Category Archives: Theatre

‘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.

Review, The Goat Roper Rodeo Band, Theatr Clwyd, by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Or so it seems. The arts sector is not out of the woods yet by any means. But there is a glimmer of hope. Like the neon bulbs dangling across the stage at my first live gig since March, there are rays of optimism breaking through the darkness. As the sun set on the magnificent red brick building towering over us, aglow with rainbow-coloured light, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of joy and relief that I am back. That I have been able to come back. That my theatre, unlike others, still stands.

It never stopped, of course. It innovated; collaborated; diverted its resources; sought creative solutions. And now, it is slowly returning to a sense of the old normal. Not indoors, mind, but out. On a grassy field marked with white boxes and filled with makeshift chairs of all shapes and sizes. A tapestry of camping and outdoor furniture laid out before a plain black stage, simply lit and acoustically sound. Onto it step three lads with three instruments ready to entertain the throngs that have ventured out on this Friday evening. And entertain us they most certainly do, with a barnstorming hour of country, blues, and alternative folk.

Their blistering set was much needed to get the toes tapping; to counter the cold wind blowing across the site. The audience applauded in enthusiastic appreciation throughout, determined to enjoy an hour of music after the dearth of live performance over the past few months. The Goat Roper Rodeo Band certainly offered plenty of enjoyment and more besides, an eclectic sound keeping things fresh and lively, with no let-up in their high-octane delivery. Even in the slow, ballad-like songs such as Toss and Turn and Old Joanna, there was intensity in their presentation, perhaps caused by the welcome release that this post-lockdown opportunity presented for them. Whatever the case, it only added to the brilliance of the evening. With a carefully-crafted back-catalogue of wonderfully-catchy songs – reminiscent of Mumford & Sons one minute, sounding like a 1950s WSM Radio broadcast the next – The Goat Roper Rodeo Band certainly left their mark on proceedings in an hour that went by way too fast.

It was a very different experience of Theatr Clwyd to the one that I am used to. But it is moments like these that weave themselves into our memories. They are the unexpected surprises that make our relationship to a place so rich with meaning. They crystallise into a particular instance on our timeline that helps us tell the story of our lives to those that come after, when we recall how this theatre and its work has impacted us down the years. It may appear to the one looking in and gazing upon the photographs that this was just another outdoor gig. But to those who were there, or to me at least, this show marked the occasion when the arts began to breathe again, as the tightly-bound corset of Covid-19 restrictions was loosened enough to allow for such a socially-distanced gathering to take place.

There will be many bumps in the road to come. We are not out of the woods yet. But beyond the many trees still to wind past to get to the edge of what can seem an overwhelmingly-bleak scene, there is a light that shines. It will not be the same one we left behind. And neither should it be. Lockdown has been an opportunity to view and do things differently. Live performance as we knew it will return I’m sure. But the arts sector must also move forward. Change must be embraced.

Click here to find out more about The Goat Roper Rodeo Band.

Click here to find out what’s coming up at Theatr Clwyd.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The whole city is classist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through fear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.anniefengphotography.com

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

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

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

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

www.anniefengphotography.com


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Instagram Names:

@mayarosecarroll


@lsmarley

@howl_creative


@boltizzy


@_.iole._

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



Review Metamorphosis -Hijinx Theatre By Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

It has taken me an embarrassingly long amount of time to witness the new digital version of theatre that has come out of the result of the nationwide lockdown. The reason for my lack of theatre during these troubling times has been due mostly to the fact that I didn’t think they could adapt the theatre experience to be totally online and could potentially tarnish my experience and thoughts on shows in the future but I could not have been more wrong! I have recently experienced some of the best theatres I have ever seen during this time of everyone staying home and “Metamorphosis” by Hijinx Theatre is no exception.

The last show created by Hijinx was titled “Meet Fred” which was a genius piece of theatre with the focus on inclusivity for performers being a key idea in both shows. Despite this, I was still cautious about the totally digital show but after watching this show I totally regret having any reservations.

Hijinx Theatre are a very inclusive company that includes performers from all walks of life including those with physical or mental learning needs. This idea of getting everyone included is obviously very important and allows everyone a chance to showcase their skills which I believe is exactly what, in my opinion, theatre should be about. The company take this one step further by making there shows as accessible to everyone as possible. In this show, there were options for Closed Captioning and translations in German which again is fantastic to see included in theatre. Hijinx have set the bar extremely high for inclusive theatre and I believe that many other companies should look to them for advice on how to allow the greatest number of people to enjoy theatre in the future.

The show opens (after joining the Zoom call and typing in the details etc) with all viewers waiting in a digital bar. When I read on the press email that there would be a digital theatre bar in this performance it really puzzled me as to how can you do a digital bar. During this section, viewers were encouraged digitally to raise a hand to be invited to share their video and chat with the barman. This was a great way to include the audience into the show which is important for Hijinx shows as their shows often have a great level of audience participation and so this would have been left out if they hadn’t have come up with this idea of a bar themed waiting room. The barman himself was clearly having a really fun time during the show and had everyone laughing throughout the parts he was included in. My personal favourite was when he created a ‘metamorphosis’ cocktail for selected that magically transformed into whatever the audience members had laying around the house which was so ridiculously silly but I could not help but laugh. The barman’s dedication to the over-the-top persona allowed this silly skits and sketches to work and so he should be praised for his character dedication. This ‘show’ did however at times become more of an experience rather than watching and show as such which did conflict with the more theatrical scenes despite how fun the audience participation sections were.

The show itself has been crafted in a way to be a comical perspective on the effects of Zoom calls and the new perspective on theatre. It had a montage of people taking part in digital auditions such as someone who is to close to the camera or can’t work out their headphones etc. The ‘director’ in the show also stood up at one point with their pants on show to the camera which is something we have all done on a Zoom call. Dressing fancy on the top part of us and then wearing PJs or just pants on the bottom half is a famous occurrence on Zoom calls and it was hilariously funny for this show to acknowledge that this happens. The show also possessed polls and texts that helped more the show from scene to scene and allowed it to smoothly transition which was another great inclusion but also added to the tension and excitement of the piece. I did, however, find it very confusing and distracting to watch so many different people across different screens which I did find somewhat tiresome after a while.

Overall, Metamorphosis is a very unique experience, unlike anything I have ever witnessed before. It managed to utilise the video call software to create a theatre experience unlike any other but did become somewhat distracting. I would rate this show 4 stars out of 5 and would encourage people to keep an eye out for some of Hijinx’s productions as it shows people how inclusive theatre can be of done correctly!

Cyhoeddiad The Other Room, Theatr Dafarn Caerdydd, i wahodd Ceisiadau Agored Sgript Haf 2020

Heddiw, mae’r theatr dafarn Caerdydd The Other Room, enillydd Gwobr Theatr Fringe Y Flwyddyn gan The Stage, sydd wedi’i leoli ym mar  Porter’s, yn cyhoeddi ei phrosiect Haf 2020, sef New Page. Dengys y rhaglen hon, am y tro cyntaf, gyfle i gynnal Galwad Sgript Agored ar gyfer ysgrifenwyr. Byddant yn derbyn hyd at 100 o sgriptiau llawn, gyda phob un yn derbyn adborth cynhwysfawr gan dîm o ddarllenwyr sgript proffesiynol.

Bydd modd cyflwyno ceisiadau rhwng y 5ed o Awst tan Hydref y 4ydd, ac anelir yn benodol at ysgrifenwyr sydd naill ai yn Gymraeg, wedi’i hyfforddi yng Nghymru neu wedi’i lleoli yng Nghymru. Gobaith y theatr yw i greu partneriaethau creadigol newydd yn ogystal â datblygu’n bellach sgiliau dramodwyr Cymru. Bydd y theatr yn annog ceisiadau gan ysgrifenwyr sydd erioed wedi ysgrifennu i’r llwyfan; gan dderbyn barddoniaeth, straeon byr a dyfyniadau deialog yn ogystal â sgriptiau llawn.

Bydd Yasmin Begum, sydd newydd ei phenodi yn Swyddog Cysylltu Cymunedol, yn ymdrechu i olrhain 30% o’r holl geisiadau drwy waith cyfranogol wedi’i dargedu gyda’r cymunedau hynny o Gaerdydd sydd ar gyrion cymdeithas a gyda phobl efo nodweddion gwarchodedig. Ar ôl y cyfnod derbyn ceisiadau, anfonir rhestr fer at dîm gweithredol y theatr ar gyfer ystyriaeth ymhellach. Caiff ysgrifenwyr y rhestr fer gyfle i dderbyn sesiynau adborth gan Dîm Weithredol TOR, gyda’r gobaith o feithrin perthynas hir-dymor ystyrlon gyda’r theatr.

Dywed Dan Jones, Cyfarwyddwr Artistig The Other Room:

“Prin iawn y bydd sefydliad fel The Other Room yn segur, ond fel y gwyddom i gyd, rydym yn boenus o dawel ar hyn o bryd. Mae hi wedi bod yn gyfnod o fyfyrio dwfn, pryder ac adfyd. Ond yn y drychineb du yma, daw cyfle. Cyfle i droi tudalen. Gan ystyried popeth sy’n digwydd yn ein byd, dyma’r cyfnod i aros, i wrando ac i gysylltu.

Gyda chefnogaeth anhygoel gan Gyngor Celfyddydau Cymru a’r Sefydliad Esmee Fairbairn rydym yn falch i gyflwyno “New Page”, ein platfform ceisiadau agored. Dyma gyfle gwych i artistiaid Cymraeg neu sydd wedi’i lleoli yng Nghymru i gyflwyno eu hunain a’u straeon. Rydym yn ymwybodol nad ydym wedi gwneud digon i gyrraedd ac atgyfnerthu lleisiau sydd heb eu clywed yma yng Nghymru. Dyma ein cam cyntaf bwysig tuag at newid ystyrlon ac ni allwn aros i glywed ganddoch.”

Dywed Yasmin Begum, Swyddog Cysylltu Cymunedol:

“Mae New Page yn fenter sy’n torri tir newydd yng Nghaerdydd i gefnogi ysgrifenwyr ac i greu gwaith newydd. Rydyn wrth ein bodd i gael gweithio gyda gwahanol gymunedau ac aelodau’r gymuned i alluogi ysgrifenwyr i ddylanwadu ar sector y celfyddydau mewn ffordd bositif ac i hybu cydraddoldeb, cynhwysiant ac amrywiaeth.

 Byddwn yn gweithio mewn modd arloesol a chroestoriadol i ddarganfod gwaith ysgrifenedig o Gymru a thu hwnt yn y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg. Rydyn yn hynod o gyffrous i weithio gydag ystod eang o ddarllenwyr gan obeithio ddechrau perthynas o gysylltiadau broffesiynol newydd gydag ysgrifenwyr tra yn rhoi cefnogaeth ac arweiniad.”

Cefnogir New page gyda chymorth Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru, Sefydliad Esmee Fairbairn a chefnogwyr SupportTOR.

Ar gyfer mwy o wybodaeth ynglyn â New Page gan The Other Room, ewch i

https://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/new-page-submissions neu dilynwch y tîm ar Twitter @TORtheatre, Instagram @otherroomtheatre a Facebook www.facebook.com/otherroomtheatre

Cardiff’s pub theatre The Other Room announces Summer 2020 Open Script Submission

Today, Cardiff’s pub theatre The Other Room, located in Porter’s and winner of The Stage’s Fringe Theatre of the Year Award, announces its Summer 2020 project, entitled New Page. The programme will see, for the first time in the theatres existence, an Open Script Submission for writers. They will accept up to 100 full-length pieces of writing, with each receiving comprehensive feedback from a team of professional script readers.

Submissions will be open from 5th August through to 4th October, and is aimed specifically at Welsh, Wales-trained or Wales-based writers. The theatre hopes to forge new creative partnerships and further develop the skills of Wales’ writers. The theatre will be encouraging submissions from writers who have never written for stage before; accepting poems, short stories and dialogue extracts as well as full-length scripts.

Newly appointed Community Engagement Officer, Yasmin Begum, will endeavour to source a minimum of 30% of the total submissions through targeted outreach work with marginalised communities of Cardiff and people with protected characteristics. After the submission period, a shortlist will be sent to the theatre’s executive team for further consideration. Shortlisted writers will receive feedback sessions with TOR’s Executive Team, marking the beginning of what we hope will be a long-lasting, meaningful relationship with the theatre.

The Other Room’s Artistic Director, Dan Jones, comments:

“It is rare for an organisation such as The Other Room to sit still, but as we all know, right now, we are painfully still. It has been a period of serious reflection, anxiety, and adversity. But buried deep in this catastrophe there is opportunity. An opportunity to turn the page. With all that is going on in the world, now is the time to stop, to listen and to connect.

With the incredible support of Arts Council Wales and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation we are pleased to present “New Page”, our open submission platform. This is a fantastic opportunity for Welsh and Wales-based artists to introduce themselves and their stories. We know we have not been doing enough to reach and empower unheard voices here in Wales. This is our first important step towards meaningful change, and we cannot wait to hear from you.”

Community Engagement Officer, Yasmin Begum, comments:

“New Page is a groundbreaking initiative based in Cardiff to support writers and the creation of new work. We are thrilled to work with different communities and community members to engage writers to positively impact the arts sector and promote equality, inclusion and diversity.

We will be taking an innovative and intersectional approach to source written work from across Wales and beyond in the medium of English and Welsh. We’re really excited to be working with such a broad range of readers and hopefully start the beginning of new working relationships with writers as we offer support and guidance.”

New Page is made possible with the support of Arts Council Wales, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, and our SupporTOR donors.

Further information for The Other Room’s New Page can be found visiting https://www.otherroomtheatre.com/en/whats-on/new-page-submissions or follow the team on Twitter @TORtheatre, Instagram @otherroomtheatre and Facebook www.facebook.com/otherroomtheatre

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

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Handelbards in their fetching cycling socks

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

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