Summit, a play by Andy Smith

A few weeks ago I watched The Summit written by Andy Smith, and presented by Fuel, at the Shoreditch Town Hall. It had such depth to it, which summed up the international political climate perfectly, but also had nothing to do with it, and in theatre that is a magnificent skill to master.
I can’t tell you what it was about because I literally don’t know but I can tell you it was a rejection of life as we know it, a warning that we need to change, and if we don’t we might just go around in circles.
The writer, Andy Smith, had written a poetic script in three different languages, including sign language, which was stunning. Watching the performers tell us that we live in a society that is broken, and to watch them going round in circles was painful, but it had poignancy to its nail-biting frustration.
The lighting was used to give us hope that something would change, but after the lights came up nothing had changed, and the performers kept us in this loop of words, of expectation and frustration.
Summit could have been about everything or it could have been about nothing, but it questioned what we each individually think about the world. I’m not actually sure whether I enjoyed it or not, but it was thought-provoking, which made it excellent.
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Inside Out Dorset Festival 2018

This summer The Shouting Mute was commissioned for the Inside Out Dorset Festival 2018, produced by Activate Performing Arts. The piece was called Prose in the Park. It was a continuous sound and poetry installation, which remained in a section of Shelley Park for two days during the festival. The Prose In The Park installation was an interactive and immersive experience for audience members. Some described it as enchanting, ethereal and magical. Were you there? Let me know what you thought…

Our creative team had been working on this project for some months leading up to the festival, collecting public input during workshops, recording soundscapes and voices, researching the history of Shelley Park and exploring how all of these elements would come together. The last week of preparations was quite tough, but we would like to thank the whole team for all of their help, support, and hard work, with special thanks to Jason Warren from Axis Arts who oversaw rehearsals in the last week, Laura Dobles, who performed with The Shouting Mute, and Jonny Leitch, from Leitch Drums, our sound designer who created some beautiful soundscapes. Together, we pulled off The Shouting Mute vision for this project in style.

It was excellently magical and enchanting but I was the director of the piece so of course I would say that – Dave, The Shouting Mute

The sound and art installation was displayed along a long footpath and leafy green area with four interactive daily performances from The Shouting Mute and Laura Dobles. Live poetry was also read aloud during the walk. The audience loved it, and there were writing stations set up along the footpath as well as an inviting patch of blankets, cushions, and poetry books written by Shelley, where people could read, relax, and contribute their own poetry and creative responses.

It was such a well-received project that there is talk of adapting and continuing Prose In The Park at other venues in the future, so watch this space.

Words Of The Week – July 23rd – 29th

39876144_1099772436865339_2797824980325236736_nOn the weekend of 28th July I was invited to teach some creative workshops to AAC users, give a poetry performance, and a presentation to their parents, at the One Voice national conference, held at Treloar School and College. One Voice is a charity that helps AAC users and their families. The annual conference brings together AAC and communication aid users, their support workers and families, to socialise and enjoy communication focused activities.

I was asked to teach two groups of AAC users, from very young to adult, to explore their technology through creative writing tasks, to which I heard some fantastic responses. We all wrote imaginative poetry, including poems spoken from the eye gazes’ point of view. There were some incredible poems and short stories, and many of the participants chose to perform theirs at the final presentation session for everyone. It was delightful to see how creative they were and hopefully my students have continued to write poetry and stories at home.

I really hope I inspired more people to use their eye gaze in a creative way, even just writing poetry for themselves, because writing poetry is a great way to learn English and encourages self-expression. I have found that creativity is the best form of communication. It has helped me so much, to develop my sense of self, and I am proof that turning a hobby into a career is possible. I would love to read more of your poetry, and you are welcome to share anything you’ve written by commenting on this blog post or on my facebook page.

During that weekend I realised that AAC and communication aid users still feel that they are left out, so I want to make a promise here and now. Over the next 5 years I will create more artistic opportunities for AAC and communication aid users as The Shouting Mute, through working as a spokesperson, and by facilitating more workshops of this kind. In exchange I want to hear from other communication aid users. I want to know who else is using their technology to be creative, how old you are, and what dreams you have for the future. Social media is great for bringing us together, and for continuing a conversation, so don’t be shy!

The weekend was great fun. I even showed the Grow up film during my presentation for the parents, and they had lots of questions for me and my team about technical and social media support. I have some great staff who would be happy to answer any further questions you may have – just get in touch. I also performed a little poetry set at the disco, and talked to some young AAC users. The whole weekend was well put together and an eye opening experience.

Words Of The Week – July 16th – 22nd

This week I was approached, as a fellow creative activist who comes into contact with creative risk through my profession, to attend and speak at a conference called ‘Challenging A Risk Averse Culture’.

It was a session based at Poole Museum, to discuss creative risk challenges in Dorset, amongst organisations, artists and independents, as part of the Arts Council funded ‘What Next? Rights, Risks and Reputations Ambassadors Programme’ (http://www.whatnextculture.co.uk/ambassadors-programme/).

What follows, is my creative response to the session…
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Risk, the challenge. “Is that safe?” Frankly I am bored of it.

Risk to be creative. Risk to bring the next pool of great artists along.

Risk, to create a culture. Risk, to find new stories. Risk, it is worth it.
Risk, “Oh we can’t, sorry. You can’t.” Why?

“Risk is personal and will always sit differently with different people due to their current situation.”
But can’t they take a risk to get out of their current situation?
“Our personal capacity can sometimes limit us.”
Yes it can. But how do you know you’re at capacity? Shouldn’t you push your personal limit?
“We are paid to be risk averse.”
No, we are paid to be artistic leaders of Dorset. Shouldn’t Dorset have their views challenged?
“Limited time may stop us from taking risks.”
Time isn’t an issue if we work at something for 5 minutes a day. Build the fundamental foundations.
“Having a family and a mortgage might stop us from taking risks.”
In 2018, it is sad that that excuse even comes into play. Surely there is a way forward?
“Budget limitations.”
OK the money isn’t there, can you do the same idea a different way?
“Lack of confidence to take risks.”
Just say screw it, we have a greater education if we do it.

“Hosting a protest and making people angry won’t change people’s minds. It actually shuts people down. There are other ways to change people’s minds.”
Who said it was a protest and not a debate? I definitely welcome your opinion in our debate. We are just using art to discuss issues that will be very real very soon.

“Sometimes just making work is controversial.”
But what if we didn’t have art that challenges our culture? Wouldn’t that be worse?
Extraordinary work comes with a price and the “it can’t be good if it’s here” mentality.
People are hard to please. But we should still try.
How do you move forward if you don’t take risks and challenge everyone to create a culture? Why shouldn’t we use art to talk about politics, sexuality, religious beliefs, human rights, discrimination, our nation, our county, our towns, the state of communities, up skirting, Brexit, the use of language like housewife and husband, disabled people, young people that want to be drag queens, modern day slavery, wind farms in the sea and any other issues that are risky.

Shouldn’t we, as artists and producers, be trying to find the stories of the here and now? Shouldn’t we be telling these stories to make people aware of the issues that effect our community today? Being risk averse is not listening to your environment, and not listening to your environment as an artist is probably affecting your capacity to work. Yes you may need the money to be creative, but you should still listen to the world around you and respond creatively in whatever way you can. Make other voices heard. If you can’t take all the risks, don’t. Risk 5 out of 10. The outcome might be better for the future. And that’s what makes the risk worth it.

Words Of The Week – July 8th – 15th

Hello Folks. Welcome to the words of the week. Work wise I’ve been focused on the prep work for upcoming events – I’ve been putting together a presentation for a workshop called Challenging a Risk Averse Culture, where I am a guest speaker tomorrow, we have more of the Ramps On The Moon inclusive rehearsal rooms in Birmingham and Leeds next week, and I’m beginning to receive responses to the Prose In The Park art installation at Inside Out Dorset Festival.

On Wednesday afternoon I had a visit from a technological gangster called John, who made me a switch tray to play my X Box once upon a time. We’re all surprised it lasted 11 years, but as X Box are about to launch a new controller with 19 buttons, my switch tray finally needs updating, so that I can get better at adventure games and promote destruction in the virtual world. Is that the right way to spend my time? Well, it’s fun so I don’t care and disabled people have the right to kill virtual people and aliens just as much as any body else.

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On Friday I went to the annual Festival of Speed, at Goodwood, which was excellent as usual. I love the smell of petrol even though I think hybrid electric cars are the future. Plus I saw a guy in a jet pack, which always makes sense to wheelchair users. No need for wheels, no need for lifts, but buildings should probably still have ramps installed because if I could use a jet pack, it still wouldn’t be very safe. Maybe I could write a comic book character that drives one, instead. That way I couldn’t go to jail for killing someone or killing myself, which would be very likely.

My brother and his fiancee came to visit for the weekend, and we had a scone making competition. We were surprised to find he could back up his claims by adding ingredients without measuring them, something he probably learnt from Mum. All 3 batches of scones were pretty good, despite everyone trying to sabotage each others attempts by not setting the timer, but I think my mum won because who doesn’t like their Mum’s cooking the best? We ate them the proper way with cream and jam. How do you like your scones?

I am ending on a poem.

Trump can trump of his bad deals for the world. Trump can Trump about his thoughts on what we are doing but we shouldn’t listen. Trump can trump of his issues with everyone other than American white non disabled men. We know how to effect real lasting change. Trump can Trump about playing golf but let’s hope it didn’t burn our taxes away. Trump can trump and disrespect our Queen but the Queen knows that he is a mockery of a real person. Trump can trump about building walls and making bad deals. He is a catastrophic deal for the world. We know at the end of the day he is a baby in the sky.

Words Of The Week – July 1st-7th

36729733_10156302298541438_1240063917141524480_nThis summer I am co-hosting a tour of theatres across the UK, working alongside Ramps On The Moon and Diverse City, to teach drama teachers about the importance of inclusivity and how to teach young people in an inclusive way. So on the 5th of July I travelled to Ipswich, where the first of our ‘Inclusive Rehearsal Rooms’ took place, at The New Wolsey Theatre for local drama teachers and youth theatre practitioners.

You’ll be satisfied to know that teachers begin these workshops much the same way as the students they teach – quietly, shyly, and with a little nervous energy. You might expect them to throw themselves in like they expect their students to, but just like everyone else, it took a few icebreaker games to get the energy building. As our Ramps On The Moon team took the lead, not embarrassed to make a fool of themselves, we quickly became an inclusive and confident group, happy to share our thoughts and practices, taking the time to listen and learn from each other.

It was great to hear such positive conversation about diversity and setting realistic teaching targets that considered the needs of everyone. We not only covered physical and learning difficulties, but also explored the importance of communication aids and sign language for the deaf too. Everyone left with a head full of ideas and their own personal sign name, some of which had us in hysterics.

I’ll be travelling to Birmingham then Leeds for the next ‘Inclusive Rehearsal Rooms’ so I’m looking forward to comparing how effective these workshops are across the UK.

 

In other news, I have been commissioned to produce an art installation piece for Inside Out Dorset Festival this September. The piece will be titled ‘Prose In The Park’ and will be inspired by words and stories from the local community surrounding Shelley Park. I would love to see you at the drop in sessions on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th August. You would get the chance to inspire my work while grabbing a coffee and cake in the cafe 🙂 If you want to get involved but can’t make it, you can send any stories or words about Shelley Park to the Shouting Mute before September.