#DandD12 – Final Thoughts & The Power of the Open Space

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It’s taken me a day to process Devoted and Disgruntled 12 and I’m not sure the enormity of it all has completely sunk in yet. At the end of day two I was feeling inspired but I had no idea how emotionally powerful it would feel by the end of day three. At some point I’ll try and write the notes for the two sessions I attended as well.

It’s really hard to put into words and I’m not sure they’ll do it justice but I’m going to try.

There’s something amazingly empowering about being in a room full of like-minded people. All passionate. All engaged. All wanting the best for the industry that they love. All talking about making the future better. Creating possibilities instead of obstacles. Opening doors.

The space, and the openness of the circle or perhaps circles as when one is broken many others form, break down the normal boundaries and titles than confine us in our everyday roles. It’s a space without job titles and hierarchy. A space where anything can happen, anything can be discussed and everybody has an equal voice. Where artistic directors can sit opposite new graduates and talk. Where actors and makers can share ideas. Where established professionals can impart knowledge to those breaking into the industry.

At the end of three days of intense discussion and inspiration a room full of strangers felt like old friends.

Before D&D I had lost a bit of my spark. The state of the world was playing heavily on my mind and the future looked very uncertain. But now I feel inspired, reinvigorated, empowered, connected and ready to face anything.

I felt high on the energy and creativity, the ideas and inspiration and completely buzzing from all of the thoughts racing through my mind.

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At the closing circle I choked up. I had an overwhelming sense of euphoria. Empowerment. And a humbleness and thankfulness that I had the opportunity to be in the room with so many inspirational and generous people. To fill my mind with the richness of their conversation, be inspired by their stories and journeys and hope that together we can make a difference and move forwards.

I’m not sure I made much sense to anyone I talked to when the circle closed. All the ideas came babbling out of my mouth at a hundred miles an hour. I couldn’t sit still. I was dazed. Exhausted but energised at the same time. I felt like I was radiating a glow not too dissimilar to the orange light of that we had gotten accustomed to over the last few days.

The closing didn’t feel like an ending. It just felt like a “see you later”. Like these ideas and discussions weren’t over yet. That the next chapters were still waiting to be written. And I hope that all the things we discussed and all the action we committed to take bear fruit and that many wonderful things come from the last three days.

Thank you to all those I knew before and who travelled with me, thank you to those of you I met along the way and to all those I didn’t get to chat to – thank you as well. Thank you to Flo for the hugs when I was a bag of emotions at the end of the circle and thank you to Improbable and the organisers for enabling this to happen. What happened was the only thing that could have happened.

Here’s to the future.

x

 

Contact / Social Media:

Personal Twitter: @LukeJohnEmmett    –   Website: www.lukejohnemmett.co.uk

Theatre Bath @TheatreBath    –   Facebook: www.facebook.com/theatrebath

Theatre Bath Bus: @TheatreBus

 

Email: info@theatrebath.co.uk    –   mail@lukejohnemmett.co.uk

#DandD12 – Day Two – Empty Shops, Female Leadership and other bits

Another empowering day of intelligent, thought-provoking open discussion… and a poetry reciting badger – only at D&D!

 

Session 5 – Empty Shop Theatre

A brilliant discussion which led to lots of easily obtainable action points. Lots of links to discussions that happened yesterday; particularly to the session entitled: Bristolians/city-dwellers: How Can We Share More With The Regions That Surround Us? (Link to the report from that session here: http://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/events/devoted-disgruntled-12/reports/bristolianscity-dwellers-how-can-we-share-more-wit/

 

Key Action points:

  • Help create a website which contains user-generated content about setting up and running pop-up venues.
  • Establish a network to help each other and to tour work between venues.

 

Useful organisations/Downloads:

The ABTT – Association of British Theatre Technicians

http://www.abtt.org.uk/shop/books/

Free guide to non-conventional theatre spaces
http://www.abtt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Non-Conventional-Theatre-Spaces-17-Aug-2017.pdf

Free safety guide for small venues: http://www.rusafe.org.uk/#download

ISAN – International Street Artists Network

Edinburgh Fringe Festival have a lot of documentation about setting up temporary venues, licensing, health and safety etc

Quotes/Provocations/Inspirations:

  • Learn council speak – speak to Local Authorities using terminology they understand – find language that’s not arts language i.e. Placemaker Activation
  • Realise that it’s not about always climbing up the ladder and heading for a big producing house – remember that we should be proud to produce good small scale work and that we should accept our work is good and not make it into something it’s not just because its the “normal” way of doing things
  • Take pride in the work that you do
  • Create relationships with property developers, town centre teams and councils
  • Don’t be put off by people telling you it won’t work
  • Revitalise thinking about business use that highlights the work
  • Holding more events across an area on one day attract more audiences than running different events over different days
  • Work with an experienced project manager
  • Social responsibility – Look at the larger impact of what you’re doing and understand the positive and negative connotations of doing this i.e. arts can help revitalise a city centre – but inevitably once that area is revitalised there is seen to be no longer a need for the art that helped it get there in the first place. Think about how the success of revitalising a city centre can impact on poorer areas of the city.
  • Licensing: No licence unless selling alcohol and under 500 people. Toilets and fire exits denote audience sizes. PRS music licensing. Insurance.

 

Session 6 – Female Leaders In The Arts: A Norm Not A Niche

I joined this session part of the way through after butterflying around for a bit and catching snatches of other conversations along the way. To begin with I was the only male there which was daunting as a lot of the talk was about men – but also a really great experience for once to be in the minority. I purposely stayed at the edge of the circle for this one – mainly because I just wanted to listen and learn and quite frankly there are enough white, straight, middle class men talking all the time and making their voices heard and this session was not about me and my voice. It was an opportunity to listen and learn and see what I can do to help the situation and to really discover how the gender divide has effected women in the arts and in society in general. And it was incredibly eye-opening. Thank you to those present for being so open and honest and allowing me to observe. I’ve made a few notes that people raised during this conversation and I hope out of context they make sense (please do suggest better ways of wording things if they do not!).

Notes/Key Points/Quotes

  • Self-empowerment – give yourselves permission to go for roles
  • Gate keeping – other women in leadership roles bringing women up through
  • Creating a new model of leadership which isn’t patriarchal
  • Women to take responsibility for how women are viewed in the arts
  • Women talking and advocating for each other – name dropping other women in conversations, twitter, interviews etc
  • Leadership qualities – how to change the male orientated view of leadership so that it better represents women and their qualities
  • Remembering that emotion is the sign of a strong leader and not a weakness
  •  Start empowerment through schools – governing boards – education
  • Need to change the vocabulary that we use – not just in the arts but in everyday life as well
  • Look at the Iceland model for equal rights of the mother
  • Get rid of preconceived and deep rooted ideas of what a mother should be
  • Equal childcare / paternity
  • Why should women have to fight their way back into jobs from the bottom after having children?
  • Change the culture of male language and put an end to questions such as “do you think you can deal with men” being asked in interviews to female only candidates

After this session I sat down and thought about everything I’d heard and discovered and one thing I’m going to do much more of is shouting about and name-checking the brilliant women that I work with or have conversations with. Especially on social media via my personal account and the Theatre Bath account. I’m also going to look very closely and the vocabulary I use and keep taking stock of how I say things to see if I can make them more gender-neutral. This discussion resonated and reverberated long after it finished so thank you again for letting me listen.

 

img_1523Session 7 – Making things easier to understand (or f**k art speak)

I accidentally wandered into this session and I’m so glad I did. Personally I hate jargon. It’s one of my massive bug bears. I work or have worked with a lot of large organisations that are full of acronyms and slang terms and I absolutely loathe it – just call things what they are and quit labelling them all the time. I also hate that we are expected to speak in cultural tongues in order for us to ascend the cultural leadership ladder. No! Just no! Talk proper like… :p

 

Notes/Key Points/Quotes

  • Whatever we say or think – not everyone has internet access – not everyone is computer savvy
  • Why do we rely on past success to sell shows? Are audiences really interested in some obscure production that someone they have never heard of by a company they don’t know has produced sometime in the past? Why not just write good copy about the actual show
  • Some venues use Skype/Facetime to get artists appearing their to talk about their forthcoming work
  • Realise the value of actual contact with artists creating the work
  • Getting people who have been involved with or seen the “product” to advocate for it and help to write the copy for it
  • Reconnect with why you are involved with a company. Why are you involved with doing the work? This shifts the ownership of the work.
  • Use of the word “Artists” – has it become a dirty buzz word? Is there a certain snobbery or elitism associated with the word? Search for a title within the word that represents what it means to us as individuals
  • Have a bullshit filter or a friend/colleague that can act as a bullshit filter to help us better describe our work
  • Use the 25 words or less method of describing the show / work

 

Session 8 – Want to perform a show in Bath? What can we do to help?

I called this session to try and help connect people who want to perform in Bath with the right venues and organisations and to share what I know with anyone who was interested.

The key points that came from the discussion were that Bath and Bristol do have bubble and cliques that from the outside can be very hard to penetrate. Theatre Bath is going to look at how we can help with this including potentially re-starting our informal networking nights / tweetups so that people can meet with other theatre makers and get the advice/help/connections that they desperately need.

Also pointed out that there is very little scope for development of new work in Bath or showing of new work. So to address this we’re going to look at potentially starting scratch nights so that anyone wishing to show work and get feedback on it from audiences or other professionals locally have a platform from which to do this.

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Closing Thoughts for Day 2

Usually at the end of D&D I feel exhausted and emotional. Today I felt empowered and ready to take on the world. The power of openspace and the ability to connect with so many people on an open playing field is empowering and beautiful.

I’ve spent the last two days walking around the space smiling at strangers, them smiling back and saying hello to lots of different people. I became very aware as I left the circle this evening and headed to catch a train that the feeling of open space didn’t exist in the world that I’d just stepped back into. The reality of walking up the approach to Temple Meads Station and for a moment forgetting that the people milling around me going about their daily lives don’t yet contain the open space magic that the rest of us get to take away with us. I forgot for a moment that if you smile at normal people sometimes they don’t react in the same way as they do in open space. I got some very weird looks from those loitering outside the station as I began adjusting back to the real world but still smiling madly at them. It just reminded me that we’ve got more work to do yet and that we need to spread the open space magic a little wider. Am I going to stop smiling madly at strangers… occasionally saying hello… not a bloody chance. We are all responsible for creating a change and being the change that we want to see in the world. Open space has again re-ignited something within me that I can now keep and take forward in a positive way and implement in the work that I do in the future. From small acorns grow mighty oaks and all that.

I can’t wait to see what the final day brings and I look forward to it with a heightened sense of optimism that things can change and be made better.

Until tomorrow.

 

Contact / Social Media:

Personal Twitter: @LukeJohnEmmett    –   Website: www.lukejohnemmett.co.uk

Theatre Bath @TheatreBath    –   Facebook: www.facebook.com/theatrebath

Theatre Bath Bus: @TheatreBus

 

Email: info@theatrebath.co.uk    –   mail@lukejohnemmett.co.uk

#DandD12 – Day One – thoughts and other ramblings

It was great being back at Devoted and Disgruntled and being surrounded by intelligent and interesting conversation and ideas about the theatre industry.

For those of you who don’t know what Devoted & Disgruntled is or who would like more information visit their website (where you can find reports on all the discussions happening there): http://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/

 

As a bit of a preface to coming along today we have just learnt that B&NES Council are about to cut all Arts funding by 2020 and also we risk losing our library in Bath (or should I say it’s getting downsized to not much more than an internet cafe). So before coming to D&D today I attended the protest about that, but with the new information about Arts cuts weighing very heavily on my mind. So I was in a strange place. Fired up by the brilliant protest but despairing about the imminent and deadly cuts that were creeping upon us like a thick black depressing shadow, reaching out with its chilling hands to rip away the cultural heart from the city I love. Dramatic much?!?

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So with that in mind I somewhat curled up into my introverted and contemplative protective shell and sat back and listened more than joining in with the discussions. Below are a few of notes and observations.

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Session 1 – New Venue – How/What/When Licensing

This was a really interesting session which featured a range of experience of setting up and running venues. I forget the openness and the willingness of people to share best practices and advice. D&D really enables these discussions to happen on an equal playing field.

We discussed everything from finding audiences / users of the space to setting up boards, legislation, subscriptions and everything in between. Below are a few quotes and notes.

“Sweat Equity – Time Banking” – doesn’t always have to be a financial arrangement for using spaces

“No group is too small to be contacted about using the space – go everywhere in the community and talk to everyone”

“Always have a brand leader”

“Make sure it’s the right space for the right show”

Important question – “Why are you actually doing it? Why are you setting up the venue”
This leads on to forming mission statements and business plans.

Artistic Policy = Soul of the venue

Trustees – get them to buy in to your vision. They don’t have to donate financially but they should benefit the organisation.

Create really good art and build a family of support around you.

 

Session 2 -How Can We Help Straight, White, Middle Class, Able-Bodied, Cis Men Know They Are The Minority And The Not The Norm?

Stella Duffy called this session and it was great to be able to sit and listen to the items discussed and how we can all help be part of the change that needs to happen. As someone who ticks most of the boxes for the title of this discussion I wanted to know what more I can do and I felt that this discussion has helped open my eyes to a few more areas that I possibly wouldn’t have considered before.

Some of my favourite quotes were:

Diversity – the Highlander effect. Everyone is fighting for power and to see who can be the most powerful by going around chopping the heads off of others and taking their power.

 

“By empowering others you gain power by power growing”

 

And my absolute favourite quote of the day from Stella herself:

“If men are manspreading – start C**t spreading.”

 

img_1518Session 3 – Collaborate to support Bristol Artists making new work

I have to say I left this session part of the way through when it was made very clear that Bath organisations weren’t particularly welcome to collaborate here. Which is a real shame as our doors are open to Bristol artists and we would love to work with you. Is this the infamous Bath/Bristol divide in action again?

What became abundantly clear though was the feeling of elitism and hierarchy within Bristol that was leaving some Bristol artists feeling excluded from “the club” and left looking in from outside the bubble. This was discussed at some length with talk of gatekeepers and allowing entry and then curation of that entry.

A brilliant idea was raised which was the most simple and effective idea of all that Theatre Bath has used to great effect – although the idea seemed to be somewhat dismissed. What artists need is space to talk and to meet with people running the venues in and around the city. This just means opening up one of the spaces and getting the right people there and allowing conversations and networking to happen. We used to run Tweetups which were informal meetings at a pub where anyone with an interest in theatre would show up, share ideas and ask for help. From these sessions connections were made by companies with local theatres and practitioners which then led on to those companies being able to take their work into the venues and stage it. And all we did was to arrange a time for people to meet with the right people and enable this to happen. It truly is the simplest thing in the world to do and I hope someone grabs the idea and runs with it.

For any Bristol artists reading this if you want to bring a show to Bath get in touch and I will put you in touch with the right people at the right venues. I will help promote your show via the Theatre Bath website and I will also put you in touch with people who know about flyer distribution and marketing of shows in Bath. We welcome you with open arms and will do everything we can to help support you and your work. Drop us an email: info@theatrebath.co.uk

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Session 4 – Bristolian / City Dwellers – how can we share more with the regions that surround us

This was an inspired session discussing creating a smaller inner-cities version of the Rural Touring framework to help link venues from the outskirts and regions together.

A few key points:

“Neighbours not community” i.e. people that pass us by on the way to work.

Collaborating more with tours to surrounding areas. Creating satellite suburb towns.

The power of rural touring is word of mouth – value of audience from communities spreading the word about shows. How can we capitalise on this free publicity? Longer runs of work?

Transport to venues for audiences and practitioners a real issue to regions. Lobby to help change this and get councils etc to see the importance of good transport links.

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Day 1 Conclusion

A real mixed bag. I’m exhausted. I’m inspired. I’m definitely fired-up for day 2.

See you tomorrow!

 

Contact / Social Media:

Personal Twitter: @LukeJohnEmmett    –   Website: www.lukejohnemmett.co.uk

Theatre Bath @TheatreBath    –   Facebook: www.facebook.com/theatrebath

Theatre Bath Bus: @TheatreBus

 

Email: info@theatrebath.co.uk    –   mail@lukejohnemmett.co.uk

The Lonely Refugee (work in progress)

I’m not entirely sure if this is a poem or spoken word or a song. It’s a work in progress at the moment whatever it is.

It’s about refugees and being displaced from your home.

Words and music by Luke John Emmett.

   

  

Lyrics:

Running away from all they know

Each new day a new war zone

Piles of rubble, pools of blood

Death is raining from above.

Streets of terror, human debris

What remains of family?

Nothing left of the place they called home.

  

  

Chorus:

Searching for a place to call home

Travelling down the roads unknown

Hoping that the world will begin to see.

There is nothing different between you and me

Just another lonely refugee.

  

  
Home is more than bricks and mortar

As they make their way across the water

Young Aylan lying dead on the beach

Shipwrecked signs of humanity

Leaving all they know behind

History and piece of mind

Struggling for the right to be free.

  

CHORUS

   
A whole life, condensed to a rucksack

Give them the strength, they need to get back

Keep on going, down that lonely road,

Never knowing what the future holds

Will they make it, to sanctuary

Or will they be drowned on the ferry?

Put on show for the whole world to see.

   

CHORUS:

  
Just another lonely refugee

Just another lonely refugee.

  

  

  

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW MCCONNELL / PANOS

#Theatre2016 – Let’s Talk About The Elephant In The Room

Billed as being “For everybody who cares about the future of theatre in the UK” the Theatre 2016 conference organised by 13 partners runs for two days in London’s West End.

Upon arrival we were allowed into the Piccadilly Theatre to find our seats. Upon every seat was a canvas bag containing literature from partners of the conference and a printed version of the programme.

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Unfortunately I could only attend the first day as I went down ill but here are my thoughts and provocations.

 

The Elephant in the Room – PRICE

Let’s get straight into the bone of contention, as one lady commented first thing Thursday morning:

We’ve been talking about accessibility but no-one has mentioned the biggest elephant in the room – class”

I have seen multiple arts professionals take to Twitter and Facebook to talk about the cost of this conference. At over £400 a ticket I’m not surprised. This is a big issue and unfortunately I feel is a reflection of theatre in the UK as it is today. When we price out our own artists and professionals then we have a serious problem and theatre elitism shines through.

I was about to write “I felt privileged to have been there” and then stopped myself, because actually no – all theatre makers should have the right to attend a conference which aims to discuss it’s future.

I couldn’t afford the ticket price either, (even with a significant discount from being a member of a partner organisation), so I emailed Bon Culture months ago and said this to them, I offered to pay in instalments and they came back to me and very kindly offered me a bursary place funded by the Arts Council. So yes it was far too expensive but did anyone who is complaining approach the organisers beforehand to mention this? I did and it worked out well for me and I thank David and the organisers for this.

Personally I would have liked to have seen a pricing structure similar to the No Boundaries conference run by the Arts Council where there were different tiers depending on what level of organisation you were from. As it is, I cannot honestly say that the views of the whole sector are being captured or aired via this conference and that feels like a missed opportunity to me.

One of the most poignant moments was in a quick provocation from Benjamin Monk who took to the stage and mentioned the fact that people had been excluded from this conference based on price. The reaction of a lot of the audience speaks volumes. There were lots of eye-rolls all around me. But he did gain a small ripple of applause at the end. But the point he made has largely been ignored and gone unnoticed in coverage of the event so far.

“Perhaps if we ignore it – it will go away?”

Yinka Ayinde hit the nail on the head in his speech – how can we possibly claim to be accessible when the make up our organisations does not include those who we claim we are trying to attract. And what right have we to tell people what they should and should not be attending. The top down, hierarchical, management framework is in my opinion the most broken about theatre in the UK at the moment. We need to reach out to communities and people on their level and ask them what they want and get them involved with our decision making. Only by making them feel a part of what we do can we ever possibly hope to gain their support and make work that is relevant for them.

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Yinka Ayinde – “Adapt our theatre to our audiences. Let’s not tell them how to behave.”

General Accessibility & Digital

One of the key themes of the conference was accessibility – yet the conference was not that accessible and from watching Twitter today when people tried to make it more accessible by using Periscope to live stream they were shut down.

There was lots of talk about how to integrate digital more into theatre but this conference fell short on actually managing that.

At the first No Boundaries conference which showed incredible technical ingenuity, Marcus Romer (who was present at this conference) stated at the time “The accessibility of this conference should become the norm. There is no excuse for anyone not to make their conferences this accessible” (Note I’m paraphrasing).

Yet whilst we heard brilliant keynote speeches about digital and accessibility we were told there was no video recording of the conference and no live streaming. There would be an audio recording however. Very basic things which could have helped those who couldn’t attend access what was going on.

Also there were basic operation errors with PowerPoint presentations that led to delays, awkward show stops and slightly embarrassed speakers.

Maybe some points to address is this conference happens again?
EDIT: I forgot to mention (and I apologise profusely for this) the incredible work that STAGETEXT did with the subtitling of the event. It really helped as a tool to catch up, if, like me, you were busy taking notes you could look up and catch what had been said on the screen. Hats off to STAGETEXT and the amazing work they did.

Round-Up of the rest of Day 1

Conference chair Vikki Heywood took to the stage and offered an inspirational talk about the state of the industry and the way forwards:

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If theatre can’t lead the way in working together more effectively, who can?”

Dan Rebellato launched into a talk about statistics, statistics and more statistics. Many of which did not come as any surprise to those present. Great that we have more data but it doesn’t show much that we don’t already know or haven’t known for years – the question is what do we do about it? Action needed.

A brief panel discussion was then had with different provocations.

Discussion Panel

 

Kully Thiarai said “We don’t understand that difference is something not to be ashamed off… At some point somebody gave people the opportunity. We don’t take enough risks. We don’t support enough people taking theirs. You have to be bold about supporting a new generation.”

Eleanor Lloyd reminded us: “More people go to the theatre than watch football matches”

Alistair Smith talked about the importance of using the skills of people we already have.

Jenny Sealey: “We have to take some of the costs away to enable things to happen”

 

Stream 1 – How Will The Art and Practice Of Theatre Need To Adapt To Thrive In The Next Ten Years

Richard Lee from the Jerwood Space talked about being hard of hearing and how theatre workers rolled their eyes at him when I asked why there was no hearing loop. He made one of my favourite quotes / observations of the day:

You’re not disabled… Theatre has disabled you!

Sheena Wrigley from Home talked about “dismantling the regional theatre model” and how the work that she is involved with at Home includes three arts producers working across art forms and all departments working together creating a central vision provided my audiences.

If we were a company without a building – what would we be?

She talked about the festival model and how that could work for theatres and how audiences could cherry pick what they wanted to do.

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Sheena Wrigley “It’s time to start dismantling our regional theatres and reassemble them in a more collaborative, non-hierarchical way.”

Ian Stickland from Charcoal Blue discussed the digital experience to audiences that already exists today and showed us what can already be done with the apps we have on our smart phones and facial recognition in theatre foyers.

Ian Stickland

Ian Stickland “Theatre must be relevant to current audiences… Arts must embrace the digital world. We need to manage the interaction between analogue and digital. 87% of people who watch television also look at a second device. We need to apply theatre technology to the digital world.”

Libby Penn from Spektrix – “People want everything now and on the cheapest terms”.

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Libby Penn – “We have to realise that the world has changed and we have to adapt. We need to try new things or optimise existing things more than just tweaking them. We have to take risks. Great isn’t good enough. Embrace failure as part of the process.”

Day one ended with us being asked to vote on preconceived resolutions, which we weren’t allowed to change which caused some out-cry from those present. Having watched Twitter today it looks like it has been agreed to scrap all of them which I think is the right decision.

 

Conclusion

Overall this was a good conference. There was a brilliant selection of people there and all of them friendly and approachable. Yes the pricing needs work and the demographic of those who attend needs to shift to enable anyone involved with theatre to be given the opportunity to join in.

There was not enough time for discussion and as brilliant as the keynote speeches were there was far too much emphasis on listening and not enough on discussing potential solutions to problems and the practical application of opening our doors to each other and working together.

It’s a step in the right direction but I only hope the ideas and provocations have legs after the conference has ended and don’t just become another collection of thoughts which sit gathering dust on the top shelves of our “cultural leaders”.

Let’s not forget how great an achievement it is to bring so many theatre people together and thank you to David and team for all the hard-work in making it happen.

I look forward to seeing the reports from day 2.

 

Repetition, Patterns and Déjà vu

Patterns, patterns everywhere. Things that seem to keep on reoccurring. Repetition.

This is going to be a bit of a ramble and I’m not sure where it’s heading but I felt the need to write it down. So here goes…

Do you ever feel that no matter how much things change, certain aspects of your life seem to loop back around again? Things go full circle. Not to go too Lion King on you but it’s very much “circle of life”. 

I’ve been noticing lots of things recently with family members and friends and I keep seeing patterns emerging. My life is very different now compared to when I was a child but recently I’ve seen events loop back around again and patterns of behaviour that I haven’t seen for probably 20 years are returning to those around me.

It’s surreal and unsettling. And hard to write about in detail without revealing too much about those involved.

My nieces are staying with us at the moment. One is 4 and the other is 11. The 11 year old in particular is almost experiencing the same issues that I had at school and it’s horrible to watch. It’s like looking through a portal in time and seeing yourself and watching yourself go through some pretty tough things. And again feeling powerless to do anything about it. She won’t accept help and the school are being less than great at sorting things out. 

We’ve had a lot of stuff to deal with over the last few years but recently it seems like the family is dealing with things by reverting back to patterns of behaviour from a long time ago and it’s weird to be a part of it. It’s weird to watch. And I don’t like it.

I’ve always been a big believer of carving my own path and being able to change to move forward. But I’m beginning  to wonder how much of the changes are real and how many are superficial, on the surface. Or perhaps we think things have changed and trick ourselves into believing they have when actually all we’re doing is acting out what looks like a change. Convincing ourselves that we are doing things differently. When actually, fundamentally nothing is really different. And when things begin to fall around you the false wall of protection comes hurtling down exposing an uncomfortable reality behind it. That there are certain mannerisms and behaviours that we revert back to when everything else fails. A core being that is at the base of what makes us who we are and to some degree is an unchangeable beast.

I am intrigued by it to say the least and although things have been tough it is interesting to watch these patterns emerge and perhaps when things calm down I’ll be able to understand them better.

Watch this space!

I’ll Have You Know I’m Approaching 30 – Yes but from which direction?

Couldn’t resist starting this blog post with an old panto joke as so much of my life has involved panto and theatre. I’m going or use this post to look back at some of the crazy things that have happened to me over the last 30 rebellious years.
 
My first rebellious act was at the moment of my birth. No I don’t remember it but it’s been burnt into my memory as the story frequently gets pulled out by my both my parents. The midwife who was looking after my mum when she went into labour wasn’t the friendliest person in the world and seemed to be dressed for a night out on the tiles when she was called in to deliver me. Bright pink make-up exploded from both her lips and nails like an hallucinatory flashing of a gaudy 80s nightclub. Her hair carefully up so as not a piece was out of place. She seemed very keen to get out of there. Anyway I dutifully did my bit and wriggled free and into the world and proceeded to urinate directly into her face. Maybe I sensed she wasn’t that nice a person… Who knows but I’m assured that my aim was perfect and I drenched her sufficiently (possibly from both ends I might add!). And that was how I came to be… Explains a lot huh?!?
 
Childhood was pretty normal I think, I was always a bit of an oddball and that kinda stuck. My mind was always away with the fairies and I had a deep desire to explore, to go on adventures and find out “what would happen if we did this?” Dangerous qualities in anyone, but especially in a child. That sense of adventure and exploration has stuck with me along with an incredibly rebellious nature.
 
When I was younger my mum was always reading to me. Every night we would have a story before we went to bed. Never my dad though. It was only in later years that I discovered reading didn’t come particularly easy to him but as a child you don’t understand these things and just think that your dad doesn’t want to read to you.
 
I grew up with a head full of the tales of Enid Blyton from the Folk of the Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair, to the Famous Five and Five Find-Outers-and-Dog with the surly policeman Goon. The Tales of Beatrix Potter, A.A. Milne and a little later Roald Dahl and Ted Hughes. These stories and tales became a massive part of my life and I would often find myself daydreaming about going on adventures with the characters. I remember actually going to the woods behind my house and trying to find the Far-Away-Tree and climb it and wondering what would these wild animals say if they actually could speak. There was a hollow tree in the top corner of the field along from my house, at some point in the past it had been struck by lightning and the charred edges left a hollow big enough for a small child to climb into. This became my magic tree which I nick-named the weather station… I can’t remember why? Perhaps it was because the wind whirled through it or perhaps I felt that the tree still held some of the magic from the Lightning that struck it. Who knows but for me that place was magic. 
 
The sad fact is I think at some point you realise that no matter how much you will them these things will never actually come true, that there is no Neverland, Lost Boys or a ticking crocodile, that no matter how many trees you climb you will never find a magical changing land at the top (but you do get amazing views!). And that’s a really sad day. When the spell is finally broken and your head pumped full of useless Maths Equations, facts and things measurable by science that you’ll never use in real life. I’m not sure we ever know when the changing point is, it just happens and life rushes passed in the blinking of an eye and when you do finally turn back you see the magic has faded and the grey reality of life seeps in and drains all the colour. And those characters you had dedicated a good part of your life to have returned to the pages of the book whence they came.
 
But their stories are far from over as they wait patiently for the next generation to discover them, to befriend them and bring them back to life. That’s the beauty of books and the imagination. When things are written down they are never truly lost forever. They can be rediscovered.
 
And sure I don’t climb nearly enough trees these days, although I do still talk to animals (if you own a pet you’ll understand – they totally know what you’re going on about). But I have discovered a way back to the magic – through theatre. Through bringing words on a page to life. To painting the stage with lights to help to bring these fantasy worlds into reality. The best part… Yes I’m nearly 30, but I still get to create magic, and play and watch others share and experience that magic as well. As jobs go that ain’t bad really is it.
 
I’ve rambled on long enough and I’m not sure this was even the post I was going to write, (I may write a few more “reflective” posts), but like so many things in my life I pick up the idea, set my imagination loose and just see where it leads me… Hey It’s worked out okay for 30 years.. And if it ain’t broke…