On 26th January we hosted Demostage at the Tobacco Factory Theatres Bar. We were joined by five artists who presented ideas at various stages of development in front of an audience who lent critical and responsive ears.
Firebird Theatre are a company of sixteen disabled actors, ranging in age from 22 to 70. Their new show A Spark and a Beating Heart tells their stories, intertwined with the myth of the firebird.
Just after Christmas, we spent a day with Firebird and photographers Paul Blakemore and Jack Offord taking a series of portraits of this unique company.
We've been working with the ever-so-fabulous Alice Holland on ACE's Agents for Change programme. We're launching a survey to inform the making and shaping of our 'mental health, wellbeing and flexible working in the arts' policy and in this blog Alice gets real about navigating the freelancer-life, vulnerability and why we're doing this.
The first revelation for me in the Agents for Change process has been that walking and talking feels really good. I mean, I’ve done it on away days, but not really as part of my normal working day. It really allows you to think. But walk we did, Alice and I, around the harbourside from Colston Hall past Watershed and the amphitheatre all the way along to Hotwells and then back up past the ss Great Britain and M Shed.
There's nothing like trying to drag a suitcase through the streets of Edinburgh at the tail end of the Fringe to make you want to escape to a quieter place. I finished four inspiring days at the world's biggest arts festivals with Rachel Clerke's blistering Cuncrete ringing in my ears and headed for Iceland; a place that couldn’t really be more different to Edinburgh in August.
Reykjavik’s Every Body’s Spectacular festival is collaborative working at its best. Two distinct programmes, Lókal and Reykjavik Dance Festival, combine for an annual festival of local and international work. We’ve been lucky to have been invited for a number of years, and it’s been great to get to know some of the local artists on this remote volcanic rock.
From 12-14 August Mayfest took over the National Theatre's River Stage - bringing Bristol-flavoured artists to London's Southbank. With the sun blazing and artists including Still House, Sleepdogs, Alabaster DePlume, Verity Standen and Wilf Merttens taking the stage, an incredible weekend was has by all.
Photos by James Bellorini
We’re currently working with a BBC Performing Arts Fund fellow, Sarah Bentley, on Mayfest’s Participation Programme.
Sarah will be blogging regularly about her time with us – here is the first of her missives:
Today is Sunday 8 February 2015. Monday – tomorrow – I will get up, woken by small child wriggling and watching Sarah and Duck at full volume, declare the day is light (the outside hue bearly a warm dark), make porridge, rush about, dress small child, cycle to nursery, drop off said small child, swim, see life coach, start work.
I have a list of things I will complete. I will decide on the themes of Mayfest’s Artists Breakfasts; doodling some sort of thematic ideas before pressing send on the emails.
“hello (name), we are doing a discussion on (insert topic). Would you be able to attend to discuss…?
I will definitely format the email better tomorrow.
January was great. Running bang into the role was great. There is thirty something other of us on the BBC Performing Arts Fellowship. They have pictures better than mine. I know Evie, she is great; she makes theatre in the way that I understand, weaving stories and experiences from the reality of life. It’s like that film I saw as a kid, when S4C had Channel 4 on late at night, Tina Goes Shopping, the one that started this obsession with things that involve people – life.
But, back to me. I start. And the realisation hits. Two things have happened: 1) I got a job in a festival that I really, really admire, and 2) Miriam O’Keefe (from BBC Performing Arts Fund) and the Kate and Matthew met, looked at me, listened to me, and thought, jolly good, she is pretty brilliant.
What is participation? Shouldn’t you be intrinsically doing it by the very nature of theatre being for an audience? This is a recent discussion I had. ‘Culturally deprived’ was another term I came across. Theatre being a ‘club’ was another.
Participation (in this context) is the act of engaging: it runs throughout the cultural sector: museums, through education (check this out if you want to see more), community arts, like Bristol’s Trinity Community Arts (an organisation whom I have been very proud to work with over the years).
Art as participation (public art like the amazing Situations, or Miranda July, whom I also kind of love). Participation can also be the act of communication, through well-considered marketing or understanding the best place to buy xanax online and how to work with different communities, working out where is the best place and how to offer culture.
The last offer I give is the audience as participant - there are some awesome artists, makers and producers I have worked with that are great at this sort of thing – Splash and Ripple; Play Nicely Studio; Mercurial Wrestler, Sling Shot (behind 2.8 Hours Later) and of course Mayfest (and MAYK, who programme and produce awesome and playful work, of which was pretty much my first experience of theatre, when I was 25).
I will, by the end of this Fellowship, have programed a participatory element to Mayfest (you should come) and a ‘legacy’ project of my own (as Miriam put it); I currently call it the page of my sketch book that is just doodles.
It is now Monday. I am sending this over to Matthew then I am going to start arranging our BSL performances.
Sleepdogs‘ Tim Atack tells us about the prospect of performing The Bullet and the Bass Trombone in a 1200-seater concert hall.
Next week Sleepdogs take our orchestra-in-peril story, The Bullet And The Bass Trombone, to Butterworth Hall, a 1200-seat auditorium at Warwick Arts Centre. Let’s be clear: we’re not expecting to fill the damn thing. Rather we’re there thanks to a cracked, brilliant, thoroughly wrong-brained concept from the gentlemen of China Plate, our hosts at Warwick Arts Centre.
“Where would you like to put it on?” they asked. “Why not an actual concert hall?” they suggested. “OK,” we said. The idea being: we do a show about an orchestra, in a place an orchestra might actually be. Or have been.
We’ve visited the hall. Scoped it out. We took some pictures. Giggled. Ran up and down the aisles, waved at each other in the middle distance. We then laughed some more, and looked to see if we could make out where the ceiling was. Basically, I don’t think I’ve performed in a room this size that wasn’t the big blue room you find in certain parts of the countryside. As sole performer in the show I’m seriously expecting the whole thing to feel like some kind of anxiety dream. My audience will no doubt be somewhere in the room. It’s just I’m not going to know precisely where, because we’re letting them sit where the hell they like.
We’re enjoying making subtle changes for pretty much every new venue we tour to – testing the show’s flexibility. We’ve remixed it for the Bristol Proms and re-blocked it for a thrust stage with audience on three sides at the National Theatre. We’ve even tried it at Latitude festival, on a hungover Sunday morning, in a tent, with regular interruptions from what sounded like the Death Star charging up somewhere in an adjacent field. It’s fascinating to keep telling these intertwining stories in slightly different settings. On stage I work to a kind of score – a set script, a symphonic structure – but it can be modulated. Generally, the bigger the space, the more of a summoning the story becomes. So I’m going to imagine those seats filled with people (even if there’s only a handful of punters in attendance.) In much the same way we’re asking the audience to picture an orchestra on stage, to conjure up ghosts behind the empty music stands, I’m going to visualise the bustle and anticipation of 1200 concertgoers when the lights go down…
In a couple of weeks, we’re turning the Parlour Showrooms into a library. But it’s no ordinary library, this is a Human Library.
As part of The Parlour Showrooms‘ In the City project, we began to think about the role libraries play in society. In Bristol, where as one new library opens, another is threatened with being turned into a primary school, and our mobile library service is cut, it seems that libraries are never far from the news.
And so we decided that we would use our contribution to In the City to look a little deeper. We came across the Human Library via Wunderbar in Newcastle, who presented an iteration of the project in 2011 and invited them to collaborate with us and the Parlour Showrooms to bring the project to Bristol.
Following a call-out for contributors, we held a workshop last Saturday with all the participants to begin to build the library of ‘human books’.
But what is Human Library?
The concept was originally created by a group of Danish activists in 2000 for the Roskile Music Festival and since then it has grown and grown, to be active in 60 countries across the world. According to Human Library UK, the official representative of the Human Library Organisation in the UK, the project
“…is an international movement for social change, based around a concept that encourages us to challenge our prejudices through social contact.
“Just like in a real library, a visitor to the Human Library can choose a Book from a range of titles. The difference is that Books are people! Once the Reader has chosen a Book they sit down with their Book and engage in a short respectful conversation.”
You can read about how the whole process works on the Human Library UK site here.
How can I experience Human Library in Bristol?
Simply turn up to the Parlour Showrooms on 16 and 17 November and our librarians will help you choose a book. Each encounter, or reading, will take fifteen minutes and you can choose from a range of different ‘books’ from all walks of life across Bristol. More information on In the City and Human Library.
Here’s something a little bit inspiring…
MuchLoved is a beautiful ongoing photography project by Mark Nixon – portraits of worn, aged and cherised teddy bears. We like these little chaps an awful lot. You can view the full collection on Mark’s website here.
The bear below is One Eyed Ted, aka Aloysius (55+) which belonged to Gerry Ryan, and now belongs to his daughter Babette.
We saw Audrey Corregan’s beautiful 2008 series Obviously in a magazine recently and liked them very much. Corregan is a French photographer, born in 1982, and Obviously is a series of photographs of taxidermied birds taken from behind. You can view the full series on her website here.
Welcome to Miscellany. This is the place where we’ll be posting about things we like and are inspired by. We might write about shows we’ve seen, films we’ve watched, objects we like – anything we think you might enjoy too.
To kick us off, here’s a photo by William Wegman, who writer Molly Naylor told us about recently. It’s called Ethiopia, 2005, and is part of a long-term collaboration between Wegman and his Weinerama dogs. You can read about him and see more of his work here: