First up it is Half Life which continues it's journey to ARC Stockton & The Gulbenkian Theatre, who co-commissioned the production along with The Albany in Deptford. We will be working with participants aged from 9 up to 90 in each theatre to bring our intergenerational show to life with local talent. Our founder performers have been reunited to develop the show which recalls 20 years of making theatre together and friendship. It also offers us a chance to examine the big questions about life with help from our cast of all ages.
The Mindfulness Projectis at Luton Sixth Form College this term and is open for bookings nationwide. It's been experienced by over 100 school pupils at 5 different schools across Luton in its first year.
We also have The Mindfulness Project for business. Around 60+ employees from Barclays, South Eastern Railway & TAG (Talent Artistic Group) have taken part already!
Our Dramatherapywork has continued with young carers, looked-after children and school refusers.
We won an award for being a Family Friendly Company and have played an active part in testing PIPA’s new charter.
On the horizon for 2019
That Parking Show returns for a 2019 tour. If you'd like to book this hilarious, acrobatic and absurdist mix of parking row meets full blown war (with cling film!) please get in contact with firstname.lastname@example.org
Need a Little Help goes back on the road and into schools across the UK. If you are interested in booking this uplifting show inspired by the experience of young carers please get in contact with our new Director of Participation Emily Eversden at email@example.com
January has brought the fantastic news that Awards for All are going to fund our 'SIBS' project which sees us bringing together a group of children in Merton and Sutton who all have siblings with autism, to make a theatre show in a week in the Easter holidays. It will be the fifth time we have run this project which always brings profound benefits to the children, so we are thrilled that Awards for All have agreed to fund it.
Reviewing outdoor theatre: the missing piece of the puzzle?
By KAT JOYCE
This weekend saw us premiering our newest outdoor performance, That Parking Show, at the brilliant Imagine Luton festival. It was a great weekend in a number of ways:
1.The show, which we've been making for the last three weeks, came together and really seemed to 'land' in front of its first audiences.
2.Our two new performers, Blayar and Melaina, both made their outdoor debut, nailed their performances, and loved the experience.
3.Imagine Luton festival, which was brand new last year, has already gained impressive traction and is pulling really big, enthusiastic audiences (and attracting new, unexpected ones) with a fantastic programme of work (thanks Imagine festivals for taking a punt and commissioning us).
4.The sun shone all weekend.
5.England won the football 6-1 (our final show gained an extra sound effect half way through with a city-wide live chorus of 'Three Lions' spilling out of various pubs)
6.An actual proper, renowned dance critic travelled to Luton to review some of the work.
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For those who work in the outdoor arts, point 6 (above) probably seems even more extraordinary than point 5, so we'd like to express a massive THANK YOU to Donald Hutera for making the journey (and, of course, for saying nice things about That Parking Show on Twitter!).
To put the lack of criticism in context: when we did our 'Take To The Streets' season in 2012, we calculated at the end of it that we'd had a larger audience across the season than if we had sold out the upstairs and downstairs of the Royal Court Theatre for a month. Despite this number of audience seeing (and, we hope, mostly enjoying) our work, not one critic turned up to see any of it, despite our invitations.
This is pretty much a standard frustration if you work in outdoor arts.
Despite its massive popularity, despite the enormous and diverse audiences outdoor work attracts, despite the level of skill deployed and the range of extraordinary talent to be seen at British outdoor arts festivals, despite the considerable investment over the last decade by ACE; despite all this, the outdoor arts have failed in one major regard, and that is in developing a culture of criticism around the artform.
There are of course a couple of exceptions - Lyn Gardner has made time to see and write about outdoor work across the UK (another reason her loss at the Guardian is a travesty) and Sanjoy Roy has covered some of this year’s GDIF - but it’s still a minuscule proportion of work made that receives any kind of critical attention.
There are lots of reasons for this. There's no press nights in outdoor arts for a start – the sector lacks the glamour of its indoor relative and you won't get a glass of chilled white wine in a plush theatre bar (you might get a can of slightly warm beer in a slightly sweaty tent if you're really lucky). Shows don't run for weeks – they are generally on for just a couple of days in each locale, and attendance is usually free – so there's not the same economic drive to get reviews to drum up audience and drive ticket sales. And alongside this – indeed, because of it – the outdoor arts lacks a critical discourse, which is a massive shame for many reasons.
A critical response to outdoor arts would do many positive things. It would help us to celebrate and record some of the extraordinary but fleeting moments which captivate audiences. It would enable us to stop reinventing the wheel, and to better interrogate what we are doing well as companies and a sector. It would help us to see trends emerging and to better contextualise what we are doing against the background of the culture of work that's come before. All of this would develop intellectual muscle in the sector and strengthen British outdoor work in an international market.
It’s not a simple thing to solve. I’d argue that the outdoor arts needs its own specialist critics in order to develop a sophisticated critical vocabulary around the practice. Alongside the creative and technical expertise which companies are demonstrating in the performances themselves (which might, for example, be adeptly written about by an indoor theatre or dance critic), an outdoor performance is also doing a lot of things which we don't – in mainstream criticism anyway – have an adequate vocabulary to talk about. This is stuff to do with the way we negotiate the site and the space, the unpredictabilities of weather, audience, streetscape, the means by which the performance uses, disregards or celebrates the existing cultures and hidden or explicit stories inherent in the space....I could go on (I have already if you want to read the final chapter of my doctoral thesis....) All of this stuff is absolutely part and parcel of outdoor practice and needs to be analysed as such. There's some exciting work happening in the world of academia (Artizani's James MacPherson is doing some fascinating stuff analysing the ways performances interact with crowds for example) but despite some promising signs and some attempts to get something off the ground, this stuff still doesn't seem to be evolving into even the beginning seeds of a critical discourse.
What do we need in order to make that happen? In my opinion, it's an issue which needs to be led by sectoral leaders (Outdoor Arts UK,Without Walls, the major outdoor festivals). But Donald Hutera getting on a train to Luton is a great place to start.
Tangled Feet have always believed in the importance of creative collaboration. It makes our work richer, deeper, more accessible - and we learn so much from the people we meet.
Right now we are running round all over the place working on four different projects with four sets of collaborators, old, young and everything in between - and it is a really really exciting time for the company as a result.
Have you noticed everyone’s eyes are ﬁxed on their phones?
Is it escapism, security or an uncontrollable addiction?
We all spend so much time with our eyes ﬁxed to a screen… have we stopped noticing each other?
Is it time to change our horizons?
Put it in your diary: Sunday 25th June, Luton Town Centre, 1pm onwards, finale in St Georges Square at 5pm.
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In Shepherd’s Bush
In collaboration with the Bush Theatre and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Tangled Feet are working with a group of women and children (who have experience of insecure housing or homelessness) at Shepherds Bush Families Project on a six-month creative process. We’ll be taking over spaces at the Bush Theatre in late August to share the outcome which will be influenced by these inspirational families who have come from all over the world to make their home in London.
We are beginning a project working with elders and young people in Croydon to create a piece for the Croydon Heritage Festival called Tracing The Past.
A verbatim inspired production looking at the changes in entertainment across generations from Croydon Youth Theatre. Supported by the archives at the Museum of Croydon and residents from The Whitgift Foundation.
It will be performed at The Shoestring Theatre on 28th and 29th June at 8pm.
We have just started work on our second commission with the inspirational Half Moon Theatre to create a show about children’s experience of anxiety - an enormous and growing mental health issue amongst young people. The work will be inspired by and informed by a group of young people we work with long-term in Croydon through our Dramatherapy service. Following the successful model that we used to make Need A Little Help with a group of young carers, the young people will be creative consultants on the project, feeding in at crucial points to help us make something which is true to young people’s experiences.
In Somerset and Surrey
We’ve just had the exciting news that Need A Little Helphas been selected for Take Art's Hopper project and will be touring rural Somerset in 2018. We are really proud of this show and thrilled that it will have another tour.
Mentoring Emerging Ensemble Companies across the UK
This month, Nathan and Kat offered a free workshop to applicants of our 2017 mentorship scheme on 'Producing Ensemble Theatre'. We had attendees from across the UK including Derby, Huddersfield and Birmingham joining us for a day of sharing advice, focusing visions and removing obstacles to success.
There was no budget for this workshop just Kat and Nathan wanting to help the many applicants we received but could not take on to the Mentoring year long programme. So a big THANK YOU to Nathan and Kat for giving their time and New Diorama Theatre for giving us a space in their new ND2 location.
"A huge thank you for the workshop on Saturday. We found it so helpful and walked away with fire in our stomachs!"
Moth Physical Theatre Company
We were thrilled to learn this month that one of our mentored companies, Seemiahave been successful with their first Arts Council application following an in-kind advice and mentoring session from our Development Director Jonathan Ellicott. We are really excited about their success and are sure that we will be posting more exciting developments from our other three mentored companies Ivo, Broken Chair and Ditto Theatre.
This work was funded from our generous grant from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.
We met David and Laura from NGYT after they came to watch ‘Emerge/ncy’ last summer at Imagine Watford Festival and got in touch with us via twitter to say how much they had enjoyed it. From that initial tweet, a beautiful collaboration has been born!
Next Generation Youth Theatre are an exciting, ambitious and passionate organisation based in Luton, working with hundreds of talented young people to create really high-quality drama, dance and musical theatre.
For the inaugural ‘Imagine Luton' outdoor festival we have come together with NGYT to develop a large-scale outdoor spectacle featuring 100 young people which examines at how we interact with each other and our technology in public spaces. How are these ‘black mirrors’ that are glued to our palms changing our horizons? What happens when we look up instead?
MIRROR SKY will be happening all over Luton Town Centre on Sunday 25th June - near the train station, in the shopping mall, in the high street…. It will culminate in a spectacular finale at 5pm in the main square.
Our ambition is that with the young performers of NGYT, we can create a brilliant new outdoor work for young people that we can tour and remake in the future with other youth theatres and young performers in cities across the UK.
'It's quite a family affair and art is certainly imitating life.'
by Sara Templeman
Day 6 of rehearsals – Kicking & Screaming
We have just begun our second week of rehearsals for Kicking & Screaming. What is so brilliant about rehearsing this play, which follows the story of two couples and their transition into parenthood, is the presence of real babies in the rehearsal room.
Both our artistic directors have recently become parents. Nathan's little girl Olwyn is 6 weeks old and was brought in today for the afternoon by Nathan's wife Alexis. Kat's little boy Claude is 9 weeks old and can't be apart from his Mummy yet as he is so little so he's been a constant (and very lovely and very well behaved) presence at rehearsals. It just happens Claude's Daddy Guy is also on hand for baby care in rehearsals as he is directing all the music as well as having composed some of the musical score for the production (Another part of the show that's been so much fun in rehearsal is the live music!) So it's quite a family affair and art is certainly imitating life.
Further input has come from our very own qualified Doula* and Mummy Laura who plays the narrator character in the play.
Her unique insight into not only being a Mummy herself but her accounts of witnessing births as a Doula has also added an extra fascinating layer to our research.
We had yet another baby visitor today as 5 month old Iver dropped in with his Mummy Cristina, who is also part of Tangled Feet. So this afternoon we had 3 babies hanging out!
You can read a lot of books and articles and pamphlets about pregnancy, birth and caring for a new-born. This is a great foundation for the character’s stories and experiences and developing scenes. It’s been useful for me during the entire process from making the show last year to revisiting it this year. We have collated all sorts of information relevant to our stories, like information on attachment parenting to birth positions to weaning and how to breastfeed! ‘It’s a lot of information’ is a line from the show as my character Natasha reads a massive encyclopaedic book about pregnancy and birth in one scene. It certainly is!
However it is the magical, wondrous and amazing presence of our Tangled Feet babies as well as the truthful insight from their parents in rehearsals that are helping to enrich our process. It has really been a unique and fulfilling experience as a performer. Observing and hanging out with actual babies has been invaluable in helping us create our characters truth and stories, encountering parenting live in the space and then reenacting it within the life of the play! It has also been inspiring as our two artistic directors, musical director and fellow performer are juggling parenthood of new borns and toddlers whilst rehearsing a play! Kicking & screaming parents, I salute you!
* Just incase you didn’t know:
A doula also known as a birth companion and post-birth supporter, is a non medical person who assists a person before, during, and/or after childbirth as well as her spouse and/or family, by providing physical assistance and emotional support
For full Tour details see /productions/25-kicking-and-screaming
It poured for a while in Brighton but then the sun shone and we emerged!
We have just returned from Brighton Festival following the world premiere of Emerge/ncy. It was great to finally share the piece with very receptive local audiences. Huge thanks to Brighton Festival for being such fantastic producers and to all the cast and crew for dealing with pouring rain and then scorching sun! Here is some interesting feedback from an audience memeber and some photos....
"at first I was suspicious, then annoyed, then interested and realised it enhanced my day and I shouldn't be scared of them - bit like the refugee crisis come to think of it"
We are thrilled to announce a new show for Summer 2016: Emerge/ncy. Emerge/ncy is an installation that becomes a durational performance. It is the result a period of creative exploration into the twin concerns of global inequality and climate change, and particularly addresses the very current issue of human migration.
We’ve been spending some time as a company thinking about the connection between inequality and climate change and about people who have to leave their home due to the climate, economy or combinations of the two. For a set of issues that have such life changing effects across world, but that we are somewhat isolated from in the UK, we felt it was the right thing to do to create something that scarred the landscape and felt like a big event.
We wanted to bring some of the themes and struggles seen across the world to British high streets, squares and parks and remind people that cracks are appearing across the world. These cracks are both in our environment and our societies. However, in response to such catastrophe we often see the best in humans – emergency and disaster bring communities together and often it is your neighbour not your government that will be the first to help.
Overnight, in a public space a mysterious, ominous organic form appears. It seems to have burst through the pavement or playing field, creating a strange shape 7 metres high. It towers over the landscape.
Slowly, displaced people begin to emerge. Then more and more…
Where do they go now?
How do we respond to them?
How long will they stay?
As the day draws to a close there is a collective response to the emerging people. It has become an opportunity born from a crisis. A coming together turns into a collective act, which is beautiful and transformative for all.
Has this state of emergency become the new normal?
We are thrilled to be working with Alex Rinsler (Giants Foundary) and Mike De Buts (Shipshape Arts) to design and build the installation which will be animated by Tangled Feet performers to a soundtrack by Guy Connelly of Clock Opera. The work has been generously supported by The Arts Council England, Esmee Faribairn Foundation, The Hanley Trust and our partner festivals.
Alongside the performance programme our Participation team will be running drama workshops with The Red Cross Refugee and Befriending Scheme for unaccompanied asylum seekers across London as well as further workshops for recently arrived families in association with Migrant Help.