Category Archives: Literature

Review Simply Charming by Nathan Scott Howe

Reviewed by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Having spent a year trapped in our towers and unable to let our hair down, it’s only natural we would long for the escapism of fantasy. Even before the world stood still, a rise in fairy tale retellings spoke to our collective yearning to break free from everyday existence; to conjure up a pumpkin carriage and finally go to the ball. Fairy tales have a unique power to transport you into a world where anything is possible. This is a realm in which good people get everything they’ve dreamed and deserved, where cynicism and cruelty go unrewarded, and where a happily ever after is only one wish away. If you want your wish granted, look no further than Simply Charming, a reimagining of Cinderella from her prince’s perspective, written and illustrated by Nathan Scott Howe.

Image credit: Nathan Scott Howe

Cinderella is one of our most culturally beloved stories, retold countless times in myriad ways – but the focus, as you might expect, has (almost) always been on its pure-hearted heroine. Simply Charming flips the script by centring on Prince Charming himself, a character so historically generic he’s become a byword for one-dimensional hunky niceness and very little else. In the original tale, he’s more a prize than he is a prince – simultaneously the person everyone’s searching for and the person whom nobody truly knows. Howe’s book not only gives Prince Charming a personality and a proper character arc, it shows how his parents shaped the man he would become; a man who would search an entire kingdom to find his true love.

Image credit: Nathan Scott Howe

Just as Maleficent fleshed out Sleeping Beauty’s ‘villainess’ into a complicated anti-heroine, Simply Charming takes a character formerly reduced to one-note chivalry and explores exactly why he deserves that much-prophesied happily ever after. Part one focuses on Florence, Charming’s mother, and part two on Charming himself. Howe takes time and care to craft sympathetic characters whose company it is a pleasure to share, and you can sense his genuine affection for the characters in every word. It’s a real labour of love, having taken eight years from inception to completion. This self-published book has both the grounded, loving feel of Ever After and the sumptuous palette of the Disney classic. Howe has an eye for tone, texture, and visuals in his writing, and his brilliant use of descriptive imagery often made me feel like I was stepping into a painting – an immersive experience enhanced by his gorgeously illustrated chapter headings (which eagle-eyed readers might spot changing as the story progresses). The stunning cover image alone, which combines illustrations from key moments throughout the book, is a work both of art and heart.

Image credit: Nathan Scott Howe

I was constantly thrilled by Howe’s inventive incorporation of the Cinderella mythos – right down to the pumpkin carriage and the vengeful housecat! – in ways which wonderfully expand on and enhance the original tale. Learning the origins of these elements, and especially the motif of time which underscores the tale, has made the story even more resonant than it was before. It’s a rare treat to watch an author hone their craft in real time, and you can witness Howe’s confidence and skill blossom chapter-by-chapter. Although it may at times seem a little uneven, I feel this can be forgiven as the first half is setting up the pieces which pay off brilliantly in the second. Though I would have loved for some intriguing story points and interesting characters to have gotten more of the spotlight (a Poppi/Samuel spinoff, anyone?), I greatly appreciated the book’s focus on character and theme over plot. It reminded me of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, which is more concerned with making you feel like part of a kooky and loving family than bamboozling you with twists. Simply Charming is a story for everyone: pure escapism into a kind and gentle world.

That the story concludes just before the happy ending we know so well is incredibly poignant. We know that Cinderella will marry her prince – it’s part of our collective consciousness, after all – but Simply Charming is about the journey to happily ever after. It’s like life: sometimes it all falls into place, and sometimes it doesn’t. Living happily ever after is never a certainty, and even if it does happen, we’ll never know where the fairy tale really ends. We’re left on the precipice of hope and promise; a precarity that a year in lockdown has only served to magnify.

Image credit: Nathan Scott Howe

Immersive, innovative, and involving, Simply Charming had me completely under its spell. Howe crafted a world I simply didn’t want to leave, and reading it was genuinely joyous from the first to the last word. During a time in which the bad news more often seems to weigh out the good, Simply Charming reminded me that people can be brave and kind, that wishes do come true, and that a love that is secure and unfettered and fought for is a magic all of its own. Last Christmas, Howe and his colleagues designed and produced Christmas cards to raise funds for the New Theatre (they sold out in less than a week). Profits from the sales of Simply Charming will be donated to Macmillan Cancer Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital, and it’s a beautifully generous act which underscores the heart of the fairy tale: that time is fleeting and therefore precious, that kindness and goodness always triumphs, and that a happy ending lies ahead of us all, if we fight for it. In Howe’s words, “Have faith in your dreams, they have more power than you think”.

Simply Charming is available for digital download on Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: The author has a pre-existing relationship with Get the Chance; a copy of the book was purchased in exchange for an honest review.

The Play about Theresa May by Amie Maria Marie, Review by Lois Arcari

Figure 1: Amie’s costume of May accurately conveys all the warmth of a frozen kipper

Theresa May. She’s an easy political footnote to miss. She’d probably be overlooked in any year: but 2020 provided the perfect environment for this indentured Tory to withdraw from the public conscious. How we can imagine her laugh, head bobbing like a grotesque puppet, captured in a hundred memes, at each new Boris Johnson blunder, glad she’s not withering in the hot seat anymore.

A play about this unremarkable PM might seem like a hard sell. Playwright Amie M Marie’s book of the play, written in 2017, provides a look back to the politics of 2018. Practically a different century in the post Covid world order. Marie provides an especially important perspective as a queer, disabled writer, and comedian: belonging to two of the groups most marginalised by Tory leadership.

On the one hand, certain references date the play. On the other, the play can be harshly prescient. Jokes that once may have been played small, become harder to laugh with and easier to grimace at. The following exchange, part of a scene where Miss May is confronted directly by a member of the public, is one of those moments:

‘‘Do you think you could do a better job?’’ ‘‘I don’t know. Maybe any of us could.’’

This sounds just like the hand-wringing Johnson supporters’ level on his behalf. How could any of us know what to do when faced with a pandemic? In our current situation, as in this play, we might not have all the answers ourselves. But we generally have a better idea of what not to do.  What would rankle an individual conscience more than a political one. Marie’s play also shows how well-kept convictions, knowledge and assurance, have been damned by political inaction.

The play illustrates the failure of senior Tories to engage with – let alone convince us they believe – their own rhetoric. May repeats mantras which she’s well aware make as much sense as the ramblings of King Lear. Visual representations of sound bites, real statistics woven into dialogue may shock you. But that shock has not translated to a change in voting habits for the last 10 years. A play designed to tackle complacency has accidentally created an incriminating portrait of it.  

Theresa May, as played by Marie, appeared on stage with a red nose. An unconscious clown in the empress’ new clothes, alongside her party’s faithful hand-me-downs of cruelty and coldness. The play deftly illustrates May’s clownishness through frenetic physical comedy and a whirligig cast of political cameos. But when it slows down, it’s unafraid to show she is the owner and creator of her own devastating decisions – holding her to particular account over her policies towards disabled people.

One problem with the written material vs the performed play is that I can’t imagine to what extent the costuming works. As written, it makes sense. it’s hard to visualise the performance from her dialogue and monologue, and advertising for the play previews seemed quite ‘on the nose’: not just playful but almost self-congratulatory in a way the play just isn’t when you read it.

Figure 2: Amie Marie as Theresa May, wearing a red clown nose

The tension and exhaustion May’s character feels are tangible just through the written material, but Marie was careful not to fall into the ‘trap’ of portraying her sympathetically.

Although May’s tenure was dwarfed by the outlandish characters she was surrounded by, her calculated greyness enabled them to rise through the ranks the minute she jumped ship. The play introduces Jeremy Hunt (through a joke either I can’t remember or everyone else will have forgotten), Amber Rudd, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Macron, Trump and the Queen. While one thinks more could have been made of the President’s cameo, Macron provides a much more clever slice of comedy, while the interaction between May and the Queen provokes a hilarious crack in the Prime Minister’s mask.

The cast is rounded out by Two Points Garage, Hackman, Dim Bee and The Mail. TPG, as he is later referred, is as brash a character as you would expect, but there’s real tension in his control over May. Hackman represents media complicity, while the Mail is probably the most well written role. He offers rare detachment, perfectly content in the knowledge of his own power.

The play also contains a multiplayer role for 3 characters who represent the public: the Junior Doctor Clown, the Cleaner Clown and the worker Clown.

Their inclusion felt uncomfortable. The only characters who attempt to use their fragile autonomy for good, and they’re considered clowns. Their names implicate them as another class of fools in politics. Hope and conviction makes them clowns. Perhaps this hurts only because it seems true. It seems a foregone conclusion to Uk leftists that few people will hope for change, and fewer will act on that hope in the voting booths. But directly comparing them, by just their class of character, to May, seems mean-spirited. Again, it would be helpful if I had access to the original production. Are these dressed as clowns too, in full regalia, or merely named as such?

As a reading experience, it’s the subtler jokes and intense monologues that make an impression. As for the performance, jokes which seem a little stale on the page might have been the perfect laughs for a communal audience. An audience which the play hinges on. May directly addresses them and pleads with, belittles, and implicates them in turn.

The play will retail as a physical book and e-book, in both a bonus edition and as a basic performance script. I was given the copy flush with interesting bonuses. These included a number of introductions to the play, earlier short ‘Emperor May’ and, a brilliant interview between Amie Marie and clown Conér Swords about their political performance art, and finally reviews from the initial performance run of the play.  

However, I questioned the formatting at times. The sheer volume of additional material before the play seems like overblown padding. It’s interesting to see how the more intelligent play evolved from a less polished short (which you can watch a brief introduction of here). The short is a bit sophomoric, however, and depending on whether you think its humour lands it may predispose you against the longer play rather than show you just how much the latter developed.

Finally, the formatting and editing of the copy I received really let the content down. Certain images are copied to back-to-back and spelling and grammar issues are frequent annoyances. This carelessness shows a lack of respect to Marie’s material. I can only hope that she goes on to have more opportunities as a creator, and her later material has the support of publishers who give it the dignity it deserves.

The play is available to buy in multiple formats here.

An Interview with Writer Neil Bebber

In our latest Playwright interview Director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell chats to Wales based Playwright Neil Bebber. Neil discusses his career to date, his latest project “Short Stories for Stressed Grown-Ups” and his thoughts on opportunities for Playwrights in Wales.

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

Hello! I’m a playwright, screenwriter, copywriter and graphic designer. I enjoy cycling, sea swimming, hiking at night under star-stuffed skies, endlessly scrolling though Netflix trying to find something good to watch, cooking (though my recent attempts at culinary genius have fallen short) and playing online Scrabble with strangers. For the record, I haven’t lost a game. Yet.

So, what got you interested in the arts?

Pantomime. Probably. I remember the feeling I had watching a school panto when I was maybe ten years old. The Seven Dwarves had left for the day to hi-ho off to work and Snow White was left alone in the space. A sequence followed where she just made the most of having the space to herself and I was transfixed.

From an early age, I was curious about the world. Talking to people as soon as I could talk. Asking “why” even more than most other kids. That question can take a child either way. Science allows us to understand how something works. The arts allow us to explore how something makes us feel. I’m a combination of the two. But, having turned down a potentially lucrative career in banking, in favour of a poorly-paid graphic design “apprenticeship” (that’s a whole other story!) I’d chosen my path.

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

I used to fool myself into believing the romantic notion that I could only write when I was wallowing in a pool of self-indulgent pity, but I now realise that’s not true. I don’t know who said it, but writers write. So, the most important part of the process is to start by writing something.

It’s a cliché, but it is a muscle. And the more you do it, the easier it gets. And the more addictive it is. On the many courses I’ve been on, the forensic detail of process has been useful, but I’ve always got more from the automatic writing exercises. It’s a great way to unlock the unconscious mind and discover those seeds lurking in there between the teeth of doubt.

And I make a lot of notes. The romance of a notepad and fountain pen has been superseded by the iphone, but I’m glad that, should I ever hit a pothole on my bike and find myself flattened by an oncoming bus, nobody will ever get to access my notes. There’s a lot of strange musings there. Today I wrote a paragraph about how a crow, battered by the wind, seemed to be perfectly content to walk across the road sideways. And how that might serve as a metaphor. But I don’t know what for yet.

GULL, the play recently read on Zoom by the brilliant The Far Away Plays came about like that. A note about watching gulls rip apart bin bags and hungrily tuck into a pile of used nappies. The revulsion fed the atmosphere of the play.

In terms of dialogue, I believe that writing good dialogue is more about listening than writing. Before our freedoms were curtailed by a microscopic enemy, I used to sit in a lot of coffee shops, just listening to exchanges and watching people’s body language. In recent years, I probably haven’t been the best company, socially, choosing to observe and makes notes, rather than get involved.

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

Writing days vary depending on the project. I’m also lucky enough to be able to supplement an artist’s income with commercial copywriting. But, either way, I start early. Check emails, social media between 8 and 8.30 and then make a start on the writing. At the moment I’m in the process of editing an audio play for a competition, writing a new speculative TV drama and also writing, recording and editing my stories for my YouTube channel, “Short Stories for Stressed Grown-Ups”.

Producing my own work has also made me realise the amount of time that’s needed for its design and promotion. The “Short Stories…” project needed to have an eye-catching brand, as well as accompanying visuals for each story. And all of this needs to be shared with the online world. I hope I’m finding the balance between, “oh, that’s interesting, I’m so glad he let me know” and “for God’s sake, not another post about his bloody stories!” If there’s anyone brave enough out there, do let me know!

Why and where do you write? 

I write because I have something to say. About something I‘ve seen or something I’ve heard. Or something I feel passionately about.

I write because it’s a compulsion. A bit of an addiction. Especially when I get to see how an audience responds to it, good or bad. Maybe that’s some deep-seated need for validation. But then maybe that’s why any artist creates anything.

I write because it helps me repair. Relax. Forget. Make sense of a world (or of people) I don’t always understand.

I write because it’s satisfying and often surprising to be taken on a journey by imaginary characters, into unfamiliar scenarios and behaviours.

In terms of where I write, I can write anywhere. As long as I have something to balance a laptop on and a reasonably comfortable chair to sit on, I can write. There’s no ritual, no lucky desk or chair of inspiration. So, the photo is of a number of places where I could easily write. And the list is always being added to…

You are a prolific writer working across multiple mediums and forms. How has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected you and your creative process?

It was clear from the beginning that the lockdown, and the continuing response to a global pandemic, was going to fundamentally change a world that relied on the physical gathering of human beings in close proximity, whether audience or performer.

But, pretty early on, I saw an opportunity to get work out to a wider audience. Admittedly, it’s not the same experience as sitting in a studio theatre, tightly-packed with an appreciative audience, breathing the same air and having a collective experience.

When Jordan Bernarde contacted me about re-staging BREATHE (to avoid him climbing the walls during the first lockdown), after a short and successful run at The Bread & Roses the year before, I jumped at the chance. And it’s success has shown that there’s an audience for online theatre.

Theatres talk a lot about diversifying their audience base and this provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. Anyone who might previously have been intimidated by physically visiting a venue, can now watch a performance online and maybe discover that it isn’t the inaccessible, exclusive experience they may have expected. And, from a writer’s perspective, there’s an entire planet’s worth of connected people looking for content. The challenge is standing out amongst the noise!

From my own point of view, there’s been a shift towards demand for more audio drama. I’ve been working on a new play for the Papatango prize, which this year will be awarded to three audio works. And I was commissioned at the end of last year to write a multiple choice audio drama, which would be navigated purely through using Alexa. Exciting stuff!

One of your latest initiatives is the new new YouTube-based spoken word project, ‘Short Stories for Stressed Grown-ups’

You’ve written a number of short stories, which you’ve also narrated yourself. This is how you’ve described the project: 

“Remember when you were a kid? And how it felt to be all tucked up and have a story read to you? What a shame that, as adults, we don’t get to enjoy the sheer, indulgent escapism of those moments anymore. Well, now that’s changed. Short Stories for Stressed Grown-ups by Neil Neil is now live! So all you have do is find somewhere quiet, where you won’t be disturbed, and listen to an original short story that will transport you from the troubles of your day. 

Whether you use it to help you get off to sleep, or to re-set in the middle of a busy day, every story is written just for you.”

What response have you had to this new area of writing and storytelling?

The short stories were a suggestion by a producer friend of mine, Simon Regan, who I’d worked with on an arts podcast, EVOLUTIONS, shortly before the pandemic kicked off

I was frustrated at the time it took to get work “out there” so he suggested I might do it myself.

I researched the short story market, as well as potential gaps in provision for audio content and I thought a combination of meditative and escapist character-based short stories, narrated in the style of a bedtime story, might work.

The response has been really encouraging. The audience has been very frank about what’s working and what isn’t, the real-time feedback giving me an opportunity to modify the style and content of each new story. I’m also keen to interact with the audience, using names for characters taken from contents pages and maybe asking for suggestions on story ideas and destinations.

It’s great to know, too, that these stories are temporarily distracting people from the stresses of their day and, in some cases, helping them sleep. I’m hoping my voice doesn’t have the same effect during face-to-face conversations, when we return to the “real” world!

In November your latest play GULL was read online by the team at The Far Away Plays. We think the Far Away Plays have been one of the highpoints of creative activity in Wales during the Pandemic. Have you had an opportunity to listen to any of the other Far Away Plays, play readings?  And how was it to have your latest play produced on Zoom?

GULL was originally scheduled to be performed at WMC’s Ffwrnes Scratch night in March 2020, but then the world plunged into chaos. So I was thrilled when The Far Away Plays chose it for one of their online performances late last year. Their commitment to getting work out to online audiences, as well as dealing with all the logistical stages in between, has been immense.

I was also excited to be able to cast three incredible RWCMD alumni. Luke Nunn, Cecilia Appiah and Meredith Lewis were just some of the standout actors from 2020 and it was a real privilege to witness their brilliantly instinctive and nuanced performances, especially given the limited time they had to rehearse.

The director James O’Donnell also deserves a special mention. Having put a callout on social media for a director at late notice, James answered the call. The way he was able to take a potentially static medium and turn it into such a dynamic performance was miraculous. I always get really nervous before any production of my work, but it was clear within minutes that GULL was in safe hands, so I was actually able to sit back and enjoy it!

I’m waiting to hear from FAP if there’s a recording I might be able to share with all of the Artistic Directors who weren’t able to make it, because, as good as it was to see the work performed online, this play would (and this team!) clearly work brilliantly on stage.

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

“Healthy” might be a misleading term. The opportunities are available, but I wonder how writers are made aware of them. For opportunities, my go-to is BBC Writer’s Room Opportunities page. Then I check London Playwrights, which is another brilliant resource. I’m not sure if there’s a central database for opportunities in Wales. If not, it would be great to have one, where all aspects of writing were covered, plays, films, TV, etc.

Also, there are a number of theatres offering writer’s courses and residences, but there are rarely the resources available to sustain the momentum, once they’ve happened. I’ve been on three writer’s courses and one residency and none of these led to a tangible, ongoing relationship with the respective theatres.

In terms of sustaining a writing career, I think it’s important to diversify. I’m lucky to also be a freelance copywriter and graphic designer, but, even if I was commissioned to write three plays a year, the income generated wouldn’t be enough to sustain a family, mortgage and other regular day-to-day commitments. From what I can gather, to make any sort of living, TV writing seems to the way forward. Ideally I’d like to be able to do a bit of everything, though, as I’ve been lucky enough to so far.

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

I think a TV writing academy would be a valid investment now. As Wales becomes used increasingly as a destination for production, and companies like Bad Wolf continue to thrive, a joined up, sustained TV writing “lab” could help nurture home-grown talent and ensure Wales was increasingly self contained, moving forward. Especially given the increase in demand for content from online providers like Netflix and Prime.

Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner from production company Bad Wolf 

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Diversity. The sheer extent of opportunities to make and view art for a country with a reasonable small population. I’m hesitant to use the term, “punching above its weight”. Oh, too late. I have.

And then there’s always the occasional parallel universe curveball of one of Tactile Bosch’s performance art nights. That’s what first made me realise I was living in a capital city. Ah, I miss Kim Fielding. What a lovely man.

Image Credit Emmageliot’s Blog

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

There are so many things that have either left me speechless, laugh uncontrollably or made me cry, sometimes all at the same time.

I remember sitting down in my office (in the middle of the first lockdown), with headphones on, to watch Complicite’s “The Encounter”, and feeling within minutes as if I’d been transported to another world, by both the performance and its remarkable aural soundscape. Not sure if it’s still available to view online, but there’s more, here:

Charlie Kaufmann’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (on Netflix), whilst sometimes being incomprehensible, felt like a pure artist’s vision, unimpeded by the demands of people-pleasing. Maybe the best art is selfish. And this felt like that. But in the best possible way.

And no conversation (I say conversation, though this has all been a bit one way) with me goes without a music mention. The Dandy Warhols’ 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia has been my favourite album for years. And at the end of last year, they performed a live stream of it, in its entirety, for the first time. For that hour, I was there, front and centre, dancing like a kid in a sweet shop. The sweets being the songs. But not in jars. Obviously.

Anyway, that’s three. Because there’s never any shortage of great things to share.

Thanks for your time

And thank you for this brilliant opportunity to ramble.

Review: Brothersong by TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

Please note review includes spoilers.

This book is a phenomenal climax to an already incredibly built series. This last book, Brothersong, capitalises on everything that the previous books – Wolfsong, Ravensong, Heartsong (and short stories Lovesong and Feralsong) have laid as a foundation.



I was beyond excited for this book to come out. Having read the first three books and the two short stories, I knew I was in for something amazing. I bought it as soon as I possibly could, but unfortunately had to backlog the book to prioritise some work for university. In mid-January however, I hit a vicious wall of both reader’s and writer’s block and couldn’t focus on any uni work put in front of me, and it took this for the idea to hit me: allow yourself to read TJ Klune’s Brothersong. It was a double edged sword: I knew I would devour the book and that this would spur me on in my own creative attempts, but I also knew that, being the last book, it would all be over as soon as I was finished. I thought that this would hinder me, but it didn’t. I finished the book over three evenings, I kept the story as my own for bedtime relaxation, although the “relaxation” part was assuredly difficult.

This was because the book is devastating. TJ Klune’s writing in this series is absolutely unmatched, no author has made me cry quite like this author has! I can only wish I had the skill to compare to it. Especially considering that this book builds on top of every relationship explored in the previous texts, every sentence you read digs deeper and deeper into your heart, and when that’s the case, the more something hurts when things go wrong for the characters.

In this book, our main character is Carter Bennett. In the previous books, main characters have changed to allow for the focus of the overall story to become more varied and be explored from a number of different angles. I think this was an excellent decision for TJ Klune to make: every character you come across is greatly fleshed out, and you get to intimately understand their connection to everyone, from four different points of view. The main cast are so interconnected that they work like one big family, and a lot of them are family, so a lot of the time the emotions behind these connections are charged with love and the desire to protect their own. Seeing as this is also a family of werewolves, the desire to protect their own is tripled, quadrupled, and beyond. The focus of the novels have always been on these werewolves and whatever “evil” they are up against – oftentimes fighting to protect their home, the civilians of Green Creek, and each other – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t take their losses, as well. There is enough tension in this book to build a house; a lot of “will they, won’t they” between our two main focuses – Carter Bennett and Gavin, and a growing feeling of unease and discomfort growing from the “bad guys”. The main antagonist, who has been a “bad guy” across each story, is Robert Livingstone – Gavin’s father (also Gordo’s father, another character in the series who is the main character in the second novel, Ravensong) which, quite expectantly creates tension between the main cast. What I think is amazing about this, though, is that the sons, Gavin and Gordo, are given time to process this, react to it, understand it and how it affects them, and lastly, at the very end of the novel when they successfully kill Robert Livingstone, Gavin and Gordo are shown burying his body and quietly grieving their loss, which every other character is shown to be completely understanding of, and completely welcoming of. The two sons are not chastised for their decision to do this, but are rather encouraged, and I thought that was a phenomenal writing decision on TJ Klune’s part. Bridging this gap between “good guys” and “bad guys” was lovely to see, and really elevates the book into maturity instead of being another “good-guys-kill-bad-guys-easy-peasy-no-remorse-no-thought” YA type of book, which is so refreshing to see, and I loved it.

For years now, Ox has been my favourite character. He was the main character in the first book, Wolfsong, and he was a lovely character. Transforming from a shy, quiet kid, into an Alpha with a powerful presence was amazing to see, it was like watching someone you love grow up. Through the next two books it was clear that there were things going on with Ox behind the scenes that we the readers did not have access to since we were following a different character with a different story being more important to them. This was an amazing tactic, and I really was in awe of it. Creating this mystery in turn created an unmatchable hype for the last book where we would finally realise what has been happening behind closed doors and get clued back into what Ox has been thinking this entire time. When the first little hints of self-sacrifice started to get peppered throughout the book, I was nervous, as I’m sure many other readers were. In the first book, towards the very end, Ox is very nearly killed before being turned into a werewolf to save his life. I had thought, initially, that I’d just read another book by some guy who had built up so much emotion only to fall into the “bury your gays” trope (Ox is bisexual, and discovered his love for another man – Joe – through the first book). When, in this last book, he was stabbed viciously through the stomach, I was terrified as I didn’t know of any in-universe way to save him and worried again, that after all this time, we had come on such a long journey just to trip and fall at the very end. Luckily, gratefully, I was wrong. I would give all of my trust to TJ Klune for the way that he treats his characters with such respect and love makes me feel so relaxed, and welcome into any of his worlds.

Admittedly, having discussed a lot of details from a lot of the series, this next statement might be considered redundant, but I will still stand by it: this series is one to experience, not one to read about second hand. This is the kind of series that you need to read for yourself, not reading about what I read and what I think. This book, this series, deserves more than 5 stars for the absolutely amazing effort it puts in, the story it tells, and the connections it makes. This really is a fantastic series, and TJ Klune deserves every piece of praise he gets for it.

Sian Thomas

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

In the article below members of the Get the Chance team share why the work of Get the Chance is important to them and their lives.

You can make a donation to support the work of Get the Chance here

Guy O’Donnell, Volunteer Director

Hi my name is Guy O’Donnell and I am the director of Get the Chance. In this short article our team share with you how vital Get the Chance is to them and their lives. If you can support our work, please donate at the link above.

Get the Chance is a social enterprise based in South Wales. We are Wales based with an international outlook. We work to create opportunities for a diverse range of people, to experience and respond to sport, art, culture and live events. We use our online magazine website as a platform to showcase our members activities. We provide a fantastic opportunity to develop cultural critical voices and ensure that people from certain groups of society, people that are often forgotten or unheard, are given a platform to share, review and discuss their lives and critique work in a public platform.

Not only have we supported conversations about the arts and culture in Wales, but we’ve also broken-down barriers and asked questions about who actually gets to critique art. It is this democratisation of criticism that is crucial to a healthy and thriving artistic community that listens to everyone. Thank you.

Gemma Treharne-Foose, Volunteer Director and Critic.

Hi, my name is Gemma Treharne-Foose. I’m a board member and volunteer with Get the Chance. We’re a community of volunteers, activists and enthusiasts dedicated to expanding the reach of arts, culture and sports in Wales. At Get the Chance, we exist to create a space and a platform for people to participate, engage in and respond to theatre, arts and culture. In particular, we help people who are perhaps traditionally hard to reach and support them to access and experience these spaces.

Part of the work we do with our community is to encourage and support them to build up their skills, responding to, vlogging about, and writing about their experiences accessing arts, theatre and culture, and also helping them access particular schemes and initiatives with partner organisations.

At the moment the arts and live event industries in Wales are hurting and they’re struggling right now as they try to access support and gain audiences in these uncertain times. I believe this is an arts emergency and I want part of my work with Get the Chance to support the industry to get back on its feet again and to get audiences enjoying live events and theatre again.

If you also want to support and highlight Welsh theatre, arts and culture then I’d encourage you to get involved. Let’s shine a light on the amazing work happening right now in Wales. The show must go on!

Barbara Michaels, Volunteer Critic.

As one of the most senior reviewers who has known Guy O’Donnell for many years, I can’t stress enough how important it is that Get the Chance continues to support the youngsters who want to become involved in the arts, many of them with the aim of a career in the media.

During the time over the years I’ve been reviewing, I’ve been really impressed by the young people who are coming up into the ranks, who have become very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about their involvement with theatre. Unless we get some financial support, it’s going to be so difficult to continue with an organisation like Get the Chance which does so much good, giving opportunities to young people who wouldn’t have them.

With the cost of seeing the performances of opera and ballet and theatre rising, and inevitably it is going to rise more, it is absolutely vital that we have some support both financially and in all aspects of an organisation like Get the Chance. Thank you.

Kevin B Johnson, Volunteer Critic

Hi my name is Kevin, I work in an office, I like long walks on sunny beaches and I’m Sagittarius. Apart from that, I’m a member of Get the Chance because I like seeing new shows, new films and sharing them with other people, bringing my discoveries to others and getting a chance to view them. I like to highlight what I love about the shows that I’ve seen.

Becky Johnson, Volunteer Critic

Hi my name is Becky Johnson and I’m a member of Get the Chance. I’m actually a freelance dance artist based in Cardiff and I’m a member of Get the Chance alongside that. So with my practice I tend to create work, I tend to perform and I tend to teach, and a big part of me being an artist is making sure that I can see as much work as possible and then also understand the wider perspectives, on not only dance but also the arts in general and the things that are going on in our current climate and our local area.

So with having Get the Chance alongside of it, it allows me to access these different things and to get opportunities to see these, which I wouldn’t necessarily financially be able to do otherwise. Also, it allows me to have that time dedicated to just look at these things analytically and also just to really try and understand what is going on in what I’m watching and what I’m seeing, rather than just watching it and acknowledging what’s happening. Writing with Get the Chance gives me an opportunity to use my voice to promote the things that I really care about and things I’m passionate about, the things I think need to be highlighted, whether that’s something that’s problematic that I see in a show or something that I think’s wonderful that needs to be shown more of and we need to see more of.

Another opportunity that I’ve had recently which has been amazing is the opportunity to interview people that I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to and to be able to give them a voice to speak about their platform and what they’re doing. This is really important to me as a lot of these issues are very important and very close to home and I think it’s something that without this platform I wouldn’t be able to do.

I’ve always loved writing, it’s something that I did always want to pursue but by being a member of Get the Chance I’ve been able to continue my writing in a way that’s still linked with my practice. It means that I can find the balance of both of these feeding each other. I’m really grateful for having this opportunity.

Leslie R Herman, Volunteer Critic

Get the Chance has been one of the ways I’ve been able to maintain a connection to the arts and culture in Wales. I’m writing this message from New York City. It is mid-August 2020. I’ve been unable to get back to Wales due to the Covid pandemic and the global lockdown. Not only am I really missing Wales, I’m missing connection, to people, to places and to the arts and culture that I’ve grown to love and live for – arts and culture that have helped me thrive throughout my life.

At the moment it really feels like we’re all of us spinning in our own orbits and cyberspace is our most vital tool but if that’s all we’ve got, I’m afraid it’s way too nebulous for me. I need to feel more grounded.

Get the Chance really has given me the opportunity to get grounded and to connect to people, to the arts, to culture. It’s given me the opportunity to mentor young people and it’s given me the opportunity to extend and rebuild my own career. What’s marvellous about get the chance is its open and flexible approach to giving people a chance to connect to culture. Why don’t you give Get the Chance a chance?

Beth Armstrong, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name’s Beth. I’m 24, and I’m from Wrexham, North Wales, and I’m currently training to be a primary school teacher. I’m a member of Get the Chance because it allows me to watch a great range of theatre performances which I wouldn’t normally get to see due to financial reasons, and also allows me to see a really diverse range of different kinds of theatre which I think is great for expanding my knowledge and experience of theatre in general.

Having my work published online is a great opportunity for me because it allows me to have a wide audience for my writing, and it also allows me to engage with other reviewers and read their work as well, so it’s a really fantastic opportunity.

Samuel Longville, Volunteer Critic

When I left university, Get the Chance was a really amazing, creative outlet for me. I was able to see so much theatre for free which would have been really difficult at the time, having left university as a not very well-off student. I was working a quite tedious nine-to-five job at the time so Get the Chance really served as that kind of creative outlet for me, allowing me to see as much theatre as possible, and not only to see it but to think about it critically and write reviews about it. So it really let me utilise the things I’d learned on my drama course at university.

I’m soon to start an MA in Arts Management at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and I think, without Get the Chance, my enthusiasm possibly could have wavered over the past year, and I still may be stuck doing the same nine-to-five job that I was previously doing. So I really can’t thank Guy and Get the Chance enough for all the opportunities they gave me over the past year.

Helen Joy, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name is Helen Joy, and I’m here to talk a little bit about my experiences with Guy O’Donnell and his extraordinary Get the Chance. I joined Get the Chance as a 3rd Act Critic when it started, which is a couple of years ago now, and I was a little less grey(!), and it has given me the most extraordinary opportunities that I would not have had the opportunity to take otherwise. For example, I was able to go to the Opera regularly, something I never thought I’d be able to do or that I would enjoy. I’ve been a keen follower of modern dance – ditto, never thought I’d do that – and it’s also given me the chance to really think about how I evaluate things.

So, for example, much more recently, I was given the chance to interview Marvin Thompson. I think this gave me one of the biggest challenges I’ve had for a long time. He, and the experience of planning and conducting an interview, and recording it visually and hourly on Zoom, made me really think about, not just how I wanted to react to him and to his work, but how I felt about it.

Often, I fall into a particular category: of the classic middle-aged, white, educated woman, where the opportunities are already ours, and we’re very lucky with that, but we’re also quite a silent group. People don’t really want to hear what we’ve got to say, which is why we tend to shout it from the rooftops I think; or why, equally, we disappear into the aisles of supermarket. This has given me and my colleagues tremendous opportunities to re-find our voices and to share them, to listen to what other generations have to say. It’s been a really important experience for me. Long may it continue. Thank you!

Barbara Hughes-Moore, Volunteer Critic.

My name is Barbara Hughes-Moore, and I recently completed my Doctorate in Law and Literature at Cardiff School of Law and Politics on Gothic Fiction and Criminal Law. So by day, I’m a scholar, a reviews editor, and a research assistant; and by night, I write longer retrospective pieces on film and television through a gothic and criminal lens on my personal blog.

I’m a member of Get the Chance because its mission is all about increasing the visibility of, and accessibility to, the arts for everyone. Since becoming a member, I have attended and reviewed numerous theatre productions at the Sherman Theatre, the New Theatre, and Chapter Arts Centre. I’ve been a featured speaker on the Sherman Theatre’s post-show panels. And, more recently, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing director Alison Hargreaves on her short film Camelot for the Uncertain Kingdom Anthology. Most importantly of all, Get the Chance has not only given me a voice – it has given me the space, the opportunity, and the confidence to use it.

Gareth Williams, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name is Gareth. I am 29 years old and I live in North East Wales, and I’ve been asked to say why I’m a member of Get the Chance, and I want to answer by slightly rephrasing the question in order to say what Get the Chance means to me. And first of all, it means having the opportunity to respond to the arts in Wales; to contribute to the discussion around arts and culture in Wales; and to engage with various art forms.

To that end, it is an opportunity to support and promote artists and organisations, particularly those that I’m passionate about. So for me, that looks like theatre, particularly the work of Theatr Clwyd in Mold; music – I’m a fan of country music, and it’s great to be able to showcase Welsh country music talent on the Get the Chance website – and TV drama. Welsh TV drama is going through a bit of a golden age at the moment, and it’s great to be able to be a part of that as somebody who critically reviews these shows as a writer.

I’ve always been much better at writing than speaking. I’ve never been very good at expressing an opinion though because of low self-esteem and confidence. But being a member of Get the Chance has given me an opportunity to express an opinion. It’s increased my self-esteem and my confidence to speak about how I feel about the things that I see and watch and listen to and engage with. And I think, for me, that is the most important thing about being a member of Get the Chance: that opportunity to express an opinion which, a couple of years ago, I would not have had the confidence to do.

Sian Thomas, Volunteer Critic

Hi! My name is Sian. The main reason I joined Get the Chance is because I love reading and I’ve always loved reading, and I really like having a definitive place where I can put down my thoughts on any piece of media and see people respond in so many different ways, and even the authors of the books that I’ve reviewed responding in so many different ways as well. It’s really lovely to have that kind of freedom of expression and I really value being a member.

Amina Elmi, Volunteer Critic

I am a member of Get the Chance because it gives me a platform where I can speak my mind . It allows me to give my opinion and being able to do so enables me to explore the media, the news and whatever preferred genre or medium of entertainment I want.

When it was introduced to me I was into writing and that has helped shape what dreams and ideals I have while also keeping my writing skills at a solid, good level. I am fortunate to be a part of Get The Chance because it has given me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.

Hannah Goslin, Volunteer Critic

I am a member of Get the Chance because theatre and the arts is what I eat, live and breath. To be able to connect with fellow performers, practitioners, critics and journalists is a wonderful chance to learn, be inspired and to network.

Ffilmiau Cwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru wedi’u comisiynu ar gyfer Cymru yn yr Almen 2021.

Prosiect traws-gelfyddyd Plethu/Weave yn cael ei ymestyn i 2021

Mae Plethu/Weave, cywaith traws-gelfyddyd digidol Cwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru (CDCCymru) a Llenyddiaeth Cymru, wedi cael ei ymestyn i 2021 ac wedi cael ei gomisiynu i fod yn rhan o lansiad blwyddyn Cymru yn yr Almaen 2021 Llywodraeth Cymru.

Yn dilyn llwyddiant cywaith traws-gelfyddyd CDCCymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru, bydd Plethu/Weave #2 yn cael ei lansio ym mis Ionawr 2021, gan gynnig rhagor o gyfleoedd i ddawnswyr annibynnol wedi’u lleoli yng Nghymru gael eu paru â rhai o feirdd mwyaf talentog Cymru i greu wyth o ffilmiau digidol, byr, cyfoes a chyffrous ar-lein.


Bydd ffilm gyntaf Plethu/Weave #2Aber Bach, a grëwyd gan Mererid Hopwood a dawnsiwr CDCCymru, Elena Sgarbi, yn cael ei rhyddhau ar 11 Ionawr, fel y cyntaf o dri chomisiwn CDCCymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru sydd yn rhan o lansiad blwyddyn Cymru yn yr Almaen Llywodraeth Cymru.


Yn 2020,parodd Plethu/Weave bedwar dawnsiwr o CDCCymru a phedwar artist dawns annibynnol gydag wyth o feirdd gyda’r nod o greu wyth ffilm fer ar gyfer cynulleidfaoedd ar-lein. Creodd y parau hyn weithiau traws-gelfyddyd sydd wedi’u hysbrydoli gan straeon, lleoliad, treftadaeth a chysylltiad yr artistiaid eu hunain â Chymru. 


Caiff Aber Bach ei enw ar ôl bae yng ngorllewin Cymru, lle gellir clywed synau melin wlân a’r môr. Ceir ‘Aber’ a ‘Bach yn y Gymraeg a’r Almaeneg, ond gydag ystyron gwahanol. O’r syniad hwn y daw’r ffilm – a gafodd ei ffilmio ym Melin Wlân Melin Tregwynt yn Sir Benfro, a’i chreu ar y cyd â Rufus Mufasa, Hanan Issa a Tim Volleman – ac mae’nn archwilio sut y gallwn blethu geiriau i greu patrymau newydd o berthyn.

Dywedodd dawnsiwr CDCCymru, Elena Sgarbi, “Mae gweithio ar yr ail gynhyrchiad o’r prosiect ffilm Plethu/Weave gyda Mererid Hopwood a Tim Volleman wedi bod yn gyfle gwych i ennill dealltwriaeth well o Gymru a’i diwylliant. Trwy frwdfrydedd Mererid i rannu ei diwylliant a’r prosiect hwn, ces gyfle i ddod i adnabod cornel brydferth o ogledd Sir Benfro drosof fy hun, a’i thraddodiad gwehyddu gwlân pwysig.”

Mae gan CDCCymru hanes o deithio i’r Almaen ers 2017, gan berfformio i gynulleidfaoedd yn bennaf yng Ngogledd Rhein-Westphalia, Bafaria a Baden-Württemberg.

Dywedodd y Prif Weithredwr, Paul Kaynes, “Rydym yn falch iawn y bydd CDCCymru yn cyflwyno dawns fel rhan o lansiad Cymru yn yr Almaen Llywodraeth Cymru. Rydym wedi bod yn datblygu ein henw da a chynulleidfaoedd yn Ewrop, yn enwedig yn yr Almaen a gwledydd cyfagos dros y tair blynedd diwethaf, gan berfformio i leoliadau dan eu sang gyda chryn gymeradwyaeth. Mae’n deimlad cyffrous iawn i ni ein bod wedi cael ein comisiynu i greu y ffilmiau Plethu/Weave hyn, fel bod rhagor o gynulleidfaoedd gartref a thramor yn gallu gweld dau gwmni celfyddydol cenedlaethol o Gymru yn cydweithio.”

Bydd y ddau gomisiwn Plethu/Weave #2 arall sydd yn rhan o raglen Cymru yn yr Almaen yn cael eu darlledu ym mis Mawrth ac ym mis Hydref, gan arddangos gwaith y bardd Alex Wharton a’r artistiaid dawns Krystal S. Lowe ac Osian Meilir.

Dywedodd Lleucu Siencyn, Prif Weithredwr Llenyddiaeth Cymru, “Mae Llenyddiaeth Cymru yn falch iawn o gael mewn partneriaeth â CDCCymru unwaith yn rhagor ar rownd arall o’r prosiect arloesol hwn, ac i gael dathlu ein diwylliant llenyddol ac artistig gyda’r byd fel rhan o raglen Cymru yn yr Almaen.”

Dywedodd Jane Hutt, y Dirprwy Weinidog a’r Prif Chwip: “Mae blwyddyn Cymru yn yr Almaen yn ymwneud â chryfhau’r cysylltiadau rhwng y ddwy genedl ac adeiladu rhai newydd, ac mae gan y sector celfyddydol ran bwysig i’w chwarae. Mae ein celfyddydau, diwylliant a chreadigrwydd yn rhoi i Gymru ei phersonoliaeth unigryw ac mae’n gryfder mawr yn nhermau hyrwyddo Cymru ar lwyfan y byd.

“Rydym yn falch iawn o fod yn gweithio â CDCCymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru ar y prosiect cyffrous hwn ac yn edrych ymlaen at arddangos gwaith rhai o’n beirdd a dawnswyr mwyaf talentog i gynulleidfaoedd yr Almaen yn y flwyddyn i ddod.”

Bydd Aber Bach, y comisiwn Plethu/Weave #2 cyntaf ar gyfer Cymru yn yr Almaen yn cael ei ddarlledu fel rhan o’r lansiad digidol ar sianeli cyfryngau cymdeithasol Llywodraeth Cymru ar 11 Ionawr. Bydd Aber Bachar gael ar wefannau a sianeli cyfryngau cymdeithasol CDCCymru a Llenyddiaeth Cymru o 12 Ionawr ymlaen.

Am ragor o wybodaeth, ewch i ndcwales.co.uk

National Dance Company Wales & Literature Wales films commissioned for Wales in Germany 2021

Plethu/Weave cross-artform project extended into 2021


National Dance Company Wales (NDCWales) and Literature Wales’ digital cross-artform collaboration, Plethu/Weave has been extended into 2021 and has been commissioned to be a part of Welsh Government’s launch of Wales in Germany themed year in 2021.

Following the success of NDCWales’ and Literature Wales’ cross-artform collaboration, Plethu/Weave #2 will be launched in January 2021, bringing more opportunities for independent Wales based dancers to be matched with some of Wales’ most talented poets to create eight more exciting contemporary short digital films online.

The first Plethu/Weave #2 film, Aber Bach, created by Mererid Hopwood and NDCWales dancer, Elena Sgarbi, will be released on 11 January, the first of three NDCWales & Literature Wales commissions, as part of the launch of Welsh Government’s Wales in Germany themed year.


In 2020, Plethu/Weave brought together four dancers from NDCWales and four independent dance artists paired with eight Wales based poets to create eight short films for audiences online. The pairings created cross-artform creations inspired by the artists own stories, location, heritage and connection with Wales.  

Aber Bach takes its title from the name of a cove in West Wales where the sounds of a Woollen Mill and the sea can be heard. ‘Aber’ and ‘Bach’ are words found in both Welsh and German, though with different meanings. From this notion, the film, which was filmed at the Melin Tregwynt Woollen Mill in Pembrokeshire, and created in collaboration with Rufus Mufasa, Hanan Issa and Tim Volleman, explores how we can weave words to create new patterns of belonging.


NDCWales’ dancer, Elena Sgarbi said, “Working on the second edition of the Plethu/Weave film project with Mererid Hopwood and Tim Volleman has been a great opportunity to gain a deeper insight into Wales and Welsh culture. Through Mererid’s enthusiasm to share her culture and this project, I have been able to get to know first-hand a wonderful corner of North Pembrokeshire and its important wool weaving tradition.”

NDCWales has a history of touring to Germany since 2017, performing to capacity audiences mainly in North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

NDCWales’ Chief Executive, Paul Kaynes said, “We are delighted that NDCWales will be presenting dance as part of Welsh Government’s Wales in Germany launch. We have been building our reputation and audiences in Europe, especially in Germany and neighbouring countries in the last three years, performing to packed venues and standing ovations. It’s really exciting for us that we’ve been commissioned to make these Plethu/Weave films, so even more audiences at home and internationally can see two Welsh national arts companies collaborate.”

The other two Plethu/Weave 2 commissions for the Wales in Germany programme will be broadcast in March and October and will feature poet Alex Wharton and dance artists Krystal S. Lowe and Osian Meilir.

Lleucu Siencyn, CEO of Literature Wales, said, “It’s wonderful to be able to partner again with NDCWales on another round of this ground-breaking collaboration, and to celebrate our literary and artistic culture with the world as part of the Wales in Germany programme.”

Jane Hutt MS, Welsh Government Deputy Minister and Chief Whip said,

 “The year of Wales in Germany is about strengthening the connections between our two nations and building new ones, and the cultural sector has an important role to play. Our arts, culture and creativity give Wales its unique personality and it is a huge strength in terms of promoting Wales on the world stage.

“We are delighted to be working with NDCWales and Literature Wales on this exciting project and look forward to showcasing the work of some our most talented poets and dancers to German audiences in the year ahead.”

Aber Bach the first Plethu/Weave #2 commission for Wales in Germany will be broadcast as part of the Wales in Germany Digital launch on Welsh Government social media channels on 11 January. Aber Bach will be available on NDCWales and Literature Wales’ website and social media channels from 12 January.

Home | National Dance Company Wales (ndcwales.co.uk)

‘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.