Pour and Serve, mountains, and a lovely, radical thing

It’s now less than two days until Dan Bye runs a ridiculous 44 mile race around the mountains of the Lake District. This is an almost incomprehensible feat as it is (I’m attempting to train for a half marathon right now and the mere thought of running more than three times that up even a gentle slope makes me need to have a sit down). But even more amazingly, earlier this year he announced he was going to ask for sponsors and give all the donations to an emerging artist. I sent him a pitch for Pour and Serve and incredibly he picked it. It’s a solo show based on my experiences at work, set in a working bar. The audience sits at the bar and we explore how the language of sexual harassment underpins a culture of violent misogyny, through funny stories and not so funny stories and free drinks. Thanks to Dan, I’ll be developing the show for a tour of universities, sports clubs and other venues, alongside sexual harassment prevention workshops by the excellent Hebe Reilly.

It’s been a fair few months since I found out and I’m still pinching myself a little bit – AS IF Dan is raising money for my show just because he can?! As if he’s doing this amazing thing for THIS project. AS IF we don’t have to scrabble around for match funding! The idea of the money itself is such a big thing that I don’t quite know how to be appreciative enough. It will mean that this time I don’t have to spend hours and days chasing pots of money for no pay, and having endless, fruitless meetings in the hope of seed funding, and crying over the fact that no one has retweeted a tweet about a crowdfunder. It will mean that we can apply for further funding with (relative) ease. It will make the most enormous difference to this project and ensure that Hebe and I are able to develop it really carefully with an approach that genuinely looks after our audiences, something I think is crucial with work like this.

As well as the money, there is something really radical about what Dan’s doing. I was lucky enough to be one of his people in the room last year and I can tell you that he’s one of the most generous people I’ve worked with; throughout his R&D process he invited emerging artists into his rehearsal room and paid us. And again, aside from the money there is something radically lovely about that.

I’ve been freelance for a while; it’s relentless and exhausting and precarious but for the most part it’s worth it. One of the things I find hardest, though, is the loneliness of it all, the limitless ways of doing things, the strange paradox of being totally free but very constrained, and the seeds of doubt this all sows. (I am lucky to work with some incredible people in certain jobs, and I know there are a great many mentorships and development schemes available but there are so many of us whose careers require us to wear several hats – I’m a theatre maker/facilitator/writer/project manager/dramaturg/researcher/evaluator/etc and trying to go in a meaningful direction sometimes feels like trying to climb up an ice wall wearing oven gloves.) It sometimes feels so impossible and so uncertain and so knackering that I decide it must be because I’m not good enough, or doing it wrong, and that I should leave the arts and try and get a ‘real’ job. One with sick pay. So I can’t tell you how much it means when someone yanks the door wide open behind them and makes it a million times more possible to make work. I can’t tell you how much it means when someone puts faith in you and says ‘look, your work is worth making’. It’s career- (nay, life-) affirming when other people in the arts support you. Dan is a proper gem and I am so unbelievably thankful to him.

I’m really determined to, at some point in the future, somehow, pay this forward to other emerging artists. But possibly not by running 44 miles up a mountain.

 

 

On Saturday you can track the race here – fingers crossed for good weather and a massive good luck to Dan.

We’ve reached the original target! But we’re going for an additional stretch goal, so if you want to donate, please do so here. If you’ve already donated, THANK YOU SO MUCH. I’m attempting to find a way to send you a message to say thanks properly.

2018, what a rollercoaster

In 2018 I made some exciting and (for me!) challenging theatre, and worked on some incredible projects with all sorts of amazing people. I took on slightly too many jobs and burnt myself out. I got to work with young people who completely shifted my outlook on the world. I received nearly fifty rejections for jobs and commissions and had several mini existential crises. I convinced a group of elders to play hide and seek with me and called it work. I doubted myself to the point where I seriously considered running away and starting again. I saw/heard/read more amazing art than I could possibly list and felt so lucky to know so many artists who constantly challenge me to think differently and be better. I felt jealous when other people were successful. I started new collaborations with people who make me excited to make stuff. I defined myself entirely by how well work was going. I started feeling like work was becoming a real career. I didn’t use my voice enough when big organisations let people down. I did a week of R&D with some brilliantly generous artists and it made me feel capable enough to keep making work at a point where I wasn’t sure if I could. I spent a lot of time worrying what the next job would be. I started to love myself. I killed at least six houseplants. I made some incredible new friends. Some of my closest friends moved away. I (finally) came out to my family. I got dumped and had to move house five times in two months. My friends hugged me, let me live in their homes, helped me move, sent me chocolate in the post, gave me wine and told me jokes. I moved into a flat on my own. I cried because the boiler broke and I couldn’t work out how to fix it and there was no hot water in November. I climbed mountains with my oldest friends. I replaced my favourite glittery pair of shoes. I got sad, furious and scared about the state of the world. I wavered between thinking theatre is the absolute best way to make change and feeling guilty that theatre is all I do. I went to a festival in Croatia and didn’t go to bed until 6am most days and it was somehow the most chilled out and life-affirming holiday ever. I should have gone to visit my Grandma more. I properly got into running. I injured myself running. I learnt that you need to exercise so you don’t injure yourself running. I spent a lot of time trying to understand and subsequently worrying about Brexit. I found myself looking out of a rainy bus window on the way home and thinking that, despite all the crap, I’m really glad I’m here.