What are you working on at the moment?
That question used to make me want to hold my breath.
It’s complex, it’s complicated, mind your business, I’m busy in the shed with it. I’m stuck and lost with it.
Okay look, thanks for asking...the artist in me is benched until the producer in me raises the money to make it and that is taking up my whole life so that’s what I’m working on!!! And after the months, if not years of the yes’s and the no’s we gather together a talented team ready to race beside us at pace.
I tell you what I’m working on, I’m working on getting enough sleep and being ready for the small window of opportunity to get this right, to make the work we want to make, the way we want to make it.
Seriously, my answer to the question above lately has been, what am I working on? Trumpet. I’m making it with Shirley Harris of Vanitas Arts. I don’t even know what to tell you about her...that will need to be another blog, at another time when I’m sat by a river talking about life changing talent, deep care, strength, resilience, paying attention to detail, winning your own race and cake.
So Trumpet...based on the book by Jackie Kay. We met with Jackie in Manchester and she listened to our hopes for Trumpet. She listened and listened then said ‘I believe in you’. We paused, took it in, we then took that and placed it in our bag of dreams and kept her in touch with our progress. Since then in January this year we shared a research and development day & night. Jackie was there that night, alongside a trailer load of Arts Council Officers, Academics, Arts Activists and Artists. We gained powerful support from our friends and colleagues virtually and for real which spurred us on.
With the support of XRStories, Sheffield Hallam University and Theatre in The Mill we then followed this up this Autumn, with the creation of a final digital testing space, again inviting our guests to engage with our work and respond.
Within the first week of this testing period we created a Black Female led space with guests who joined us virtually from Jamaica and New York, we listened and connected to each other discussing the brand new characterisation of Sophie Stones as a young ambitious Black British woman journalist, 90’s RnB tunes included!
Within the second week we continued to ask the questions of our work and ourselves. Our visiting audiences told us about their experiences of our work. Whether that was dancing at a wedding, walking in a procession of grief, witnessing the dismantling of a life lived or being privy to the moment love grabs hold of you and promises never to let go and then it does.
From our learning and along the way, we have been making the adjustments needed in order to take care of us all moving around somebody else’s story.
What Shirley and I have found from our work overwhelmingly is that we are on the right path…the audacity of it all! Who are we?
We are two women based in the North of England pushing to make the best work of our lives, using digital art, new writing, social dance, contemporary dance, live music and installation. All this whilst inviting others to bring their best selves whilst travelling at pace and with open hearts and minds. We are consistently challenging ourselves to use all these creative elements to tell the story whilst finding the language for it all.
We are not only building Trumpet as a concept but as a new model of working. We are using the research and development for real in every single aspect of our work...we have to do better to be better.
Between us we have a bag of stories we’ve collected along the way that both inform our choices and decision making.
Ultimately this is the crunch of the matter. It’s not just the subject matter of living the life you dare to live but who chooses to tell these stories and how they are told. There are those of us who are in charge and making decisions that make some people feel nervous about it, in a way they would never feel nervous if we looked and felt like the people they are used to seeing at the helm. As my friend and colleague Suzanne Alleyne has said multiple times, the further away you are from that ‘traditional’ image of leadership, the harder it appears to be for others to follow, Shirley and I are of course doing it anyway and doing it well.
We intend to land Trumpet to our audiences next year and we are doing it by being brave enough to push ourselves to our limits, believing there are no limits to be had. Just like the story we are telling, we are encouraging ourselves, our teams, our associates and our audiences every step of the way to create an outstanding experience for all.
Script development with Chérie Taylor-Battiste.