Space | Time - Magnetic North

Space | Time Residency with Magnetic North Theatre at Cove Park, Argyll and Bute.

I have always wanted to do this Residency but it has just never worked out timing wise until last year. I have known Nicholas Bone the Artistic Director of Magnetic North for a long time and he has always been very kind and supportive to me over the years. Nick taught me through workshops about Viewpoints and I also took part in the Rough Mix Residency as a performer for Rip it Up at Tramway a number of years ago.

Nick is also one of the few people in my industry who has offered support on funding applications for a large complex project I have wanted to make forever, where I use music as my main element.

The Space | Time Residency couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for me and I realise that was deliberate on my part in seeking it out.

Space and Time are really important elements to me as a maker and as a human. I have also recently made some very important realisations about how isolated I had become in my practice gradually over the last 10 years. 

There are many reasons for the isolation. Being an experimental theatre maker and performer means securing funding for my work and the development of it is hugely challenging, so, slowly but surely over time I have retreated from asking for that support and have been self producing for years, taking on many roles just to get my work made. 

I have also fallen completely in love with researching and practising the art form of one on one performance, my practice in this area is called human specific and most of my time over the years when creating work has been spent very intensely experimenting alone or with my one audience member at a time. I have also become a mother, been making work abroad, travelling and generally following my own nose.

The other major attraction for me to do Space | Time recently was, to meet new Artists and to try to begin thinking about how I can start again to open my practice back out. Collaboration was always something I loved to do as a younger artist (all those skills and endless possibilities in one room) and I spent the first ten years of my practice experimenting and heavily collaborating across artforms in the UK and abroad. I’m realising that I miss that buzz and am always very open and constantly looking to gather the right collaborators and skills around me.

I was also really excited by the question that there is facilitated discussion around during the Space | Time Residency; ‘How does an Artist keep developing’?

This question is very hot for me and I’ve often asked myself it over the years. I can truthfully say that I have consistantly invested 100% into my own development as an Artist over the years and often with little funds. I have self produced when I couldn’t secure funding and I have continually looked for the opportunities that would take me outside of my comfort zone to keep me growing, learning and to just keep making work. But me investing in myself and my practice alone is not sustainable in the very long term.

Initially by there being a lack of funds to support more experimental practice, I felt I had to try and become good at many things to save on budget and I did not always want to take on so much at first. And I have wondered and worried over the years if being able to do many things might dilute me. I now see it all as very unique and important parts of my practice.
The discussions during space | time were very interesting and doubly validating as the group of artists that I was there with (you might say are all on the more experimental side and multi skilled humans) feel a similar way with many of the same doubts and questions.

For the record - I don’t think being able to do many things takes anything away. Humans change and grow as do our interests. I trained classically in London 20 years ago and I am so very thankful for that training and learning but I couldn’t feel any further away from that classical training if I tried. But it is there deep at the core of me and what a wonderfully rich core to have and to have been able to use it to jump off and out from. I am a life learner and I want to constantly be developing and growing all the time. I believe that is where exciting work is made, when multiple skills, flows and vibes all come together…

My question right now is, ‘how much longer can I continue to sustain my practice with very tight funding”? I have 20+ years experience across artforms with my own work always being very well received in the UK and internationally so it would be really very welcome now for there to be a shift in mindset from the industry and funders to want to support and recognise more experimental work and practices.

I feel very close to changing my focus to wanting to support other Artists who are perhaps just starting out on their creative journeys, Artists who may need support and to provide support for people in my community who are desperate to find their voice and tell their stories and have their skills nurtured and identified.

But if that is the way I decide to go then that does mean that my voice might disappear and that really scares me…

The amazing Artists (who I cannot thank enough for their skills, openess and genrerosity) involved on the Space | Time Residency at Cove Park in October 2018 were;

Ross Whyte

Nichola Scrutton

Eoin Carey

Pat Law

And

Me

The Residency was facilitated by Nicholas Bone and Alice McGrath - thanks also again to you bot


Ghosting in Theatre

I wasn’t going to write this blog because I didn’t want to carry negative stuff over with me in to this wonderfully positive and creative New Year I am having, but it wouldn’t shut up inside of me. 

I also made a promise to myself last year after 20 plus years in my industry to finally stop swallowing down other people’s bad behaviour and to try and politely call it out instead; so I have decided to let these words out so that negative people, thoughts and feelings can fuck right off. 

I also think the only way for things to get better in my Industry is to share the bad stuff so others may feel they can too.

There were 3 particular occasions last year (but also others not necessarily about producers) that really upset me, where producers that I had been communicating with just completely ghosted me and stopped answering my emails. But I must also say in fairness, I have since received an apology from one of them…

One situation was after a meeting where I had been very open about my work and life because a lot of my work is autobiographical and then an email conversation began. One was after a producer had approached me in the first place, then we had a couple of, what felt like positive meetings with them then inviting me to send them a proposal of ideas for a Festival they were part of curating. And then the last one was after us having been in touch off and on for quite some months. Then just silence at different times, from them all. 

But before the silence there is often an awful lot of tardy communication on their behalf with them taking weeks or months to get back in touch about things, then saying, “sorry I am just so busy!”

What? And am I not?

It is such a horrible and damaging thing for them to do and you go through all of the thoughts of, did they get my email? Are they just too busy and overlooked my document? So you do the exhausting follow up thing with the polite nudges to cover all the bases and inevitably you end up being made to feel like a total desperate arse (and I am not) in the process with them still not coming back to you.

What you also then do (or I do anyway) is, you start to turn their poor behaviour inward on yourself because you think you’d best not speak out about this stuff because you don’t want to appear rude or piss anyone off and so you carry it, you drag it around. Oh the irony and complete ridiculousness of it all.

Of course there are many wonderful producers of all kinds in my life that I deal with as an Independent Artist and who do not behave this way and who are just lovely and supportive and nurturing. But I certainly find them harder to locate…

I am an independent Artist so I have no-one to hide behind. I drive pretty much all of my own communications and projects as well as make the work. I don’t have the luxury and protection of my own trusted producer, a building, an organisation or an admin team supporting me so it can get incredibly busy and isolating in an industry where there is a lot of toxic behaviour and treatment going on. 

But there are many pluses though about being an Independent Artist - I get to be an independent maker and thinker. I am in love with my job, I get to travel and have global conversations, I can multitask like you wouldn’t believe and I am mostly employed to make the work I truly want to make. I set my own rules and standards of what is acceptable treatment to me and others in my industy and that’s a real hoot too…

Throughout the second half of last year I decided to do something unprecedented for me (I am rubbish at asking for help but getting better). I started to reach out to some of my colleagues and friends in the industry who I respect; some who I have known for a long time and some not so long, for advice. Advice about situations that were upsetting me in the Industry or just things I was needing to bounce, say about funding applications or fees and costings for some of my larger projects. All the things that I was finding really challenging as an Independent and I would historically just struggle on with alone. I must add that I never revealed or disclosed personal details to my colleagues as to who was upsetting me, just a general gist of what was going on.

It was a beautiful comfort to me to know that in times of need I can reach out and ask my colleagues for help and get it, because every single one of them that I reached out to all came back to me with support. Some within minutes, some within a day or two but none of them took weeks or months and none of them didn’t come back to me at all. These are all colleagues who have been in the industry like myself for a very long time and who are thought of as successful, respected and also very busy. 

Awesome, all good there!

But it did make me start to think; so what is the problem then within other layers of the Industry? Because there are big problems with transparency and open communication within the Theatre industry. 

Are those, not always but sometimes younger in career producers who range from independent, attached to buildings and organisations being overworked and asked too much of? Are they being treated badly by some of those from above so they are passing it on? Are they being fast-tracked on schemes in their jobs and so not putting in the actual real time it takes to learn the true and vital skills of a brilliant producer? About trust and risk between Artist and Producer, about nurturing and about how to communicate and deal with Artists and others within the industry? Or are they actually just shite humans on a power trip? I don’t have all the answers but it feels good to be asking the questions for things to improve, even if it is just for myself.

I have a strong body of work behind me and a long career in Theatre - I dread to think how this all goes for Artists who are just starting out…

I am now back based in my home City of Dundee after a very long time away and I am in a place where ‘I am really busy’ is just not good enough because I am also very busy, yet when anyone contacts me no matter how busy I am, I always endeavour to respond in a timely manner.

Once upon a time in a previous life I worked in the Chief Executives private office within the Scottish Parliament and I was also the Private Secretary to the Director of Communications and the Head of News within the Communications Directorate in the Scottish Government. Then there have been a million other, some might say, menial jobs and office jobs in the past. It is 2 to 3 working days as standard for a response within Business and if you don’t know the answer, a holding email until you do, then 5 days to 7 days at the most to finally respond. 

Listen up Arts!! 

It’s completely unacceptable behaviour to ignore people and it’s time to change. Just have the manners to be straight and let people know if you no longer wish to communicate with them.

Or if it is that you are struggling in your workload, take a deep breath and speak up - you are never alone! Constantly living your life in your ‘out of office’ or saying people’s emails keep going to your spam box as a reason not to communicate is poor on everyone and we don’t buy it!

How truly open to others are you?

How truly open to others are you?


Control 25 - Liverpool's First one on one Festival

It was recently brought to my attention that the wonderful Control 25 Festival features in a chapter within this brilliant book; ‘Experiencing Liveness in Contemporary Performance: Interdisciplinary Perspectives’ published by Rutledge.
Control 25 was Liverpool’s first one on one Festival and posed the question; who’s in charge - spectator, artist or artform within one on one performance?
In 2014, Curators of Control 25, Sarah Hogarth and Emma Bramley of All things considered Theatre Company worked with EAP students at Hope Street Liverpool to create 25 individual one on one pieces of work for the Festival. These works would examine the nature of authorial control within the artform.
They also brought in experienced Artists (Seth Honnor, Ant Hampton and myself) in this form to design and deliver workshops in our practices for the students to inspire and help kick off the creation of their one on one works. Control 25 was a very special thing to be a part of and culminated in an exciting panel discussion that we were all involved in too.

If you are interested in the research and study of one on one, micro and intimate performance, the Control 25 Festival Chapter will be of particular interest.

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Quarter-century

Surreal to be writing this, but today marks 25 years since I suddenly lost my Mother. We talk about my Mum all the time but today is completely for her. I feel a need to register today that endlessly long passage of time without her and to remember all those things we miss about her.

I have been exploring making a piece of work about my Mum for a long time and I am currently investigating growing 'i worried my heart wasn't big enough' a piece of work I created for Forest Fringe in 2015.

The making of 'I worried my heart wasn't big enough' comes from a larger idea for a piece of work about losing my Mother that I unforunately failed in 2014/15 to secure development money for. So with the support and trust of Andy Field and Forest Fringe, I made a site responsive one on one experience for them, as part of their Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 programme. It went really well. 

I have a wee bit of private funding to keep moving the development of the bigger project along at a snail's pace and I am working with my own beautiful daughter just now investigating the motherhood layer in the work. We are exploring the word 'balance' together.

It felt positive and right to share this today as we mark 25 years without Mum.

Who gives you your balance in life?

My Mother gave me mine and since I lost her, my balance has never quite been the same.

Having spent a long time researching and investigating making work about the very personal loss of my mother and work for one audience member at a time. I am now interested in slowly widening my focal length with this work to make a larger work for a larger audience with one of my narrative layers now exploring loss universally but still informed by the intensely personal.

I have hours of gorgeous musical script that we recorded from a development afternoon in 2017 (with Cellist Robin Mason and Saxophonist Steve Kettley) that I need to find the time to listen to and begin editing and I am also exploring the physical | visual language of the work just now.

My choreographer | dancer friend and colleague Abby Chan (who I met last year as part of a 3 year Inernational Colab Residency) is gently provoking but greatly inspiring me with this from afar.

For my two Jay Birds X

Mother and Daughter Image by  Ben Scappaticcio

Mother and Daughter Image by Ben Scappaticcio

Abby Chan Choreographer | Dancer - Ellen Melville Centre - Auckland

Abby Chan Choreographer | Dancer - Ellen Melville Centre - Auckland

the boss

Come late October we are two years home from our year out travelling as a family. We are managing in the main as we promised we would do to not let those unimportant things creep in and dominate our lives or drain our positive vibes. 

Lots of positive changes and new plans were made during our year out, and I am sure it is the same for everyone but It does often feel like a constant battle for balance with my switch always in the ON position. I never seem to download, only receive!

Being a freelancer doesn’t help. I have been super busy since we got back which of course everyone says is good and it is but when you are a mother, (and you home school) a wife and an Artist; priorities change, they have to but which one gets how much attention and when? 

I have come to realise I am pretty skilled at splitting my brain into many compartments and that I work a lot out inside my own head - creatively and personally. I also spend a lot of time fantasising about how it would be to be able to just focus on one thing at any one time. Oh the luxury!

A recent post show discussion at the Traverse in Edinburgh geared towards parents working in the Arts with caring responsibilities was super interesting. It felt very valuable to hook up and talk with other parents with young families in similar situations who know and understand how you feel.
Orla O’loughlan who is the current Artistic Director at the Traverse imparted some interesting and telling wisdom  - for her to be able to be a mother, run a home and do the job she does at the Traverse (amongst other things) - she knew she had to get herself to being the boss.

Twenty years in, predominantly as a freelancer within the Arts - I am exhausted by the perpetual juggling, spinning of plates and running about daft like a bam.

I want to go slower.

Easy.

I now declare myself the boss!

Watch this space : )

Headshots - Photography by Pip

2009 was the last time i had some professional headshots done, very uncool of me but it hasn't felt all that important. 

Working with people you know and who know you well and how you like to work has it’s benefits and provides a shorthand that makes things faster and easier for sure but it has it’s downside too. 

I wanted to work with someone completely unknown to me for my new headshots so after a good bit of research and some recommendations i decided to pick Photography by Pip

Pip is a self-taught London based photographer and director from Northern England specialising in portraiture, travel and advertising. Given my mad love for music I love that he photographs a lot for record labels and musicians and that he isn't really an Actor headshot photographer. His personal, commercial and film work is really lovely too.

Pip prefers to shoot in natural light and often site specific. Perfect. We spent a few hours early one morning outside in London recently and I’m really happy with the shots. I laughed such a lot on the day and the light was epic.

Sharron Devine - Headshot | Colour Photography by Pip

Sharron Devine - Headshot | Colour Photography by Pip

Sharron Devine - Headshot | Black and White Photography by Pip

Sharron Devine - Headshot | Black and White Photography by Pip

That Birthday...

Last month was a big one for me. It was my Birthday and I spent the week mostly in tears. I turned the age my Mum was when she died. I’ve always dreaded this birthday and I’ve always known that she was tragically young when she died but turning her age was tough and now I really feel just how truly young she was. It's grim.

Losing a parent when they and you are too young messes, compresses and distorts your perception of time and balance and you always feel in a dreadful hurry incase you might not make it to old age.

Through some research and development work i was involved with earlier this year for a potential new piece of work and where every artist in the room had lost a parent tragically soon did it come to light that we all felt this way. It was a revelation and a relief to realise i am not alone in my mindset.

So the grieving process marches forwards...

Right now I have a 6 year old and I’ve never felt younger or more alive!

Life is a River - Archie Whitewater. Home - Dundee. The mighty River Tay from Broughty Ferry. 

Life is a River - Archie Whitewater. Home - Dundee. The mighty River Tay from Broughty Ferry. 

New York City | back on the bounce in 2017

Brooklyn | Joan Lily

Brooklyn | Joan Lily

We ended our year long trip in 2016 with a week in NYC. It was a bit of a dream to end up there and something we'd always talked about doing should we manage to make it around the world.
The last time we were in New York was a really special visit in 2011 when i was 6 months pregnant. New York was a place i had always wanted to visit and that visit was also to be our last big break as a couple before we were to become parents. 
Of course we loved that trip and we desperately wanted to take our daughter back with us again as she had seen so many pictures of herself there as our bump and had heard us banging on about how cool a City New York is all her life. 
One of her favourite movies is Elf so she really wanted "to go up Buddy’s Dad’s work": The Empire State Building. Needless to say, she too fell in love with New York.

I started researching where to stay in New York when we were in Mexico and the prices i was finding for Hotels were extortionate. We were struggling to pull the trigger on paying so much when i stumbled upon a Hotel called the Carlton Arms, also known as the Artbreak Hotel. Not only was it so much cheaper it was in the ace location of the FlatIron District | Gramercy Park and just sounded like the coolest Hotel i’d ever heard of. I emailed thinking i was probably too late but received an email back sharpish with the offer of a room. Bingo! We were booked and for a fraction of the price of other Hotels.

After all the Countries we had travelled through last year when we arrived at the Hotel, i felt like i had walked into site specific heaven: like a film set. I immediately fell in love with the Building and this whole other secret creative world opened their (Carlton) Arms to us. Not only was the Hotel a really cool place, the people working and staying there were too and i found myself being invited out to watch theatre and to hang out. It was dead easy and it somehow felt familiar; a bit like I was home.
A week in NYC is never enough and having a 5 year old with us; the time just seemed to vanish so much faster than we were expecting. We had made lovely unexpected connections that week though and started daring to dream that maybe just maybe we could make it back to New York sooner than last time and potentially to work. Bonkers!
Long story short we’ve secured a residency as a family to create a room at the Hotel as part of their Artist Residency Programme inspired by our year long travel trip. Talk about really great things happening to you when you least expect them and when you’re not even trying. They’re the right things. My industry is not easy to survive in but I believe sometimes it should be that easy.

Never did we expect when we set off from Scotland on our travels at the end of 2015 that we would make it back to one of our favourite Cities; the epically cool NYC, never mind secure an opportunity to be creative there. Some things are just meant to be and i’m especially excited about this venture as it is something different from what i do as an artist. I feel like I am crossing into territory that is a little unfamiliar to me and it feels great. It's only going to inform my practice in positive ways. Theatre is so temporary that i’m really delighted to be creating something more permanent, something that we get to leave behind in New York and i know for sure New York with come home with us again when it is time for us to leave. 5 weeks in New York City working together as a 3 probably still wont be enough tme though.

Check out this article on the Hotel

 

 

 

Punchdrunk | Sleep No More | NYC

Punchdrunk are UK based pioneers in immersive, promenade, site specific performance. Given my passion for this kind of work they have always been a company that i have admired from afar but for whatever reason not managed to catch their work (until very recently).

I caught sleep no more whilst in NYC earlier this year but i am still trying to work out how i felt about my experience and the ticket price of $150 yup that's around £121 incase anyone is unsure...

More to follow on sleep no more in New York once i've worked it out!

Circumnavigating the Globe (with our 5 year old)(1)

So after the trip to end all trips we are trying to settle into a ‘normal’ life back in Scotland...
We set off to Delhi in November 2015 with only a back pack each, a 5 month return ticket and a desperation to inspire and open our minds further.. 
As we were travelling with our then four year old daughter and unsure how it would all be for her we thought the security of a return ticket was a good compromise but the promise to keep going should we all wish to, was also on the table. 
After three months travelling throughout India we had a family chat and all agreed that we weren't ready for our adventure to end. We were just finding our travel flow.
We cancelled our return ticket out of India home and once we did that the road ahead truly was open.
India doesn’t make it easy for you and there is a certain amount of surrender required to get the most out of the experience but of all the places we’ve been in the world we think it really gives you something very special back if you let it. It breaks you down for you to build yourself back up better.
We never ventured north of Delhi whilst travelling in India but we travelled both coasts and down to the most southern tip to Trivandrum. We had intended to fly on to Sri Lanka from Trivandrum but in the end and at the very last moment we decided to visit the Andaman Islands instead. We heard so many great things about them whilst in India that we were so intrigued and worried we might never go if we didn’t go in that moment.
Andaman is not the easiest to get to, you can only enter from the East Coast of India; Kolkata and Chennai.
We flew from Chennai to Port Blair and spent one month Island hopping. You can’t visit all of the islands, only some are open to tourists, we visited Havelock, Neil and the eerily abandoned Ross Island.
Andaman was probably our most favourite of spots for pure idyllic beauty and bliss with no-one there. 
Everyone should visit Andaman at least once in the lives…it's disappearing!

Andaman

Andaman

There was a definite shift in our thinking on Andaman and after our month there our minds were so clear. Now we knew we weren't going home the freedom to choose which Country we would like to visit next was both terrifying and exhilarating.
We had travelled a lot before as a couple and even with our daughter but this time felt different, it felt much bigger. This time we were in charge of our child and we had no real plan! We were out of our comfort zone for sure...