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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, Laura Evans, Running Back to You EP, by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

When I composed my ‘Top 5 Welsh Country Music Artists’ for a recent article, I made a glaring omission. How could I forget Laura Evans? Yet such has been the success of the Aberdare-born singer-songwriter, one can easily forget that her roots lie on this side of the pond. Her music has been featured on several US TV shows. She has performed at the famous Bluebird Café in Nashville. In fact, her time spent in Music City, writing and producing songs, means that she could easily pass for an American citizen.

On saying that, her voice retains a certain Welsh flavour that is evidenced on her latest EP Running Back to You. Her sultry tones are reminiscent of fellow Welsh warbler Duffy. Indeed, the strong soul vibe on the title track cannot help but evoke such a comparison. It is also shot through with blues, and contains some delicious guitar licks in the middle that make for a tasty listen. Its catchy groove sits nicely alongside the music of namesake Laura Oakes – though it is much more layered than Oakes’ straight-laced pop sound.

Laura Evans is no one-trick pony. This EP is defined by eclecticism that ranges from the heavy rock of ‘Drag Me Back In’ to the traditional country-sounding ‘Take Me Back Home’. The latter confirms her Welsh roots with a call to home that is beautifully written and played with gorgeous simplicity. Its sound is embedded in Nashville-inspired song which could belie the distinctly Welsh imagery within the lyrics. It fails to do so however, the two marrying well to create a lovely, heartfelt lovesong to Aberdare. Following on, as it does, from the heart-wrenching ballad ‘Mess of Me’, about the lasting damage that can be caused by a broken relationship, the track takes on further resonance that was perhaps unintended. Here, ‘Take Me Back Home’ takes on a Prodigal Son vibe in light of the despair contained in ‘Mess of Me’. It suggests the healing power of home which, given Wales’ Celtic spirituality and natural beauty, has the potential for truth.

Whatever the potential significance of the song choices and their running order, Running Back to You displays the type of music that showcases why Laura Evans is so highly thought on both sides of the Atlantic. She is a genre-crossing artist whose songs all have the potential for broad appeal. I think it will be only a matter of time before she is given much wider recognition on national radio here. It will be the least she deserves.

Listen to the EP on Spotify here.

Click here to find out more about Laura and to purchase her EP.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams

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.

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

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

Credit Vikki Marie Page

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

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

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

Credit Celine Fortenbaucher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit Vikki Marie Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit Vikki Marie Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your favourite authors and why?   

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

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

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

 During Lockdown a range of arts and third sector organisations and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working that you would like to highlight?

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

Thanks for your time

Review Pandora, Season 1 (CW/Syfy UK) by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Created by Mark A. Altman, a producer on The Librarians and Castle, CW’s summer sci-fi series Pandora follows Jacqueline ‘Jax’ Zhou (Priscilla Quintana), a young woman who enrols in Earth’s Space Training Academy after her home is destroyed and her parents killed under suspicious circumstances. It’s 2199, and humanity is recovering from a decade of war with their extra-terrestrial neighbours, the Zatarians (who are essentially just Romulans with better hairdos). Jax must navigate new alliances, friendships and romances while training to defend the planet in an era of fragile peace and ultimately unravelling her own mysterious origins.

It’s easy to write off any fantastical school as a Hogwarts rip-off, but Pandora’s alma mater is more akin to a sexed-up Starfleet Academy (already a high bar, given Trek’s sexy track record) or even Starship Troopers: The College Years. Now, it’s nowhere near as bitingly satirical as Paul Verhoeven’s stylistically cynical space-soldier romp – and Pandora does name its space academy in the blandest way possible – but there’s a layer of interesting social commentary under the preternaturally pretty sheen of your typical CW cast. It can, at times, lapse into a kind of thematic genericity – but when it hits gold, it glitters.

Nine episodes in to its thirteen-episode first season, and I’m hooked. There’s an indefinable magic to the series that has me eagerly anticipating each weekly instalment. The hardest element of the show, according to its producers, was assembling the right actors for the roles – and in this area they have excelled. The cast really commits to the characters and the story, and the chemistry between the central ‘Scooby gang’ feels natural and genuine, in spite of the rapidity at which it developed. I was invested in the team by episode two and as the show goes on, it shifts the spotlight onto different characters to flesh them out.

The natural leader of our merry band is, of course, Priscilla Quintana as Jax, a character who feels like the descendant of Talon (Jessica Green) from The Outpost, another CW show which has a small budget and a big heart (aka my kryptonite). Quintana is a charming lead and makes Jax feel like a fully realised, even relatable, character when she could so easily have slipped into stereotype. I love that she genuinely cares about people and risks her own safety to do what she believes is right – whilst also being sarcastic as hell. The central mystery as to who – or what – Jax truly is, or could become, drives much of the series’ intrigue; the question of whether Jax – ostensibly the titular Pandora – possesses the calamitous powers of her mythological namesake has become its most relentlessly interesting aspect.

I think the major reason her friendships with her college buddies works so well is that the cast get along and they’re all having a riot. Much of the levity stems from two characters in particular: Atria Nine (Raechelle Banno) and Greg Li (John Harlan Kim). Atria is a clone who escaped her abusive creators to join the academy. Whilst almost everyone else is kitted out in the generic grey-green garb of most science fiction, Atria looks like she’s been pulled straight out of an anime – with her purple hair and technicolour outfits, she could easily come off as parodical, but Banno’s effervescent performance and her character’s internal quest for a soul promise more interesting character beats for her to come. Pandora is also refreshingly clear and upfront about its characters’ queerness, with Atria and Jax openly attracted to people of all genders, and Jax’s relationship with ex-girlfriend Cordelia Fried (Isabelle Bonfrer) taking centre stage in episode eight.

Greg, meanwhile, is a medical student so charming you almost overlook the fact that he is given next to nothing to work with story-wise. Kim played the roguish Ezekiel Jones on TNT’s The Librarians, televisual comfort food at its fluffiest and finest, who started off as a cardboard cut-out and ended the show’s four-season run as its best and most beautifully developed character. Here, he’s a college-era Han Solo with shades of ER’s Dr Ross. It’s refreshing to see a romantic lead who is a genuinely good guy, and not a tormented bad boy with a dangerous streak. Even though ‘Greg’ may not be the most swoon-worthy name in the book, Kim’s charisma and leading man charm is a real boon to Pandora – which is why it’s a shame that he’s side-lined so early on. After a strong start which positioned him as one of the main leads alongside Jax, and a serious contender for her affections, Kim simply doesn’t appear for a good portion of season one for reasons unknown and unjustified.

Greg has two major rivals for Jax’s heart, at least in the main cast: Xander Duvall (Oliver Dench), a teaching assistant at the academy, and Ralen Maht (Ben Radcliffe), son of the Zatarian ambassador, and whose enrolment at the Academy is something of an olive branch after years of warfare between his species and humanity. I’m fairly certain that Xander is being set up as Jax’s endgame love interest, which is a shame because of her four suitors he’s the least compelling thus far. Despite being some kind of super-badass TA with a secret mission and murky past, there’s no real emotional hook to his character, and he’s written to be so buttoned-up and officious that he can’t even rely on charm, as John Harlan Kim does, to plaster over the gaps – the writers seem to have decided he’s The One and that’s the end of it. I would be pleasantly surprised if they’ve planned a more interesting trajectory for him (à la Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) but I’m not optimistic.

Ralen, on the other hand, is much more intriguing. Although he’s initially sketched in the broad strokes of Star Trek’s Lt. Comm. Data – driven by logic and intellect over outward emotion, often to humorous effect – Radcliffe rises above archetype and crafts Ralen as a sweet, sensitive and soulful person torn between loyalty to his people and his newfound human friends. His striking performance is embellished by subtly effective makeup and a great wardrobe – he looks like if Tom Holland was possessed by a demon and subsequently raised by David Bowie and Spock. Ralen’s already great on the page and on the screen but Radcliffe is the reason he’s so compelling – not only does he get to shine in fight scenes thanks to Radcliffe’s gymnastics know-how, his physicality in dialogue-driven scenes gives the character a genuine alien feel that enhances the sense of otherness between him and his Academy friends.

Rounding out the fellowship are Thomas James Ross (Martin Bobb-Semple) and Delaney Pilar (Banita Sandhu), arguably the characters with the most potential going forward. Pilar is a nannite-enhanced human whose cybernetic implants allow her to access the Datastream (basically the internet but turned up to eleven). She’s given centre stage in episode six, where she is bullied and attacked by other students jealous of her beauty and academic prowess, in a way which interestingly investigates campus culture. As Jax’s roommate, Pilar shares the most screen-time with her so far, but I’m hoping she and Atria will grow closer because of their shared territory in bio/tech fusion.

As well as being the best-dressed on the show by a mile (I think half the budget went on his jackets, and I call that money well spent), Thomas also has the strongest arc so far, thanks to a wonderfully anchored performance from Bobb-Semple and some brilliant developments in episode five, where he is reunited with his fair-weather father, Billy D. (Richard Blackwood). Billy can read minds, Thomas can read emotions – and while Billy initially comes off as a suave psychic conman, the episode explores the complexity of their relationship and the dark origins of Billy’s powers and their connection to Earth’s wartime strategy against the Zatarians. Their complex father/son is a definite highlight of the series so far, and their story was genuinely emotional.

The episode, and Thomas in general, also brings some much-needed conflict into the main gang in a show in which everyone seems to have buddied up instantaneously, when he falls out with Jax for very legitimate and understandable reasons and causes a rift amongst the ‘Super Friends’. There’s a general wariness of Ralen, as the sole Zatarian student, but this brings conflict of a passive kind. The conflict involving Thomas occurs because he is a more active character, narratively speaking – and the show would do well to write more of its characters in this way. Conflict drives the story and reveals who the characters truly are because it forces them to make challenging and difficult choices – our cast of young heroes is diverse, charming and brimming with potential, but there’s simply not enough friction between them just yet.

Pandora — “Simple Twist of Fate” — Image Number: PAN113_000.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Noah Huntley as Osborn, Oliver Dench as Xander, Priscilla Quintana as Jax, Vikash Bhai as Shral, Tehmina Sunny as Regan and Isabelle Bonfrer as Cordelia Fried — Photo: The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The gang’s most obvious Earthbound antagonists, for now, are their professors. Profs Ellison Pevney (Tommie Earl Jenkins) and Martin Schral (Vikash Bhai) are basically Lupin and Snape in all but name – Bhai’s supercilious Schral even reprimands Jax for being late in an almost beat-for-beat recreation of Alan Rickman’s introductory scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – but the most pivotal is Jax’s shady uncle Professor Donovan Osborn (a nefarious moniker if ever I’ve heard one).

Played by Noah Huntley and looking like the bewaistcoated lovechild of Peter Facinelli and Eric Bana, Osborn may be largely confined to his (rather swish) office as yet, but he’s an intimidating and perplexing presence – is he a cog in the machine or the puppet master? The existence of Osborn alone raises several points of interest, not least the seemingly non-existent separation of powers in late 22nd century Earth – Osborn is not only a professor in wartime politics and battle strategy at the Academy, he’s also a high-level operative in the Earth Intelligence Service, which is (by Huntley’s own admission), a ‘futuristic CIA’. On a more superficial note, the man should really have his own fashion line in sci-fi couture, because his outfits are to die for. If you’re a fan of how the genre tweaks familiar clothing in ways that make them more science fiction-y, Pandora is the show for you.

Although its world-building can sometimes feel derivative, and the inner lives of its characters are still being formulated, Pandora is an intriguing and compulsively enjoyable show that has much to recommend it and heaps of potential for its future. It’s another entry in the ‘small on budget, big on heart’ genre I love so dearly, and it does a lot with what it’s got, incorporating exciting fight scenes, cool missions and constructing its plots around thematic analyses of xenophobia, intolerance, climate change, and colonialism. I hope the bizarre choice to call the alliance of planets a ‘Confederacy’ is critiqued in-universe and that we see more sympathetic Zatarians than just Ralen. A second season has already been ordered, and though the first has so far been a shaken martini of potential, I’m interested to see which box Pandora opens next.

Pandora airs on Syfy Channel in the UK on Thursdays at 9pm.

Review, Bryony Sier, Personal Monster EP, by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

It is hard to categorise Bryony Sier. The Welsh singer-songwriter has a rather eclectic sound. There are bits of blues, flecks of folk, glimpses of gospel. She is cut through with country, with a slice of soul, lightly packaged in pop. Her new EP Personal Monster displays an exciting mix of all of these various sounds, sown together to create a mottled tapestry from a thematic thread of personal identity. Despite the deeply personal nature of this record however, its musings on mental health in particular speak to a universal experience which make it highly relatable.

The title track is one on which the disruptive and destructive nature of anxiety is expertly exposed by Sier. It makes for a rather sharp sword that penetrated right through to my own heart, all-too-familiar, as it is, with those tall tales telling me ‘I’m not worthy’ and ‘if I jump it will be my biggest mistake’. The song’s infectious rhythm belies its lyrical darkness, the sort of paradox that seems to mark much of Bryony’s music. Merry Go Round, for instance, exudes a form of pessimism that actually feels remarkably reassuring. Its tune is shot through with a melancholic hope that put me a wonderfully pensive mood. Meanwhile, Hurricane combines the whimsical movement of a Celtic folk song with the darkened sky of a gritty Johnny Cash number. The musical arrangement goes off on some unusual and unexpected tangents, producing a mystical quality that ends the EP on a rather intriguing note. I went back to listen to it again straight away, such was my fascination with Sier’s honest exploration of her own inner world as well as the astute observations of those around her.

Personal Monster represents a broad horizon of musical sounds upon which Bryony Sier feels free to explore. She borrows from here and there, constructing a multi-coloured road of sound along which she travels into the dark recesses of her anxious mind. It is a record that makes one feel less alone, and provides reassurance that the monster within us is perhaps not as personal as we might think.

Click here to listen to Personal Monster on Spotify.

Click here to find out more about Bryony Sier.

Reviewed by Gareth Williams

Mymuna Soleman and The Privilege Café

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During Lockdown a range of arts and third sector organisations and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working that you would like to highlight?

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

Thanks for your time

The Gift of a Garden in Lockdown with Yaina Samuels

In this exclusive interview, Yaina Samuels (Founder & Director of NuHi Training Ltd a social enterprise which offers bespoke education and training workshops for people with substance misuse problems) speaks to the Director of Get the Chance about her background, the challenges presented in Lockdown. Her love of gardening and lack of black presenters in the media. Yaina also discuss where she thinks arts funding should be focused.

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

A few years ago, a friend once described me as a disruptive influencer. I thought at the time it was a bad thing. Reminded me of school, my end of term reports (for lessons that I didn’t like/couldn’t get my head around) always read “Yaina is a disruptive influence in the classroom”. That was then and this is now! For me being described as a disruptive influencer is very much a good thing. I’ve decided to also add the word innovator as it aligns well with the person that I am today. I consider myself to be a ‘disruptive innovative influencer’ seen through my life experiences, the work that I do and the things that I am passionate about

During Lockdown you have been sharing updates on work in your garden. Have you always been interested in gardening?

If it wasn’t for gardening, my emotional health and wellbeing would have taken a steep nosedive during lockdown. I am the type of person that likes to be actively involved in doing something. Living alone, being in lockdown, working from home on my laptop, was driving me nuts. I had to sort my head out and fast.

My passion stemmed from my early childhood experiences of visiting extended family who were keen gardeners. As a young child I loved visiting my grandmother’s house in West Close, in the Docks. She had a long path to the front door and there were always pretty coloured flowers and plants filling the borders, they smelt wonderful to my little nostrils.

Another experience: visiting my cousins in Ely meant that I would get to see what uncle Les was growing on his garden veg plot. He spent hours in the back garden, tending his plants, tying up canes for his runner beans, and weeding the ground. When we had a Sunday roast dinner at my uncle’s house, the vegetables were always freshly pick from his garden that same morning.

From the age of nine we moved to a housing estate in Newport we were fortunate enough to be housed directly opposite miles and miles of green fields. For years I would watch the farmer from my bedroom window ploughing, planting and harvesting his crops. In my teens, to earn pocket money, I worked at a local farm at the weekend picking blackcurrants.

You use lots of recycled materials in your garden projects, where do you get them from and which are you most pleased with?

I get my recycled materials such as wood and pallets from skips by the side of the road. I can’t drive past a pallet without stopping and putting it in the car. I’m obsessed with pallets; I go to bed at night watching YouTube tutorials of creative things to make with pallets. Ideas come to me when I’m sleeping, next morning I can’t wait to get out of bed to get started.

I got into the habit of carrying my jigsaw tool with me as I quickly came to realise that pallets come in different shapes and sizes and some need cutting to fit into my small car. Friends who follow me on social media have also messaged me to offer me pallets.

You have also been growing your vegetables, which you have had to defend from garden predators! Have you managed to save any veg and made any nice meals?

Growing veggies brings forth both pain and joy. For the first few weeks I had a nice harvest of rocket lettuce, chives, mint, rosemary, parsley, garlic, and strawberries. So far, I’ve made several dishes of tabbouleh salad – main ingredients parsley and mint. I shared much of my rocket and mint with my lovely neighbours. My cucumbers, cabbage and courgettes are growing slowly but surely, as I put them in a raised bed. However, my lettuce has been totally annihilated by the invisible slugs that come and go in the night, the only evidence being their slimy silvery trail.

There are very few black gardeners in the media, what can be done to increase representation and support people into considering this as a career path or as a pastime?

My biggest passion has always been plants, gardening and nature. Up until last year I had never seen a black woman garden presenter on TV, I was a follower of Charlie Dimmock, that’s all we had. Imagine my joy when I first saw Flo Headlam on Gardeners World in 2017, about time too! Then I remember Juliet Sargeant a black garden designer winning gold at the Chelsea Flower show in 2016 for her creative expression of modern-day slavery.

The black gardeners that I have mentioned above are from over the bridge in England. I would love to see Wales cultivate and nurture our very own homegrown black gardeners – Wales is missing out on so much by not embracing this unique and diverse talent.

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

If I were able to fund an area of arts I would most definitely choose presenting or hosting. We need more black people presenting topical issues that relate to all. The media is a very powerful tool which is, all too often, used to spread hate and promote divisiveness in relation to black people. As a black woman born in Cardiff, with strong Sierra Leone roots, I feel hopeful that change is finally coming on a global scale. Such a shame that it took the death of George Floyd to get us to where we are now.

During Lockdown a range of arts and third sector organisations and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working that you would like to highlight?

For me Zoom conferencing has all the components needed for running a successful activity online, engaging with people who may not normally attend such events. Also allowing people to join and just listen without having to walk into a room full of people, which to many community members, is a pretty daunting experience.

The added bonus of Zoom is the break out room facility where a large group can be broken into smaller groups for discussion. I feel that online engagement is the future. Being able to access a service or event without leaving the home will enable far more people to participate and get their voices heard in relation to issues that affect them and their communities.

Thanks for your time Yaina