chance to connect to culture. Why don’t you give Get the Chance a chance?
Beth Armstrong, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name’s Beth. I’m 24, and I’m from Wrexham, North Wales, and I’m currently training to be a primary school teacher. I’m a member of Get the Chance because it allows me to watch a great range of theatre performances which I wouldn’t normally get to see due to financial reasons, and also allows me to see a really diverse range of different kinds of theatre which I think is great for expanding my knowledge and experience of theatre in general.
Having my work published online is a great opportunity for me because it allows me to have a wide audience for my writing, and it also allows me to engage with other reviewers and read their work as well, so it’s a really fantastic opportunity.
Samuel Longville, Volunteer Critic
When I left university, Get the Chance was a really amazing, creative outlet for me. I was able to see so much theatre for free which would have been really difficult at the time, having left university as a not very well-off student. I was working a quite tedious nine-to-five job at the time so Get the Chance really served as that kind of creative outlet for me, allowing me to see as much theatre as possible, and not only to see it but to think about it critically and write reviews about it. So it really let me utilise the things I’d learned on my drama course at university.
I’m soon to start an MA in Arts Management at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and I think, without Get the Chance, my enthusiasm possibly could have wavered over the past year, and I still may be stuck doing the same nine-to-five job that I was previously doing. So I really can’t thank Guy and Get the Chance enough for all the opportunities they gave me over the past year.
Helen Joy, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name is Helen Joy, and I’m here to talk a little bit about my experiences with Guy O’Donnell and his extraordinary Get the Chance. I joined Get the Chance as a 3rd Act Critic when it started, which is a couple of years ago now, and I was a little less grey(!), and it has given me the most extraordinary opportunities that I would not have had the opportunity to take otherwise. For example, I was able to go to the Opera regularly, something I never thought I’d be able to do or that I would enjoy. I’ve been a keen follower of modern dance – ditto, never thought I’d do that – and it’s also given me the chance to really think about how I evaluate things.
So, for example, much more recently, I was given the chance to interview Marvin Thompson. I think this gave me one of the biggest challenges I’ve had for a long time. He, and the experience of planning and conducting an interview, and recording it visually and hourly on Zoom, made me really think about, not just how I wanted to react to him and to his work, but how I felt about it.
Often, I fall into a particular category: of the classic middle-aged, white, educated woman, where the opportunities are already ours, and we’re very lucky with that, but we’re also quite a silent group. People don’t really want to hear what we’ve got to say, which is why we tend to shout it from the rooftops I think; or why, equally, we disappear into the aisles of supermarket. This has given me and my colleagues tremendous opportunities to re-find our voices and to share them, to listen to what other generations have to say. It’s been a really important experience for me. Long may it continue. Thank you!
Barbara Hughes-Moore, Volunteer Critic.
My name is Barbara Hughes-Moore, and I recently completed my Doctorate in Law and Literature at Cardiff School of Law and Politics on Gothic Fiction and Criminal Law. So by day, I’m a scholar, a reviews editor, and a research assistant; and by night, I write longer retrospective pieces on film and television through a gothic and criminal lens on my personal blog.
I’m a member of Get the Chance because its mission is all about increasing the visibility of, and accessibility to, the arts for everyone. Since becoming a member, I have attended and reviewed numerous theatre productions at the Sherman Theatre, the New Theatre, and Chapter Arts Centre. I’ve been a featured speaker on the Sherman Theatre’s post-show panels. And, more recently, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing director Alison Hargreaves on her short film Camelot for the Uncertain Kingdom Anthology. Most importantly of all, Get the Chance has not only given me a voice – it has given me the space, the opportunity, and the confidence to use it.
Gareth Williams, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name is Gareth. I am 29 years old and I live in North East Wales, and I’ve been asked to say why I’m a member of Get the Chance, and I want to answer by slightly rephrasing the question in order to say what Get the Chance means to me. And first of all, it means having the opportunity to respond to the arts in Wales; to contribute to the discussion around arts and culture in Wales; and to engage with various art forms.
To that end, it is an opportunity to support and promote artists and organisations, particularly those that I’m passionate about. So for me, that looks like theatre, particularly the work of Theatr Clwyd in Mold; music – I’m a fan of country music, and it’s great to be able to showcase Welsh country music talent on the Get the Chance website – and TV drama. Welsh TV drama is going through a bit of a golden age at the moment, and it’s great to be able to be a part of that as somebody who critically reviews these shows as a writer.
I’ve always been much better at writing than speaking. I’ve never been very good at expressing an opinion though because of low self-esteem and confidence. But being a member of Get the Chance has given me an opportunity to express an opinion. It’s increased my self-esteem and my confidence to speak about how I feel about the things that I see and watch and listen to and engage with. And I think, for me, that is the most important thing about being a member of Get the Chance: that opportunity to express an opinion which, a couple of years ago, I would not have had the confidence to do.
Sian Thomas, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name is Sian. The main reason I joined Get the Chance is because I love reading and I’ve always loved reading, and I really like having a definitive place where I can put down my thoughts on any piece of media and see people respond in so many different ways, and even the authors of the books that I’ve reviewed responding in so many different ways as well. It’s really lovely to have that kind of freedom of expression and I really value being a member.
Amina Elmi, Volunteer Critic
I am a member of Get the Chance because it gives me a platform where I can speak my mind . It allows me to give my opinion and being able to do so enables me to explore the media, the news and whatever preferred genre or medium of entertainment I want.
When it was introduced to me I was into writing and that has helped shape what dreams and ideals I have while also keeping my writing skills at a solid, good level. I am fortunate to be a part of Get The Chance because it has given me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.
Hannah Goslin, Volunteer Critic
I am a member of Get the Chance because theatre and the arts is what I eat, live and breath. To be able to connect with fellow performers, practitioners, critics and journalists is a wonderful chance to learn, be inspired and to network.
EXPERIMENTICA is a live art festival in Cardiff that encourages risk, collaboration and exchange between artists and audiences.
The festival commissions and hosts a dynamic programme of live art, performance and interdisciplinary projects and offers a platform for UK and international artists at all stages in their careers, to present experimental work in an open and supportive environment.
The 2021 festival will explore narratives and alternatives to the status quo; questioning accepted ways of thinking; giving a voice to the underrepresented and challenging existing forms of storytelling – exploring democracy, agency and open authorship.
Chapter will advertise a call-out for proposals for this in March.
In the meantime, Chapter is commissioning three artists to make new work for their interim ‘EXPERIMENTICA Presents’ strand.
They hope that this opportunity will create space for reflection and experimentation during these challenging times.
Chapter is looking for artists based in the UK whose practice, prior to COVID, focused on live art or contemporary performance and who need support to explore ways of adapting their approach to making and sharing their work.
Each commission will receive a £1,000 fee.
If required, Chapter can offer free access to one of their studio spaces in Cardiff for up to one month between March and August 2021.
Chapter especially welcomes applications from those who identify as having currently under-represented characteristics. This includes black and non-black people of colour, disabled people, individuals identifying as LGBTQIA+, those with parental responsibilities and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
The decision-making panel will include a varied demographic of lived experiences including Chapter programme staff and independent practitioners/curators.
Artist Jonny Cotsen, who performed at EXPERIMENTICA18 with Louder Is Not Always Clearer, is to join the selection panel. Produced and directed by Mr and Mrs Clark, Louder Is Not Always Clearer has since gone on to tour across the UK and Europe including a hugely successful run at 2019’s Edinburgh Fringe and most recently at Théâtre de la Ville, Paris.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Bristol based poet, Lawrence Hoo. It was a truly enlightening conversation and we discuss all things Race, Class and Education. You can find out more about his latest projects at www.lawrencehoo.com or more about the Cargo project at @cargomovement on Instagram and social media. (Becky Johnson)
Read Part 1 below to see what he had to say:
Hi Lawrence, it’s lovely to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi, my name is Lawrence. I live in Bristol, well I’ve lived in Bristol for almost my whole life, and I’m a poet.
I was born in Birmingham and grew up in mostly marginalised communities in Bristol. I spent a lot of my youth in and out of the care system. I went to 6 secondary schools and after that, I didn’t have any form of education. I was a feral kid on the street from the age of 6 and a runaway. When I was 19, I had cancer and I went through a bad stage of my life after that. I thought that the cancer was going to kill me anyway and I went back to living on the road. And then at 30, I became a father for the first time. To be honest, it scared the living daylights out of me. But that’s about it vaguely.
I wanted to see if I could make myself a better person and make more of my life. So I went back and re-educated myself and began to teach others how to use computers. I did that for four years and got burned out. So, I started to do my poetry.
My poetry came from a place of rage and from questioning why the authorities were allowing situations to occur in these certain environments rather than in the rest of Britain. All the laws that need to protect people exist but for some reason the action isn’t being taken to enforce them.
A point of that was when my partner was picking up our young son from nursery in Saint Pauls and she was approached. We then, campaigned against paedophiles being allowed to stay in the hostel which backs onto our nursery. It came out and we succeeded to make Bristol safer.
And that’s why I use poetry as a platform to try and make these changes happen.
I acknowledge that a lot of your previous work and ethos is grown around Bristol and the things that surround you there. I know that similarly to Tiger Bay in Cardiff, Bristol is going through a huge gentrification process. I was wondering on what not only your thoughts are on this but also what impact you have already seen from this?
I think is painful to see the gentrification. It goes back to those laws again., they hold all of these problems in communities.
In Saint Pauls there would be safe houses to protect those from people who have committed crimes as well as hostels for those who have committed crimes. There was drug rehabilitation centres and parole offices, but they were put next to the only place in Bristol, where you could legally sell drugs on the streets. They put the drug users next to the drug dealers, they put the people at risk from sexual crime next to those who have committed sexual crimes and they put prostitution on the streets by schools.
They took all of these issues and put them into an area which was where the African Caribbean communities are, so they often associate these problems with the African Caribbean communities. But, if we take things back to sherlock Holmes times, there were people smoking opium and he would investigate the murders of prostitutes. All these problems came along a long time before we came to Britain.
The children who are growing up in Saint Paul’s, because of the violence, lose their innocence way too young. That’s what I find heart-breaking. The way Saint Paul’s was policed (well actually I say policed but it was more so ‘contained the issues so they didn’t affect the other communities’) means the influence and protection of those other communities, is so different to what happens in Saint Paul’s.
Building prices are going up which is forcing working class people to move out of the areas which they grew up in. With Saint Paul’s it’s the council assets. The things that the working class need the most will be the first things to go. There’s no chance for people to come back into the communities they’re from. And with the services are removed, the communities become very affluent causing the communities to shift and there is nowhere for those that grew up there to live in the area.
So adding onto that, what do you think of the increase of students and the spreading of students away from Gloucester road and into Saint Paul’s? Is this bringing a positive impact, or is it doing the opposite and removing opportunities for those that are from the area?
It was always going to be a natural progression that Saint Paul’s was going to be reclaimed because of where it is located. It’s just an expansion of an affluent area but, at the same time, all it has done is push out the communities that was there before. It just benefits one community and marginalises another. It’s heart-breaking.
I’ve grown up there and lived there. It’s always been my safe spot. Regardless of all of the chaos of the city, if you’re from African Caribbean descent, it’s a safe place. It’s just devastating. Gentrification is devastating. I don’t see any positives from gentrification.
As a homeowner, gentrification has increased the value of my property. But there’s not much of my community left. I feel like a stranger. Some people say yeah but you can make money from it, but I’ve lost my home. I’ve got my house, but the community is my family. That whole family aspect of life is gone. My home is gone.
I don’t think people actually understand what it’s like to lose that familiarity, that security and that family. What it’s like when its gone.
The university of Bristol is such a huge entity in the city, and it needs to do more. I’m working with the university now, but I want to work with it to help collect the wider communities of the city and to support them. Everybody says black lives matter. But working-class people’s lives matter.
The whole city is classist.
Its problem the main issue of the city. There’s the golden circle for a mile around the city which makes a very affluent area. But one thing that’s very rare to hear in this area is a Bristolian accent. A lot of Bristolians are cast out of opportunities here. I believe it’s time for those big institutions to connect and to gather communities to raise their platforms with them. A part of Bristol is accelerating so quickly but it is leaving a huge part of Bristol behind.
So your latest project, the Cargo project, has recently received National lottery funding (congratulations). Why was the Cargo project initiated and how was it developed into the current version in which it sits?
In 2007 I did a collection called HOO stories. Which was a response to the abolition to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was an opinionated set of poems that held a non-Eurocentric view. It was holding up a light to the actions of Europeans and gave a positive light to people of African descent, allowing it to be seen from an African-centric view. It pointed out people that had contributed greatly to society but who had pretty much been emitted from history.
Cargo was an extension of this. Looking at what people have been told has been done and then showing what has actually been done as well as looking at what you have actually done yourself. Cargo showed African resilience and African’s generating opportunities.
The beginning of the collection probably looks at the first 400-500 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, when people were just classed as cargo. Covering that journey and how they were put in the conditions that made them in slaves as well as the achievements of those of African descent. It starts in Bristol and then goes into the slave trade, the Hacienda revolution, H Samuel Sharp, and the uprisings and then continues with those that fought against and contributed to civilisation. An empowering narrative for what is usually, a very disempowered history.
It was done because I live in Bristol and you cannot get away from Bristol’s history. Every building you look at is made from Bath stone which came from that industry. I live in a city that’s very painful to live in.
As a young black man, I couldn’t get my head around the fact that men didn’t fight to defend their wives and children. I always thought, my people didn’t fight then but I can fight now. When I realised that they did fight and rebel, that changed for me. I thought that people were so dehumanised that they stopped seeing themselves as human and it breaks my heart. But then, you realise that they did fight and what happened to them, was crimes.
But they saw that evil, and they fought and fought and fought. I wanted my children to not grow up with the same anger that I had and that’s where the collection came from. I want to give the children of Britain the opportunity to not be me.
It started off as an installation as four different shipping containers on College Green (Bristol). The idea of using shipping containers removed the permissions needed to display this information e.g. the approval of museums and galleries. We didn’t want to have to prove that our work had value to other institutions. So that although there were permissions needed, it was a lot more flexible than the others. But because of Covid-19, the idea of putting people in a confined space walking around stopped being possible.
Covid-19 took the installation and we thought, how do we keep this moving forward? How can we make it more digital? We wanted to give people accessibility to information. So we went forwards with the Classroom project. The installation although on hold, is still in process.
The Cargo Classroom project is so important and it’s brilliant that you’ve been able to kick off something as monumental as this. What do you believe is the next step to get this information into mainstream education?
We produce a product that they feel they can’t not use, that’s the first step. Making something that people want to use and then work towards getting that into the curriculum.
This is the crazy thing, for years, we’ve been pushing and pushing but because of what’s happened in the last 6 months, people have actually come looking for us. That has been a huge change. The most important thing for us to do, is to keep focussed on what we have already been doing and to not get involved in loads of things. This is what we were doing before we got national attention. We need to make sure we deliver what we set out to deliver before we then look at what the other opportunities are.
The funny thing is, I’m so excited for what were doing. The possibilities are insane. This is the right time, we have the right product and we have the willpower to push it.
The attention will soon fall off if people aren’t prepared to put the work in. What is happening currently isn’t new, we had a global black lives matter campaign 4 years ago. And literally, outside of America, in a few weeks, it had gone.
We don’t need huge numbers as long as we keep pushing the right buttons. The group who did the protest a few months ago are still going and are making sure its not going anywhere. This young group, I believe they’re going to keep it going and make some change, for real.
Here in Wales, where Get the Chance is based, there is a campaign calling for Black history to be taught to Welsh pupils in school which has received more than 30,000 signatures within days of it being set up, educating pupils on subjects like British colonialism and slavery.
Whilst many ministers in government (both in Wales and England) acknowledge the need to shine a light on how colonisation has been glorified, why do you think the latest bill passed through parliament was rejected?
I think a lot of this information has been oppressed for so long that if too much of the information came out too quick, it would undermine the whole of the UK government. The whole industrial revolution was built off the back of Africans.
What is actually owed? People ask are there reparations for the past? The gains are still received today. Companies are still using Africa as a resource. They gave the countries back their independence and to the people they gave back their freedom, but it was only on the surface level that they gave it back. They didn’t give back the land or the wealth that was generated from the land. Africa is not just filled with Africans. There are huge debts to be paid.
How would the English pay off the compensation that is needed? They could give them their natural resources, and then the interest of anything earned off those resources, and then, maybe, Europe would need the aid and Africa doesn’t. The economic balance would collapse.
We need to teach people their worth, their value and what was truly stolen from them. Not only their names, identities and homes were taken but so was the ability to nourish themselves from their ancestral background.
They’re afraid to teach the history because what happened was absolutely appalling and everyone would see that. England played its part right through the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the South African apartheid in the 1990s… The 1990s.
There’s just a lot of fear. With the crimes that were committed, there’s a lot of responsibility. People think Africa contributed a lot less to society than it has because a lot of African history has been emitted. But over time the internet will allow people to get this information, which before would have been through privilege. This will add some truth to history. And European governments will have to be accountable for their actions.
In part two (coming soon) Lawrence discusses Change and what changes we need to see (and make) to make a fairer and more equal future for us all.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Multi-disciplinary artist Ffion Campbell-Davies recently. In this interview we will be talking all things arts, creativity, Identity and Wales.
Hi Ffion, it’s lovely to meet you and to get the opportunity to pick your brains. So just to introduce yourself to our readers, please can you give them some background on yourself and how you define yourself as an artist?
I was born and raised in Wales and moved to study at London School Of Contemporary Dance, graduating in 2013. I have since worked in various avenues within the industry as performer, teacher and choreographer. Over the last 5 years I have been developing my own artistic practice and creating my own work as well as collaborating with other artists.
I term myself as a multidisciplinary artist as a few of my disciplines other than dance are at the core of my work. My self produced work cross pollinates with music production, text, voice, expressionism, exhibitionsim, dramaturgical principles and [more recently] visual & digital art.
I am a co-founding member of all female company collective House Of Absolute; we are a diverse group of multidisciplinary females creating boundary crossing, politically active theatre, sight specific and digital movement, sound & visual works collectively and independently.
My work explores themes and subjects around psychoanalysis, gender, race and spirituality, working with experimental devices and the influence of ritual to dismantle conditions around definition, power and politics.
So moving to London from Wales to gain better opportunities in the arts seems like a common trend among young people. Why do you think that is and what can we do here in Wales to change that?
I believe Wales has a lot of resources within its artistic demographic, with multiple communities of various levels and spheres of skill and knowledge. I recognise that infrastructures have excluded and disabled social mobility for many communities in being able to exercise and contribute to the collective central culture of arts in Wales.
There are many conditions which are similar in all cities here in the UK, but I believe London has an effective fluency in generating micro economies for artists to exercise and contribute to the collective culture. There seems to generally be more structures in place for diverse sources of funding to support varying different artistic communities, where sub cultures are actually at the core of reinforcing and empowering the collective. Because of this naturally people of any socio economic background have more of an access point to engage in the artistic climate, with more spread for opportunity and information to be easily accessed.
It is difficult for communities/artists outside of the capital culture [in regards to Wales; the traditional welsh cultural agenda] to be part of the solution of development and empowerment when many organisations of funding, or spaces of information and power are gated for exclusive representatives.
I see diversity as a fertiliser for soil, just the same way varying different types of stimuli rapidly develop the neural connectors in our brain, we need constant interaction with varying different human beings of different traditions, sciences, arts and practices to fuel innovation. This is something London taps into very well, in which I believe people from all over the world are drawn to.
Traditions are never lost and I believe Wales has a wonderful opportunity to find synergy with its ancient history and the fertility of its vastly diverse origins to energise and activate all representatives in wales of all different cultural backgrounds to cross pollinate.
As you have mentioned whilst in London, you’ve been a member of the company ‘House of Absolute’ which combines various street styles alongside other styles of movement. How has Hip-Hop culture helped to develop you as a Contemporary artist?
Hip-Hop has been at the axis of my growth and development. It is one of the most iconic symbols for the term ‘contemporary’ quite literally it is with the times. Hip-Hop is not only a ‘style’ but also a culture and even a philosophy with which most people involved would say it is a way of life. Hip-Hop is a mode of resistance, a political instrument for reconstruction. It is one of the most influential cultures on the planet, because of its wealth of knowledge and teachings through trans-generational art, it is legacy.
It is a cultural library archive of the preservation of people of the diaspora, which houses many different languages of the body, many trans-migrational stories of the intersectionality between races and cultures, and serves as a global home for people of any origin to communicate through mind body and spirit.
Of recent years Hip-Hop ‘theatre’ has emerged as another form of innovation to supplement indoctrinated Eurocentric modalities of black box performative culture. The marriage of visual art, story telling, acting, poetry, immersive engagement, grime music and the genius of Hip-Hop movement language and musicality. This has had a great impact on transforming my perception of using theatre space as ritual, broadcasting cultural and ancestral presence.
Overall my support and mentorship has come from; Dance communities and peers in the underground Hip-Hop scene, Artist4Artist an organisation run by artists for artists Founding members and representatives of Sadler’s Wells Breaking Convention festival.
Growing up in Cardiff, do you think there is a significant Hip-Hop scene here and what do you think can be done to help it evolve?
There is definitely a Hip-Hop scene in Cardiff, however maybe lacking a cohesive integration of the multiple layers and dimensions of inclusivity. It is important for artists of all practices, sectors, class and culture to be in dialogue.
For examples different Hip-Hop music and visual artists, writers, poets, event organisers, venues and dancers could have more consistent relations with each other. If there aren’t visible invites and hubs/centres for representation, cultural information remains fragmented, and the overall culture cannot develop infrastructures for impact. Funding is also at the core of this.
I understand that a lot of your work uses Identity as a concept. When in WHO (2017), you said “#TheSystem and #Society do not provide space for authentic self”, what did you mean by that and do you still find it relevant today?
I do believe society has had a long term relationship with resistance to change, and the notion that homogeny is safe, difference is threat. I recognise the culture of duality that has been at play for a long while, and that at present we may be realising as a collective society in our need for each other, dependence and preservation as a whole, which is the acknowledgement of polarity and the active inclusion for unity.
We still seem to have many protected and guarded infrastructures which dictate our attention towards fundamentalism, with which any organically evolving contemporary innovations outside of societally validated constructs are met with fear, discomfort and rejection, unless it is something recognised and originated within elitist culture.
So to draw from these concepts and bring it into the personal sphere, I believe we as individuals have the capacity to re invent ourselves any way we choose, but at the cost of being questioned and challenged constantly by those who are still existing within societal constructs.
On the one side, anything foreign to those constructs causes great discomfort, essentially the unknown, an anomaly to which we feel out of depth with our relatability. On the other side there is fatigue; being misunderstood, misrepresented, displaced, excluded, silenced, ignored, isolated and questioned. For many that is a lived experience that is still happening today. I think these polarities exist everywhere because it is essentially to do with consciousness and perception.
I feel lots of things have become cataclysmic in our society of recent. People are really fighting for spaces to empower authenticity and difference. Actually pioneering companies and representatives look to bespoke and eclectic minority individuals for inspiration and influence. The invisible ones are the influencers for those who are always visible. For example if we’re talking about fashion and media, it’s everyday people who inspire and influence those making decisions on top about what gets modelled and represented.
I still believe there are conditions we are pressured to obtain in the broader mainstream culture which restrict us, only validating and respecting things we are a custom too, things we are told and taught have value, anything outside of that does not posess the same power. Things we do not understand, we do not like or we do not feel comfortable with we disregard. But authenticity, originality and honesty is so powerful, in the overall context of polarity, we as a society now are recognising we need these attributes, and we are seeing willingness for difficult and uncomfortable conversations in the wider culture.
In my perspective for the majority there’s still a lot of shame, fear and taboo around self expression, and this is what makes art so evocative. When many people feel the fear of judgment, they look to artists who do and say all the things most people are terrified to do, there is this sacred unspoken empathic emancipation shared between artist and audience.
You also spoke about the concept of ‘Mind, Body and Spirit coming together at a meeting point’ in an interview with Catch the Vibes last year. How does this psycho analysis come into the process of your making? Be that your movement or your other creative outlets?
It is particularly through the lens of dramaturgy that I get the opportunity through my work to investigate psychology. I often find that for performative works to have concrete coherence in how the work is experienced, there needs to be psychological integrity, either between the relationship of the performance and audience, or also the chronology of the work, and what the work is doing, what role it serves as an experience.
Quite often I have a focal drive to want to evoke and impact the audience in some kind of interpersonal way. In order to do that safely I really do need to understand the effect on myself of what I’m experiencing. The effect of the process, what psychological journey am I undergoing just to create the work, and then from that process constructing an infrastructure that allows me to guide the viewer into the areas of enquiry that exist in the work.
I work with all layers; the visual, the audible, the sensory, the intellectual, to find different ways of inviting my audience into the non verbal conversation between spectating, listening and actively responding. Regardless of how big or small those social queues are, we all feel it when an audience collectively holds their breath at a certain point, sometimes its the silence that communicates consent, or the twitch or cough coming from the upper left auditorium, we know that particular person just non verbally objected ‘subconsciously’.
If it’s an immersive work, there are other dimensions at play, with proximity being a massive psychological conversation. There is our body language and our power dynamics; whether an audience member sits on the floor cross legged, or stands right behind me, we have varying different capacities of what access points we have to a psychological dialogue. And then I wonder which way can I communicate this performance. Of course eye contact and touch being the most dynamic contributions.
All of these elements play a vital role in my process, and its why ritual is such a pivotal instrument for creation in my work. Ritual allows the mental/psychological space to be more transient, meaning I can access the collective mental space with the openness and safety of a held experience set by intentions. This naturally propels the willingness of an audience to be vulnerable with me in the conversation, allowing for suppleness and great changes to occur in perception.
Performance work is always a conversation for me, it’s not about interrogating my own psychology to create work, it is about really understanding psychology to execute distinct forms of communication between my work and the audience. To do that effectively I need to understand a great deal of my own psychology. I feel that’s where the freedom to shift perception and rewrite history comes from, the game changers who change the world through art.
How has lockdown affected you as an artist? And also what long term effects, do you see Covid-19, having on your artistic practise?
Covid has given me the opportunity to redefine my priorities, values, boundaries and reinforce my principles. I have had to question my purpose beyond the industry, and become aware of areas that I have not developed and the areas which I have neglected in myself.
This time has also allowed me to rediscover a new way of living, a new way of working and a new way of communicating. I have had many moments of exhaustion, overwhelming bewilderment and uncertainty, but none of these feelings are new to me, in fact the last two years have been so groundbreaking’ly challenging that lockdown was like a breeze. The political and economic climate however has had a great impact on my perception of reality and my stability within that. But it’s the sense of community that has become more evident during this time for me, with a beautiful anchoring in the various relationships I have with people that have grown deeper and stronger during this time.
Following on from that actually, how has lockdown affected you personally? I recognise that we often separate performers from people and that needs to be raised.
Lockdown has allowed me to journey inwards with a great deal of introspection and time to reconstruct myself from the core. These are elements I do practice, however there is never usually time to really uncover the uncomfortable subconscious patterns that need redefining, when I am moving from one project to another with usually no recovery time.
Although challenging, I have been able to sit with myself and confront difficult things and rewrite those narratives. I have also been able to connect with people I would have never usually connected with prior to Covid, simply because online networking is far more direct and immediate. Fundamentally I have been able to slow down and have moments of stillness and solitude, amongst the chaos.
I’m a big fan of the ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ podcast and something they do on each episode is ask their guest “If they were in government as an advisor for their specialist field, what would be the first change that they would make?” So I’d like to ask you, if you were an advisor/ representative for the Arts sector, what would be the first change that you would make?
I would want to change the ‘perceived’ division between economy, finance and the arts. I believe so many fundamental movements within history and society sit on a large library of knowledge in strategy, financial infrastructures, economic preservation, assimilation as well as generational business modes that support successful agendas in all industries.
Often even the simplest areas for accessing training in these fields are seen so far removed from the arts. Educational models are often attuned to industries regarded superior, operating purely from strategic principles within business sectors.
We as artists have major blind spots because of the lack of accessibility to especially tailored training schemes, courses, workshops that provide tools within understanding the financial politics of the arts and its economy. We are unhealthily dependant and unempowered to a degree with previous models such as Arts Council funding applications being the main and only doorway for many. Yet this cannot guarantee long term support and struggles to give artists/companies/organisations stabilised independent agency over their future careers. I’m sure at some point in time we have all witnessed the impact of funding cuts for companies/artists, resulting in the immediate amputation of their capacity. Funding has already been challenging particularly for individuals outside of certain socioeconomic class groups and artists who haven’t had the opportunity to generate credibility with sponsors or funding audiences. Many artists with an excellent capacity are unable to generate work at the rate of their potential. This is debilitating and capping our capacity for genius as an overall industry, only select few names get to exercise their worth. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say a great deal of artists do not get the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding on modes of financial strategy in relation to the artistic climate.
I’m not saying we all as artists need to study business and finance, because often all of that knowledge is difficult to contextualise in specific relations to the neurodiversity of an artist and the unprecedented lifestyle that an artist might live. But what I am aware of is the benefit of having specialists within business, economy and finance working with artistic representatives to establish an access point hub for freelance artists/organisations and younger generations educated to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to create financial and economic engagement, allowing agency and fluidity within their artistic career.
We as artists promote ourself like business products, we sell ourselves through business models, but if we are to now look at the future of the arts industry, the greater economy an it’s impact on the rest of the world we need to be equipped with the tools to know how to adapt, preserve and not only survive but thrive as artists. I do feel such aspects should be addressed and mandatory within the training of an artist, not just be trained on how to become an artist.
In order to create powerful art that actually has long lasting impacts on humanity and society in the evolution and rewiring of the human conscious, we need money, and we should be educated about how we can generate that independently. We see the value in funding science, it shouldn’t be any different for the arts.
So to conclude, Is there anything that you’re currently working on or anything that you’d like to highlight/ share with our readers?
I’ve been refining and redefining the development of my personal practice, which has felt like a monster to tackle as I exist in multiple sphere’s of discipline. Looking at the intersectionality of where a process begins and ends and where meeting points bridge between one discipline to another within the practice. How voice informs the body and vice versa, and also how multiple forms of conditioning/training practices converse/overlap or contradict within the body. What technique do I hold onto and what do I let go of.
In the productivity of what I’m currently working on is a body of work that holds both my music identity and my visual art and movement identity. I’m generating a portfolio which involves self produced songs with the layers and the depth that I would usually engage with in my conceptual theatre work. Looking at how I can make my approach to music production more performative, and have my body as equally a visible voice as my lyrics and my singing. I’m wanting to use the medium of music and song composition to speak on behalf of things I would usually devise and create dance theatre. I want to present narratives both through live art and digital where the boundaries and cultures blur between music gig and dance theatre. I will be supported by Kaunstrum Gallery to create and present an exert in the autumn.
Aside from that I am collaborating with musician Soweto Kinch for a conceptual music video, and composing/producing/researching with Isaac Ouro-Gnao and Tyrone Isaac Stuart for a production called the Oreo Complex.
Thank you ever so much for your time Ffion, it’s truly been a pleasure talking to you.
Jên gave the presentation below as a part of the recent Zoom Participation Meetings. This meeting was supported by Art Works Cymru, NDCWales and Tanio. Thanks to Jên for sharing her statement.
Cyflwyniad Presentation: Participatory Arts: Thinking Beyond Lockdown – Community Arts.18/06/2020
Bore da… good morning! Jên Angharad ydw i… I’m Jên Angharad… a year into my current post as prifweithredwr… CEO with a wonderful organisation that is Artis Gymuned – Artis Community.
Cyn i mi ddechre… before I begin… hoffwn jesd diolch i Guy, Lisa a’r partneriaeth, sy’ ‘di gwneud y sgyrsiau ‘ma’n bosib… ac am fy ngwahodd fel un o’r siaradwyr… I’d just like to say a big thank you to Guy, to Lisa and the partnership, that has made these discussions possible… and for inviting me to contribute as one of the speakers…. Diolch o galon!
So here we go…. Yn meddwl tu hwnt i lockdown… Thinking Beyond Lockdown … catapulting between what was…. what is … and what MIGHT be… at a time projecting into a future that is still unknown! Sounds like a dance improvisation to me!
I’m not going to talk about the work that Artis did before lockdown, (perhaps you can visit the website if you want to know more about that – https://artiscommunity.org.uk) because beyond lockdown is of course, about our futures… the future of us… as creative, cultural organisations, of independent artists… the future of us as a practice… and the future of us as a community of practice that includes the people who we are building relationships with and people who we’ve yet to have the privilege of meeting, making and growing with…
A future that sits within a broader arts ecology, currently in crisis.
Mae ‘na fwy o gwestiynnau nag atebion… There are many more questions, than answers and so, I asked the Artis team and board, what are the questions they are asking about our future as an organisation and as part of a national practice beyond lockdown and I’m focusing this reflection on just some of the many questions they’ve shared with me!
So this is a collective effort that we can continue to explore further with our communities.
The first question is a big one! It asks for thoughts on how the community arts sector might navigate its way out of lockdown? This is probably a question many of us are trying to answer!
When we consider community arts as a sector, currently capsuled into zoom boxes and flat screens, I think navigation requires kindness, it requires us to take good care of our health and wellbeing and to support our colleagues and friends, so that we are then able to maintain good connections and support as best we can, the people in our communities who make and feed our collective creative practice.
Then I like to think that we can draw strength from being a community of practice that holds a common unity locally, regionally and nationally, we are after all a people practice. We are a community of improvisers, planners, dreamers, strategists, collaborators, communicators and engagers and isn’t it fantastic when we come together to share concerns, find solutions to puzzles and celebrate successes! Conversation platforms like this one are providing a space to reflect, share and learn… connecting, re-connecting and I hope, strengthening our collective knowledge, practice and passion into the future. The more we do this, the more we can feed a shared understanding and form a united voice, which I’m sure we can all agree, is needed if we are to convince the Westminster government, that the social and economic value of community and participatory arts, is crucial to the wellbeing of our both our current and future generations.
The next question asks… What impact can we have now, in the next few months and further ahead into the future?
In Artis we’re learning through the stories of current lived experiences that in as much as it can never replace social 3 dimensional gatherings and interaction, we are making some difference to people who are engaging in our current digital, local doorstep drop offs, telephone conversations and posted activities… for some living in isolation and without access to digital technology, the non-digital activities provide a crucial connection with the outside world and that of their own imaginations.
Our digital activity has had a surprising impact, I think mostly on our own thinking about the possibilities that digital engagement can create!
The main driver for this development was an urgency…. a concern about how, during lockdown, we could possibly maintain a connection with the people who regularly take part in activities.
Refocusing practice into a digital domain is time-consuming work, but it’s worth it in terms of connecting people during social distancing, it means we can continue to employ freelance artists and we’re learning new skills!
But, if we are to survive beyond lockdown, we face an even bigger challenge and that is to add our voices to the voices of Arts Council of Wales and Welsh Government in influencing the thinking of the Westminster government… to call them to understand the need for and the benefits of, locally driven community and participatory arts experience… on health & wellbeing, on learning, on skill development, on identity, on our sense of place in this world, on our environment and on the economy and regeneration of communities. [These are] Community and participatory arts practices and experiences that are priceless and can be life changing.
Efallai mwy nag erioed… We now need perhaps more than ever, financial investment in the arts, and importantly, not just in the larger organisations, but in smaller companies and charities and independent artists who do incredible work in and with communities of people who can otherwise be invisible and feel the weight of injustices, amazing people who are entitled, after all, to explore a world of imagination, creativity and growth.
I attended an ArtWorks Cymru partners meeting yesterday to discuss the Parliamentary Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s call for evidence, of the impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors… the deadline is Friday – that’s tomorrow! ArtWorks Cymru is drafting a national response and if we can, as organisations and individuals also submit responses, however small, our national voice – our sector voice can be louder. Our immediate challenge is to convince the current powers that be, of our relevance.
Projecting forward… Beth yw’r heriau… What are the challenges of facing a new and different future?
There are undoubtedly big challenges ahead, not only in the practicalities of coming out of lockdown, and transitioning into choreographed… physical… social… spaces, but also in how we approach this… mindful that social distancing, isolation, ill-health and grief will have impacted individuals in many ways and require sensitive approaches to re-engagement.
Lockdown has unearthed the ugly truths about inequalities and injustices in our society and in as much as the Artis vision is well intentioned, we, as an organisation need to question what we mean when we say:
Mae ein gwaith yn ceisio creu lle i bawb
I brofi rhyddid mewn creadigrwydd a grym i ddarganfod gwychder mewn dathliad o fynegiant artistig.
Our work seeks to create space where all people
find freedom in creativity and are empowered to discover great moments in a celebration of artistic expression.
If we truly mean ‘pawb’ … ‘all people’, then we must proactively change our focus towards areas and cultures we are failing to reach in the South Wales Valleys. We know that we can’t do this alone. We need to work together with organisations and individuals to achieve this.
The unknown is perhaps, for most of us an uncomfortable prospect. But I think if we look to our community and participatory practices, that are by their very nature, improvised, uncertain, adventurous, unexpected… we can remind ourselves, that we can call on these same resources to propel us forward into the unknown, knowing that our collective creativity and resilience will see us through.
In response to the lockdown triggered by COVID-19, many arts organisations have taken their work online, sharing content for audiences to view for free. However, creating participatory engagement online is much more challenging and, as a sector used to being face to face with people in their practice, it’s clear that the current restrictions change the nature of participatory arts based activity substantially.
Following a vital conversation on social media led by Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, National Dance Company Wales which opened a discussion on how we can deliver participatory arts effectively, a range of partners are collaborating to lead Zoom discussions for the sector where we can talk about the impact of the lockdown on our work and work creatively together to think beyond the lockdown.
In partnership with ArtWorks Cymru a series of free Zoom meetings have been set up to discuss and share current working practices in participatory delivery.
Capturing the Learning
These Zoom meetings will explore how we capture the learning from organisations and artists who are currently delivering projects. We’ll explore what methods are working well, what are we learning through this experience, and how we are adapting our working practices.
Naz Syed a freelance creative practitioner, visual artist and travelling teacher with over twenty years’ experience in community engagement and education. She will be speaking at the meeting organised by Youth Arts Network Cymru 5pm – 6pm Tuesday 9th June. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. At the meeting Naseem will outline some of the challenges and solutions she has created to support the public to access the arts in the current climate.
In the photograph above I was featured in the Women of Newport exhibition in my home, my mother’s art work on the wall and the textile banner I created with the community for charity Baby Bundles. 100 women’s hands created by different groups and individuals, including Go Girls, Public Theatre, The Riverfront and Llantarnam Grange. The banner was featured on BBC news and was part of the Processions to mark 100 years of women getting the vote.
Hi can you tell me a little about yourself and your practice?
Hi, I am a freelance creative practitioner, visual artist and travelling teacher with over twenty years’ experience in community engagement and education. Working in community and education settings across a range of visual art disciplines, specialising in fashion, textiles, mixed media and applied arts.
My type of work is in the heart of the community with The Night Out Project ACW, I am a freelance facilitator, I work with school groups from Primary to Secondary and community groups with children, young people and older adults in South East Wales, Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys and more. Supporting schools and community groups to promote, market and deliver an event with a selection of touring theatre groups in unique settings. Sessions include; PR, design, promotion, print, fundraising, budgeting and health & safety. Each event is organised with a leading theatre company for the public after 6 weeks of event planning. I have worked on the Night Out Project for over 6 years. Working with each group for 6 weeks with creative tasks, enterprise, building resilience, collaboration and confidence. building up to a final show with a touring theatre, including PuppetSoup and Circo Rum Ba Ba.
One of my favourite pieces of theatre to be involved with was Dirty Protest Theatre, ‘How to be Brave,’ I worked on audience development in Newport and supported the promoters with Coffee and Laughs at Community House, Maindee to create a community event. A really powerful and moving on woman show and totally captivating and even better that it was about Newport!
I work as a freelance art tutor in different venues including the Riverfront, Llantarnam Grange and local community spaces and organisations. Delivering arts classes, holiday workshops, family sessions, school visits, Criw Celf.
I have developed and delivered creative projects in education including an eco fashion project called Ringland Runway, with KS2, year 2 class and year 4. Eco Fashion project I developed and delivered with support from Newport Fusion at Ringland Primary School. Creating outfits with a Year 2 class and year 4 eco team, in recycled and reclaimed paper, plastic and upcycling donated clothing. The children won the enterprise troopers foundation award with the enterprise and sustainability project and featured in the Big Splash festival.
With Arts & Education and the innovation seed grant, I worked with Blackwood Primary School to develop new ways to create, respond and reflect, making their own sketchbooks, collages and using mixed media. Using the exhibition in a box, a portable multi-sensory resource that explores the theme of silence in connection to the First World War by Head4Arts. The children’s poems and artwork were published in a book by Burst Publishing
I am an Arts Award Advisor and I deliver and support accredited courses. I am Lead Creative practitioner trained. I have delivered creative CPD workshops to teachers, and arts organisations as part of the Arts & Education Network, South East Wales and created learning resources.
I enjoy working with others and building their confidence to develop creative skills. I am currently delivering Art Clwb workshops voluntarily in my home each week on facebook live, Sofa Share Wales. Where people engage live, ask questions and create work along with me. I also run a featured artist each week where people send in their artwork created with the theme, inspired by the workshop and one artist chosen by the public wins an art bag. I have found this a way to support families and teachers with workshops and ideas for children at home.
My passion lies in the power of the arts to connect, empower individuals, communities and cultures, bringing a sense of belonging. How art can transform the perception of yourself and others, promoting wellbeing and mindfulness.
What challenges did lockdown present to delivery of your participatory practice?
Lockdown has affected my freelance work in projects and venues which I have worked for years. My work is based in the community and in education – creative practitioner visiting schools and Night Out Facilitator, ACW. The schools I was working with at the time had created such wonderful work and unfortunately the week it all changed was their theatre events with PuppetSoup, Land of the Dragon. I was absolutely gutted to not be able to host these wonderful shows with the children, but they were all understanding, and I plan to go back and do a creative workshop once things have settled. It all just went silent and the main part I love about what I do had just stopped suddenly, I found it quite isolating at first and I was worried about the groups and individuals I worked with. A wonderful group I connect with called Coffee and Laughs set up a zoom and then I started to reach out and have conversations with others to see how we could adapt and move forward.
I also deliver creative workshops within heritage, cultural sites and communities, theatre and arts centres, in the holidays, at events and some weekends. Until further notice, all of it just stopped, due to outside visitors in schools stopped and then all the venues and schools closed down. It is a people facing job and due to the venues being closed, other staff furloughed, schools shut and community spaces my current freelance work was cancelled.
Once projects and communities are back, there will still be restrictions and possibly they could not accept visitors and some of the groups I work with are more vulnerable, so they may not want to attend events and projects afterwards. Future work is uncertain and difficult to determine. Creativity and the arts, now more than even is key to wellbeing and to connect us all.
What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?
The current times have made us feel isolated and arts is a ways of bringing people together. Creating in their homes and making us be more resourceful with the items around us. The community gallery shows work from families, children, artists collectively. A featured artist is chosen each week to feature on the page and I have been putting together bags of creativity for them to use. The connections with artists helping donate bags, Newport museum supporting some of the materials going forward and the conversations I have had each week have meant so much. It has helped me greatly too, when all my work is focused on others being creative and that spark and energy, also moments of calm and concentration are so important. To see videos, creative pictures and happy faces and videos of others sharing their work..there are just no words to describe it! I have had to adapt and look at new ways of bringing people together and getting my workshops out to them. As I don’t have many set groups, I am a travelling teacher and artist at different events, community spaces and schools. So this static creativity has to move and adapt in a different way.
A creative learning in the arts project was cancelled, so I had to find new ways of working with the teacher, to keep creative ideas alive for the children in Year 6, Blackwood Primary School. So I have been sharing the resources and online workshops with the teacher. To have videos and images of the creative tasks each week sent to me, has kept me connected to the group and one of the group has even been making his own videos as a presenter, which as wonderful.
‘One of the best aspects of distance learning during lockdown was the impact of Naz Syed’s Art Clwb activities. As a teacher at Blackwood Primary School I reached out to Naz for some inspiration on what creative tasks I could set my Year 6 pupils as part of their home learning. They have absolutely loved watching the videos and creating their sketchbooks, birds of peace and sockipillars. Parents responded by saying how much fun their children had in making the crafts and the results are amazing! A huge thank you to Naz and Art Clwb for supporting us during this difficult time.’ – Mrs Phillips, Year 6 Teacher, Blackwood Primary School.
I am thankful to all who have connected, shared their thoughts, ideas and creativity and artwork.
What are your plans for future delivery?
I want to share as much as possible, so it is looking at how to make it sustainable moving forward. To keep sharing creativity, ideas and workshops for others to access. Looking into what Funding is available to continue this and to work with other organisations to deliver and develop this effectively for digital learning at home.
I am taking part in the ICE 5 to 9 Club virtually each week with ICE and Business Wales. I am developing a creative business idea that has been on my mind for a long time.
To keep Art Clwb going and delivering creative packs and workshops. I have to adapt and be resourceful. Going forward I would like to develop more sustainable projects and use of materials in the community and education.
In my own practise, I am currently developing work and sketchbook ideas at the moment, Lockdown stories..using collage and mixed media to portray thoughts and feeling of this time.
A range of organisations have worked to continue delivery of their art form during lockdown are there any that you would like to mention that you found either professionally or personally useful?
I have been keeping in contact with the organisations I work with, as collaboration is key and keeping those conversations and ideas alive is really important. As I am a travelling artist/teacher and it can feel lonely at times. I have found these organisations have been adapting to the needs of the community and freelancers to support.
#CreatewithNaz every Saturday on Facebook live. 6pm (May be subject to time change 3pm or 6pm)
Each week has a different theme and Naz will create ideas and mini workshops for you to make along with or after the live workshop, using materials around your home. You can share and send in your work. One artist is chosen to feature on Sofa Share and wins a creative bag. All work sent in, is featured in a live gallery.
I been creating workshops online for Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, holiday club workshops on their facebook page and Criw Celf. The Grange are also running a sketchbook community gallery, linked with Art Clwb.
Free holiday workshops with Naz #CreatewithNaz
You can access these workshops at the Facebook Page at the link here
I currently work as a Co-ordinator for Newport Fusion, part time. Developing ways to support cultural and community organisations and network partners. Supporting projects currently including; Sofa Share Wales, Beat Technique, Tinshed Theatre in new ways to develop and deliver their programmes and workshops to their groups and the community, also Operasonic with wellbeing.
Arts Council of Wales have continued to support artists and open up new funding strands. The Noson Allan/Night Out project has supported and kept in contact. With the Creative Learning in the Arts I delivered an expressive arts masterclass – online workshop and resources, using materials and equipment at home, My creativity book – creating concertina books and collage, which will be available on Hwb. https://hwb.gov.wales/
Head4Artshave supported by practise and development of ideas, as events I had booked were cancelled. I have produced creative packs for families in the community and designed printed bilingual resources. #DoorstepCraft