Category Archives: Blog

Time for change…

After nearly eight years with Speakeasy Theatre Company, I recently took the decision that it was time to explore new pastures. Not an easy choice, especially given the closeness I felt to the Company members of Movers, a group of Learning Disabled performers whose growth, and self-awareness has developed rapidly in the time I have known them (something I’m sure any of their previous Directors would have felt too), but a decision I felt I had to make nonetheless, in order to explore new challenges, and to continue my own development.

My passion for theatre as an art-form, coupled with my interest and expertise in accessible or disability arts (neither terms I’m particularly fond of) are still areas I would like to explore, but I decided to take a bit of a sideways step. I have been aware of the fantastic work of Pedestrian for most of my time in Leicester, and jumped at the chance to join their team in the role of Project Coordinator. Pedestrian are a charity committed to high quality education projects in areas of social deprivation, exclusion, and non-educational settings. Their work focusses mostly in achieving tangible results, accredited qualifications etc… through multiple art-forms, primarily music. Their work, and this role, had many appealing factors for me: witnessing first hand how another highly regarded and successful arts organisation operates; exploring further work in the field of education, particularly in re-engaging disengaged young people; discovering new skills and approaches to education via multiple art-forms; as well as looking for opportunities to use my expertise to help develop and strengthen the charity’s work further.

I’m already experiencing a fantastic wealth of challenge and development from just a few weeks in my new role, and am lucky enough to have freelance time to explore other passions and projects, as well as maintaining relationships with companies such as Speakeasy.

Alongside these changes, I’ve been lucky enough to be selected to be a part of Performing Arts Leicester’s NextGen Leadership Development scheme, a fantastic series of workshops, training sessions, coaching, and action learning sets. A great opportunity, and something I intend to make the most of as I look to expand my skills, and share my constantly developing expertise.

Change is definitely the keyword of the moment…

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Unity Festival 2013

I’m just back from shadowing a fantastic weekend of theatre at the Unity Festival in Cardiff. Managed by Hijinx Theatre the festival brings the best of inclusive and disability arts to one fortnight in Cardiff. It’s NOT about celebrating disabled artists because they are overcoming adversity, it IS about celebrating fantastic art, which just happens to feature artists with (as well as without) disabilities.Graeae - The Iron Man

The festival gave me a great opportunity to connect with companies, and to gain invaluable experience of outdoor performance, as I spent a great deal of time shadowing Kazzum’s ‘Addressed to a friend’ and Graeae’s ‘The Iron Man’.

One of the first performances I saw was the incredible Cia Jose Galan. A company of four flamenco dancers which included two learning disabled performers.

ImageI’m no expert on flamenco, but what I can say is the hour long piece felt like twenty minutes, I was captivated by the skill, precision, passion and humour of the performers. But also I was challenged. I’ve always held a bit of a belief that regimented training is the wrong approach for Learning Disabled artists, and that more can be gained from developing a movement vocabulary of your own. A view that Learning Disabled performers should not be forced to try to emulate the performance styles of non-disabled performers, just as a non-disabled performer should not try to perform as a learning disabled person. But seeing the dancers of Cia Jose Galan, their precision, the clear joy, confidence, but also adaptation and fluidity evident in their movement totally shifted my opinions.

Air raid siren overlooking Mind The Gap's Irresistible

The weekend also gave me opportunities to see work by Kazzum, Graeae, Taking Flight, Mind the Gap, Odyssey, Bicycle Ballet and Natural Diversions, and tonnes of ideas and inspiration with regards to integrated signing and audio description. A highlight was the opportunity to become one of Mind the Gap’s ‘Wind up merchants’ operating an air raid siren as part of the fantastic ‘Irresistible’, a piece which I had wanted to see since I first heard of it’s Unlimited commission, many moons ago.

Here’s hoping I can return to the festival in 2014!