Category Archives: Festivals

“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.” An Interview with Kate Lawrence and Joanna Wright

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 in collaboration 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. 

Wanda Moretti

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

Pontio (Bangor) - 2021 All You Need to Know Before You Go (with Photos) -  Bangor, Wales | Tripadvisor
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. 

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.

“Get the Chance has not only given me a voice – it has given me the space, the opportunity and the confidence to use it.”

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.

“Art is about People and isn’t Something that Should be Contained by Old Notions of Performance and Presentation.” An interview with Daisy Howells

Hi Daisy, 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?

Hey Guy! Yes, so I am a Contemporary Dancer/Director based in Manchester. I trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance where I graduated in 2018 with a Masters in Contemporary Performance.

I am Welsh born and proud, so split my time between working in North Wales and across the North of England. My work is a whole mix of things really, from teaching to choreographing, to performing professionally and directing my own company. I like to spin many plates!

At the moment my artistic practice is very much based in collaboration, working heavily with digital creators, movement makers and sound artists. Concerning a definition, I am a person whose artistic world is constantly changing, so I am more of a chameleon than anything else! I like re-developing and re-branding who I am as an artist. I don’t like getting boxed in. So with my practice as a maker, teacher and mover, I feel like I have my own specific interests and style, but also something tangible that is reactive to the situations and people around me.

Your company has a Virtual Performance Party on the 28th of August. You will be premiering your new work, ‘Night People’, which is described as a “visual art, rave inspired, dripping with dance and bass, screen-dance film! Inspired by nightlife adventures and underground club nights, we bring to you an evening of music, movement and misfit mayhem!” This sounds like an exciting event! Can you tell me more?

 
Of course! This is all very exciting as it is the first time myself and collaborators have made a purely digital work, made for screen. I currently work within a trio, consisting of myself (Director of Brink Dance Company), Animation Powerhouse ‘Howl Creative’ and Composer ‘LSMarley’. Together we make cross-collaborative performance work that focuses on the electric blend of animation, visual art, contemporary dance and sound. We draw upon the themes of Rave Culture and the Dnb scene, bringing to life these underground landscapes of community, escapism and midnight mayhem. We began our collaborations whilst training in Leeds, with our passions to bring contemporary art to a new scene of young people and venues uniting us together. Over the years we have worked in various Club settings and Theatres, alongside showcasing our work in Churches, Bars and Shopping Centres.

www.anniefengphotography.com

Our new work “NIGHT PEOPLE” is our latest ambition, commissioned by Social Conventions London. The whole event aims to bring the night out to your night in, offering an insane mix of dance work, visual creations and DJ sets direct to your screens. We are fiercely attempting an online festival line up, one that follows the storyline of a collection of Pro Ravers on their night out, whilst showcasing a range of DJ and Visual Art sets in between. The whole event is geared towards those missing the party scene and the nightlife culture. However this event is also geared towards those interested in Digital Art, DJ mixes, Animation, Motion Capture, and simply for those who want a fun and energetic Friday Night to enjoy! Tickets can be found on our Facebook Page at Brink Dance Company and cost as little as £1. This is a brand new look at how we can create connection and party via this new lockdown world, so come and join the movement!

Artists features include sets by the incredible DJ and Visual Artist, Izzy Bolt, a completely new soundscape of Dnb/Experimental goodness by LSMarley, Movement & Groove from the phenomenal dancers Iolanda Portogallo and Maya Carrol, Digital Creations and Film from the fantastic Howl Creative and much much more….

Contemporary Dance can be perceived as an elitist art form do you think your practice seeks to break down any perceived barriers?

Completely. Coming from a very traditional dance background, I will always have a love for pure dance on stage, with the theatre audience watching and bows at the end. However as I began figuring out my movement style whilst training, I realised this didn’t always connect with me. My experiences dancing at raves, exploring the club scene and finding connection in these places of music and groove, were the reasons my love for dance and performance grew. I found my feet. I found a place where my body understood how to move. I found a style that expressed who I truly was. And it was amazing. From then on, I wanted dance to move from a place of tradition and bring it to a new scene of people, locations and communities.

www.anniefengphotography.com


My work aims to bring contemporary dance and mix-medium performance to audiences that may never have set foot in a theatre. I wanted to showcase how dance can be used as a tool for communication and dialogue, rather than something people simply observe from afar. I think art is about people and isn’t something that should be contained by old notions of performance and presentation. My work strips this away and offers a raw physicality and emotive landscape of people communicating what they really feel. It is also a reason I have taken dance away from just dance in its pure form. I wanted to work with other creators and other mediums to enhance my process and thankfully through luck and chance I was able to connect with some incredible artists who have helped make this happen. Breaking down notions of art forms being apart or away from each other has been a career changer for me and essential in breaking down limitations of how I view dance and where I see dance going creatively. It is about learning from new sources and being open to the fact you don’t have all the answers. Giving into this and entering various scenes of art, creation and rave enabled my process to blossom and is a huge reason why my work has taken many twists and turns.

It all begins to sound very arty as I describe it but essentially I owe a great deal of my creative ethos to the rave scene. As a maker and particularly as a dancer, this unlikely scene of haze, bass and underground antics moved me in such a way it broke down my perceived barriers of what I thought art was and what it could be. These places of sheer music and escapism shook my creative habits to a point of change and enabled me to see what I truly cared about as an artist. My practice has grown from this place of joy and boundless energy, removing personal and professional barriers so that I can reach audiences beyond the rigidity of traditional performance. Taking my work off stage and opening the doors to all manners of performance, audiences and venues has been an incredible journey and one I hope I can continue in the future.

Rave culture informs a great deal of your practice, how do you curate the music that becomes part of Brink’s artistic vision. What tunes are exciting you now, personally and artistically?

I am blessed to work and be friends with the incredible LSMarley.

We began collaborating on one of my first commissions in partnership with Light Night Leeds and Light Waves Manchester in 2018. We met Luke and it just clicked. Luke has a fantastic ear for sound and composition, alongside being able to produce incredibly unique tracks that gel effortlessly with movement. His music has been a huge influence on the aesthetic and overall movement style of our work. Essentially I think our music and movement is curated through genuine pleasure and joy. We make what feels right and makes us feel good.

I wouldn’t say it is an overly thought out process, it is more about sensation and being honest with each other. It is also through observation and taking interest. I listen to Luke’s music within my everyday ongoings. Luke has watched me perform and dance countless times. We have been in the studio playing and jamming together for the last three years. I think through simple experience and listening to each other we have naturally come to an understanding. I think it is all a little unspoken and I think this is what makes it so magical.

Apart from Luke’s sound, my music style for work takes inspiration from various pools of EDM artists and DNB creators. Some of my favourite ‘going out/research’ tracks are by Lenzmen, Calibre, Nicolas Jaar, Caribou, Thundercat, Marcelus, Chimpo Halcyonic and G Roots and Children of Zeus.

You were recently working for Theatr Clwyd providing arts based activities to key worker children. How did you approach delivery given the limitations of Covid 19 and do you have any hints for colleagues as regards delivery of participatory activity?


Ah this was such an incredible part of lockdown! One of my biggest passions is teaching and working with young people. It was such an honour working back in North Wales and helping these children experience art and dance after such a tough lockdown!

Delivery was all focused on protection for both teachers and students, alongside creating a super safe and welcoming atmosphere. We were lucky enough to work in a huge theatre, so that really helped keeping the 2m distance rule. We had colourful 2m squares painted on the floor for the children to work in and have as their own which was really lovely. The main actions we took were developing games and activities that would involve a whole group whilst keeping distance, so there was lots of re-inventing the classic games and making them Covid safe! We wore masks around the building at all times, apart from in sessions and washed our hands religiously! Having hand sanitiser on you was key and we made sure the kids we routined in regular hand washing within all sessions.

It was a crazy experience diving into this work environment and I know for many dance teachers re-entering the scene feels risky and under-researched. I guess the main factor when it came to delivery was prioritising your safety as a teacher and making sure the space was set up in a way so that you could keep distance, whilst being able to lead. Little things I got into the habit of doing was taking spare clothes to change into throughout the day so I wasn’t taking ‘unclean’ clothes into my car/living spaces, disinfecting materials and surfaces I used regularly (my phone/speakers/trainers) and being very clear and open with the students about when they should wash their hands and the importance of keeping distance. It is totally possible to make a teaching space fun, enjoyable and feel relatively normal, you just have to be super on it with hygiene and be creative with your practice!

How has lockdown affected you as an artist? What long term effects do you see Covid-19, having on your artistic practise?

Big question. And I feel one where the negatives could naturally be the main answer here. Obviously the financial impact is huge, especially on freelance artists. Alongside loosing months of passion projects, contacts, performances and creative support, there was also a huge loss of momentum for freelancers self generating their own work and putting endless hours into making their ideas come to life. Through a loss of income and creative development, I still feel a sadness for all the things that were cancelled and taken away once lockdown hit. These impacts have been truly devastating for many artists and I cannot deny the damaging affect this loss of time, money and security has had on many.


However I think it is also incredibly valuable to look at the long term positive effects. Covid-19 was a huge blow for my freelance practice. I lost all my work over night and I had to basically start again. BUT (and this is a big but) when there is a will there is a way and damn I was going to find a way! Due to lockdown I switched up my aims, practice and pretty much my overall artistic outlook and set out to learn a bunch of new things. During this time I have been lucky enough to develop my skills in film and digital media, take lectures in screendance and movement capture. I was able to be part of online R&D’s and several digital creations, alongside delving into my writing practice and developing my online classes. I’ve managed to reconnect with old artistic ambitions and have the space to come up with new ones. I’ve become more efficient and savvy with finding work and directing my passions. I’ve had chance to think long term and not rush from one project to the next. There have been so many things I would have never done and I feel beyond grateful to have had these experiences come my way. I think there has to be a big shout out to all ALL artists and organisations taking Covid-19 on with re-invention and innovation and I feel very proud to be part of an artist community that is pushing new boundaries and re-shaping the path forward.

The Get the Chance team are big fans 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?

Diversity and accessibility. I think a great deal of work is still needed in these areas, to help make art that is a true representation of the communities we live in and offers diversity in voice, experience and narrative. I think more has to be done to create an arts sector that offers fair opportunity and reflects the social changes that are part of our current 2020 lives. I think the arts sector can be seen as a liberal place but it is also stuck in tradition, old schools of thought and certain infrastructures that limit artistic creation from a truly diverse pool of artists. I believe art is for everyone and what we generate, create or shape can make a real impact to those who engage with it. It can be a kick starter for social change, dialogue and awareness and I would love to see the scene develop further in audience outreach, art inclusion and diversity in engagement and opportunity. I think a great deal of this comes from employers and art funders being aware of their positions of power and the change they can implement through re-shaping old ideas concerning art creation and its outlook. I see innovation happening across the sector, from dance and music, to visual and digital media, to how we showcase art and offer accessibility through viewing and participation. However I know a great deal more is to be done and that these conversations need to move from discussion and board meeting chats, to quicker modes of change and action.

To conclude, is there anything that you’re currently working on or anything that you’d like to highlight/ share with our readers?


I wanted to share the Instagram links of the fantastic artists I am lucky enough work with for our NIGHT PEOPLE project. Their talents, artistry and love for their craft has made this event what it is and I am so proud to have collaborated with this team of wonderful humans! Check out their work below at…

Instagram Names:

@mayarosecarroll


@lsmarley

@howl_creative


@boltizzy


@_.iole._

Follow @brinkdancecompany for further info, ticket links and exciting updates about the work, and yes…go buy a ticket! You won’t regret it!



Review: The HandleBards’ Romeo and Juliet at Hoghton Tower, Preston by Beth Armstrong

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‘One household, all alike in dignity, In our living room, we rehearse our scenes’ reads The HandleBard’s Facebook promo post. The cycling Shakespeare troupe, formed in 2013, are finally back in the bicycle saddle after emerging from lockdown with a new version of Romeo and Juliet directed by Nel Crouch. This year’s configuration of Bards is co-habiting trio Tom Dixon, Lucy Green and Paul Moss, which includes real-life couple Tom and Lucy…perhaps making Paul the third wheel (pun intended). “Which is why I’m playing Romeo!” announces Paul to laughter, an arrangement which allows for some entertaining mock-jealousy and several warning glances at guilty-looking audience members.

Melodramatic madness in the world’s greatest love story. Image: Rah Petherbridge

On arrival at the picturesque venue, Hoghton Tower’s walled garden, we’re welcomed and informed of the safety guidelines, doused with hand sanitiser, and led to a spot well clear of other households. All this is done by the HandleBards themselves and it’s lovely to feel part of something wholesome and organic: it’s clear that though a renowned and fully-fledged company, the HandleBards are still mucking in with all aspects of their show, from stewarding to stage set-up (though no doubt there is a dedicated team supporting them). Though all the safety precautions are adhered to – including no more infamous picnic stealing (luckily for me and my Kinder Bueno) – refreshingly, the play itself contains no lockdown references, no toilet paper gags, and no pandemic buzzwords. Despite having seen some interesting pieces of art and media exploring the crisis, it’s actually blissful to just have 80 minutes of pure fun and escapism.

A masked masque: Tom Dixon, Lucy Green and Paul Moss. Image: Rah Petherbridge

That said, one allowance is made for when Juliet (Lucy Green) runs to Friar Laurence’s gaff – the route being the long perimeter of the socially-distanced audience – where she complains ‘It’s much farther than usual!’. But apart from that, almost everything else is the usual HandleBards affair, featuring their classic conventions like repurposing bike equipment (tyre pumps become swords and pannier straps secure the stage), slow-motion fights, rapid character swapping, and their signature humorous, high-energy cavorting.

With just three actors, the troupe play multiple roles, often using just a wig held by an extended arm as a stand-in when more than three bodies are required in one scene, demonstrating clever choreography by director, Nel Crouch. To avoid confusion, the audience are helped to distinguish between characters through exaggerated accents, colour coded costumes bearing big ‘C’s and ‘M’s to denote house loyalties, and bike bells attached to each performer’s finger, which ding periodically to signal a character switch.

Text Box: Juliet (Lucy Green) on her balcony, the Nurse (Tom Dixon) and musical accompaniment from Paul Moss.
Juliet (Lucy Green) on her balcony, the Nurse (Tom Dixon) and musical accompaniment from Paul Moss

The characterisation in the production is suitably overblown for a tragedy turned comedy: Juliet (Green) swings from silly and girlish to teenage tearaway, screaming at her mother that she “come[s] anon!”, while Romeo (Moss) is a typical Northern sixth former with backwards cap and denim jacket. The emphasis on the lovers’ young age pokes fun at Shakespeare and allows for an amusingly melodramatic death scene, after which the pair get up unceremoniously, announcing “We’ve gotta play the other characters…”. These include: Lady Capulet (Moss), a soprano-voiced snob; Mercutio (Dixon), a Scouse mad lad; and Friar Laurence (Moss), re-imagined as a monk-cum-ninja with an accent one foot in Scotland and the other in the West Country, constantly dousing the hormonal teenagers with holy water. This is a Shakespearean retelling that certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously. But the audience favourite has got to be the Nurse (Dixon), with her comical stoop, heralding “alright”s, and senior moments, which culminate in her mistaking Juliet’s wedding ring for a jelly sweet and spitting it out with “Sorreh! Thought it wore a ‘aribo!”

Amongst the crazy antics and the hilarity, there is a tender moment between the eponymous tragic heroes when they first lament their love for one another: it’s created with just Shakespeare’s verse, four chords on a ukulele, and the natural accompaniment of the wind, which is a testament to the HandleBards’ ability to completely change lanes in both tone and pace before we’re back to more high jinks and tom foolery. Music also opens and closes the show, with stripped down vocal harmonies, as well as a funny interval song dedicated to an unfortunate front rower. The staging is equally stripped down: there isn’t exactly a set to speak of, only a raised platform, and costume changes are done simply with actors’ backs towards us (there’s isn’t time for anything else!). It feels unpretentious and transparent – a return to the bygone era of touring players entertaining the rural masses, and it’s all the richer for it.

The Handelbards in their fetching cycling socks

The HandleBard’s Romeo and Juliet is a pocket rocket – small but mighty – and its 80 minutes is jam-packed with more accents, more character changes, and more laughs than you can Shake a spear(e) at. It’s witty, fresh, and appears to be performed by a cast who genuinely love what they do. More than that though, this production facilitated a group of strangers coming together for a bit of fun on a patch of grass, just long enough to keep the rain off. And in these challenging times, it’s the perfect antidote, if only for a couple of hours.

If you too seek happy days to happy nights, Romeo and Juliet, and the HandleBards’ new children’s show, Gnora The Gnome’s Daytime Disco, tours across England (and the Netherlands!) until 19th September.

Participatory Arts – Capturing The Learning, A Response From Naz Syed Freelance Creative Practitioner, Visual Artist and Travelling Teacher

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.

Photography by Women of Newport

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!

http://www.dirtyprotesttheatre.co.uk/now-on-how-to-be-brave

Credit Fez Miah, Night Out Project
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Credit Fez Miah, Night Out Project

Women of 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.

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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.   

Photos Ringland Runway – Gareth Croft Films, Newport Fusion.

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.

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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?

I had conversations with other artists, practitioners and organisations to discuss and share best practise, safeguarding and digital delivery through zoom and calls. I spoke to community groups I work with and some parents, teachers about ideas and ways to adapt things.

The sharing of our learning process aswell as others, is key to moving forward and navigating our way through.

Did you have any particulate challenges or success that you would like to share?

I am currently delivering Art Clwb – #CreatewithNaz each Saturday on Sofa Share Wales, with live workshops, community art gallery and featured artists each week, who win a creative bag. Promoting creativity and being resourceful in your home, using recycled and reclaimed materials.

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.

The challenges are digital access, safeguarding, access to materials at home, a different space and way of learning and so much more. Online tools can feel overwhelming for some and difficult to navigate. How to create a more personal touch when communicating through a screen. To create authentic connections, projects and outcomes.

I am thankful to all who have connected, shared their thoughts, ideas and creativity and artwork.

Art Clwb community gallery snapshots
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Blackwood Primary Twitter

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Blackwood Primary Twitter

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.

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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. 

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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.

Weekly Art workshops Art Clwb on Sofa Share Wales: https://www.facebook.com/sofasharewales/ 

#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.

Newport fusion, Sharing and posting local creative projects, heritage sites, arts and cultural organisations. https://www.facebook.com/NewportFusion/  

Get in touch with Naz if you have any projects, ideas, events etc running in Newport.

More about Fusion here: https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-11/fusion-programme-report-2019-to-2020.pdf

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/

Arts & Education Network they have been releasing all their educational resources for free by artists on their site and facebook page – #StudioAdref. My resource – Digital visual journeys through collage, is available to download, as part of the Make it digital project. Cultural and Arts Organisations. https://artsed.wales/en/digital-collage/?fbclid=IwAR19Yewj3-SpD7PuATsCKB8wx2Efv1XLo6HaalJDMSflvgkU4VrQJRfA4tU

Arts & Education Network South East Wales– educational resources #StwdioAdref https://artsed.wales/en/ 

Head4Arts have 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

Newport Museum & Art Gallery have kindly donated materials towards the Art Clwb bags I have been creating.

The Riverfront theatre are still supporting and advising creatives moving forward.

Contact Naz to collaborate, for workshops, creative packs and resources.

naz.syed@outlook.com 07860 660870

Instagram: @nazeeba22

Twitter: @nazeeba

Facebook: Naseem Syed

Thank you for sharing the stories of others and letting me be a part of this.

Thanks for your time Naz  .

Participatory Arts – Capturing The Learning, A Response From Laura Bradshaw, Community Musician, Composer/Performer.

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.

Community Musician, Composer/Performer Laura Bradshaw will be speaking at the meeting organised by Tanio on June the 11th. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Laura gives an overview of the challenges and solutions she has created to support the public to access her services in the current climate.

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

Hi, My practice is as a community musician and a composer/ performer. I’ve been working with the general public, as well as with specific potentially marginalised groups using music and singing workshops as a vehicle for creativity and skill building.

The amazing and very clear bi products of participation in such activities being that of community building/ confidence and cohesion  as well as mental and physical wellbeing for participants. I’ve been following this vocation for for almost 30 years. My own performance and composition skills feed quite naturally into the workshop setting.

Writing this in the knowledge of the terrible racist killing of George Floyd in USA as well as the fact that it has been confirmed that BAME people are far more likely to die of corona virus than white people show that we have a long way to go in our endeavors for community cohesion and equality in the world in general and so the I feel that the role of the community musician or community arts worker is more crucial than ever!

What challenges did lockdown present to delivery of your participatory practice?

I had actually delivered a workshop on the Monday just before the Tuesday lockdown,  there was a sense of shock at the realisation. Also performed a joint gig on the Saturday at Cardiff library with Bread and Roses(the vocal trio I sing in with Frankie Armstrong and Pauline Downas well as Oasis World Choir and Band, for international women’s day.

The immediate challenge many of us faced was that our careers – communities had come to a standstill. Firstly, and selfishly, the fact that there would be no possible income – I am freelance and if I don’t turn up to a workshop then I don’t get paid – this appeared to be the scenario at first under lockdown. Secondly a panic about all the regular people I interact with weekly through my choirs – many of whom are vulnerable mentally and physically and the lack of connection with others and the lack of participation with their favoured activity, could be a grave addition to their worries. It was almost too much to comprehend, so I found myself in a bit of a state of ‘red alert’ trying to find out ways to protect both my income stream, and maintain my workshop offerings to those who’d most appreciate them at this difficult time. The research I did was constantly engaging with one of the professional bodies I am a member of Natural Voice Network on their social media as fellow tutors helped (and continue to help) each other out with constant questions, ideas and inspiration. I am also a trustee of the NVN and there were constant discussions going on between board members but how best to support practitioners.

What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

I managed to get up and running in a basic way with Zoom on the free program for the first week – allowing each meeting of 40 mins then cutting out. Also an addition to the stress but by going through this it proved that the online delivery of the workshops could somehow work. So I bought the pro Zoom package allowing unlimited meeting time.

The next challenge was audio. Doing music on this platform was a huge challenge at first, as  it gradually dawned on me that there is no way on earth (as of yet) to make the live sound sinc up between all the users/ participants, so myself, as leader, would be leading a song or activity and participants were thinking they were singing with me when my reality was a lot of delay of varying lengths between all the participants – this they also experienced. To this day I don’t like ‘muting’ people – it goes against the philosophy of community music – shutting peoples voices off – however I have realised that the chaos of sound can be pretty hard work for all to be hearing all the time.

By muting participants at certain points then they experience a clean and relaxed sound – but they do feel alone in their singing  with just hearing their voice against mine – not with the usual wonderful feel of a group of people singing together.

So another challenge was to create more of a group sensation by finding long lost recordings of some of my community music gigs – songs loved from the past – which have proved to be lovely to re-visit – invoking both positive memories as well giving people hope that somehow, at some point we will be able to safely do these live events again.

Did you have any particulate challenges or success that you would like to share?

Along with the Zoom set up I had to find a way to be able to broadcast my sound well– using many original songs a well as exercises due to it now being almost like a broadcast. There was a whole way to enable original sound which is apparently better for music – it doesn’t auto correct which would make guitars and other sounds wobbly. However it does allow pick up of background sounds! I had to make use of a good mic and sound card, which enabled me to be playing a track and sing along at the same time (Colleagues who are purely using computer audio are broadcasting good sound but their singing along sounds delayed to their workshop participants). I still have a long way to go feeling secure with Zoom but after a lot of stress and a lot of support from my very patient partner I generally feel it a success. Also a big success is that now after 10 weeks of Zoom I feel it is on it’s way to precariously working income wise – I am receiving a very cut back income as only about half of my previous participants are engaging. Those not engaging either just find the sessions too alien or they can’t actually access he Zoom session – if their tech is out of date etc. I have many more elderly people who don’t have the tech but do try and if they are alone it is very very frustrating for them. Also working with people who are perhaps asylum seekers with old phones which have not allowed the recent Zoom updates. Some of those people I have been doing individual wattsap video calls with. – It’s very difficult to know how to help these people properly and really feels like they are being excluded even more from society at the moment . I feel there’s a gap in the tech that maybe some tech businesess/ charity could really help with

I also decided to create online videos for my groups to keep them feeling engaged even if they couldn’t access Zoom. I invested in the app “Acapella” which enabled me to fairly easily bring to life some of the simpler songs I’ve written whilst seeing how the harmonies fit together with a different screen for each harmony. Also this allowed a collaboration led by Swedish singer Kajsa Norburry and 7 other singers singing a song in tribute to the essential workers To The Heroes involving Natural Voice leaders from Australia, Ireland Scotland England and Wales.  These acapella App videos were kind of interesting for my participants. eg. Give me the Freedom. There were 2 motivations for this – one to immediately keep sending, hopefully interesting and fun, content to my workshops regulars; and two, to help me to prepare to finalise the material for my book of ”All Year Rounds” something I’ve been planning to bring to fruition for 2 years but never had the time! SO after all the initial stress I did actually have a little extra time to develop my round book (now available on Amazon and as an ebook with 2 bonus songs.) I also had a small amount of headspace for some exploration into more serious and in depth composition – something I’ve not had the head space for a long time.

Another challenge/success is the fact that I am one of the four people who bring Sing for Water Cardiff to the Oval basin every coupe of years involving 800 singers singing together and raising money for Wateraid.

This year was to be extra special with us lining up with Green Squirrel and “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Give Up” The “Get Creative” festival as well as Oasis World Choir and Band having a key role in leading into the whole concert with a special song and carnival  procession. So so sad to have to postpone this. However we did manage to create an online event – where project manager Sue Ellar created ticket links for people to pay £3 each – also gave the option to pay forward £1 towards anyone who might not be able to afford a ticket – also the option for ‘hardship” meaning that people could get the event link for free too. These are all things I find difficult but working as a team Sue came up with excellent solutions to ensure we could somehow receive some kind of payment for our planning of the session. 115 people engaged with that session and there will be links sent to choir members with a compilation of the highlights of the session with a motivation for them to continue their fundraising for the charity Wateraid.

Access – as I mentioned earlier due to tech has been a huge challenge with people trying and trying to join the sessions but their tech simply not working for them – we are at lockdown so those people can’t have anyone to physically show them how it works or to re-set their devices or event to buy in new tech if they have the money. Zoom updates have meant that some phones no longer allow access. People I work with are often extremely isolated for a multitude of reasons, from disability to asylum claims, to mental health issues, to simply being more elderly and living alone. This includes younger people now living and coping alone – many of whom have fully appreciated the regular Zooms – a chance to interact and participate in a positive and familiar activity together.

A huge but unexpected positive of this situation is that people who have moved away or been moved away so could no longer be a part of the sessions due to physical distance have now been re-engaging with the workshops.

I have regulars from the past who moved to Bristol and Brighton who now regularly join the Friday morning Chapter Singers workshops. Also people who have been members of the Oasis World Choir and Band project who have moved by choir to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester are joining us and still feel a part of our extended choir family. Also the terrible situation where people who are asylum seekers and then suddenly moved away with no notice. This happened to one of our vey special choir members and her then 4 year old daughter – they were moved to a hotel in London a month before lockdown – they were then moved to another 2 different hotel rooms and are still in a hotel room in the London area. Thankfully they have a good enough phone to be able to Zoom in with us weekly, a fact which truly helps them to feel slightly human and normal as well as still getting all the scientifically proven additions to wellbeing that singing, dancing and laughing bring.

Amazing joy at being able to collaborate with Ethiopian composer performer and community musician Tewolde Girmay after 10 years! (Flute duet Wales to Ethiopia)

What are your plans for future delivery?

I think I will be leading Zoom sessions for a long time as singing is proving to be a less safe activity to do, Corona wise, due to the otherwise extra healthy deep breaths that people expel during the act of singing.

When it does feel safe to do so again I will need to ensure that people can decide on their own terms how and when to join, and I will have in place social distancing measures and guidelines carefully thought out beforehand.

I know for sure that I will be aiming to continue Zooming perhaps one weekly session due to all the amazing interactions that wouldn’t have happened without Zoom access and I have group members who are vulnerable health wise and are currently shielding who have already asked me if I’ll be able to include them in this way in the future. I’m not sure how to make any of it work in a financially secure manner – it’s all been a great gamble so far, but fingers crossed and on I go.

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 paid to continue weekly workshops by Tanio through March, April and May for the Oasis World Choir project.

Oasis World Choir project

Also Community Music Wales have asked for videos for their website.

Newport Mind have continued to pay for my weekly sessions with their clients, this will be on-going which gives a sense of real security to me as a freelancer.

I have facilitated the YMCA staff choir for the past 6 years this recently turned into YMCA Community Choir  – then lockdown stopped that but a YMCA linked organisation have hired me to do some try out sessions with young carers which is a new challenge working with people I had not actually previously met. I have now done the first session which went really well so watch this space!

laura.communitymusic@gmail.com

Natural Voice Singing leader, Composer, Performer

www.laurabradshawmusic.com

Thanks for your time  Laura

Participatory Arts – Capturing The Learning, A Response From Kelly Barr, Arts and Creativity Programme Manger, Age Cymru

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.

Kelly Barr, Arts and Creativity Programme Manger
Age Cymru hosted the first Zoom participation meeting. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Kelly gives an overview of the work Age Cymru has created to meet the challenges and the companies solutions to support the public and her service users in the current climate.

Hi can you tell me a little about yourself and your organisation?

Hi, I’m Kelly Barr, and I am the Arts and Creativity Programme Manager at Age Cymru, who are the national charity for older people in Wales. I have been working on participatory arts projects with all sorts of organisations for 6 years, including NDCWales, Earthfall and the Sherman.

The two main arts projects here at Age Cymru are Gwanwyn Festival, an annual celebration of creative ageing which happens in May each year, and cARTrefu, the largest arts in care homes project in Europe.

We also run other projects throughout the year that might try to tackle isolation and loneliness (like our Gwanwyn Clubs), stereotypes of ageing or representation of older people.

Your organisation is hosting one of the free Participatory Arts – Capturing the Learning / Beyond the Lockdown meetings. Why do you agree to support these events?

I am in a very fortunate position to still be working at this time, and I felt like I had a responsibility to support conversations within the participatory sector. I saw many people reacting wonderfully quickly and adapting their practice, but I also recognised that that isn’t always an option, particularly with the groups of people that I work with. I have always believed that we have much to learn from each other so it was an ideal opportunity to do my bit to support some good practice sharing.

What challenges has lockdown present to the delivery of your service?

Gwanwyn Festival has often been about bringing people together, many of whom are in the high-risk category at the moment, so we made the decision fairly swiftly to postpone the festival.

We had a duty of care to protect the people that might attend the festival events, and those that are running them.The creative ageing sector is very supportive so I have been lucky enough to have regular chats with colleagues across the UK and Ireland (Gwanwyn Festival was inspired by Bealtaine Festival), so that we can support each other to think about how festivals like ours might work moving forwards.

We also knew early on that it was going to be difficult to continue to deliver the cARTrefu project, as care homes were starting to close their doors in early March. We’re lucky to have supportive funders who we will be able to work closely with as things progress. We have multiple scenario plans but are very much being led by what care homes want and need right now.

What issues have your service users/participants faced?

I’m really proud to be part of Age Cymru, as they have been able to adapt really quickly during the pandemic to ensure that older people in Wales are supported. We run an Information and Advice line, which received a 200% increase in calls at the start of the pandemic; people needed advice on whether they should be self-isolating or shielding, where they could get support with food shopping and collecting prescriptions. People have also struggled to access their money, and needed support to find new ways to stay in touch with family members. I’m pleased to say that we have been able to help, in partnership with our local Age Cymru partners, Age Connects and other voluntary services across Wales.

What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

Many of us are well-used to working from home, but it’s been really important to find moments to connect with colleagues. Many of us are spending most of our day making calls to older people through our Check In and Chat service, so it’s not always easy to have online ‘meetings’ as often as we used to have physical meetings. So we’ve set up Whatsapp groups, we send voice-notes, have catch-up phone calls, send pet pictures (in my case, plants!) as well as whole team Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings. It’s ever changing and adapting!

With my specific work, it’s about being available to our partners and being flexible and open about the realities. We’ve been taking time as a team to think further ahead, and problem solve, and take any opportunities we can. We’re also keen to use Gwanwyn and cARTrefu Facebook, Gwanwyn Twitter and cARTrefu Instagram to promote creative opportunities for older people as far as we can.

Did you have any particular challenges or success that you would like to share?

Back in April, I, like many people who are in a position to, wanted to offer out informal chats to anyone interested in running creative ageing projects, or having to adapt current projects. I had no expectations of what would come from this, only that it felt like the right thing to do, but it’s introduced me to new practitioners and individuals, which has helped to build up my understanding of what’s happening in Wales. Many people I might have struggled to physically meet pre-lockdown, due to being based in Cardiff, I have been able to connect with over the phone. I hope to continue to offer this out and to meet more people – digitally!

What are your plans for future delivery?

We’re exploring a range of options at the moment, but we’ll be working closely with our Gwanwyn Festival event organisers to look at how this might be possible. There may be ways to replicate events online, or using social distance rules. I have no doubt that our event organisers are already coming up with innovative and interesting ways to continue to connect to people and I’m looking forward to working together to adapt and learn!

With cARTrefu, we are ensuring that we are listening to care homes, and being led by their needs right now. We have developed a fortnightly e-newsletter that gives care homes low-resource activities to try, and links to lots of online performances and activities from Age Cymru (like Tai Chi classes, now on our website) and other organisations.

I’m aware that we’re now regularly speaking to people that are more isolated, some of whom who aren’t connected to the internet, so a lot of my thinking has been about how to stay connected to them and to provide interactive creative opportunities that are offline.

I’d like to highlight Age Cymru’s Friend in Need service that has launched this week, and direct anyone to it if they’ve been supporting someone who is self-isolating or shielding through lockdown. There’s lots of useful guides and resources, as well as details of our new Befriending scheme – Friend in Need

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’d love to highlight the wonderful speakers from our first Participatory Arts Capturing the Learning Event:

Artis Community, Re-Live and Welsh National Opera.

And I’d love to shout out to all of the cARTrefu artists whose work has suddenly come to a grinding halt with us, but have been helping us to provide creative activities for care homes remotely.

Thanks for your time  Kelly

The meeting notes from Participatory Arts, Capturing the Learning – Older Peoples Zoom Meeting that Kelly hosted hosted on Thursday 28 May, can be found at the link


Participatory Arts – Capturing the Learning, A Response from Megan Pritchard, Marketing Campaigns Manager, National Dance Company Wales

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.

Megan Pritchard, Marketing Campaigns, National Dance Company Wales is presenting at the first Zoom Dance meeting on Wednesday 3rd June 3-5pm The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Megan gives an overview of the work NDCWales has created to meet the challenges and the companies solutions to support professional and participatory dance delivery in the current climate.

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

Hi I’m the Marketing Campaigns Manager for National Dance Company Wales: under usual circumstances that means I lead on connecting with our audiences and communities with a focus on the national touring work that we do. I work closely with the Participation department who are a fundamental part of how we connect with and stay connected with our audiences.


At the moment that work is much the same – but with a hugely digital focus, and a wealth of new ways to share dance with people. From early on in the lockdown we’ve seen a huge rise in people dancing across media from TicTok to daily community dance parties in the street.

I’ve been with the Company for just under nine years so for me that’s really exciting to see, the heart of my role is sharing this thing that I love with the world- I truly believe that dance is a universal language that is available for everyone from shuffling along to the radio in your kitchen right through to sitting in an Opera House watching a contemporary ballet.

NDCWales has as real ethos that dance is a wide spectrum and we try touch people with dance at all levels. I’m here to reassure those unsure about watching dance or bringing physicality into their bodies – to take away that fear of the unknown.

What challenges did lockdown present to delivery of your participatory practice and what systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?

Our biggest challenge was not unique – how could we digitally re-create work that relies on physicality and connection; how could we do it with reduced resource, and what should the focus be?

We were just two venues into our twelve venue mid-scale touring – our largest annual tour, one that we rely on not just for income but for connecting with people.


As a Company we already had plans to create a digital programme over the next year, but in response to COVID 19 we needed to do this more urgently. We were not in a position to move everything that we usually do online, there wasn’t the money or capacity – but as a Company we value all aspects of our work equally. To help focus our resources, we asked our audiences and looked inwards,

“National Dance Company Wales makes brilliant dance with and for all kinds of people in all kinds of places. With innovation and imagination, we widen the spectrum of what dance can be so that more people can make, watch, participate in and learn about dance in Wales and across the world.”

So we put our energy on repurposing what we already had and building on what we do well-  creating spaces to learn about, and participate in dance at a range of levels.

It was important too that content was as accessible as possible – using captions and BSL interpreters wherever we could. This meant that things such as live classes were not a solution for us at the outset because they could not easily be captioned in real time.


To make things as streamlined as possible we used simple ideas and simple programmes, that could be used quickly and taught quickly to people who might be working in new ways.

We used Zoom, YouTube and Facebook live and explored new ways of manipulating these programmes in ways that they may not usually be used. We also used simple editing and captioning programmes – and taught anyone in the Company with a free hour how to use them.


To ensure a polished feel despite content being created in different spaces, on different cameras and in different styles, we created simple branding and guidelines that were easy to follow and carefully spent money on animations to tie the content together.

The creation of #KiN:Connected was hard work, but that hard work was met with innovative ideas and rewarding content – and I’m really proud of how quickly all of the team pulled together to create a virtual version of our work – right through from the performance streaming and post-show-talks to the . bilingual classes for children about rugby and dance.

Did you have any particular challenges or success that you would like to share?

I’m really proud of all of the work that we’ve pulled together to get done during this time – but some stand outs for me are:
 

The live performance of 2067: Time and Time and Time (a reimagining of a repertoire piece from our cancelled tour, performance from the dancers home and directed in real time by the choreographer).

https://youtu.be/iYK-l2iLEZ8

Our Rygbi learning pack and everything that surrounds it (including bilingual classes for parents of welsh speaking children who may not speak welsh themselves, and of course the full length stream of the piece itself).

Our dance classes for adults with mobility issues – we’ve had a lot of mums of NDCWales team members use them in their daily routines, which has been really directly rewarding.

I think the biggest challenge for us moving forwards is maintaining meaningful relationships with our amazing participants and continuing to imagine new ways to bring dance to them – especially those who may not be digitally proficient. 

What are your plans for future delivery?

We are just moving into the second phase of our digital delivery – taking our learning from the first phase and building on it with more real-time live performances and exciting collaborations with other Welsh companies. We’re also launching some things that took a little longer for us to perfect for our participants such as our Dance for Parkinson’s classes.

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?

It’s been really inspiring to see how resilient the sector is as a whole and how vitally important the arts are for people’s health and wellbeing at this time (possibly more than ever). Arts companies have been at the forefront of providing accessible and free content for home-schooling, fun classes to keep us fit when we are unable to leave our homes, and beautiful digital distractions in the forms of films, play readings, dance, get togethers, streamed performances and more.

Below is a guide to streaming a live performance from NDCWales, Stage Manager, Perla Ponce. (Please note this information is in a draft format and will be updated.)

Participatory Arts, Capturing the Learning

Meeting Minutes

35 Participants

Julie Hobday – County Youth Dance Swansea

  • Sister company of West Glamorgan Youth Company
  • Created when Swansea became a County
  • To promote dance for 13 – 21 and also run an outreach strand for younger pupils
  • Collaborate across Swansea with schools, YMCA, Taliesin Arts Centre
  • Creative educational model – training – exploring professional work – peer support – develop a love for the artform
  • Follow an academic year
  • Challenge to be flexible and keep the company relevant
  • Community element is very important / but also the opportunity to create work in response to stimulus 

Challenges of Lockdown

  • No direct funding – all income from the students
  • Meeting through Zoom. Had to put robust safe guarding in place
  • Meeting participants in their homes – some participants don’t have the internet connection or capability to digitally engage. 
  • No shared space – we start with conversation – just so people can chat about how they are feeling and keeping everyone positive
  • Keeping the dancers engaged is hard – some people are keen regulars – but some people drop off. We deal with this by emailing and prompting them through social media.
  • We can’t recruit for new members at the moment.
  • At the moment, we are not charging. But there are questions about how this will develop. It leaves us with a shortfall and this is vulnerable.

Positives of Lockdown

  • We start by asking participants how they feel at the beginning and the end. They have usually doubled their energy by the end of the session.
  • We can use artists from anywhere in the country. This has helped us to support artists who might have lost work.
  • We’ve been able to engage with some of recent graduates who have missed out on  their final presentations
  • Being creative about how we make work – participants are making videos – they have to think differently about how to work in different spaces
  • Access to resources – suddenly students can access performances and class online from some amazing companies and artists
  • Trying to stay positive about the future and keep thinking about ways we can keep participants engaged through the autumn

Gwyn Emberton – BA Honours Dance University of Wales Trinity St Davids 

  • University course has moved on line
  • Degree is based in Carmarthen. 
  • Intensive training in dance focused on contemporary & ballet. Also look at inclusive practice, community work. 
  • We hope our students will stay in Wales.
  • The shutdown was very sudden – we only had a week to move everything online. We were about to start our last 2 months of big projects for the 3rd years & a final show for the 1st years. It was crucial to be face to face.

First Years

  • Challenges  – Bad wifi – small spaces that students were working in
  • Gwyn found an online resource that he could focus the 1st years around
  • They kept class regular at 10am and explored lots of different ideas 
  • They wanted to keep it positive and try to find things they could focus on
  • Explored musicality, articulating with the upper arms, creating phrases
  • 1st year is about introducing ideas and reaffirming their practice
  • Ballet class – they did two phrases in one hour – took time to watch Gwyn on speaker view – and then repeat it so that Gwyn could watch them. Then they could reflect and consider.
  • Used the breakouts for creative making and collaborating. It actually helped some of the less local students to open up. This was a very useful tool and gave them space and time to investigate themselves.
  • Mental Health was a big thing – everyone was fluctuating. Gwyn and the students were constantly in contact with each other – used Whats App and had regular tutorials. Gwyn introduced a thursday afternoon social – a quiz or coffee and cake.
  • Creating a dialogue was important – getting feedback through the screen was hard – so Gwyn would call on people and having them named was important.
  • Resources online were important – students got to watch pieces that they wouldn’t usually see.

THIRD YEAR – Zosia Jo

  • Worked with students to not focus on looking at her and explore disconnecting and being present in their space.
  • Visualisation – Deborah Hay’s work of absorbing the space through your body.
  • They made site-specific work – learnt how to make dance films together
  • Each day they would make a little film – meet in the morning, work through the day and then meet in the afternoon to reflect.
  • Meeting more frequently for less time works much better. 
  • You can only do one thing at a time online.
  • Giving students as much autonomy as possible worked well. Zosia was available for questions.

Sara Sirati – Ardour Academy

  • New organisation. Ten years of working in the community led to setting up a studio – mind , body and soul
  • Dancer and psychotherapist – interested in trauma and how to use the body to explore it
  • The dance studio also have a counselling service online – this is unusual
  • We work with schools, community and the health board
  • They also have a coffee shop and bar online where they do events
  • Students are usually people who haven’t danced much before
  • Covid struck – my first priority was the make sure all artists we worked with were OK
  • Considered the options for how we might work carefully. We wanted to offer something that was good quality and really helped our dancers

Jack Philp’s experience

  • Having a regular online session gave everyone a sense of stability
  • I was nervous about delivering online sessions – would I be able to communicate?
  • Trial and error – we navigated it together and found what worked
  • Pitching the level of complexity was hard as you can’t see what people are managing and not managing
  • Understanding how you can move big in a small space was a challenge
  • Grappling with the tech was also difficult but Sara supported this well
  • Jack found he needed to stop and check in with people regularly to see what was working and what wasn’t

Megan Pritchard – NDC Wales

  • Participation is tied into touring work – decisions had to made about what needed to be taken online
  • Blindsided by the sudden lockdown and were 2 venues into the tour
  • We couldn’t just move everything online – lots of difficulties and barriers including Intellectual Property & rights issues

Kin Connected 

  • Online digital season replacing the tour 
  • Watch Together – some live & some pre recorded – Q&As with artists following them – they wanted to keep connection to the audiences
  • Create Together – for professional artists to create something
  • Dance Together – focused on dance classes for young people and for older people
  • Learn Together – schools and digital work for education – 
  • 1. Tundra Learning Pack relating to a piece that was already online – made a you tube playlist 
  • 2. Created dance classes for pupils relating to our repertoire online 
  • 3. Rugby Learning Pack – relating to work they were already doing around rugby
  • Kept things simple and accessible – so they were easy for dancers to make – and they wanted to use captions – and for them to be short, simple and available at different levels
  • Created a simple brand to over arch everything. 
  • They had a team of people who were keen. Megan taught dancers to caption and edit. Created best practice documents to help the dancers and an intro so that the dancers all said the same thing.
  • They created something for the Wales Arts Review Digithon early on and this got us thinking about how we could make work.
  • Dancers are performers – we needed to make this possible somehow – so we looked at Zoom. We wanted to make it love somehow.
  • Zoom can go live on You Tube – we hadn’t seen anyone using it. We played with framing and using phones. We used the spotlighting function – this was done live.The choreographer could direct the show live. The stage manager controlled the holding screens, music and spotlighting. They have created a document about how they did this which they will share with the sector.
  • They have more performances planned and are thinking about how they can develop the Dance for Parkinson’s work.
  • More people are dancing at home than ever – the opportunities are really exciting.

Discussion

How has online learning challenged people’s teaching skills? What strategies are people using?

  • Sara – I use a feeling scale to see how people are doing. We keep our Zoom classes to smaller number so they feel more personal. We use people’s names and give people a chance to talk.
  • Julie – using directive teaching methods is the default online – its harder to get feedback online. But if you know people then that’s helpful – check in moments are important. Asking questions is important so that people engage. Trying to have prolonged moments when they are doing things – but then stopping and talking – and working to get that back again. The pace is more like a rollercoaster.
  • Mirroring is tricky – the camera flips round on some computers. So either you have to negotiate this or not worry about it.
  • Explore Stop Gaps access training – they use great language for describing movement and this works really well on zoom

Has anyone considered creating dance exchanges with groups that wouldn’t normally get the meet?

  • NYDW are involved in UDance – there will be ways to get involved.
  • We can team up more as a sector. Zoom helps us to do this much better.
  • Youth Dance night for NDC Wales – they are exploring how to do this online. We can co-create work with young people across the sector.

Music and licensing – questions around how to negotiate this? How have people managed this?

  • NDC Wales have done lots of work on this. To use music you need written permission from the artist and the publisher. Online streaming is not covered by PRS.
  • It’s a difficult area – there is music online that has been shared through Creative Commons and they are clear what tracks can be used for
  • You can also get young people to compose their own music
  • Or work with existing composers so it’s clear what the contractual arrangement is

Creativity Rocks the Arts Factory, MaDCaff 2020 By Ann Davies

Take me back to the days when we were never alone – well, let’s see, it was the month of March when creativity rocked the Arts Factory in Ferndale and we were altogether. The scene had been set in 2019 when the forward looking company Avant Cymru introduced a MaDCaff evening event to The Factory in Porth as part of the FestYPorth celebrations. It sparked an idea for such an event to be held in the Rhondda Fach. Proposals for a venue were put forward and the nucleus began to evolve as the Arts Factory (the Trerhondda Chapel Arts Centre in Ferndale) took up the baton for it to be staged as a Community activity to raise funds for Mental Health.

A MaDCaff event is an experience which is encompassed in its very title

Music Dance and a Café

It is an open mic where people can perform or be entertained, pressure free with a quiet place to talk if required. With DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) and the Arts Factory volunteers, the evening became a cornucopia of colour as musicians assembled their electrical equipment and sound tested their instruments, dancers waited in anticipation of opening the event, whilst people bought Raffle Tickets on their arrival, sourced the Refreshment stand and marvelled at the artwork that had been kindly donated by local artist Carole Kratzke for the Art Auction.

The young dancers of Avant Cymru, coming from their recent performance at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff, blew caution to the wind with their energetic and exhilarating movements, incredibly intricate and jaw dropping showing the skills that they had been taught by Jamie Berry, a company Director of Avant Cymru, who, in January 2020 won the deserved accolade of Wales Creative Tutor of the Year bringing his distinctive talent to develop the health and wellbeing, through dance, to the Valleys.

Gaudy Orde announced their arrival with their usual toe tapping eclectic music with Jeff Japers (aka Andrew Powell) on the ukulele, keyboard and main vocals; Tall Joy (aka Joy Garfitt), Helen Spoons (aka Helen Probyn-Williams); James Parr – Superstar; Barry Sidings (aka Alex Coxhead) and Romany Bob (aka Andy Roberts) providing a surreal and distinctive experience of music, song and humour into an intoxicating mix as the evening progressed.

In turn Jeff Japers, as the evening’s Master of Ceremony, introduced the Nutz ‘n’ Bolts duo which normally consists of husband and wife team Dawn and Dave Hoban, but on this night we were invited to meet Jowan who sang with Dawn. It was an experience of emotions entwined harmonies and excellent guitar playing.

Les Allen, Linda Michele, Ann Davies and Anne Lord, who are members of the RCT Creative Writers Group, read selections from their 10th Anniversary publication “Handle with Care” ably supported by Members Jess Morgan, Gerhard Kress, Helen Probyn-Williams and Rachel Williams.  Jakey (12), our favourite therapy dog was present to ensure that everyone was feeling safe and well.

The interlude that followed included the results of the Raffle, closely followed by the Art Auction which had bids bouncing from every direction in the audience. The Open mic participation was offered to the audience as one of the young Avant Cymru dancers stepped forward to sing, closely followed by singer guitarist Lee Harvey from Aberdare. Talent can be found in quiet places as Josh and his “companion” dummy took up the Ventriloquist mantle for the night in a comedic conversation. The Bella Vista Coffee Club brought the house down with their jazz performance provided by Ann and Paul Hughes, Jim Barrett, Helen Probyn-Williams and Sally Churchill.

TimeLine a trio of local singers and musicians namely Nigel, Gary and Keith, opened the second half of the evening’s entertainment. Their songs were rich and melodious and the audience were soon joining in with the verses of the songs that brought back so many treasured memories.

Tricycle, comprising of Gerhard Kress, Paul Rosser and Michael Morton brought the event to a close with the atmospheric musical sounds of a fiddle combined with guitars alongside their passionate lyrics.

Louise Gaw, Project Coordinator for Changing People Changing Lives at the Arts Factory Ferndale introduced Sara Beer, South Wales Regional Officer of DAC (Disability Arts Cymru) to bring the evening to a close. Thanking all within the Arts Factory and DAC for their hard work in organising the event.  Goody Bags were given to people as they left including items from DAC. Gifts were kindly donated by Francesca Kay the noted WordArt, Poet and Letter Press professional from Hay on Wye, who is a friend of RCT Creative Writers Group

I would like to personally extend my appreciation to all who responded to the request for participants and to RCT Creative Group Members who supported me in arranging this event giving their time and energy freely to provide a true Noson Llawen Merry Night to remember for those who attended. 

We were all left with the memories of songs, music, dance, poetry and stories echoing the creative talent that is within the community.

Times have changed and we are now finding ourselves in an unprecedented situation.

WE are all the waves on the same sea, and at this moment we send each other a virtual hug with the message to stay safe and well.

MaDCaff maintains the talent of RCT.

With thanks and appreciation to
Sara Beer and Volunteers of Disability Arts Cymru
Louise Gaw and Volunteers of Arts Factory Ferndale
RCT Creative Writers Group Members especially Anne Jess Les Gerhard Helen and Rachel not forgetting Jakey
Carole Kratze
Francesca Kay
To photographers for their kind permission

Sara Mayo Gerhard Kress Anne Lord Jess Morgan
Open Mic performers 

Jamie Berry of Avant Cymru and dancers Jeff Japers for his Master of Ceremonies Gaudy OrdeNutz ‘n’ BoltzTimeLine Tricycle
and for all who gave their support for this event to raise funds for Mental Health

Diolch yn fawr iawn

Graduate Showcase Anna Billes

Many Welsh or Wales based arts graduates are finding this current period especially difficult. Their usual opportunities to meet agents, prepare for final year exhibitions or productions may take place later in the year or sadly not at all. To raise awareness of the diverse talent graduating this year GTC is offering any Welsh or Wales based graduate the opportunity to be showcased on our website. If you are interested, please do get in touch.

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

Hello Guy, of course! I have just graduated from my BA Hons Degree Course in Creative and Therapeutic Arts at The University of South Wales.

I have a background in Support Work, Drum Circle Facilitation and Therapeutic Work with the Touch Trust in Cardiff Bay, supporting participants who have a variety of needs to explore the Arts during sensory sessions. I am now going on to develop my business called ‘Young at HeArt’; supporting people of all ages and stages to explore the Arts in intuitive and creative ways. You can find out more about me at my website. Facebook or Instagram.

As part of my graduate, online art exhibition for the final year of my Creative and Therapeutic Arts Degree Course, I will be hosting an ‘Online Parade,’ based on the old folklore tale of Pontypridd’s River Taff. The ‘Online Parade’ will take place on May the 16th (2020) (arriving for 1:45pm) starting at 2pm.


So what got you interested in the arts?

I always enjoyed art in school. In fact, I went to a Steiner School from 14-18 years old. My education at the Steiner School in Edinburgh encouraged me to pursue art as my passion as everything we learned was taught in an arty and holistic way. 

Can you tell us about your creative process?

During my last three years at University, I have discovered that Community is my ‘Art’; my Arts practice revolves around the participants that I work with and their needs. I enjoy exploring the Arts in an intuitive sense, supporting my participants to shape our Arts sessions together in ways which suit them and their creative process. 

As a young Welsh artist graduating during a very difficult period what investment and support do you think is required to enable your career to develop and prosper?

Interestingly, I’m actually from Scotland in Edinburgh, although I studied my course in South Wales. At the moment my biggest question is “Where would I like to live next?” In a sense, the world feels like my oyster. I’m happy to go where the work leads me at this point. If someone was to offer me a Community Arts job, working with participants of all ages and stages in a holistic environment, I would be very happy with that! 

A range of arts organisation and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working?

At the moment I am working on an online Arts project with Artis Community, exploring the mask making along the theme of ‘Your Inner Warrior.’ At the end of this project, once I have made a series of videos detailing how to make and what you can do with your ‘Warrior Mask,’ I will facilitate a ‘Masquerade Hour’ on Zoom. I’m really looking forward to this! 

I’ve also really enjoyed engaging with some of my drummer friends online. For example my friend Jane Bentley, Doctor of Music, has been working with ‘Luminate’ to show people at home how they can turn their living rooms into an orchestra made out of every day household items. 

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

I think I would fund more intergenerational projects; encouraging older adults and children to explore the Arts together and teach each other their own artistic skills. I am very passionate about working with intergenerational groups, as I think mixing the age groups can really encourage participants to try out new artistic mediums and most importantly, build positive friendships with each other. 

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

There seems to be so much going on in the South Wales creative scene! Through my University course I have connected with many amazing Arts professionals who are doing some very exciting and valuable work in hospitals, schools and communities. There seems to be lots of creative opportunities popping up all the time which is wonderful. 


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

Over the last year I have been working on a project called ‘The Heartbeat Project’ with Studio Response at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport; supporting children in hospital to create musical and artistic responses to their heartbeats which they heard through a stethoscope. While my participants played their responses to their heartbeats on djembe drums, bells, chimes and other percussion instruments, I recorded the them on my phone and then we listened back to the recorded sounds and painted what we heard onto a sheet of paper. I am currently in the process of also making a soundscape out of the sounds which I explored with each group of participants. This soundscape will be played in the Multifaith room in the new Grange Hospital in Cwmbran once it has been fully built.  

 Thanks for your time, Anna.