The next big thing?!

Starts and stops.  Insides and outsides.

Grief and loss have been on my mind as I have been going through a period of bereavement.  Reading poems at ‘The Magic Shop’ a pop-up exhibition in Stoke Newington, London on Saturday the assembled group of random strangers all closed their eyes along with me before I read.  We did this to acknowledge the lives of the people whose words I was about to read; to acknowledge their physical inability to join us in this trendy space; to acknowledge the transference of their words from inside to outside.

Here are two blurry pictures of the event:

'The Magic Shop'magic shop photo

And here is a blog piece I began to write and then stopped and then finished:

The next big thing?!

Reading the comments below a Punchdrunk article in ‘The Guardian’ on the 20th April I was struck by a now deleted comment that said we need to realise this work is ‘not reinventing the wheel’ (an expression that seems to be used all the time at the mo, from reality shows to arts conferences!) but that in a nutshell it has taken time, support and repackaging for this type of work to be viewed with acclaim; for years it was marginalised and only really seen in participatory arts and avant garde spaces – the margins.  Now rightfully in the mainstream, immersive theatre work is massively popular, visible and on the rise.

Leading Living Words and at the same time working on personal practice can be tough.  I have to surrender time and again to the practice of Living Words, to trust that the cultural landscape will get it and me, and that my personal practice and Living Words somehow co-exist and play together in a sort of internal production factory.  Last year I devised and wrote a theatre piece ‘Weave’ about my process, life and the work – it includes the living words of many people experiencing dementia I have worked with.  The initial funding for ‘Weave’ came from within and for the ‘arts and health’ sector and I am hoping for support that enables it to be brought out of these margins.  My artistic process is constantly evolving through the work of Living Words – we do not believe that working with people be an add-on for funders but that it is the work.

The structures currently in place in the cultural landscape mean that it is easy for me and Living Words to be ghettoised, we can be seen as ‘arts in health’, as lesser.  This perception is changing through the great work of many people and organisations, to mention one would be to alienate another.  At the PHF/ArtWorks ‘Changing the Conversation’ conference last week it was validating to be around inspiring artists who have also sweated to begin companies and projects through compulsion – ‘we all have a story for why we do it, what got us here, it wasn’t part of the plan’- was something we all said or agreed with.  Compulsion however is something that can easily be put down or not seen as having a value in itself, but without people being compelled to go to the marginalised spaces and begin the work there, the work that it spawns would never come. There would be no Punchdrunk.  If immersive theatre which breaks down the audience / performer barrier is so hot right now, isn’t the natural next step to make visible the socially immersed work being done ‘with’ people?  How do we take some jumps through time and space and bring the visibility to now?  A call out – let the pioneers share their vision, commission their risks, rather than wait for someone in the future to tell their story.