Category Archives: Literature

‘Rebuilding Welsh Theatre: The Rise of The Playwrights!’

In this interview Catherine Paskell, Artistic Director of new writing company Dirty Protest speaks to Guy O’Donnell about the background of Dirty Protest, Right Now a new online theatre festival and her future plans.

Hi Catherine thanks for taking the time to chat with me. We last spoke as you were about to take Sugar Baby by Alan Harris to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017.

We are meeting today to discuss a festival closer to home which takes place in Newport this November.

Right Now, Online Theatre Festival. A short online festival of work in progress from some of Wales’ most exciting solo-performance-makers. The event takes place online from the 23 Nov- 28 Nov, 23:00 On the Le Public Space Website.

The event is described as,

“Right Now is an expression of urgency. Because theatre isn’t temporarily paused waiting to happen some where in the near future. It’s alive but physically unable to be experienced. It’s here now.”

This sounds like a vital arts event, how did Dirty Protest come to be involved?

It’s vital that theatre continues to be seen and enjoyed, because theatre and performance has continued throughout the global pandemic. Dirty Protest, like Le Public Space and many inspirational companies didn’t stop making work, engaging artists and talking with audiences and our wider communities as the Coronavirus hit. We found new and different ways to keep going and keep each other going. This is a celebration of that, and an invitation for others to join us in rebuilding and reimagining theatre in Wales.

One of the specific events you are supporting is an open conversation titled ‘Rebuilding Welsh Theatre: The Rise of the Playwrights!’ This takes place on Fri 27th Nov at 4.30pm.

Dirty Protest has a rich history in supporting Welsh Playwrights from script in hand readings in a yurt at Milgis, Cardiff, performances at The Royal Court in London to National tours of award-winning plays. Has the support networks for Welsh Playwrights and the resulting work being produced improved over the lifetime of DP and if so how?

When Dirty Protest first started in 2007, there was no one offering the network and opportunities that we built. It’s why we started in the first place. Over the lifetime of DP so far, many newer companies than us have cited Dirty Protest as their inspiration, including the founders of National Theatre Wales, The Other Room in Cardiff and other numerous Fringe theatre companies who have produced work by Playwrights. In that time, we have seen improvements, as well as the sector still struggling to offer the support that Playwrights really need to sustain their own careers and produce work worthy of our audiences.

In the past 13 years, the networks and opportunities for emerging Welsh Playwrights have become more numerous. The Fringe scene has grown exponentially. Having a big Fringe scene and more Fringe producing companies give more frequent opportunities for early career artists. In recent years, we have seen more Welsh Playwrights produce work that is noticed on stages, television screens and streaming services across Wales and outside our borders. More theatres and companies are offering early career development, and there have been opportunities for writers to get work out there across numerous digital platforms in the global pandemic.

In this time, we have also seen the erosion of openly available spaces for Fringe companies and playwrights to try out their ideas. Spaces that were accessible and free to use in our formative years – pubs and cafes and little shops – now either don’t exist, or those that do now charge hire fees for artists to use the space, or require a share of ticket sales, or guaranteed spend on the bar. The Fringe is bigger, but there are fewer open access spaces and less opportunities to get work made unless you are already connected to the “right” people, or have the money to hire a small space for performance. This squeezes out certain artists and also means we tend to hear similar voices and stories, at a time when we need to hear more under-represented voices and stories.

We also need to see more opportunities open up for our mid-career writers and those Playwrights who are stuck in the space after their first play, when they need a second, third and fourth investment (and maybe more) to kick off their career. We need much more investment for artists beyond the early years,  when companies and producers want to find “their” playwright or claim to have “discovered” a new voice. The truth is that Wales is a nation of playwrights who need sustained, long term investment and they are being underserved by the current system.

I believe you will be discussing the questions below for your Open Conversation, why did you decide on them and what do you hope to achieve? The questions are;

How relevant are playwrights? 

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected? 

Who gets to write the story?  

What do writers really need right now? 

We decided on these questions because these have come up repeatedly through the global pandemic in meetings with artists and audiences. We want to provide a platform to reimagine what we want theatre in Wales to be, and how we exist in the world during and after a global pandemic.

This conversation at 4:30pm on Friday 27 November needs to be useful for Playwrights and those who work with them, a practical resource as well as space for Playwrights to share, be listened to, and to take action towards changing the sector, to make it more democratic and more accountable. These questions frame real concerns for the sector and our artists and audiences, so it’s a place to start.

Please do come along and join the conversation, to be heard, to listen and to move forward.

Alongside Catherine we asked a range of Welsh/Wales based Playwrights to give their own response to the questions proposed by Dirty Protest.

Connor Allen

How relevant are playwrights?

Playwrights are integral to storytelling. Their relevance is second to none because stories are so important. Ever since the dawn of time stories have been a way of communicating and understanding our places and purpose. Thats where playwrights come in as they write the stories that entertain us, reflect our experiences back at ourselves. Without playwrights we wouldn’t have the broad range of stories to connect with. 

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected? 

I think both. I always say that theatre is a reflection of life and all lives are different so audiences get to see different reflections of different experiences all the time. BUT also audiences want to be entertained and an escapism of the real world can be achieved through theatre and TV. They can escape for an hour and just get absorbed in the joy and magic of the story being told. 

Who gets to write the story? 

I believe that anyone can tell and write stories. It depends on the context. Wether that comes from a genuine place is a different story. We all have stories to tell as we are all unique miracles with different perceptions of the world and different experiences that have made us the people that we are. Contained within that are beautiful stories that deserve to be told. I think in todays society we are more aware of the authenticity behind peoples stories and experiences. Where representation and opportunity is rife we can’t have the same people telling the same stories. BUT does that mean that only certain people can tell certain stories specific to them. Its a difficult question. I think there’s a difference between a white playwright writing a play with a black character in it as opposed to a white playwright writing a play about what it means to be black for example and I think a lot of people confuse those two points.

 What do writers really need right now?

Time and financial support. Those are the 2 key factors I think that writers need as of now. Time to work on that next idea without the  worry of how the rent is going to get paid. Also constructive feedback on drafts where playwrights can have their work in progress read to audiences to help the development. i  find it so helpful to hear my words read out loud. Having that option readily available for playwrights is another thing but in a  constructive way. There is no point saying “that was shit” because that’s not helpful to a playwright. Thats not helpful to anyone. Give  them constructive points on how to make it better and the current playwrights will develop work that is truly exceptional (not that it  isn’t already)

Rachel Trezise

How relevant are playwrights? 

More than ever before we need playwrights to tackle the issues of class and identity. The UK and beyond is dangerously politically divided. Times are strange and volatile. Out of all the art forms, theatre has the most ability to put audiences into characters shoes and consider other people’s point of view.·        

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected? 

Both! And a well-told story can do both. For some of the audience it will be escape and for others a reflection of their own experiences. We just need to make sure we have enough stories to speak for everyone. 

Who gets to write the story?  

Someone who knows it in their heart, their head, their bones. 

What do writers really need right now? 

To know how relevant they are. 

Jon Treganna

How relevant are playwrights?

Theatre is one of the oldest forms of storytelling. Clearly now people get drama from TV, social, books and online content, but a great piece of theatre can move people like nothing else. It’s a shared experience.

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected?

I’m not one for kitchen sink dramas and my heart sinks when I see a sofa and 2 chairs on stage. I think that people go to the theatre for a sense of adventure and to escape their lives, especially after Covid and austerity. Even if a play reflects their lives, it should be heightened and they should be moved or thrilled.

Who gets to write the story?

I like interactive dramas where the audience is part of the show. However, I might be old school but I think the playwright writes the story.

What do writers really need right now?

We need shows back on stages, even with social distancing. We need to create theatre shows that dazzle and entertain after such a dark period. And yes, we need more commissions.

Lisa Parry

 How relevant are playwrights?

Playwrights themselves or the work? Plays themselves ebb and flow depending on the times; I think that’s the magic of them. CP Taylor’s Good feels really relevant at the moment but it was commissioned in the early 80s. But if you’re asking whether playwrights in Wales are relevant to the scene here, then I would say 100% yes – you only need to look at the audience numbers for shows like Iphigenia in Splott or Sugar Baby. But I don’t think we’ve been given a chance to prove how relevant we are yet. I think that was only just starting to happen before lockdown with the announcement of a new literary department at the Sherman. During lockdown and the rest of this year, it’s been playwrights making the work that we’ve been able to experience, partly because it’s easy enough to do that over Zoom. And I think the commitment of companies like the Sherman and Clwyd to addressing BLM will help in terms of ensuring that the voices coming through are representational and therefore the work relevant to a whole range of different communities that make up modern Wales.

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected?

Both. It’s hard to enjoy a story – even if you’re after pure escapism – if you can’t relate to it in some way. There’s always a chink or an in. And you never know what that’s going to be for the individual audience member. But getting that balance right after Covid is going to be an interesting challenge and one I think we need to be mindful of.

Who gets to write the story?

I’m not sure it’s a case of who gets to write it so much as who gets to have it put on stage and there’s no escaping the fact that white male work has dominated our stages for generations, for various reasons. I think that’s changing and I think playwriting groups have helped it change but there’s still heaps more to do.

What do writers really need right now?

Support – whether that’s social support (writing’s lonely but Covid has made that a thousand times harder) and also financial support. You need time to write. Time’s tricky when you also need money to buy food and to pay the rent. The Writers’ Guild has been campaigning for theatres to keep commissioning writers so that they don’t get lost to the industry, which I think’s really important. I also think at the moment it’s really important that we keep talking to each other. It’s peculiar writing at the moment – I’ve deadlines for stages that are currently occupied by ghost lights. It’s a weird feeling. It’s also possibly the most optimistic and hopeful thing I can do and I think we need to somehow keep that belief going that we’ll be back as an industry and that the relevance of playwrights here will take a firmer hold.

Tom Wentworth

How relevant are playwrights?

We must try to reflect the times we’re living in as well as providing, as in my own work, some sense of escapism. These two potential outputs mean that playwrights are more relevant than they have ever been for reflecting and taking the temperature of the nation.

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected?

I firmly believe audiences want both. Every play should be a combination of dark and light. You can say a lot about the fractured, difficult and tremulous state of the world in  a comedy. 

 Who gets to write the story?

Whoever is from the community the play is about. I want authentic stories and top class writing. I want to see things I’ve never seen before. Say no to tokenism and cultural appropriation. If you’re from a community with a story to tell – write it .

What do writers really need right now?

Time and money, as ever. We may not have spaces for our work to be performed in but we need commissions so they will be full to the brim when performances are allowed again. Don’t skimp on the money. Pay writers properly and give them the time and dramaturgical support they need. This is not a luxury, it’s the way to ensure financial success at the box office.

Tim Price

How relevant are playwrights?

I think Playwrights have never been more important. Dramatic storytelling is the number one form humanity chooses to consume stories.  Of course there are plenty of other forms, and multidisciplinary styles and documentaries, and poetry and all the other rich outputs we achieve but fundamentally – a dramatic story is everyone’s preferred medium to understand the world. Cinema and television come from plays and playwrights. There’s a reason England and the UK generate so much Intellectual Property that sells globally, it’s because of the culture and tradition of dramatic storytelling. To build a theatre culture without dramatic storytelling at its heart is to condemn us to perpetual marginalisation. There’s vehicle to take Wales to the world, and it’s dramatic stories. We shouldn’t be anxious about it.

Do audiences want to escape their lives or have their lives reflected?

Probably both depending on where they’re at. When I was younger I wanted to see myself on stage because I didn’t see myself anywhere else. Now I’m older with responsibilities I think I want escapism. 

Who gets to write the story?

Even when I’ve written stories and had them produced I still doubt I was the right person to write it so this is a difficult question to answer. My thoughts shift week to week. I’ve been of the mind that as long writers research and write with respect they should have the freedom to write any story about any community otherwise those marginalised voices will forever be required to write stories about marginalised voices and communities. The problem is right now those with the power to get produced are predominantly from one group, so it looks extractive and exploitative when they write from places beyond their experience. I think maybe my instinct for writers to be free to write whatever they want is an aspiration the industry hasn’t earned yet. 

What do writers really need right now?

Opportunities.

Catherine Paskell

Please do come along and join the conversation, to be heard, to listen and to move forward.

We also have an event at 7:30pm on Friday evening called DIRTY PROTEST KICKS OFF. This showcases work in development by ten writer-performers, who responded to our open call out to KICK OFF.  These artists are sharing very short excerpts of work in development, to KICK OFF Friday night. Some are performing their work in Le Pub, others will be joining us on Zoom. Some are dramatic monologues, some are interactive, some mix languages of movement and text into a new play. All are the future of theatre. Come and join our Dirty Social! This is a great way to find out more about Dirty Protest, the kind of work we do, and get involved in our upcoming opportunities.

Both the Open Conversation at 16:30 and Dirty Protest KICKS OFF at 19:30 on Friday 27 November are closed captioned.

And finally, what’s next for you and Dirty Protest?

We have some really exciting announcements coming up!

As you already know, over the past 13 years, Dirty Protest has been able to support writers from the very start of early ideas, through short play development, full production and international touring. We are doing more of this, in new and bigger ways, in physical spaces AND digital spaces, with more writers, artists and arts workers. Our audio collaboration in Brazil with six young writers in the Complexo da Maré favela community in Rio will be released in December, and we have new collaborations to announce with more partners. We have been working since March to build opportunities for artists and meet with our communities and audiences – and we can announce the specifics of new Wales-based and international projects, new opportunities, a new writing artists network, and new shows in English and Welsh coming up next very soon! Watch out!

Thanks for your time Catherine

Get the Chance values the role playwrights living and working in Wales bring to the cultural life of our nation. You can read more interviews with the Playwrights above and a range of other Welsh/Wales based Playwrights here

Get the Chance is a voluntary ran organisation, to donate to our work please click here

“Finding Balance, Harmony and Our Voice Within It” An interview with Jodi Ann Nicholson and Connor Allen.

Helen Joy interviews Jodi Ann Nicholson and Connor Allen for Get the Chance, a voluntary organisation run by Guy O’Donnell and a very enthusiastic group of volunteers reviewing the Arts.

Helen

Hi Jodi and Connor great to meet you both.

Jodi

Hi I am Jodi Ann Nicholson, the dancer on Plethu/Weave project together with Connor

Connor

Hi I am Connor, an artist, poet and speaker of the word of ‘Branches of Me’.

Helen

How did you start working on this project?

Jodi

We were paired together through National Dance Company Wales and Literature Wales and we are both part of the Plethu/Weave project

Connor

We were paired and it skyrocketed from there.

Helen

Why do you say skyrocketed Connor?

Connor

I found that the conversations and the experiences we had just met and shot straight up. We carried on going and going until we hit the stars and once we were there in that beauty of space and we were able to create ‘the branches of me’.  It was a nice exploration. I felt we truly met and it skyrocketed in the conversations we had, the warmth that we shared and the talent we brought to the table.

Helen

What was it about each of you that connected?  Because quite often we are put together in projects and it doesn’t always necessarily work, you don’t find that mutual passion.  What was it that you found in each other that enabled you to work together so well? 

Jodi

So both of our practices separately share similar interests when it comes to exploring identity and in particular mixed race identity.  So when we came together, Connor was an easy person to talk to and easy to listen to so we just bounced off each other had a great open, honest space to communicate with each other and we shared a lot of interest in our work. 

Connor

I think for me it was meeting someone who was open and gentle as Jodi.  We were able to have those conversations where we could connect and just talk and talk for hours, understanding each other.  On a base human level it’s beautiful and on these types of project it just helps.

Helen

What was the message you were trying to get across? What is the project about?

Connor

Personally it is about that exploration of a mixed race identity in a society that sees race as black and white.  There is a unique point in a mixed race identity where you visualise a family tree and it has black branches and white branches.  It is both of those cultures and ethnicities that make us what we are.  Growing up, my exploration of identity was unique because I was too white for my black friends but too black for my white friends. So I was thinking, well where do I fit in? I don’t feel like I fit in either part of this thread.  That is what is great about working on this project and chatting with Jodi.  We can then bounce off each other and say that yeah, I felt that and I can relate to that.  So that we then started to formulate an idea.  It was not just me.  Growing up I felt a lot of times that it was just me.  Why am I feeling like this, when no one else is?

Jodi

I would say a lot of the same as Connor has.  Looking about what it is to be mixed race in a world where it is going to be white to be black and finding the balance and harmony and finding our voice within it.  Because we are two people who have been looking at this separately for a while, to come together and realise that we do share a lot of these experiences.  You start to realise that perhaps this isn’t just our individual dilemmas of identity.  Maybe other people of mixed race and backgrounds share the same thing as well. I think it was important to get our voices out and work out what our voice is and hopefully share what other peoples voice is.

Connor

So then we can get universal.  We have our individual experiences we bounce off and we can use that to get to the heart of why we feel like this.  Once we get to the heart of the issue. I hate the word issue, it’s not an issue.

Jodi

Experience maybe

Connor

That’s why she is brilliant see! By having the universality of our experience and that of ethnicity others can relate to it. 

Helen

This issue around visual identity and how we are seen and how we want to be seen is a massive one.  It’s a human condition isn’t it? You are trying to find a way of illustrating and narrating how it feels to be in that grey area in between black and white and how that feels and how you share that and share it in a universal way.  And you have done it playing to your individual strengths.  So Jodi, you’re a dancer, Connor you are an actor, writer, poet.  And you’ve pulled together those different ways of communication to produce a two minute track.  How did it feel to make that film? Do you feel confident you have got those messages across?  And what are those messages that you really want us to get?

Connor

I personally feel confident, not so much a message but that it has definitely opened up a conversation around these issues where people can relate to that or say ‘that line, that really stuck with me’.  So a lot of films being created were about 90 seconds and we went back and forth so many times because we just couldn’t hit that limit.  And actually we don’t want to sacrifice our art and our vision to try and move it down to there.  We truly believe in the potential in this and to get the true message across it needs to be the length it needs to be and we got it to 2 minutes.  We were not going to sacrifice any more.  It was an important point for us to say that this is the story we want to tell.

Helen

I tell you what, I’ve grown to really like a lot of the modern poets in a way that I did not think I would.

William Dean Ford

I was working with a guy called William Dean Ford last week on a mental health project with some poetry and he quite often uses the Haiku format, but kind of repeatedly so it is a kind of Haiku in verses if that makes sense and I’ve been really struck at poetry as a means of getting through to people.  I’ve been really struck by that recently and I think that because now we’re trained like Pavlov’s dogs into snippets of information, you know social media drives snippets of information all the time, everything is short and fast and I’ve been interested in watching the poets respond to that and being so careful and so sensitive about their use of words to make best use of that space. It’s been absolutely brilliant.  Now I think they have a role that wasn’t there for a long time.

Connor

Yeah that means like there is power in words.  Words carry so much power and weight that sometimes people forget that.  In the same way that music can have a profound effect on you as you can relate to that and you hear those lyrics and they resonate with you in a way that other things don’t.  Words are some of the most powerful tools we have

Helen

Yes they are and I’ve been fascinated in recent years with dance for exactly the same reason.  Jodi you used that word ‘Economy’ and inspiring people to think about things in different ways and its part of what you are trying to do. Okay, if you can’t get it that way, try it this way it’s using all the things at our fingertips to say you need to think about this.  You know you can’t ignore this, it’s really important

Jodi

When it comes to dance you have to communicate.  Half or a good measure of our communication comes from our bodies as well as language and words so I think dance works well as it communicates in a different way and level than language or words.

Helen

Tell us about this video, ‘Identity – Black Lives Matter’ and your role in communicating what it feels like to you as a mixed race individuals.

Connor

For me personally, I did an interesting thing.  I just watched it, turned the audio off so just watched Jodi’s dance and it is a different experience.  For me this is linked, we know why we made it and our exploration.  But for me it’s about what it means for whoever needs it.  Its subjective, some people are going to watch that and it will deeply resonate with them, at a level that other pieces might not and other people are going to be educated, and say, ‘wow, I’ve never even thought about that, it’s really interesting.’ And there might be people out there watching and thinking ‘that’s a load of crap.’ And just skip past it.  And that’s fine. It’s what it is to them. We will always have our back and forth, our moment of exploring and what it means for us as two mixed race artists.  We are quite open and honest about that.  It is about that exploration of identity and what that means – Where do we fit it in to this movement of Black Lives Matter in this pivotal moment in society and in history. Right now we are in a unique tipping point that Black Lives Matter and black lives are being shone in a different light. People are hearing our stories and listening to our voices. On the one hand there are a lot of people who are scared by that but at the same time there are a lot of people embracing and supporting that. It’s a unique balance for me.  What I would like is for people to watch the film and to spark up conversations about what an intertwined identity means on both levels. 

I read a really interesting quote by Donald Glover and Michaela Corel in GQ magazine.  Donald talks there of how a lot of white people are scared to have those conversations as they might see themselves reflected back on themselves and that is a scary thing, to know that you might have said the wrong thing to someone or that you might carry those prejudices and you might not like them.  I think because we live in a society of counter culture and outrage, people are quick to say ‘No you’re wrong and I’m right’.  It is just about opening up that conversation because I truly believe that if you walk in the shoes of another person you have a greater capacity for empathy and that all it is about.  Knowing that we have our experiences but there are going to be other experiences.  As I was saying to Jodi, I can never relate to what it means to be a woman because I am not a women. I don’t have menstrual cycles I don’t carry children, and there are all these other things I can’t relate to I can’t resonate but what I can do because I’ve been raised by a Queen is knowing in some way what it means to go through those issues, those adversities is be an ally and support women and females.  That is all we are asking.  Even if you don’t fully agree with us, even if it doesn’t resonate, you can still be an ally, you can still listen and have that greater capacity for empathy.  A lot of people nowadays say they don’t see colour, but you have to see colour to see our experience and then empathise with what we are going through.  You might not be able to relate to but you can empathise what we are going through.  Long story short, I just want the film to open up the door to empathy for other mixed race or black people who are feeling the way we are feeling. 

Helen   

I was just going to say to Jodi that you are communicating in a very different way from Connor, who is using the spoken word to get his narrative across and he is doing it in a very universal, embracing way.  You are using the medium of dance and film.  How do you feel when you put your work out there and people can interpret it in all sorts of different ways and not just the way you necessarily want.

Jodi

I am completely fine with that ultimately. I know that there is a space for interpretation when you put anything out there no matter what form it takes whether it’s through poetry, right through art or whether it’s through dance. When I put work out there, there has been a long process before it that I have worked out whether it’s by myself or with somebody I have been collaborating with, working out what it is I want to say, what it is I think and how I think it is best to communicate and to show this through my body, through film, through whatever medium I’m using.  I am very open and I put it out there for there to be conversation about how people experience what I am talking about or what I am trying to get across.  Sometimes its picked up and people think that is exactly how I feel, It’s exactly what I think and this is my experience and it’s a completely shared thing.  Other people go ‘Oh, I don’t quite understand what you are talking about or what you are trying to show.’ And I go ‘well okay, why?  Or what is it that you did get?’  And I think that is just as interesting and just as important to me as an artist. Because either something new will come out of it that I will then learn from or I’ll go, ‘Okay, I need to work on that as an artist.’ Depending on how important it is to me that a particular message is got across. I put work out there for the conversation about in this case, Identity.  And how we experience each other and have space to have openness to experiencing other people and their lives. 

Connor

Going off the back of that, I learned recently, a year back, there was this Russian practitioner called Kushelov and he came up with this thing called ‘The Kushelov Effect.’  He made three short films, and he got a Russian actress and he wanted to try and grab the visuals of what it meant and show what hunger, grief and laughter felt like. He wanted to film the three emotions in their entirety.  He filmed this actress looking into an empty bowl, a coffin and something else and filmed the shot.  He released this film of these three stages band it just went crazy, and people went ‘OMG, the actress has really got the true meaning of grief in her eyes and the innocence in her laughter, you can just tell it’ 

It came out years later that he used the exact same shot on all three films. So what that meant was, its just audience subjectivity.  It is subjective to the audience.  They put the take on that.  Going off what you said then it is quite similar.  We know why we made this, and why we make our work but as soon as it goes out there, it is up to the audiences’ perceptions to be ‘Ah, you meant that, didn’t you.’ Or, ‘I didn’t quite get that,’ it’s not really resonated.  It’s just subjectivity, and what it means to the audience. 

Helen

And I think there is something there about taking the fear out of the conversations.  We are all struggling with using the right words, the right time, the right people and the right place.  It takes away the honesty and the openness sometimes.  So it is really important to have those conversations.  That’s how people change, how they are educated.  In my view it needs to be done in the most non-confrontational way as possible so that you are embracing all those different views.

Connor

You need those.  You need different views but you need also that openness to say ‘okay cool so that what you have just said is not how we’re perceived but I can educate you on the right terminology or the right way to think about it.‘  So education for me is key. I could be screaming down a void, the black hole that is Twitter and saying ‘this is how I should be feeling now’ And that’s fine.  J Cole is a rapper, he released a song recently where he spoke quite openly about that won’t culture and how he is not that. I think everyone has their ways of trying to tackle musicians who deal with that.  Some people are very vocal and will do all their research and they will go out there and ban drugs.  Other people like me, I’m very reserved and I would rather speak to individuals and plant these little seeds and hopefully then they will grow into fruition years later.  I work in these communities in that way.

For me personally it is about education and we just need to be more open and willing to be like ‘You can’t say that because that offends me, or I don’t like that’.  For example using the N word.  Some members of the community will use the N word other people won’t. 

Kendrick Lamarr

Kendrick Lamarr had an issue where he was in Australia on a world tour and he brought a white female fan up on stage and she started rapping along to one of his songs and then obviously the N word was in the song and so she said the N word and he stopped the show.  And he said ‘whoa, no, you don’t get to say that.’ But in that instance for example, it’s in your music and she was a fan and she’s just singing along.  So instead of automatically saying ‘You don’t get to say that cos you are white.’ Let’s have this conversation.  Why can’t she say that because she is rapping along to a song and she is a fan? They are awkward conversations and you are trying to justify as to why a section of society gets to say well ‘you get to say that, why can’t I say that word?‘ Firstly there are two iterations of that word, one with an ‘a’ and one with an ‘er’ so it depends on what connotation you are using. By having more openness, gentleness and willingness to engage in conversation.  It doesn’t have to be confrontational.  You can have a nice debate and you are not always going to see eye to eye and that’s fine.  You don’t have to agree with everything we are saying if you can say that you can see where you are coming from, I just don’t agree.  That’s also fine, it’s the small victories.

Jodi

I’m with Connor, I think education is massive, important.  There just needs to be space for people to speak their mind and learn from each other.  I know from myself in general in life I can be really scared about talking sometimes because I am trying to make sure that once the words have left my mouth I am not going to regret it or change my mind afterwards.  I think that if you don’t understand something or you don’t know then people need to give you the space to ask. Maybe you are going to get it wrong or you may offend somebody or you are not going to offend anyone, but there be space for it to be said because once we start talking about it we can start understanding it and each other and where we are coming from.  We shouldn’t be scared about getting it wrong.  You can get it wrong once, maybe not twice or three times.  Which is why I think my work and this piece is about wanting to open up the conversation, this is what we have been talking about for the last month and what we have been thinking about ourselves for years.  This is our point of showing you guys, now what do you think.  Let’s have space to do that.  Because when it comes to race it is important to have the conversations and feel confident to do so.

Helen

And it is up to all of us to create the environment to have that conversation.  To make that safe space so that however those conversations are being had in whatever medium they are embraced and valued. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed listening to you.  You are the most remarkable people and I don’t doubt you are going to have remarkable futures.  I would recommend to anybody that they follow Jodi and Connor and in particular pick up on this latest video piece because it is absolutely beautiful.  Can you tell us where we can find that video what it is called and how we could contact you if we wanted to have that conversation?

Connor

The pieces are called ‘The Branches of Me.’  It can be found on Literature Wales and National Dance Company Wales Twitter. It’s also NDCWales website and on You Tube.

Jodi

It’s on Instagram. All social media platforms used by literature Wales and National Dance Company Wales.

Connor

If you want to contact me, I am on Twitter, @connor_allen92 or my website, connorallen.co.uk there is a contact form on there.

Jodi

To contact me, probably my Instagram is best, jodiannnicholson_dance_artist or I have a website with a contact page, that is jodiannnicholson@weebly. com

Helen

Thank you so much both of you, this is so important.  Anybody who is feeling that they are not part of something…. It’s dreadful really.  We all need to feel part of something. We are herd animals and to feel excluded from a conversation in any sense is not a nice feeling, thanks for your time.

Interview transcribed by Richard Evans, Get the Chance.

An Interview with Poet Marvin Thompson

Get the Chance member Helen Joy, interviews Poet Marvin Thompson. In this interview Marvin discusses his background. How issues such as Black Lives Matter have impacted on his current practice and Plethu a collaboration with Literature Wales/National Dance Company Wales and Dancer Ed Myhill.

Plethu / Weave: Triptych Part 1 by/gan Marvin Thompson and Ed Myhill

Please note: This video contains deliberate use of a highly offensive racial slur and images that some viewers might find distressing. These elements are relevant to the context of the artistic work which explores Wales’ relationship with the transatlantic slave trade.

“An Empowering Narrative for what is usually, a very Disempowered History” An Interview with Lawrence Hoo.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Bristol based poet, Lawrence Hoo. It was a truly enlightening conversation and we discuss all things Race, Class and Education. You can find out more about his latest projects at www.lawrencehoo.com or more about the Cargo project at @cargomovement on Instagram and social media. (Becky Johnson)

Read Part 1 below to see what he had to say:

Hi Lawrence, it’s lovely to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

Hi, my name is Lawrence. I live in Bristol, well I’ve lived in Bristol for almost my whole life, and I’m a poet.

I was born in Birmingham and grew up in mostly marginalised communities in Bristol. I spent a lot of my youth in and out of the care system. I went to 6 secondary schools and after that, I didn’t have any form of education. I was a feral kid on the street from the age of 6 and a runaway. When I was 19, I had cancer and I went through a bad stage of my life after that. I thought that the cancer was going to kill me anyway and I went back to living on the road.  And then at 30, I became a father for the first time. To be honest, it scared the living daylights out of me. But that’s about it vaguely.

I wanted to see if I could make myself a better person and make more of my life. So I went back and re-educated myself and began to teach others how to use computers. I did that for four years and got burned out. So, I started to do my poetry.

My poetry came from a place of rage and from questioning why the authorities were allowing situations to occur in these certain environments rather than in the rest of Britain. All the laws that need to protect people exist but for some reason the action isn’t being taken to enforce them.

 A point of that was when my partner was picking up our young son from nursery in Saint Pauls and she was approached. We then, campaigned against paedophiles being allowed to stay in the hostel which backs onto our nursery. It came out and we succeeded to make Bristol safer.

And that’s why I use poetry as a platform to try and make these changes happen.

I acknowledge that a lot of your previous work and ethos is grown around Bristol and the things that surround you there. I know that similarly to Tiger Bay in Cardiff, Bristol is going through a huge gentrification process. I was wondering on what not only your thoughts are on this but also what impact you have already seen from this?

I think is painful to see the gentrification. It goes back to those laws again., they hold all of these problems in communities.

In Saint Pauls there would be safe houses to protect those from people who have committed crimes as well as hostels for those who have committed crimes. There was drug rehabilitation centres and parole offices, but they were put next to the only place in Bristol, where you could legally sell drugs on the streets. They put the drug users next to the drug dealers, they put the people at risk from sexual crime next to those who have committed sexual crimes and they put prostitution on the streets by schools.

They took all of these issues and put them into an area which was where the African Caribbean communities are, so they often associate these problems with the African Caribbean communities. But, if we take things back to sherlock Holmes times, there were people smoking opium and he would investigate the murders of prostitutes. All these problems came along a long time before we came to Britain.

The children who are growing up in Saint Paul’s, because of the violence, lose their innocence way too young. That’s what I find heart-breaking. The way Saint Paul’s was policed (well actually I say policed but it was more so ‘contained the issues so they didn’t affect the other communities’) means the influence and protection of those other communities, is so different to what happens in Saint Paul’s.

Building prices are going up which is forcing working class people to move out of the areas which they grew up in. With Saint Paul’s it’s the council assets. The things that the working class need the most will be the first things to go. There’s no chance for people to come back into the communities they’re from. And with the services are removed, the communities become very affluent causing the communities to shift and there is nowhere for those that grew up there to live in the area.

So adding onto that, what do you think of the increase of students and the spreading of students away from Gloucester road and into Saint Paul’s? Is this bringing a positive impact, or is it doing the opposite and removing opportunities for those that are from the area?

It was always going to be a natural progression that Saint Paul’s was going to be reclaimed because of where it is located. It’s just an expansion of an affluent area but, at the same time, all it has done is push out the communities that was there before. It just benefits one community and marginalises another. It’s heart-breaking.

I’ve grown up there and lived there. It’s always been my safe spot. Regardless of all of the chaos of the city, if you’re from African Caribbean descent, it’s a safe place. It’s just devastating. Gentrification is devastating. I don’t see any positives from gentrification.

As a homeowner, gentrification has increased the value of my property. But there’s not much of my community left. I feel like a stranger. Some people say yeah but you can make money from it, but I’ve lost my home. I’ve got my house, but the community is my family. That whole family aspect of life is gone. My home is gone.

I don’t think people actually understand what it’s like to lose that familiarity, that security and that family. What it’s like when its gone.

The university of Bristol is such a huge entity in the city, and it needs to do more. I’m working with the university now, but I want to work with it to help collect the wider communities of the city and to support them. Everybody says black lives matter. But working-class people’s lives matter.

The whole city is classist.

Its problem the main issue of the city. There’s the golden circle for a mile around the city which makes a very affluent area. But one thing that’s very rare to hear in this area is a Bristolian accent. A lot of Bristolians are cast out of opportunities here. I believe it’s time for those big institutions to connect and to gather communities to raise their platforms with them. A part of Bristol is accelerating so quickly but it is leaving a huge part of Bristol behind.

So your latest project, the Cargo project, has recently received National lottery funding (congratulations). Why was the Cargo project initiated and how was it developed into the current version in which it sits?

In 2007 I did a collection called HOO stories. Which was a response to the abolition to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was an opinionated set of poems that held a non-Eurocentric view. It was holding up a light to the actions of Europeans and gave a positive light to people of African descent, allowing it to be seen from an African-centric view. It pointed out people that had contributed greatly to society but who had pretty much been emitted from history.

Cargo was an extension of this. Looking at what people have been told has been done and then showing what has actually been done as well as looking at what you have actually done yourself. Cargo showed African resilience and African’s generating opportunities.

The beginning of the collection probably looks at the first 400-500 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, when people were just classed as cargo. Covering that journey and how they were put in the conditions that made them in slaves as well as the achievements of those of African descent. It starts in Bristol and then goes into the slave trade, the Hacienda revolution, H Samuel Sharp, and the uprisings and then continues with those that fought against and contributed to civilisation. An empowering narrative for what is usually, a very disempowered history.

It was done because I live in Bristol and you cannot get away from Bristol’s history. Every building you look at is made from Bath stone which came from that industry. I live in a city that’s very painful to live in.  

As a young black man, I couldn’t get my head around the fact that men didn’t fight to defend their wives and children. I always thought, my people didn’t fight then but I can fight now. When I realised that they did fight and rebel, that changed for me. I thought that people were so dehumanised that they stopped seeing themselves as human and it breaks my heart. But then, you realise that they did fight and what happened to them, was crimes.

But they saw that evil, and they fought and fought and fought. I wanted my children to not grow up with the same anger that I had and that’s where the collection came from. I want to give the children of Britain the opportunity to not be me.

It started off as an installation as four different shipping containers on College Green (Bristol). The idea of using shipping containers removed the permissions needed to display this information e.g. the approval of museums and galleries. We didn’t want to have to prove that our work had value to other institutions. So that although there were permissions needed, it was a lot more flexible than the others.  But because of Covid-19, the idea of putting people in a confined space walking around stopped being possible.

Covid-19 took the installation and we thought, how do we keep this moving forward? How can we make it more digital? We wanted to give people accessibility to information. So we went forwards with the Classroom project. The installation although on hold, is still in process.

The Cargo Classroom project is so important and it’s brilliant that you’ve been able to kick off something as monumental as this. What do you believe is the next step to get this information into mainstream education?

We produce a product that they feel they can’t not use, that’s the first step. Making something that people want to use and then work towards getting that into the curriculum.

This is the crazy thing, for years, we’ve been pushing and pushing but because of what’s happened in the last 6 months, people have actually come looking for us. That has been a huge change. The most important thing for us to do, is to keep focussed on what we have already been doing and to not get involved in loads of things. This is what we were doing before we got national attention. We need to make sure we deliver what we set out to deliver before we then look at what the other opportunities are.

The funny thing is, I’m so excited for what were doing. The possibilities are insane. This is the right time, we have the right product and we have the willpower to push it.

The attention will soon fall off if people aren’t prepared to put the work in. What is happening currently isn’t new, we had a global black lives matter campaign 4 years ago. And literally, outside of America, in a few weeks, it had gone.

We don’t need huge numbers as long as we keep pushing the right buttons. The group who did the protest a few months ago are still going and are making sure its not going anywhere. This young group, I believe they’re going to keep it going and make some change, for real.

Here in Wales, where Get the Chance is based, there is a campaign calling for Black history to be taught to Welsh pupils in school which has received more than 30,000 signatures within days of it being set up,  educating pupils on subjects like British colonialism and slavery.

Whilst many ministers in government (both in Wales and England) acknowledge the need to shine a light on how colonisation has been glorified, why do you think the latest bill passed through parliament was rejected?

Through fear.

I think a lot of this information has been oppressed for so long that if too much of the information came out too quick, it would undermine the whole of the UK government. The whole industrial revolution was built off the back of Africans.

What is actually owed? People ask are there reparations for the past? The gains are still received today. Companies are still using Africa as a resource. They gave the countries back their independence and to the people they gave back their freedom, but it was only on the surface level that they gave it back. They didn’t give back the land or the wealth that was generated from the land. Africa is not just filled with Africans. There are huge debts to be paid.

How would the English pay off the compensation that is needed? They could give them their natural resources, and then the interest of anything earned off those resources, and then, maybe, Europe would need the aid and Africa doesn’t. The economic balance would collapse.

We need to teach people their worth, their value and what was truly stolen from them. Not only their names, identities and homes were taken but so was the ability to nourish themselves from their ancestral background.

They’re afraid to teach the history because what happened was absolutely appalling and everyone would see that. England played its part right through the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the South African apartheid in the 1990s… The 1990s.

There’s just a lot of fear. With the crimes that were committed, there’s a lot of responsibility. People think Africa contributed a lot less to society than it has because a lot of African history has been emitted. But over time the internet will allow people to get this information, which before would have been through privilege. This will add some truth to history. And European governments will have to be accountable for their actions.

In part two (coming soon) Lawrence discusses Change and what changes we need to see (and make) to make a fairer and more equal future for us all.

An interview with dancer Faye Tan on digital film project, Plethu/Weave. Interview by Eva Marloes

The lockdown with its different rhythms, the enclosed physical spaces, and enforced digital presence has been an opportunity and a challenge for artistic creation. National Dance Company Wales and Literature Wales have come together to produce Plethu/Weave, a series of four solo performances where dancers interpret a poem.  

Dancer and choreographer Faye Tan has created a subtle piece of just over one minute to the poem Ust by National Poet for Wales Ifor ap Glyn. The poem Ust (Shh) is highly physical in sound and imagery. It speaks of words as a body that moves and is translated beautifully by Faye in her delicate and yet intense movements. 

Faye was born in Singapore and has trained in ballet and contemporary dance at the Singapore Ballet Academy and School of The Arts before graduating from the Rambert School in London. She then joined Verve, the postgraduate company of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. She was always interested in learning new dance styles and has often taken extra classes to try new things. She tells me she likes “being a chameleon.” She likes the variety and exploration that contemporary dance allows. She says, 

“I always try to remember that there’s this whole spectrum of movement and amount of energy, and a whole spectrum of options to use when you dance because it’s contemporary dance. There is no expectation from the genre to do something in a certain way.” 

At dance school she developed her physicality and learned the vocabulary of dance. As a professional dancer, she is learning to express herself in dance in a more subtle way. She says, 

“In training there was a lot of discovering of the limits of my physicality, how high I can go, how much I can push myself. It was when I joined a company in Singapore, after the training, that it was more about what the work needs rather than physical training. I felt allowed to quieten down physically and discover nuances.” 

Faye Tan/Ifor ap Glyn

I ask her about working with poet Ifor ap Glyn. She tells me that they were matched by NDCWales and Literature Wales. “It was like a blind date”, she says with a giggle. She describes the poem saying that it felt like “I could zoom to a moment in time.”

I ask her what was her process, she tells me,

“I spent a couple of days at home in my living room thinking of movements and the words and how they would come together. I decided because I was confined as well and I couldn’t go out very much, I thought I’m going to do it on my balcony with quiet a plain background so that the body is the focus.”   

The evocative moves that lend a body to the words capture the delicate motion of the poem and its intensity. It seems effortless, yet Faye tells me that in the beginning she had a creative block. She tells me,

“I did not expect the creative block. The concept was very exciting. But I had to be performer, choreographer, and director. I enjoy working with other bodies.

I am not surprised me at her initial creative block. Lockdown confined the movements of all of us and separated us from other people. In Faye’s dance, I glimpse at the experience of confinement. Her moves happen in a small space and are trapped in close-ups. In Ust, Faye’s movements draw out Ifor ap Glyn’s words in beautiful harmony, or better, cynghanedd. 

You can find out more about the project here

The Invisible Ones Are The Influencers For Those Who Are Always Visible. An Interview with Ffion Campbell-Davies

I had the pleasure of interviewing Multi-disciplinary artist Ffion Campbell-Davies recently. In this interview we will be talking all things arts, creativity, Identity and Wales.

Credit Vikki Marie Page

Hi Ffion, it’s lovely to meet you and to get the opportunity to pick your brains. So just to introduce yourself to our readers, please can you give them some background on yourself and how you define yourself as an artist?

I was born and raised in Wales and moved to study at London School Of Contemporary Dance, graduating in 2013. I have since worked in various avenues within the industry as performer, teacher and choreographer. Over the last 5 years I have been developing my own artistic practice and creating my own work as well as collaborating with other artists.


I term myself as a multidisciplinary artist as a few of my disciplines other than dance are at the core of my work. My self produced work cross pollinates with music production, text, voice, expressionism, exhibitionsim, dramaturgical principles and [more recently] visual & digital art.

Credit Celine Fortenbaucher


I am a co-founding member of all female company collective House Of Absolute; we are a diverse group of multidisciplinary females creating boundary crossing, politically active theatre, sight specific and digital movement, sound & visual works collectively and independently.


My work explores themes and subjects around psychoanalysis, gender, race and spirituality, working with experimental devices and the influence of ritual to dismantle conditions around definition, power and politics.

So moving to London from Wales to gain better opportunities in the arts seems like a common trend among young people. Why do you think that is and what can we do here in Wales to change that?

I believe Wales has a lot of resources within its artistic demographic, with multiple communities of various levels and spheres of skill and knowledge. I recognise that infrastructures have excluded and disabled social mobility for many communities in being able to exercise and contribute to the collective central culture of arts in Wales.


There are many conditions which are similar in all cities here in the UK, but I believe London has an effective fluency in generating micro economies for artists to exercise and contribute to the collective culture. There seems to generally be more structures in place for diverse sources of funding to support varying different artistic communities, where sub cultures are actually at the core of reinforcing and empowering the collective. Because of this naturally people of any socio economic background have more of an access point to engage in the artistic climate, with more spread for opportunity and information to be easily accessed.

It is difficult for communities/artists outside of the capital culture [in regards to Wales; the traditional welsh cultural agenda] to be part of the solution of development and empowerment when many organisations of funding, or spaces of information and power are gated for exclusive representatives.


I see diversity as a fertiliser for soil, just the same way varying different types of stimuli rapidly develop the neural connectors in our brain, we need constant interaction with varying different human beings of different traditions, sciences, arts and practices to fuel innovation. This is something London taps into very well, in which I believe people from all over the world are drawn to.


Traditions are never lost and I believe Wales has a wonderful opportunity to find synergy with its ancient history and the fertility of its vastly diverse origins to energise and activate all representatives in wales of all different cultural backgrounds to cross pollinate.

As you have mentioned whilst in London, you’ve been a member of the company ‘House of Absolute’ which combines various street styles alongside other styles of movement. How has Hip-Hop culture helped to develop you as a Contemporary artist?

Hip-Hop has been at the axis of my growth and development. It is one of the most iconic symbols for the term ‘contemporary’ quite literally it is with the times. Hip-Hop is not only a ‘style’ but also a culture and even a philosophy with which most people involved would say it is a way of life. Hip-Hop is a mode of resistance, a political instrument for reconstruction. It is one of the most influential cultures on the planet, because of its wealth of knowledge and teachings through trans-generational art, it is legacy.


It is a cultural library archive of the preservation of people of the diaspora, which houses many different languages of the body, many trans-migrational stories of the intersectionality between races and cultures, and serves as a global home for people of any origin to communicate through mind body and spirit.

Of recent years Hip-Hop ‘theatre’ has emerged as another form of innovation to supplement indoctrinated Eurocentric modalities of black box performative culture. The marriage of visual art, story telling, acting, poetry, immersive engagement, grime music and the genius of Hip-Hop movement language and musicality. This has had a great impact on transforming my perception of using theatre space as ritual, broadcasting cultural and ancestral presence.

Overall my support and mentorship has come from;
Dance communities and peers in the underground Hip-Hop scene,
Artist4Artist an organisation run by artists for artists 
Founding members and representatives of Sadler’s Wells Breaking Convention festival. 

Growing up in Cardiff, do you think there is a significant Hip-Hop scene here and what do you think can be done to help it evolve?

There is definitely a Hip-Hop scene in Cardiff, however maybe lacking a cohesive integration of the multiple layers and dimensions of inclusivity. It is important for artists of all practices, sectors, class and culture to be in dialogue.


For examples different Hip-Hop music and visual artists, writers, poets, event organisers, venues and dancers could have more consistent relations with each other. If there aren’t visible invites and hubs/centres for representation, cultural information remains fragmented, and the overall culture cannot develop infrastructures for impact. Funding is also at the core of this.

Credit Vikki Marie Page

I understand that a lot of your work uses Identity as a concept. When in WHO (2017), you said “#TheSystem and #Society do not provide space for authentic self”, what did you mean by that and do you still find it relevant today?

I do believe society has had a long term relationship with resistance to change, and the notion that homogeny is safe, difference is threat. I recognise the culture of duality that has been at play for a long while, and that at present we may be realising as a collective society in our need for each other, dependence and preservation as a whole, which is the acknowledgement of polarity and the active inclusion for unity.


We still seem to have many protected and guarded infrastructures which dictate our attention towards fundamentalism, with which any organically evolving contemporary innovations outside of societally validated constructs are met with fear, discomfort and rejection, unless it is something recognised and originated within elitist culture.

So to draw from these concepts and bring it into the personal sphere, I believe we as individuals have the capacity to re invent ourselves any way we choose, but at the cost of being questioned and challenged constantly by those who are still existing within societal constructs.


On the one side, anything foreign to those constructs causes great discomfort, essentially the unknown, an anomaly to which we feel out of depth with our relatability. On the other side there is fatigue; being misunderstood, misrepresented, displaced, excluded, silenced, ignored, isolated and questioned. For many that is a lived experience that is still happening today. I think these polarities exist everywhere because it is essentially to do with consciousness and perception.

I feel lots of things have become cataclysmic in our society of recent. People are really fighting for spaces to empower authenticity and difference. Actually pioneering companies and representatives look to bespoke and eclectic minority individuals for inspiration and influence. The invisible ones are the influencers for those who are always visible. For example if we’re talking about fashion and media, it’s everyday people who inspire and influence those making decisions on top about what gets modelled and represented.  

I still believe there are conditions we are pressured to obtain in the broader mainstream culture which restrict us, only validating and respecting things we are a custom too, things we are told and taught have value, anything outside of that does not posess the same power.   Things we do not understand, we do not like or we do not feel comfortable with we disregard. But authenticity, originality and honesty is so powerful, in the overall context of polarity, we as a society now are recognising we need these attributes, and we are seeing willingness for difficult and uncomfortable conversations in the wider culture.

In my perspective for the majority there’s still a lot of shame, fear and taboo around self expression, and this is what makes art so evocative. When many people feel the fear of judgment, they look to artists who do and say all the things most people are terrified to do, there is this sacred unspoken empathic emancipation shared between artist and audience.  

You also spoke about the concept of ‘Mind, Body and Spirit coming together at a meeting point’ in an interview with Catch the Vibes last year. How does this psycho analysis come into the process of your making? Be that your movement or your other creative outlets?

It is particularly through the lens of dramaturgy that I get the opportunity through my work to investigate psychology. I often find that for performative works to have concrete coherence in how the work is experienced, there needs to be psychological integrity, either between the relationship of the performance and audience, or also the chronology of the work, and what the work is doing, what role it serves as an experience.

Quite often I have a focal drive to want to evoke and impact the audience in some kind of interpersonal way. In order to do that safely I really do need to understand the effect on myself of what I’m experiencing. The effect of the process, what psychological journey am I undergoing just to create the work, and then from that process constructing an infrastructure that allows me to guide the viewer into the areas of enquiry that exist in the work.


I work with all layers; the visual, the audible, the sensory, the intellectual, to find different ways of inviting my audience into the non verbal conversation between spectating, listening and actively responding. Regardless of how big or small those social queues are, we all feel it when an audience collectively holds their breath at a certain point, sometimes its the silence that communicates consent, or the twitch or cough coming from the upper left auditorium, we know that particular person just non verbally objected ‘subconsciously’.


If it’s an immersive work, there are other dimensions at play, with proximity being a massive psychological conversation. There is our body language and our power dynamics; whether an audience member sits on the floor cross legged, or stands right behind me, we have varying different capacities of what access points we have to a psychological dialogue. And then I wonder which way can I communicate this performance. Of course eye contact and touch being the most dynamic contributions. 


All of these elements play a vital role in my process, and its why ritual is such a pivotal instrument for creation in my work. Ritual allows the mental/psychological space to be more transient, meaning I can access the collective mental space with the openness and safety of a held experience set by intentions. This naturally propels the willingness of an audience to be vulnerable with me in the conversation, allowing for suppleness and great changes to occur in perception.

Performance work is always a conversation for me, it’s not about interrogating my own psychology to create work, it is about really understanding psychology to execute distinct forms of communication between my work and the audience. To do that effectively I need to understand a great deal of my own psychology. I feel that’s where the freedom to shift perception and rewrite history comes from, the game changers who change the world through art.      

Credit Vikki Marie Page

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

Covid has given me the opportunity to redefine my priorities, values, boundaries and reinforce my principles. I have had to question my purpose beyond the industry, and become aware of areas that I have not developed and the areas which I have neglected in myself.


This time has also allowed me to rediscover a new way of living, a new way of working and a new way of communicating. I have had many moments of exhaustion, overwhelming bewilderment and uncertainty, but none of these feelings are new to me, in fact the last two years have been so groundbreaking’ly challenging that lockdown was like a breeze. The political and economic climate however has had a great impact on my perception of reality and my stability within that. But it’s the sense of community that has become more evident during this time for me, with a beautiful anchoring in the various relationships I have with people that have grown deeper and stronger during this time.  

Following on from that actually, how has lockdown affected you personally? I recognise that we often separate performers from people and that needs to be raised.

Lockdown has allowed me to journey inwards with a great deal of introspection and time to reconstruct myself from the core. These are elements I do practice, however there is never usually time to really uncover the uncomfortable subconscious patterns that need redefining, when I am moving from one project to another with usually no recovery time.

Although challenging, I have been able to sit with myself and confront difficult things and rewrite those narratives.
I have also been able to connect with people I would have never usually connected with prior to Covid, simply because online networking is far more direct and immediate. Fundamentally I have been able to slow down and have moments of stillness and solitude, amongst the chaos.

I’m a big fan of the ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ podcast and something they do on each episode is ask their guest “If they were in government as an advisor for their specialist field, what would be the first change that they would make?”
So I’d like to ask you, if you were an advisor/ representative for the Arts sector, what would be the first change that you would make?

I would want to change the ‘perceived’ division between economy, finance and the arts. I believe so many fundamental movements within history and society sit on a large library of knowledge in strategy, financial infrastructures, economic preservation, assimilation as well as generational business modes that support successful agendas in all industries.

Often even the simplest areas for accessing training in these fields are seen so far removed from the arts. Educational models are often attuned to industries regarded superior, operating purely from strategic principles within business sectors.

We as artists have major blind spots because of the lack of accessibility to especially tailored training schemes, courses, workshops that provide tools within understanding the financial politics of the arts and its economy. We are unhealthily dependant and unempowered to a degree with previous models such as Arts Council funding applications being the main and only doorway for many. Yet this cannot guarantee long term support and struggles to give artists/companies/organisations stabilised independent agency over their future careers. I’m sure at some point in time we have all witnessed the impact of funding cuts for companies/artists, resulting in the immediate amputation of their capacity. Funding has already been challenging particularly for individuals outside of certain socioeconomic class groups and artists who haven’t had the opportunity to generate credibility with sponsors or funding audiences. Many artists with an excellent capacity are unable to generate work at the rate of their potential. This is debilitating and capping our capacity for genius as an overall industry, only select few names get to exercise their worth. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say a great deal of artists do not get the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding on modes of financial strategy in relation to the artistic climate.

I’m not saying we all as artists need to study business and finance, because often all of that knowledge is difficult to contextualise in specific relations to the neurodiversity of an artist and the unprecedented lifestyle that an artist might live. But what I am aware of is the benefit of having specialists within business, economy and finance working with artistic representatives to establish an access point hub for freelance artists/organisations and younger generations educated to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to create financial and economic engagement, allowing agency and fluidity within their artistic career.

We as artists promote ourself like business products, we sell ourselves through business models, but if we are to now look at the future of the arts industry, the greater economy an it’s impact on the rest of the world we need to be equipped with the tools to know how to adapt, preserve and not only survive but thrive as artists. I do feel such aspects should be addressed and mandatory within the training of an artist, not just be trained on how to become an artist.

In order to create powerful art that actually has long lasting impacts on humanity and society in the evolution and rewiring of the human conscious, we need money, and we should be educated about how we can generate that independently.
We see the value in funding science, it shouldn’t be any different for the arts.

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

I’ve been refining and redefining the development of my personal practice, which has felt like a monster to tackle as I exist in multiple sphere’s of discipline. Looking at the intersectionality of where a process begins and ends and where meeting points bridge between one discipline to another within the practice. How voice informs the body and vice versa, and also how multiple forms of conditioning/training practices converse/overlap or contradict within the body. What technique do I hold onto and what do I let go of.


In the productivity of what I’m currently working on is a body of work that holds both my music identity and my visual art and movement identity. I’m generating a portfolio which involves self produced songs with the layers and the depth that I would usually engage with in my conceptual theatre work. Looking at how I can make my approach to music production more performative, and have my body as equally a visible voice as my lyrics and my singing. I’m wanting to use the medium of music and song composition to speak on behalf of things I would usually devise and create dance theatre. I want to present narratives both through live art and digital where the boundaries and cultures blur between music gig and dance theatre. I will be supported by Kaunstrum Gallery to create and present an exert in the autumn.


Aside from that I am collaborating with musician Soweto Kinch for a conceptual music video, and composing/producing/researching with Isaac Ouro-Gnao and Tyrone Isaac Stuart for a production called the Oreo Complex.

Thank you ever so much for your time Ffion, it’s truly been a pleasure talking to you.

‘Black Lives Matter Essentials: A Book Club on Race’ An Interview with Artist, Andrew Ogun

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

My name is Andrew Ogun and I’m 22 years old. I moved to Wales from Italy when I was 5 years old. My mother is Nigerian and my father is Togolese. I’ve just finished my bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Birmingham and I’m doing my masters in Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Arts London in October. I’ve spent most of my life in Wales aside from university and I also lived in Berlin for a year because I did a year abroad. I’m an artist first and foremost; I’m a writer, musician and fashion designer. 

You have set up up a new group called ‘Black Lives Matter Essentials: A Book Club on Race’ Why did you set up this new group?

One of the major talking points of the BLM movement has been the necessity of proper, nuanced education in relation to race, identity and intersectionality here in Britain. BLM Gwent believe that a book club is the ideal environment to begin the often difficult but necessary conversations that we must have about race in order to improve the situation for BAME citizens in the UK. A lot of the books that we have chosen for this initiative will be incredibly illuminating texts that we hope will begin to open people’s minds. 

Your first book is the now seminal ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Why did you choose this as your first book?

Reni Eddo-Lodge’s text is a perfect first text because it manages to break the taboo of not talking to white people about race. Many white people are uncomfortable talking about race but Eddo-Lodge’s approach is one that is fairly digestible and accessible to all. Furthermore, the book has rose through the ranks and reached number 1 on the nonfiction charts, making her the first Black British woman to top the charts; this is bittersweet to me because although it’s well deserved, more black voices in literature should have been amplified. The text also covers many of the pertinent themes that have arose during the BLM movement; history, the system and white privilege, amongst other things.

During Lockdown the murder of George Floyd and worldwide public demonstrations under the Black Live Matter movement have highlighted institutional racism, inequalities and discussion around Privilege. Do you feel The Book Club will discuss the link between  literature and the potential for change in society?

I think a lot of great literature is always a reflection or commentary on wider society. The arts have always been integral to changing our society for the better. I hope the book club will show people that literature can always be used as a positive driving force for change.

Who are your favourite authors and why?   

There are not many authors that I have read multiple of their novels but there’s a few authors I love; Katherine Mansfield, James Baldwin, Oscar Wilde, Bret Easton Ellis, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Frantz Fanon. Some of my favourite poets are Audre Lorde, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Bishop, Frank O’Hara and Maya Angelou.

Get the Chance supports the public to access and respond to arts activity, if you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

To be honest I think we all know that the entire arts sector is grossly underfunded. The lasting financial impact of COVID on the arts will be devastating, at least in the short term. My choice would be the music industry being a musician myself. It’s expensive to be an up-and-coming musician. Equipment, studio time, music videos, sound engineering, beats, distribution. All these things cost a lot of money and there are so many great musicians in Wales that just need the freedom and finances to truly realise their artistry.

 During Lockdown a range of arts and third sector organisations 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 that you would like to highlight?

I’ve said it in a few protests that I have attended and spoken out; COVID has ensured that our old ‘reality’ is pretty much obsolete. It is now up to us to create our new reality. The move towards a more virtual society has its downsides but is still very beneficial in some aspects. I think it’s a good move for artists to be more online based. It gives you a broader audience and allows you to not be rooted to a particular physical location. I can’t think of any particular examples but this is just my general view.

Thanks for your time

Mymuna Soleman and The Privilege Café

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

Hi Guy thank you for this opportunity, my name is Mymuna, I’m of Somali origin and was born and bred in Cardiff, Wales. I have a huge passion for equality and diversity but most importantly equal representation for Muslim women of colour like myself. I studied Health and Social Care at undergraduate level and my Master’s in Public Health; both obtained from Cardiff Metropolitan University.

I set up The Privilege Café as soon as we got into Lockdown as I was frustrated with the lack of diversity and couldn’t express myself as a woman of colour in spaces filled with privilege.

To date, I’ve facilitated 10 sessions on Zoom covering various themes including mental health, ‘unconscious’ bias and privilege in the recruitment process. The level of engagement has been incredible and the speaker’s insight knowledge and expertise have brought nothing but positivity to all those who have attended the sessions. I’m truly greatful to everyone who has been part of this learning and growing journey with me; Diolch o galon.

The Café is an open to all, its a safe space for all to engage, learn and to use their privilege for good.

 As you have mentioned you run The Privilege Café, the Café is advertised as a place to discuss all things privilege. For those who have not yet attended how would you best describe the Café and its work?

I would describe the virtual Café as a safe, open forum whereas you say we discuss privilege among other topics which to date since starting on April 20th this year have included mental health and privilege, language and linguistics, ‘unconscious’ bias and various others. I created the Café as I was frustrated with this whole ‘systems’ approach which is very formal, agenda-based and wanted the Café to be the opposite of that. Once I decide on a theme and a title for discussion, I put out a call out on social media for anyone interested to speak for a 10-15 mins or so and then open it out for open questions and discussions. Like I said it’s a very informal space so anyone is welcome to come, learn and discuss ‘difficult’ topics but most importantly how people can use their privilege for good.

To discuss specifics White Privilege is an overarching topic in every Café. Why is this such an important area of discussion in the Café?

I think the words white privilege hold a very strong and weighty meaning for so many people not just people who are non-white. White privilege is a difficult concept to take on board and is not something you can pinpoint onto one individual. The unearned privilege or superiority white skin gives people is wider and deeper than something a lot of people deem to be ‘individual finger pointing’, you know the whole ‘I’m not racist’ sentence which usually takes up the space where more meaningful conversations could be had. This is why I have the mindset that white privilege will not be tackled in one session or ten sessions, but that it is the foundation and base of all conversations had at the Café. Positive mindset change takes time and it would be disingenuous and frankly hypocritical if I expected people to come one session and then I ‘ticked off’ the white privilege element. White privilege is a deep thread embedded in society and the same goes for the café. That thread will be untied, hopefully, through various discussions, themes, conversations and questions as the café evolves.

The Café is a space where contributors can share real points or lived experiences that many people find difficult. The Cafe is a safe space for these conversations. As the meeting host you frequently state it’s OK to ask questions. How did you decide how to format the Café and the conversations that take place there?

Its always OK to ask a question in my view, the Privilege Café being on Zoom doesn’t make that approach any different for me. As I said above, I didn’t want to have a ‘format’ so to speak, it’s much more of a safe, open forum which naturally involves asking questions to learn and engage more. I feel that the more I reinforce that it is OK to ask a question, the less intimidated people feel and if that’s what it takes for me to help educate people then that’s what I’ll do. Learning is always a two process and open questions, for me, give that relaxed, open atmosphere which is part of the DNA of my Café.

Has this changed as the number of Café’s have increased and the number of your guests?

No this approach hasn’t changed nor has it impacted the number of guests. I guess the more guests there are as in speakers the less time to answer questions but again I try to answer as many questions as I can though the chat as well as the open forum discussions with the help of my incredible speakers. The number of panel members really does depend on the interest after I put the call out and so again this reinforces my approach for my Café to be very informal, space and open to all.

During Lockdown the murder of George Floyd and worldwide public demonstrations under the Black Live Matter movement have highlighted institutional racism, inequalities and discussion around Privilege. Do you feel The Café has a role to play in tackling some of the areas above?

Yes, I feel the Privilege Cafe does have a role to play in terms of raising awareness of the issues you raised in the question and it is the exact reason why I created the Café in the first place. I felt that these topics were always seen as ‘add-ons’ in every space I went to and they were always on the ‘menu’ until I as the only person of colour the  majority of the time brought them up during discussions and so with The Privilege Café I hope these issues are on the table and open for debate, discussion and hopefully positive change.  

I first became aware of your work in The Privilege Café on social media. I found the Café and format to be a revelation in terms of the conversations in which you could actively participate. You bring together a broad range of people, providing new perspectives and the opportunity to learn.  There has been a great deal of discussion during the Lockdown of a rejection of the “Old Normal” and embracing the “New Normal” For me personally discovering and attending the Cafes has been one of the most positive outcomes of Lockdown. Your attendance’s can be as high as 300 people, which is staggering. It’s evident your work is hugely important, what would you like to happen next?

Thank you for your comments and an excellent question. Ideally, I would like to take the virtual Privilege Café I have created online and take it offline, in the ‘real world’. I’d love to have a ‘Centre for Women’ where the Privilege Café takes up the main holding space. I’d love the Café to have separate rooms just like it does online where each room has a different speakers or panel members tackling a different theme each week. These rooms would cover topics similar to the ones I’ve covered on zoom which include mental health and wellbeing, education and employment.

Get the Chance supports the public to access and respond to arts activity, if you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

I would fund Somali folk dance classes as this is a huge passion of mine as a Somali-Welsh female living in Cardiff; a city with a huge Somali population, one of the oldest minority ethnic group in the UK. Somali folk dance is exciting, fun and most of all its an amazing way to keep fit and healthy; yet this is not included in the ‘arts’ in Wales and this needs to change.

During Lockdown a range of arts and third sector organisations 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 that you would like to highlight?

I don’t think there’s a particular way to engage or work with people, it’s about your network and how you use them wisely, transparently and honestly without trying to better yourself or achieve personal goals. I think what some organisations have found difficult is that they haven’t engaged as they should have prior to Lockdown and so now adapting to the new way of working has meant that those challenges will be that much harder. Advice I would give to these organisations is to be as honest as possible and openly admit that this is not tokenistic and that they haven’t done as well as they should have but this is the long term sustainable goal we want to achieve, oh and we will pay you for your time as we value your input.

Thanks for your time

Connor Allen, Opportunity (Two Years On…)

This article is a follow on from “On Opportunity” Written by Connor Allen in 2017, which can be found below

getthechance.wales/2018/03/03/connor-allen-opportunity/

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

2 years ago I wrote that above quote

On Friday 28th June 2019 … Thousands of young boys and girls sat at home from their “cheap seats” and watched history play out.

They watched a 24 year old Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. headline The biggest music festival in the world. Or as many and most people know him by the name of Stormzy.

The reason I start this article with that is because 2 years ago I wrote about Oprah being sat at home as a little girl in 1964 and watching history play out with Sidney Poitier winning an award and found herself inspired.

Now fast forward over 50 years and the exact same thing has happened.

There are little boys and girls who were either there like I was lucky enough to be, or at home watching, but either way were inspired to see a young Black British man on the biggest stage in the world and his talent and hard work got him to that position.

That inspiration is priceless. And that’s how we encourage the next generation to strive for bigger and better things.

By showing them what they can achieve.

Like I said 2 years ago “If opportunity is not given to people then how are we ever going to be in a position where we can showcase our talents?, be nominated for awards? and inspire our peers and the next generation?”

Stormzy, for example, got the opportunity to headline and smashed it out of Worthy Farm. His talent got him there, not the colour of his skin and that’s inspirational to everyone that can relate. Thats inspirational to all our peers and to the next generation who can watch that and believe that they can headline Glastonbury, Or perform or direct at the National Theatre or on Broadway, Or be on the front cover of GQ, Or play football for a premiership team, or be in the next avengers movie. Or be the next Stormzy or Oprah.

During Stormzy’s set he bought on Dave and Fredo to perform ‘Funky Friday’

He used his platform and his moment to give an opportunity to Dave and Fredo to perform on the pyramid stage and to experience that thrill and allow them to share in the moment.

Thats huge!

I say it all the time in conversations with friends, when running workshops or giving talks – If I’m winning then we’re all winning because I’m going to learn some new skills, new knowledge and make new networks etc which I can then relay back to others to allow them to bask in the new found knowledge and glory I have gained and vice versa.

If YOU are winning then we are all winning because you’re going to learn things that can only help benefit others journeys and careers.

To quote Denzel (as I always do) – “I’m not in this to compete, I’m in this to get better”

That night in June at Glasto, Stormzy was winning but he gave an opportunity for others to win as well.

That for me is on the Macro Level in Stormzy and Oprah and I’m going to bring it to the Micro Level of myself and Wales.

Back home in Wales the last 2 years have been a whirlwind (for me personally)

I’ve been given so many opportunities that have led to me:

  • I’ve had organisations like Literature Wales believe in me and my talent to help develop further works of mine.
  • I’ve been on TV (which for a kid from Hammond Drive is huge – Check out changing the narrative from 27 for more clarity)
  • I’ve been a part of a sold out show by the incredible Tin Shed Theatre again in my hometown.. bringing top class theatre to my doorstep (something I never had when I was growing up)
  • Ive been made Associate Artist of The Riverfront in my hometown of Newport.

And so much more

And when I think of all that and more, I’m so blessed to have had the opportunities to get me to this position in my life and career 2 years later.

Ive had so many people like Julia Thomas, Branwen Davies, Gary Owen, Helen Perry, Justin Cliffe, Louise Richards, Olivia Harris, Bryony Kimmings and more, all give me an opportunity and help nurture my talent and craft so I can be in a position where I can help and inspire the younger generation. I can open doors for them (potentially) that were never opened for me.

But again as I echoed 2 years ago the key word in ALL of that is opportunity.

They’ve given me the opportunity so i’m on the same page as other creatives and artists.

They gave me that opportunity to either sink or swim but it’s that chance that is so greatly needed. Without that chance, very few people can reach the potential that they have the ability to reach.

Without opportunity all that remains is an imbalanced and under-represented system where inspiration can’t flourish.

And without Inspiration many journeys won’t even start and many potentials never realised.

I can’t write this and act like opportunity hasn’t been present for me because it has but hard work and determination has been right along side it as I’ve built a career for the past 6 years.

The more I reflect on the past 2 years since writing that article the more I realise that it has been a good starting point in Wales where more of my peers and community are getting given opportunities and they’re smashing it outta the park everytime.

Alex Riley is breaking down barriers with her Mixed documentary and being a member on the above writing groups alongside myself and starring in smash hit TV like The Tuckers and End of the F***ing World

Mali-Ann Rees is killing it in the Tourist Trap alongside Leroy Brito.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06mf8kn

Kyle Lima, like myself with The Riverfront has been made associate artist of HIS hometown theatre at The Sherman.

The reason I list these Kings and Queens is simply because like myself, 2 years ago they weren’t in the position that they are now.

Through hard work they’ve been given opportunities which they have consistently smashed.

So many young Welsh black and mixed race girls can turn on the tele and see Alex and Mali on their screens. Thats huge! because that’s inspirational. Thats showing them that it can be done and they can one day be in the same position as them.

Like Oprah did when she turned on the TV back five decades ago.

Youth who see Kyle and myself in Associate roles at their hometown theatres again can start to think that they too can achieve the same success. That those local buildings are for them as much as anyone else. They can start to aim for similar aspirations.

Once opportunity is given then all you’re judged on is your talent. It’s a level playing field where all it comes down to is you. BUT opportunity has to be given for the talent to shine.

So carry on giving opportunities to the talented individuals that warrant them and if you can’t find those talented individuals then seek them out. Because trust me theres plenty of them!

Talent comes in all shapes and sizes and we simply HAVE to find that and represent that.

We can’t afford to be lazy.

I guess what am I trying to say with all of this ….

Well simply put, I recently asked a close friend of mine to list White Welsh Published Playwrights and without hesitation they were able to list many amazing playwrights, many of whom I look up to myself and have helped paved the way for me BUT then I said now name me Black Welsh Published Playwrights and there was a pause as we both tried to think.

That pause is what has to change!

And that’s why I list the amazing individuals and there are so many more but in future when little welsh boys and girls of colour are talking about playwrights and writing that represents them and inspires them, they can think of Connor Allen, Alex Riley, Kyle Lima, Darragh Mortell, Taylor Edmonds, Durre Shahwar and so many more

There won’t be a pause.

Thats how we change the system and keep that encouragement for the next generation to follow in the footsteps that we lay before them. We must become the change that we seek. We must become the role models that we never had growing up.

Mentorship and role models are huge and so vital to development. It’s the work of them that lays solid foundations and blueprints down for the next generation to follow and build upon, so they can make a more equal and justified system and industry.

Opportunity is now being given and its a great and much needed starting point.

But we have to develop that starting point.

There is still more that can be done to make equality and inclusivity a more normalised thing within the arts.

Create more gate keepers, role models and mentors that relate to and represent the communities that make up Wales’ rich diverse culture and history.

According to Welsh Government Data only 6% of Wales is made up of “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic” (not sure how much I believe that) but my point is that in a country that is predominantly white we need to make systems and industries that represent ALL walks of life. Even the 6%.

We are experiencing a real positive shift at the moment and this can only be fully realised through education and sacrifice of power and privilege.

I realise that the more I am improving and the more success I gain, the more power and privilege I am given. BUT with that power and privilege I am given, I can make a choice to share that.

Take my recent Literature Wales commission 27, I chose to give some of my commission to other artists to allow them the opportunity to have paid artistic work where one of the artists is still in high school, one is yet to graduate and another has only recently graduated. Now I don’t say that to be like “oh look at me” I say it simply because if I can do that then people in far bigger and more important positions than me can do that as well.

I know how important opportunity has been in getting me to the position I am in today so i’ll never shy away from offering opportunity to those coming up

J Cole says it brilliantly in Middle Child – “I’m dead in the middle of two generations I’m little bro and big bro all at once”

It was only 5/6 years back that I myself was one of those artists looking for a chance and if it wasn’t for people taking a chance on me and believing in me well, I wouldn’t be where I am today, so its only fair that I give back where and when I can.

And if I can do that so can other organisations and institutions. I’m just one man with a modicum of influence. Imagine the potential if others with far more influence and power made the same approach that I have done.

Its about being courageous and then we will see some positive changes. Changes that are generational. That can have an impact for future generations.

Every single role model/person that we look up to, started off exactly like us. As people learning and working to get better.

Yes, many of my community are angry, upset, confused and more at the moment. And its the likes of role models on a global and local level that will maintain the inspiration and development of the next generation. If we don’t see ourselves and our representation then how are we meant to be engaged and inspired to be the next generation of role models and trend setters.

It’s cyclical.

In these dark times we must never forget our own power, our own talent, our own strength.

It’s only in the darkest of times that we can see the light.

And even though opportunities are becoming more and hopefully more of the younger generation are finding hope and inspiration in looking at the current generation of us achieving success we have to strive for more.

Opportunity is just the planting of the seeds, For real fruition we have to see representation in all forms, from all walks of lives showcased throughout the arts and throughout all sectors.

We live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world where all forms of race, gender, sexuality, disability and more are ripe and without positive and sustained change then we run the risk of an industry not embracing that and not showcasing every form of the human condition.

Art is a reflection of life, in ALL its forms.

Real collective change can only be made when representation is across all levels of infrastructure.

PERIOD

So as always

Much Love

Keep dreaming

Keep striving

Con x

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