After slowing down to comatose this Christmas, my brain needed a good jolt to get going again. And what a jolt this was.
I hadn’t been able to attend the previous Abbey Theatre symposium on Theatre of Memory in January 2014, but had heard good things. A symposium on war, though? That was a harder sell for me. However when the ever-inspiring Dominic Campbell said he was on the programming committee, the decision was made for me. Dominic has a fantastic way of connecting people and creative ideas and often comes at topics from a direction I can’t predict. Conversations with him always leave me with a list of things to go home and google.
The programming of the symposium was excellent – both in terms of the spectrum of speakers and the scheduling of the three days. Nobody had quite enough time to speak, which meant they filled every second they were on stage with energy, so as an audience we rattled from one new thought, artistic practice or viewpoint to another. Also, thankfully, the few sessions I was less interested in flew by too.
As part of the symposium, the Abbey were able to bring together the extraordinary women involved in the recently established Project Ariadne which is a network of female theatremakers working in conflict affected areas. Securing visas alone was an administrative feat – the women traveled from Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Palestine and Burundi via Belgium to speak at the event. Having them all in the one place for the first time, Ariadne‘s organisers Suzannah Tresillian and Georgie Wheedon were able to see the scale of the potential that the network has – I’m pretty sure a few stiff drinks were downed to help cope with the enormity of the situation. I was very lucky to have dinner with the network – I’ve never sat at a table so full of inspirational women.
Thankfully, the Abbey has much of the Symposium online, day by day. DAY 1 DAY 2
DAY 3 (still to come)
I’ve listed my own highlights of the event here, with added links:
Ariadne Project’s website and Twitter. The network members spoke on various panels during the symposium, and more information on each of them can be found here
Just over 48 hours from first thoughts to doors opening to create a playground space for Prototype Festival, Hilary O’Shaughnessy’s 2-day festival of play and interactive games. Featuring pallets from the Fruit & Veg market and cardboard boxes supplied by arts organisations across Temple Bar. And thanks to the hard work of a dedicated volunteer helper with red/green colour blindness coerced into painting the 50-odd boxes varying shades of green, it all worked out.
Thanks to Noelia Ruiz and Siobhán O’Gorman for asking me to speak on a panel as part of this event – a day-long symposium on scenography in Trinity College Dublin. It really was a great day, and felt like there was a lot still to say by the end of it.
While I missed some of the papers, I did get to hear some great presentations by:
Rachel Hann on the terminology around scenography (I hope to be able to repost some of what she said soon – it was really useful to hear her own definitions around stage design / scenic design / scenography / set design)
Sarah-Jane Scaife, talking about her beautiful Beckett in the City series
Cathy Leeney and Elaine Sisson both presenting very interesting papers about the documentation of design
Aoife Monks talking about magic/mundane lives of costumes and props (who also came out with the great line that “theatre is just made out of stuff and work”)
Sodja Lotker, Director of the Prague Quadrennial, talking about their upcoming event in 2015
Abstracts of all these paper and more can be found here.
When Veronica Dyas asked me to help her put together an installation/performance this May called Here & Now that would be the cumulative event in a project she had been working on for the last few years, I wondered what I could bring to it.
She didn’t need a designer – she knew what she wanted in the space. She didn’t need a producer – she had one on board, and knew that I don’t consider myself a show producer anyway. She didn’t need a director or an outside eye – it wasn’t really that kind of thing. I wasn’t sure what benefit I could be to her, but I have a lot of respect for Veronica, so said I’d help in what way I could. We agreed to meet once a week.
Veronica had what seemed like an enormous satellite team of excellent people contributing work in response to her and her thoughts. Among the people I didn’t meet, who she’d met originally on her Camino walk and were now collaborating remotely, she was working with:
– Eoin Winning designing lights and making everything work – Dylan Tighe and Little John Nee contributing beautiful music – The Company members Nyree Yergainharsian as producer, and Jose Miguel Jimenez making a video piece for the performance – Louis Haugh creating a photographic installation
– Actor Conor Madden filming a documentary
– Theatre maker Sorcha Kenny responding to a previous part of Here & Now where Veronica gave away (nearly) everything she owned
– Amy Conroy of HotForTheatre working as script dramaturg; choreographer Ella Clarke advising on movement
– Aoife O’Sullivan as the dream stage manager
We talked, and I started to see what I could do for her. What I didn’t expect was that working with Veronica would do just as much, if not more, for me. Her practice of encouraging everyone to be in their dream – doing the thing they most want to do – created a feeling of connection, togetherness and calm over the whole event, for participants and audience alike. Everyone was welcome into the space she created. Everyone was at home.
Having the opportunity to be involved in the collaborative practice that Veronica led reminded me of why I got involved in working in the arts in the first place. Her creative openness and dogged optimism combined with a endless reservoir of integrity has encouraged me to keep interrogating my own ideas and plans to make sure they ring true. Thanks Veronica for reminding me of the feeling of long-distance walking, and how it’s worth the effort to bring that frame of mind into everyday life.
En route to La Chapelle Gely, a venue in the centre of the gypsy district of Montpellier
Other than getting a hit of vitamin D, tasting one or two local wines and learning all about the inner workings of harpsichords, I got to meet some great people doing interesting things. Here are a (very) few of them in no particular order whose projects, ideas or organisations have stuck with me:
Michele Losi of Scarlattine Teatro, who are one of the partners in the (literally) epic Meeting The Odessey project. Awarded EU Culture funding, the organisers will set a theatre company afloat to travel through Europe for 3 years, making work as they go. I’m already planning to stow away.
Ingrid Vranken of Spin in ever increasingly trendy Brussels – part of what sounds like a really interesting collective/cooperative model of 3 artists (Kate McIntosh, Hans Bryssinck and Diederik Peeters) and a producer (Ingrid).
Kamma Siegumfeldt of Copenhagen’s Dansehallerne who helps coordinate the Nordic-Baltic contemporary dance network and development initiative Kedja (also awarded EU Culture funding). The Kedja wilderness retreats, in particular, make me envious.
Choreographer Samantha Chester from Sydney who was just starting out on a European research trip thanks to having been awarded a Churchill Fellowship.
Stewart Laing of Untitled Projects in Glasgow who most recently was in Ireland as one of this year’s MAKE mentors.
Harley Stumm (the best dancer in IETM) who is helping coordinate the IETM caravan meeting in Sydney, as well as planning an international producer residency between Europe & Australia. He hosted a meeting about the idea in Montpellier, so I expect some further details will be up on his website soon.
MCP Factory or Marie-Charlie Pignon, who works in Paris as a kind of artistic project advisor and counsellor.
Steve Slater (who coordinated IETM Glasgow in 2010 and was senior producer at the Tramway for ages) who is back making performance work for the first time in a long time – most recently in Glasgow’s Buzzcut. Always great to hear of people who crossover between the artistic side to the management side and back. I wonder why…
And an entertaining late night wine-fuelled reminiscence-fest between Mole Wetherell of Reckless Sleepers and Tracy Gentles of Clod Ensemble which means I know a lot more about how things have changed, if I could only remember in which city.
In 2012 I coordinated the first version in Rathfarnham Castle and many of the original participants are back this year, along with a new cohort who live close to Dublin Castle. All participants are of retirement age upwards, and have varying craft skill levels – from none at all, to third level arts education.
This year’s lead artist is textile artist Liz Nilsson, and we have a visiting craft designer, Jenny Walsh, who will be introducing the group to the finer points of digital craft.
What one of the participants hopes for the Wandering Methods project.
The focus of this project is really on the process of learning about the history of the Castle together and making work together. For the participants, attending workshops and developing ideas and craft skills as part of a group is the most important aspect of Wandering Methods – we expect to have some kind of exhibition or display in the Castle at the end of the project, but that’s not necessarily the focus of the day-to-day work.
For me, it’s a chance to spend time with a gang of raucous, hard-working, dedicated and hilarious women and men who are hungry to meet each other, to learn skills, to soak up the history of the Castle and to turn their hands to making things they never thought they could.