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read more Sep. 3rd 2021

Devolution Evolution: Impossible Monsters

by Fiona Watson

 

Devolution Evolution beginnings. On July 17 2020 mid first pandemic lock-down, I received a wonderful surprise email from Kat Joyce co-artistic director inviting me to join an R&D project called Devolution/Evolution. Tangled Feet proposed to support associate artists with whom they had strong working relationships "with some time, space and resources to develop some new creative ideas’’. 

The initial support involved 6 paid days, a mentor meeting with one of the co-artistic directors Kat Joyce or Nathan Curry, the potential to set up training workshops and Zoom meetings with the other Devo/Evo creatives, to introduce each other and share work. The timing of this email was significant as we were by now several dismal months into Covid lockdown and as theatre maker I had no idea when I would work again. So to be reminded that I was a theatre maker with strong working relationships was pretty special! 

 

To quote Kat’s first brief again;

 

"’The theme we are asking artists to respond to is 'the catalyst'. What's the straw the breaks the camel's back and instigates a change?’’and ‘’ It could be a tiny thing or a huge one. Interpret as you wish.’’

Impossible Monsters 

As a collaborative artist I am used to working with groups of people, so I decided to take the opportunity to work by myself, starting from nothing.

 

I gave myself a hard time getting started on the project, all about not being ‘good enough’ and just being stuck, my inner-critic is exceptionally loud.

 

I started reading Augusto Boal’s book The Rainbow of Desire, in which he explains a whole method of working that he adapted from his original Forum Theatre, and talks about ‘the cop in the head’.

 

His work is about oppression and how to use theatre to confront the oppressor and that in more affluent societies the oppressor is ‘the cop in the head’ i.e. us (via the internalised information from our educators, our carers and the society we live in) oppressing ourselves. Job done, we are ‘locked down’ in our own heads! That is why I called the piece ‘Impossible Monsters’, the voices that we self-censor feel impossible to realise.

 

However, most of Boal’s work required a group to explore. 

 

At this point I had my first meeting with my mentor, Kat Joyce, who was hugely encouraging of my tentative description of ‘Impossible Monsters’ and suggested that I could try guided writing as a way of exploring the voices. I came away feeling super-charged that someone else thought that my idea was good enough to explore and had suggested a method that was very enticing to me to do so.

 

Making ideas concrete – the trick of art

 

Tangled Feet set up a writing workshop at the request of several of us Devo/Evo creatives. We worked with the wonderful writer Dawn Walton who helped us with a wealth of ideas and techniques to create character, distance and dramatic action.

 

I thought about us all trapped in our houses and how the little windows of the Zoom process allowed us all a sort of escape to see other ‘worlds’.

 

Researching ideas, I looked at lots of pictures and found information about ‘bouffon’ characters, interesting because, in my mind at least, those were especially potent characters for escaping ‘lock-down in the head’.

 

I found pictures and old film from 20/30s Berlin cabaret, Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits and pictures and videos of Pina Bausch’s work that appealed to me a being uncompromising, often exaggerated, and also full of humour.

 

I also plundered conversations I had or overheard about the lockdown situation and re-wrote them with heavy editing, created environments and costumes for them (I am always fascinated in Zoom meetings by the glimpses we get of the others’ worlds) and found that I had produced the initial series of 4 characters for the first iteration of ‘Impossible Monsters’ who were all filmed, struggling in their Zoom boxes. I animated a title sequence and then relied heavily on my skilful partner Kamal to show me how to edit and put it all, in the manner of a slightly dodgy Zoom meeting…with interference.

 

I had no idea whether it would be something that could be watched by others with any interest or not. We were collectively invited to 2 evenings of Zoom sharings, no pressure to produce anything, we could just talk through our process and ideas. These evenings were an utterly joyful experience. The delight of watching/listening to others’ ideas and wildly different paths to creative expression was a completely uplifting and joyful and nourishing experience. And I shared my videos, with great trepidation, feeling exposed and a bit of a charlatan at the same time. Would anyone be remotely interested in my rambling, weird characters that in my most wobbly moments I thought might just be personal therapy.

 

Oh joy! People watched them, found them funny, touching, vulnerable … amazing feedback from the kind and generous cohort of other Devo/Evo creatives. We all felt lifted on each other’s contributions. Out of this and another evenings’ sharing came the collective idea that we could curate a mini-festival in which to share the work that had been made. Work as varied a poetry, videos, extravagantly beautiful hand-made speakers, pod-casts, sculpture and sound installations. 

 

I added further videos, including one with a cartoon fish in a bowl who perfectly expressed my sense of déjà vu as the whole country staggered from wave after wave of coronavirus and lockdown. I kept on thinking how I could develop ‘Impossible Monsters’ and the most convincing answer I came up with for myself was ‘make more videos’, which was made possible by a further 6 days paid freedom to create.

 

During this time I also lost 2 friends, not directly to coronavirus, but to isolation in care homes way before their times. Through working on another Impossible Monster, I was able to express my anger at the assumptions made by our careless government that vulnerable people would die and that those deaths as ‘collateral damage’ were acceptable somehow, in another video.

 

The whole series of character ‘Zoom’ windows that I eventually made were edited with Kamal’s  help and given subtitles to be shown as part of the Devolution/Evolution festival in Luton, centred at the Hat Works and the Hat Factory that had come into being from our initial collective wish.

 

Devolution/Evolution in Luton

This 3 day event at the end of July 2021 was utterly brilliant. A magnificent production team pulled together an exhibition at the Hat Works, a theatre workshop at the Hat Factory and performance space by taking over an empty shop in the Luton Mall. All creatives who felt they wanted to show their work to a wider audience were given a space or timetabled over the 3 days.

 

Impossible Monsters was shown on a screen in the Hat Works where folk could sit on a comfy sofa with headphones and watch, along with 2 other videos. 

 

Petal workshop with Susy Hingley

I was lucky enough to participate in a day long workshop on a scene from the play ‘Petal’ by my Tangled Feet colleague Susy Hingley. Along with 3 other brilliant performers from the collective (Gemma Creasey, Tunji Falana and Johnny Ong) we found ourselves in the lovely studio theatre at the Hat Factory working on alternative physical ways of expressing cyber-bullying. Brain-storming, getting out the felt pens and large pieces of paper again, playing around with rope, and swivelling office chairs was celebratory, we’d survived over a year of lockdown and made it back into the rehearsal room! We had the best day doing what we love to do, making theatre, playing with ideas and in the evening showed back what we had come up with to a small but appreciative audience!

Devolution/Evolution- the full-fat experience

Two days later, I came back to Luton for my full audience experience of our first Devolution/Evolution artists’ collective event and had the time of my life. I felt very vulnerable sharing Impossible Monsters with another audience. My worst fears were that no-one would be interested in watching it, so I lurked around in the Hat Works café, watching the watchers, though my cover was almost immediately blown by other collective members as we madly greeted each other in the ‘real’, sometimes for the first time in a couple of years. 

 

Greetings went on all day with others and their families, new tiny kids who had arrived over the previous locked down months, grown-a-foot taller kids and Devo/Evo contributors who I had only met on Zoom, all much taller than I imagined them. 

 

Wandering around the Hat Works visitors were able to revel in a glorious gallery of rooms showing all the different and beautiful things created. I skipped off to the Mall to watch the delightful, funny, clever 10 minute shows put on in the ‘Shop Front’, along with a large number of equally delighted members of the Luton public, who seemd more than happy to pause on a busy shopping day to be entertained by dance and acrobatics and clowning.

 

I can’t really convey the ‘feels’ of my experience of being part of the Devo/Evo collective after such a drought of opportunity, to be back with loved and admired colleagues doing and sharing our art. We are an Art Collective and this goes on. As I write this, more folk have been included in the group and are now working on ideas that we will share with each other on Zoom in September. Artists have used this as a springboard for applications for funding projects or developing creative practice. ‘Impossible Monsters’ will become something else, which may involve live performance and dancing. The beat goes on….and on.

 

Thank you everyone.

read more Aug. 18th 2021

Murmurations: It's better outdoors

By Nathan Curry

 

During the pandemic many people sought solace and freedom in the Great Outdoors. Initially, due to the government rule allowing only 1 hour of outdoor time each day, people made sure they claimed their slot, but as the pandemic settled into the long haul people socialised, worked and played outdoors – everything became an outdoor event. As this happened many people started to see their local environments in new ways and noticed nature in the urban cracks for the first time and the incredible vistas and wildlife (sometimes more visible and closer than ever) in the countryside. There was something reassuring, in a constantly changing news cycle, that the skies, woods and fields seemed timeless.

 

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire run by the National Trust and Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk run by the RPSB are two places that saw this increased footfall and new visitors across the pandemic period. In September Tangled Feet are collaborating with playwright Steve Waters to create Murmurations; a site-specific piece of theatre that will take place at the two Reserves. The piece is part of a wider project Steve is embarking on asking what is the relationship with playwrighting, nature and the climate emergency? Mumurations reflects on our relationship with nature during the pandemic; how it’s given us solace and how does it need protecting from us?

 

One of the debates of the play is how we should look at these nature Reserves and where they sit (or where we’ve allowed them to sit) in our landscape. Steve discusses whether these Reserves should be ‘wild’ or cultivated by humans, whether there should be fixed habitats or with a wild approach to let things rip. He unpicks the changing climate which is forcing species into new habitats; should humans even be allowed into these protected environments anymore or have we already damaged the environment enough? Alongside this is a deeper debate on how we re-calibrate the role of nature in our lives – is it separate or connected to our value systems, our economic thinking, and our well-being?

We’ve developed Murmurations throughout the pandemic period. The first site visit was in July 2020 as the country started ‘opening up’ for the first (it turns out the first of a few) times. The creative teams walked the Wicken and Strumpshaw boardwalks and learnt about these incredible, protected, nurtured pieces of land. It was hot, teaming with wildlife and each place packed with birders, walkers, and families. We continued into the winter months spending time testing ideas in an icy December – less families this time but still many nature lovers camped out over thermoses. At that point the country was about to enter its third lockdown and it had become clear how important being outdoors was for us all. Making theatre outdoors is something Tangled Feet has done for the past 10+ years – we have witnessed first-hand the power of being on the street, in the park and in the fields. Art outdoors is nourishing for the artistic soul, accessible to everyone and allows artists to try brave and bold experiments in form, place, and content.

For me there is a connection between these threads of art and the natural world. Why is it that during lockdown we sought out both of these sorts of experiences – walks and exercise in nature, a new appreciation of skies, birds and insects buzzing in open spaces and alongside zoom dance classes, painted rainbows on windows and creative online socialising. What is it that we need from art and nature? Both give us time to think – there is inspiration from a fantastic view or stirring dramatic speech. Both ask us to bring ourselves into the picture offering a frame for our imagination. Both allow ritualistic moments of catharsis – the sun setting, the ice melting, the dance crescendo or the dramatic departure. And both are bigger than us and contain complicated creativity embedded inside them; the design of flowers, feathers and roots alongside choreography, language and design. 

Experiencing theatre and nature together is brilliantly exciting as the natural world is a stunning backdrop (the best set design out there). The narrative must align itself to the rhythms of nature, the form cannot fight against the weather - if its windy its windy, if it’s raining it’s raining, if the sun sets the lights are turned down. There is something honest about making theatre outdoors – there is no fakery of design, no chance to focus attention via spotlights and everyone is under the same canopy – there is nowhere to hide. The marriage of form, theme and place creates a deep connection. When an actor talks of the earth, of landscapes changing, of the sounds of wildlife it all surrounds you– the work shimmers and shines under the watchful eye of its inspiration. 

 

And the debates on access in art and nature dance around each other with linking themes. Should art be housed in protected palaces or on the streets for everyone? Should art adapt to how the world is changing and what we need art to be or is it a historical form focused on preservation? What is the intrinsic value of art on our everyday lives and how do we quantify that? 

Murmurations will take place during the RSPB’s Big Green Week (18-26 Sept)- a national week celebrating action on climate change. Making Murmurations and creating the work in natural surroundings brings the effects of climate change into sharp focus. As the characters talk of a sinking landscape and rising waterline, we look across the watery land and see it. As they bring our attention to a small scrap of land home to a rare, endangered insect we know this land is irreplaceable. When we are asked to witness the yo-yoing weather we feel the heat, rain, and wind on the same day. Perhaps theatre work in the natural environment can help elevate he stories of the changing climate and give voice to the voiceless nature we have taken for granted for too long?

Nathan Curry, Director

 

NATIONAL TRUST WICKEN FEN NATURE RESERVE Performance dates & times: 

Friday 17th September: Shows at 11am, 2pm, 5pm

Saturday 18th September: Shows at 11am, 2pm, 5pm

Sunday 19th September: Shows at 11am, 2pm, 5pm

Meeting point: At entrance to The Reserve

Buy tickets here

 

RSPB STRUMPSHAW FEN NATURE RESERVE Performance dates & times:

Friday 24th September: Shows at 11am, 2pm, 5pm

Saturday 25th September: Shows at 11am, 2pm, 5pm

Sunday 26th September: Shows at 11am, 2pm, 5pm

Meeting point: At entrance to The Reserve 

Buy tickets here

 

read more Jan. 13th 2021

Into Power (Devolution Evolution)

By Al Orange

 

As an artist living and working across two countries, when I saw the likely outcome of the Coronavirus pandemic starting to spread across the world, I knew I had to make a decision about where I was going to be as travel restrictions set in. It was an easy choice and I returned to Spain to be with my family.  But that meant leaving behind my other family, my family of Tangled Feet and other artists across the UK.  So when I was invited to be part of Devolution Evolution I jumped at the chance.

 

Listen to the audio of this blog post here

Unlike some other members of the group who relished the opportunity to make solo work for the first time, I knew instinctively that I wanted my piece to be collaborative.  I wanted to explore the ways in which we could connect and make work together in that moment, and I was thankful for the chance to work with part of the incredible pool of talent that had been gathered for the project.

 

The provocation was ‘The Catalyst’, and that led me to explore the moment when we are driven to walk away, to say no, and how the act of refusal can be a moment of incredible power, a life changing instant that can have long lasting consequences. My starting point was a piece of music I had written which featured  samples from procession music I had recorded here on the streets of Seville.  Inspired by a moment of catalyst from my own personal history, I reached out to our DevoEvo network for collaborators and asked them to film 30-45 seconds of movement interpreting the theme however they wished.

 

 

I wanted to make a piece that connected my past as a physical performer, my present as a lighting and video designer and what is very much my future as a visual artist.  My aim was to take us away from the world of confinement and Zoom meetings and create beautiful abstract worlds for our bodies to inhabit.  To create something powerful and yet enchanting, a beautiful antidote to the dark times we found ourselves in.

 

Whilst I flirted with the idea of using the time to research new technologies, as soon as the pieces of film started to come in, I knew my focus had to be on the people, on their pain, their rage, their stories, and their power, my own included.  I set out to create worlds that I hoped would reflect each performers strength within their struggle, and yet connect all our stories stories together to create a coherent whole.  I devised and performed my own choreography for the first time in years, accepting the limitations that age and injury had handed me and finding new ways to circumvent them.  

 

One of my challenges was trying to work with the different types of video I was sent. Some were filmed with good cameras and proper green screen, others were filmed on phones in people’s bedrooms and back gardens.  The trick was to see each challenge as an opportunity to explore, and I genuinely surprised myself with some of the results.  The final cut came together much more easily than I expected.  It seems that the sense of unity and connection I was craving had already been written into the DNA of our collective unconscious.

 

Although I was already happy with my own work on the piece, my greatest sense of achievement came from the reactions of my fellow collaborators on seeing the finished video, and how they felt represented.  Here at Tangled Feet we are ultimately storytellers, and the greatest service we can do for someone is to tell their story well, to find that kinship, that humanity that we need more than ever right now.  I feel so inspired by the Devolution Evolution project, and I definitely want to develop this practice further, to get the work seen not only online but in galleries, libraries and in public space alongside other works from the project, and finally, in defiance of all the shit I’ve been through, to be reborn into power, and just to dance again.

 

Watch Al's 'Into Power' video from the first phase of R&D sharings on the Devolution Evolution Playlist on our YouTube channel. You can view some more examples of those who chose to share their ideas via video on there too:

 

 

To find out more about Devolution Evolution head over to the Production page and keep an eye on our Socials. Follow Al on Instagram & Facebook

 

read more Dec. 4th 2020

A post Pandemic Reset? Outdoor work, venues, futures, ways of working...

By Nathan Curry

 

In August and September I took part in Culture Reset - a programme to actively explore what change we wanted to see in the arts and culture sector post pandemic. 

The 4 week intensive featured weekly workshops alongside listening, reading and writing tasks. We were challenged to find a question to explore and use that question to fuel our research and conversations (my question explored the relationship between venues and outdoor theatre post pandemic and the role I could play)...

“The Portal” Arundhati Roy

 

Like many I was drawn to the the programme because I could see the opportunity for a change and that that change was well overdue. One of the launchpads for the programme was this quote from Arundhati Roy:

 

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.“

The break with the past that Arundhati points to is the exact fissure that theatre makers often insert themselves into - its where the new futures can be imagined and performed as an act of collective community storytelling.

 

What role will theatre have during and after this pandemic? Will it even survive? if it does how can it be a space of healing, connection and change? How will we stage the stories that help imagine a new future?

 

“Audience in Portuguese is public” Culture Reset Participant

 

For me the call to take part in the programme was driven by the power of performance in public and social spaces - the way it can access new audiences, tell new stories and represent and challenge the world around us. Myself and everyone at the company I co-founded, Tangled Feet, have long been believers in the power of theatre in public space and as theatre buildings locked down the concept seems to have captured many imaginations. 

 

The basis of performing in public is (for me) about placing art within people’s everyday lives (changing the shape of their day) and not held behind a door in a sacred space where the rules can be baffling, the stage architecture asks the form to conform to a tradition and the ticket prices (can be) extortionate. As everyone retreated inside their houses and into nature we saw an explosion of creativity at home, creativity online and creativity outdoors and there was a sense of adventure and joy.  As Clare Doherty points out in this recent Stage article - this is the moment to reform theatre radically. Clare outlines beautifully the draw of the outdoors, the possibilities it holds and how fundamentally the form requires you to be relevant, locally engaged and resilient - surely the foundations of a theatre reform?

 

So what’s stopping us/stopped us? Is it that artists don’t understand the outdoor form? That it lacks financially viability (like many performing arts)? Or that buildings don’t know where to start?

 

“Your past recorded self” Faroq Chaudhry

 

There is much power in the status quo. One of the most inspiring parts of the Reset programme were the curated Podcasts.

 

Farooq Chaudhry spoke about the way we live in a way that allows us to play out our lives and choices as a recording of the previous day- that we repeat the same patterns, thoughts and behaviours learnt in the past. This is the baggage that Arundhati Roy talks of. How do we start our work post pandemic to question everything we thought was right or useful and start afresh?

 

In another podcast Wesley Enoch talks of the politics and power of organisations that take up space. The political power of spaces with more bricks, more audiences, more money and more media coverage dominates the messaging in the arts (and it quickly becomes an economic argument of the power of art to add to the economy and therefore, as the ACE Recovery Fund proves, also dominates the arts rescue packages). Meanwhile small, adaptable, artist led groups make work in the gaps, in communities and away from the mainstream - but without any political power or exposure.

 

“It is theatres that are hard to reach, that marginalise themselves” Chinonyerem Odimba

 

Part of my research led me to turn the exploration on its head and ask why auditoriums and stages have such power that channels money and creativity into stages not places?

 

There are, of course, a large number of intricacies and details here but my provocation is that if a stage is the way an arts organisation articulates who it is (and that this stage is programmed by 1 or 2 people and accessed by a small percentage of local constituents) then how is it a public space? Is it basically a private space? 

 

Coupled with this are the Business Models of most organisations with stages or spaces mean that they have to get ticket income and sell a huge number of seats to break even. The venue is literally held to ransom by this model - the shows HAVE to make money, the stage HAS to articulate its identity? A large dark space saying ‘Fill Me!” as opposed to a local population saying “Fill me!”

 

So what’s happened during lockdown, as stages have closed? Places have been forced to articulate their identity in a new way - through live streaming, social media, participation with participants at home and working outdoors. And by doing this they are reshaping who they are and who knows them - hopefully forever! Perhaps they could be inspired by these models from Belgium and Stockton which look like an attempt to make private spaces public ones.

 

(an interesting sub plot to the above is the shadow of Shakespeare. The theatre is dominated by a writing culture not a creation culture. Writers write domestic dramas, largely set inside rooms, in traditional play structures. Are playwrights writing plays set in railway stations, woods and town squares? Many outdoor theatre shows this summer have been Shakespeare in the park style events but this is only a tiny shift in organisation identity and audience make up. How can we encourage a creation culture not a presentation culture?)

 

“Structure calcify, structures limit” Jasmine Wahi

 

The other thing that the pandemic has shown is the challenge of large organisations to adapt, re-purpose their expertise and change to a new form of delivery. They are weighted down by their size, the scale of their operations and their identity so have lost the ability to respond fast, in the moment, to change.

 

In one of our participant sessions we discussed interdependence - the arts and culture sector is all connected (even it feels like the threads are fraying or non-existent at times) and we all need each other - we need each other to do well, to care for each other and to share space.

 

David from my Reset group used the metaphor of a forest to discuss the change needed in the arts - how there are large trees and small trees and how things grow around and between them. Sometimes you need to clear a part of the forest to help other things grow, to let in more light. Lucy expanded the metaphor to talk about how a forest needed tending to and attending to (caring for on an ongoing basis as well as reacting to emerging issues) . Some large trees, have deep roots, need much sun and water but also create their own eco system of life living alongside them. Meanwhile, young, smaller trees and new species grow, twist and adapt to find light and water..... but at some point they will need much more space to grow. In a storm some trees will fall but this creates opportunities for others to grow? How will tend to and attend to our forest? And what new things can happen when new species arrive...

 

“Change the platforms” John McGrath

 

As part of the Reset programme John McGrath spoke about changing the platforms by which we share performance. For me this spoke of changing the time of day of shows, the spaces they inhabit and the methods they communicate by.  What could happen if we broke the need for a 7.30pm start time? What would happen if we didn’t create a show but a space? If we didn’t rehearse but co-created? 

 

An example of this change of platform is Marcus Faustini’s work with The Agency in Brazil and since the UK who spoke of cultural organisations finding where inequality exists and inserting themselves with in. Also, this collection of work that looks at changing the timeline of how work is experienced - using duration and time to think about a sustainable practice. Do we need a new show every 6 weeks on a stage or 6 weeks of 6 shows spread across the community?

 

“Be more simple” Marcus Faustini 

 

Many times over the reset programme we were encouraged to do deliberate acts, that change is both an immediate action and long term shifting of perspective. So my deliberate act right now is inspired by the manifesto of NT Ghent which came out of organisation wide and city wide consultation but also came from a desire to deliberately change how they work. So here are my provocations for anyone making and sharing art:

 

Provocations for performance in public and social space:

 

1) Go to the territories: Perform one piece (or share your art) for free in a public/social space at least twice a year. one in mid summer, one in mid winter.

 

2) Get new allies: Each season galleries commission dancers, museums commission poets, theatres commission visual artists and libraries commission curators. 

 

3) Art in the workplace: Place artists within a local business. Ask the business to give space and artist to make work specifically for that location and that community.

 

4) Workplace in the community: Be in residence in a local community -move the office to the community centre, create training programmes, run open workshops, start debates, provoke change, build something and leave it there. 

 

5) Extend the runs: All performance/exhibitions run an extra week at end of ‘auditorium’ run and perform work without decor for extra week in local school, library, care home, pub or social space.

 

6) Mix it up: Swap the stage for the cafe and cafe for the stage at least once a year. Swap dressing rooms for bars and bookshops for workshops. 

 

7) Change the duration: At least once a year make work that can be experienced by cycling, by walking, by train or on the bus.

 

8) Change the time: At least once a year make work that is experienced late in the night, at school pick up time or during lunch.

 

9) Hangout: Create a new creative social space in your venue which sole purpose is hanging out - no sales allowed. 

 

10) Ask: Every January ask your public. What do expect from us this year? What do you need this year? Centre the need the following year to change audience into community. 

 

PS:An Artist/Practice Led approach postscript

 

In July myself and my co-director at Tangled Feet Kat Joyce, collaborated with Vicki Amedume of Upswing to set up a working group of organisations that are core funded by Arts Council England who are artist/practice and.or founder led, that have no building and have no fixed touring model. We are all slightly nomadic stepping in and out of venues, communities and performance contexts. 

 

Spending time in this monthly working group which now numbers 40+ organisations I feel that our approach has some positive routes for future ways of working in public and social spaces:

 

-We are idea led and have a diverse set of skills to deliver ideas- our form bends to meet new challenges and tell stories in new ways 

-We are inspired by places and people and ideas connect them and us together

-We bring people together and create communities for short and long periods

-We only work in partnership so collaboration is in the blood

-We are adaptable, flexible and change size and shape as projects begin

-We are often nomadic and connect across many local and international contexts, exchanging localisms

-We are innovators of new ways of shaping and sharing work

-Spaces have often been in short supply to collectives and independent orgs - we fit in the gaps and grow them

-We are constantly in residence in other places/spaces 

 

Nathan Curry

 

More interesting Reads/listens 

 

Blogs, articles, research and Podcasts from all Culture Reset Programme

http://www.culturereset.org/

 

Culture Plan B Podcasts

https://cultureplanb.podbean.com

 

Leadership from Hero to Host - Margaret Wheatley with Debbie Frieze - an action plan to reshape leadership

https://margaretwheatley.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Leadership-in-Age-of-Complexity.pdf 

 

Civic Role of the arts Case Studies 

https://civicroleartsinquiry.gulbenkian.org.uk/resources?filter=case-study#pagination-anchor 

 

Battles Lines are Drawn - Kully Thiarai explores the divides that Covid could strengthen or break: “The pandemic is testing us all in many ways. How honest are we going to be?”

https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/337/feature/battle-lines-are-drawn 

 

Art for Social Change or Social Justice

https://arestlessart.com/2020/07/15/art-for-social-change-or-social-justice/ 

 

Art Workers must demand the impossible

https://artreview.com/why-art-workers-must-demand-the-impossible/

 

A Freelancers Support Menu

https://www.the-uncultured.com/uploads/1/3/2/2/132249368/menu_versionone_aug2020_.pdf

 

read more Oct. 27th 2020

DEVOLUTION EVOLUTION: What we learned

By Kat Joyce

 

The first phase of Devolution Evolution wrapped up at the end of September with three evenings of Zoom sharings of work-in-progress. All of the artists who'd taken part had a ten-minute slot to use as they wished – some shared finished films, some shared scripts that were read, songs were sung, some talked about their ideas, their processes and their challenges.

 

Listen to the audio of this blog post here

Although all the artists started with the same resources and the same jumping off point, where they went with it differed hugely, Themes emerged and converged: identity, BLM, inside/outside, grief, taking up space, isolation, journeys, barriers. Creative expression took all sorts of forms: podcasts, song, installation, balloon modelling, comedy sketches, buffonery, interactive technology, pyrotechnics, scripts, poetry, film, aerial work. We've borne witness to stories of wild swimming, journeys across middle England, brexit grief, black hair, police discrimination, dawn in deserted city streets, county lines. It was a wonderful immersion in collaged creativity: there was cross-country as well as cross-artform collaboration, with performers in England and Wales featuring in a film/animation produced in Spain.

 

It was a thrilling three evenings which felt to many of us like the closest we've felt to the communality of live theatre since March. On the last evening, we all celebrated by dancing in our separate rooms. No one could sleep.

The artists who took part had all worked with Tangled Feet previously, some of them many times, and in many different combinations. But a big part of the pleasure of the experience was getting a closer and more intimate appreciation of each other's artistic processes, instincts and interests, unbound from the endeavour of making a show together. We saw many elements of people's practice and lives that we've never seen before in a rehearsal room.

 

Many of us found working solo really hard, and the discipline of self-directed and open-ended creative project held as many challenges as freedoms. For performers particularly, a lot of your career normally involves responding to suggestion (or being told what to do!) rather than forging your own path, and it can be really hard to switch modes. Confronting those big old demons – is my idea any good? Maybe should do that DIY/tidy the house/answer those emails before I tackle this creative work.... Can I call myself an artist?

 

But it felt, now more than ever, like a good time to be strengthening that muscle, for people to be finding ways to hold the reins of their own practice and careers, with the mutual support of others undergoing the same exploration.

 

It was a welcome validation in a time when all artists are questioning their work, and how to fit into the restrictions of current society. On a personal level, it also brought me immense joy, and the sharings along with their sense of collective ambition were incredibly uplifting”

 

“(it gave me) space and time to think about my creative practice and where I am now, where I might be heading. It made me question my artistry, the industry, the work I'm making and why. It was really amazing and I feel my whole practice shift because of it.”

 

Quotes from participating artists of Devolution Evolution. September 2020

We all feel like Devolution Evolution wasn't finished. It was the first step in a bigger, longer experiment. All the artists find themselves in different places, with different next steps and different challenges to tackle, but it feels like the community that we've created together, as a support system for doing that, is vitally important. We are now looking into how Tangled Feet can find the resources to continue the support of this community of artists in a meaningful way.

 

Devolving responsibility has meant letting go, releasing control, and seeing where it takes you. The results have been thrilling. Where Tangled Feet is heading - into the new future we all face – it feels like our evolution is well under way. 

Find our more about Devolution Evolution in our production page and you can see some of the artists work on our YouTube channel & on our socials too.

read more Aug. 18th 2020

What is DEVOLUTION EVOLUTION and why are we doing it?

By Kat Joyce

 

We've been holding monthly 'TF Tea' zoom drop-ins for our broader family of creatives to touch base and keep in touch with us. This has been a useful space to share funding opportunities and to offer advice and support.

We are keenly aware that freelancers are feeling the pinch, with a summer full of cancelled projects and little income. There has been anger at some of the opportunities that have presented themselves, which have offered small commissions and fees but required an investment of time to pitch and apply. We've contributed to the Freelance Task Force and have been kept abreast of the developing conversations in that important forum.

 

As this short term limbo stretches on and on, we look to the future with increasing uncertainty about what the world will look like. We are on about the fifth version of our annual budget and about the tenth version of our planned programme. With the future shrouded in mist, we decided it felt like an urgent time to do some R and D. What kind of work will fit into the new landscape we find ourselves in? How can we, as an NPO with relative financial stability at this time, play a useful part in the way our industry is evolving and adapting at this time?

 

 

We decided that we'd reapportion some R and D budget to try making work in a new way – one that gave the largest amount of possible agency to the artists while still retaining some sort of connecting structure to cross-fertilise ideas. As we watch ingrained power structures around us being (rightly) challenged and in some cases dismantled, it felt like the right time also to interrogate our own creative power structures, and to try something different.

 

Although Tangled Feet work on a fairly democratic and collaborative way in the rehearsal room (certainly compared to much 'traditional' theatre) it is nearly always the case that we (the two TF Co-Artistic Directors) bring a creative team together for a show with a set of ideas and the boundaries of the investigation pretty clearly drawn, and our rehearsals and creative process are, ultimately, director-led. We wanted to see what happens when we 'devolve' creative responsibility at the outset of the project to individual artists. What new working practices might emerge? What new synergies created? What will we learn about how creative ideas can be nurtured and grown?

 

It's a big experiment and we might not get it right, but in the spirit of absolute transparency, this is the structure we've created (developed initially through discussion by the TF core team in our weekly team meetings):

 

  • we invited a diverse cohort of artists who've worked on Tangled Feet projects over the last few years to take part in the project. We made sure that the cohort of artists includes people of different disciplines, experience levels and backgrounds. Everyone working on the project will have worked with at least a handful of other creatives on the project. Some have worked on dozens of TF projects over a decade or more.

  • We offered them all a fee equivalent to six days at our normal flat rate for creative projects (£120/day)

  • We offered them a broad creative jumping-off point: (the catalyst, the straw that breaks the camel's back and instigates a change).

  • We convened everyone on a Zoom call, explained the plan and thrashed out some of the details together.

  • We invited them to think about working collaboratively or solo, to explore new ways of working, and to work in a way that felt fruitful and healthy at this difficult time.

  • We've planned an online sharing of scratch ideas for late September (with no prescription about what they should present or how, or in what form).

  • We've set everyone up on Slack so that they can cross fertilise their ideas and reach out for collaborators.

  • We've offered our support both technically and creatively over the next couple of months in whatever way the artists find useful.

 

Now everyone has started working, and it's phenomenally exciting to start to see things emerge. Some of our artists knew exactly what they wanted to pursue and how, and some are taking their time to evolve a response to the theme. Some of the artists have long and successful histories of self-driven practice, and some are normally collaborators and are experiencing something very new. Our artists are spread across the South-East, but also in Somerset, Liverpool, Weston Super Mare, in France, in Seville, and in a canal boat that's never in the same place for long.

 

We hope that the seeds we sow now will come to fruition over the next 5 years – in new relationships evolving, new ideas blossoming and opening up avenues of further creative investigation. But equally, if the commission keeps an artist feeling like an artist for a couple of months at this point in time, that's also a win as far as we are concerned.

 

Watch this space for more.

 

read more Jun. 12th 2020

FREELANCE TASK FORCE

An open letter to theatre and performance makers 

 

This is a letter to self-employed and freelance theatre and performance makers in the UK. To the actors, playwrights, directors, choreographers, stage managers, designers, stage crews and set-builders to name just a few. 

 

Alternative ways to view or hear the letter:

 

PDF Version

AUDIO Version

LARGE PRINT Version

We really miss being with you during this period of lockdown. Making theatre and performance is a collaborative endeavour, so we are particularly affected by having to be apart from one another right now. We’re not able to come together, in the same space, to share the experience of a live performance. We’re not able to practise and enjoy our artform in its most basic form.

 

It’s now looking increasingly likely that won’t be possible for months to come, and we recognise that many freelancers face real uncertainty about if and how they will be able to continue to work in theatre. 70% of people who work in theatre and performance in the UK are freelance or self-employed, and it’s for this workforce, in all its diversity and complexity, that the impact of the current situation is most acute. 

 

During these past weeks we have had conversations with many of you to understand your needs and the ways you have been affected. We are writing to express our support for you, and to lay out some practical steps we are taking to improve the situation based on these conversations.

 

As well as exploring ways of producing work with freelancers during lockdown, and using this time to develop new projects with freelancers for the future, we are also are working together to coordinate our response to the government, to articulate clearly what we can offer and what we need. 

 

Most urgently, we are calling for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to be extended in line with furloughing, for all self-employed workers, and in the specific case of theatre and performance workers, until theatres are able to safely reopen. We also want to see criteria removed from the scheme which are stopping legitimate and much-needed claims. 

 

Some of you are already involved in these conversations. We welcome your voices and need to hear from more of you in the conversations to come. Your unique networks, skillsets, perspectives, and ideas are vital to the entire sector, and we need to work with you in our response to this crisis.

 

Each of the organisations who’ve signed this letter are committed to reaching out to their family of self-employed and freelance theatre makers; listening to how this is affecting your work and lives, and to your needs and ideas for the future. 

 

More than that, we want to facilitate the establishment of a national task force of self-employed theatre and performance makers. The purpose of the task force is to strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community. It would create ongoing points of connection between freelancers and organisations, and amplify the voice of the self-employed in the conversations to come. To help establish the task force, each of the organisations signing this letter will support a freelancer to join the group, ensuring they are paid for their time.

 

We want to offer a message of hope and solidarity. Our well-practised ability to work together, to form connections, and build relationships will help us through this. One day, hopefully soon, we will all be able to meet together, as people have done for centuries, in a shared space, for a shared experience. In the meantime, we remain committed to working for you and with you towards a sustainable future for theatre and performance.

 

 

 

Signed, 

 

Access All Areas

Action For Children's Arts

Actors Touring Company

The Almeida Theatre

ArtsAdmin

Barbican Theatre Plymouth

Battersea Arts Centre

Belarus Free Theatre

Belgrade Theatre

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Boundless Theatre

Brighton Festival

Bristol Old Vic

Brixton House

The Bush Theatre

Cast

Chichester Festival Theatre

China Plate

Chinese Arts Now

Citz Glasgow

Clean Break

The Cockpit

Company of Others

Complicite

Contact

Curatin Call Online

Curious Directive

Dance Base

Dance Umbrella

Derby Theatre

Diverse City

Doncopolitan

Donmar Warehouse

Eden Court Highlands

English Touring Theatre

Farnham Maltings

Fio

Frozen Light Theatre

Fuel

Gate Theatre

Graeae

Half of Cornwall

Headlong

Hijinx

HOME

Improbable

In Good Company

Jermyn Street Theatre

Jerwood Arts

Kiln Theatre

Knee High

Leeds Playhouse

Leicester Curve

Little Angel Theatre

Mercury Theatre

Miracle Theatre

National Dance Company Wales

The National Theatre

National Theatre of Scotland 

National Theatre Wales

National Youth Theatre of Great Britain

The New Wolsey Theatre

Northern Stage

Nottingham Playhouse

One Dance UK

Oxford PLayhouse

Paines Plough 

Pleasance Theatre

Polka Theatre

Ramps on the Moon

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Rose Theatre Kingston

Royal & Derngate

The Royal Court Theatre

The Royal Shakespeare Company

Rubicon Dance

Sadler's Wells

Separate Doors

Shakespeare's Globe

Sheffield Theatres

Smart Entertainment

Soho Theatre

Spare Tyre

Spin Arts

Stellar Quines

Stephen Joseph Theatre

Studio Wayne McGregor

Taking Flight Theatre

Talawa Theatre Company

Tangled Feet

Tara Arts

Theatre Centre

Theatre Peckham

Theatre Royal Plymouth

Theatre Royal Stratford East

Tiata Fahodzi

Unfolding Theatre

Unicorn theatre

Unlimited

Wales Millennium Centre

Wassail Theatre

Wise Children

The Yard

Yellow Earth

1927

read more Jun. 7th 2020

BUTTERFLIES - The full show premiere on YouTube & Learning Resource Pack.

Premiering on our YouTube channel at 11am on Monday 8th June is the full length show Butterflies and Week 8 of The Mindfulness Project at Home.

 

Butterflies is the show which inspired The Mindfulness Project. Three friends embark on a big adventure, facing lots of obstacles which they overcome together. 

 

Watch it here:

Butterflies is a co-production with Half Moon Young Peoples Theatre.

More info here

 

Watch Week 8 of The Mindfulness Project at Home. It is Butterfly week. Where will your Butterfly take you?

 

Also, brand new this week is our Butterflies Resource pack 

 

 

The learning resource is a work book which can be enjoyed whilst watching the show or just stand alone as a Mindful activity to work through in your own time.

 

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see the Mindfulness Project at Home sessions here

read more May. 20th 2020

Mental Health Awareness: Mindfulness & Yoga at Home

By Rachel Rookwood

 

Working on the original mindfulness project was incredibly special for me, being able to go into schools and share my love of yoga and mindfulness is such a great privilege. Combining it with the amazing Tangled Feet show “Butterflies” gave us a unique story to tell and a special way to communicate with the children. 

 

Unfortunately it is undeniable, we are facing a mental health crisis, with evidence it is becoming increasingly more prevalent in our young people with a reported 1 in 10 children suffering with a mental health disorder. Introducing them to yoga and mindfulness at a young age can give them the tools to work through this in a healthy and supported way. This is the crux of the mindfulness project. 

  

 

When the pandemic arrived and changed our way of life, we knew that the very children we are trying to reach through the mindfulness project would be the ones most affected by the lockdown. With schools being closed we decided to take the project online and provide this amazing resource for free through the Tangled Feet YouTube channel. The Mindfulness at Home Project was born.

 

The online episodes follow the same pattern as the original schools project with a new episode launching each week over a ten week period. Taking the key elements of the butterflies show we follow the journey of three friends. Together we travel on boats, scale mountains and explore caves carefully guiding the children’s imaginations to explore their emotions. Each episode introduces them to two new yoga postures, a new mindfulness tip as well as different ways to express what they are feeling.  

We hope this can start conversations with the people around them, as well as giving useful, memorable tools to help them deal with these explored emotions. We finish the episodes with mini meditations, inviting them to create their own little safe spaces of blankets, cushions and teddies. With all that is going on, everyone needs the opportunity to take some time out to rest their minds and restore.

 

To watch The Mindfulness Project at Home, head over to Tangled Feet's YouTube channel:

 

read more Apr. 24th 2020

The Mindfulness Project at Home

As a response to the current situation we all find ourselves in, last week Tangled Feet launched our Mindfulness Project at Home. The company's ethos and core values become ever more important during these times and we feel that, as a company, we should encourage a culture of nurture, support and creative flexibility to work around the challenges that we face together as a society. 

The project will deliver 10 online classes for primary school aged children (4-11) to engage with as part of their home learning. We have also released mini activities that you can find on our social platforms. We are hoping these classes can be a tool to help parents as they try to juggle the challenges of home schooling, your own work and home life, and as a parent of a 9 and 5 year old I know myself how difficult this is!

 

The programme is a development of Tangled Feet’s Mindfulness Project, launched in 2019 in schools and colleges across Luton.  We work with children at key transition years who have been identified by their school as finding the move to a new year group particularly difficult or that they are experiencing anxiety or low self-esteem

 

Funded by Luton Borough Council’s Art Fund, the pilot project ran for 8 months and is now in its second year and its adaptation to online is part of our Arts Council funded activity. Every time the we run the project we evaluate the impact it has had on our participants. The progress we have seen has been truly heart warming and the results have been extraordinary.

 

  • 83% reported that they now find it easier to make friends

  • 67% recorded a decrease in a feeling of anxiety about things and that feeling stopping them from joining in

  • 83% reported an improvement in their ability to tell other people how they’re feeling

  • 100% felt less anxious and were therefore able to concentrate more fully

 

“You have showed such attentiveness to group and individuals, working inclusively, although sensitively to the needs of some if they were keen to ‘watch’ initially rather than joining in. The Safeguarding Officer and Wellbeing TA who watched too fed back that the range of activities were excellent and they picked up some tips too, particularly the language you were using during your story activity. Warmth and encouragement but freedom to withdraw/retreat if needed – we loved it!” 

Fiona Byrne, Deputy Headteacher, Stopsley Primary School, Luton

 

We hope that The Mindfulness Project At Home will help children to explore and understand any feelings of anxiety that they may be experiencing during these times of Covid 19. Each week, myself and Rachel Rookwood, a specialised children’s yoga and mindfulness teacher and the founder of Adventure Yoga, will lead a session that uses storytelling, mindfulness exercises, yoga practice and drama to encourage children to investigate their creativity and develop strategies for coping with anxious thoughts. You can view the first session below and before this session make sure you have made a Paper Boat. It takes a couple of minutes. Find out how here:

 

The programme is designed to create time to uncover and express their thoughts and feelings. It provides opportunities for children to take time to understand that all our minds get a bit stuck sometimes and that everyone, children and adults alike, are finding these current times strange. We hope that children will learn techniques to manage stress and will develop their confidence and communication skills.

 

Warm wishes to you and your families,

Emily Eversden

Participation Director, Tangled Feet

 

 

 

For more information go to our Mindfulness page

read more Apr. 13th 2020

Co-Directors Residency in Iceland cut short by Covid-19: Finding new ways to work

On March 8th Tangled Feet Co-Directors Kat and Nathan flew to Iceland to take up a two week residency at the University of the Arts Reykjavik. At that stage, 1 month a go, there were 100 cases of Coronavirus in the UK, a rumour spreading that Italy would lock the northern region and a real sense of not knowing what we would return to.

 

There was a heightened tension at the airport – our first experience of gloved and distanced customer service teams, quiet security screening and much hand washing.

We flew on a beautifully clear day, and as the icy vistas came into view from the aeroplane window for the first time we felt a huge sense of awe. The idea of polar icecaps (and their melting) is often very abstract, but this whole landscape of ice stretching in every direction suddenly made the world feel both smaller and more epic

On arrival in Iceland it seemed they were one step ahead of the curve with extensive signage and alcohol wash across the airport and city and on our first day at the University an introduction to a new no handshaking policy and the first experience of the elbow shake.

 

We walked to the campus along the coast of Reykjavik in the snow and reflected on how much it felt like an outpost; a vibrant hub of civilisation clinging to the edge of a huge wilderness.

We were working with 29 students from three courses – Dance, Theatre Making and Acting. We planned to spend the first four days introducing and work-shopping the methodology by which Tangled Feet create work. We aimed to cover one major area each day over Week 1:

1)   Ensemble physicality and group identity

2)   Object manipulation and design-led improvisation

3)   Autobiographical storytelling

4)   Space and audience dynamics

 

On the Friday of Week 1 we would reflect on what parts of the workshop had inspired the students and their practice and spend Week 2 making, shaping and creating a performance to be shared on the final day.

 

Quite early in the first week we had to agree a Coronavirus sensitive method of working. The University had (quite rightly) given all students permission to stay home if they felt the slightest bit unwell, as well as leave early if necessary. We agreed with the group to have no physical contact unless everyone agreed (which they didn’t) and we also decided to let the growing pandemic also inspire our creativity.

Over the first few days we made some really interesting work that demonstrated the students strong physical, improvisational and storytelling skills. We were massively inspired by the boldness, humour and commitment of the students (and the wonderful facilities we had to work in together).

 

There was some fascinating material in the creation of physical work without connecting physically. Pushing the boundaries of how close people could work without touching (there was no social distancing then) as well as experimenting with people connecting from distance that gave us a glimpse of a physically divided world to come.

 

We started a visual diary on the wall mapping the ideas and questions we thought would help create a piece:

1)   Exercises, games and tasks to try

2)   Things to investigate further

3)   Questions of the work or ourselves

4)   Themes we’d like to investigate

5)   Things we are inspired by

Themes and ideas began to emerge each day that started to connect with us all – borders/barriers/isolation, physical lockdown, contagion, a post-pandemic world, love in a world of Corona, the things that make us unique, touching and no touching, the collective mindset…

 

As well as questions:

-How can a creative process work for different types of learning styles and people?

-How can these games become more performative?

-Why can’t we let everybody speak?

-Can I just dance?

-Will there be this much physical work each day?

-Will Coronavirus effect this Residency?

 

The final question was most telling. As we reached Wednesday the whispers began that the University would close and distance learning take over. The effect on the energy of the work was intriguing as what was once something powering towards a performance felt like the air slowly disappearing from a room.

 

On the Friday morning it was confirmed that that day would be the last day and the residency would find some other way to continue digitally the next week. We hastily created a final physical sharing asking the students to choose the last four days of work-shopping as a starting point and muse on the fact that this could be the last ever piece of theatre before the world changed forever.

 

The sharing was a collection of scenes thread together: a strange museum of silver emergency blankets, personal storytelling surrounding moments when people had felt most alive, movement that brought to mind contagion and pandemic, a duet of hazard suited dancers lying on the stairs and a space-woman puppet discovering a new landscape

At the start of Week 2 – after our early flights home had been hastily arranged - we sent this provocation:

“To complete our residency together we offer you the provocation: How can we collaborate creatively whilst isolated from one another? This is an urgent question, which the creative industries across the world are trying to answer, so it seems right that we focus our attention here. We can be international pioneers...

We could test the idea that our work can still ‘speak’ to each other even though we making individually, as we have connected creatively as a group through our preparatory work last week, through the listening, sharing, improvising and making that we did together. To this end, our proposal is that, inspired by the work we made together last week, we each individually create a 1 minute video/performance which we share by Friday.”

 

By Friday we had received 20 videos and they were an intriguing mix of solitary moments of reflection, creation and chaos.

 

The work included:

#1 - Immediate responses to Coronavirus life and the new focus on our hands and isolated thoughts

#2 - The snowy landscapes common in Iceland (but other worldly to us in the UK) mixed with acts of creativity and reflection

#3 - Very personal reflections on life inspired by the autobiographical workshop the previous week:

#4 - Acts of neighbourhood solidarity and entertainment (from a co-habiting isolators)

#5 - And perhaps post Pandemic strangeness…

 

What is the next creative phase for this little archive of material from a strange time? Each of our Icelandic collaborators will have their own answer, and perhaps from these experiments, some threads will grow into future ideas...

Since the point when our residency should have concluded  (the 20th March, which was the day the schools in England closed)  it feels like the world has undergone another monumental shift. From the first frantic negotiation of what separating ourselves and going into social isolation would feel like, we are now having to come to terms with it as a long-term reality. A few weeks later, we've settled into a new routine, the reality of this is beginning to bed in, and we are faced with a challenge of how to sustain ourselves in our own lonely little outposts? How do we sustain our relationships, our creativity, our industry, our connections to each other?

 

Tangled Feet's creative process is founded on physical connection. We are experts in bringing people together in the same room and forging a group identity, in quickly creating a sense of trust which enables discovery to happen. We did these things in our first few days in Iceland and created the beginnings of a beautiful and fruitful creative laboratory.

 

But we are unequipped travellers in this new world where so many of our skills are stripped away from us. How do you unfold that relationship of creative trust with a new collaborator when all you have is a Zoom meeting screen and a dodgy wifi connection? So much of what we 'bring to a room' is lost once we are just a face in the video-call sea of faces.  How can we vulnerable enough to create together when we are reduced to a (brave) face on a screen? How do you take care of others when you can't give them a hug, read their body language or place a reassuring hand on their knee?

 

The world of gigs and festivals and clubs and shows is shut, and the elation of a physical experience shared and the connection that it brings has suddenly disappeared. And as the casualties of COVID-19 mount up around us in our spheres, the savageness at this isolation becomes ever more profound. Us humans need to be close to each other. Touch, closeness, physical connection and togetherness is a fundamental part of how we come to terms with things, at the best of times and the worst of times.

 

Some Creatives right now will be driven to create. And others will be feeling completely stymied and unable to produce anything. Either is natural and right. Whatever our response, we should at least all feel alleviated of the pressure to make great art, right now.

 

It feels like we are sending smoke signals to each other, to let each other know that we are still here, for a time when we can come back together.

 

Kat and Nathan

read more Apr. 1st 2020

Life After Half Life

By Sara Templeman

 

It is hard to believe we were only in Canterbury and Stockton last month making Half Life with our wonderful ensembles. A lot has happened since then and as we face uncertain and challenging times, we wanted to share a special blog dedicated to the very happy time we had making this show. We have ideas for how we can remain connected and keep in touch with all our participants and crew in our lives after Half Life too, so do read on. . .

 

Half Life was made over a long period of research and development with the founding members of Tangled Feet. We got so nostalgic and reflective as we looked back over 20 years of making theatre and friendship. We then shared our findings and widened the exploration with different participants of all ages at three different theatres who each co-commissioned the show. The whole process has left us all feeling a bit of a shift, both as a company and as individuals. Making a show using autobiographical material with an intergenerational cast and learning about other people's life experiences has definitely unlocked some valuable lessons; and a little bit of magic. We learnt a little bit more about us as human beings and how we are connected in so many ways regardless of age or where we are from. Something we might have already known but maybe don’t get the chance to explore very often, especially with the generational divide in society. It was a really beautiful thing to uncover given these unsettling times across the globe.

 

Here’s some of the best bits from the journey. . .

 

In March 2018 nearly all of Tangled Feet’s founding performers were reunited in the rehearsal room after a decade apart. As we ended up explaining in the prologue, “We’ve all been very busy doing other things” . . .making families, working in other professions, creating theatre elsewhere, travelling the world whilst balancing all the stuff life throws at you. We were questioning: how have we changed? What’s stayed the same? Where do we see ourselves now and in another 20 years or another 20 years after that?! What were we like when we were 10 and when we met when we were around 20?  We looked back over old photos, diaries, show notes, reliving the days of forming a company at university and then navigating our way through life together and apart. There was a lot of talking, interviewing each other, improvising, playing, tea and coffee drinking, biscuit eating, laughter, tears and even some disagreements. We are like a family after all.

 

The Albany

 

We began the search for participants for our London performances at The Albany in Deptford in Spring 2019. Half Life would be part of their ‘Festival of Creative Ageing’ and we got to meet lots of the community groups who play a huge part at The Albany. Through workshops and over tea, we found our people, a selection of incredible individuals from all over the world who had found themselves in Deptford or nearby at this time. The oldest was 82 years old, the youngest was just 9! We had a wonderful group of young people who came along to a group workshop audition and one of them even recruited her Nan to be in the show. During rehearsals we realised one of the 10 year old’s mum went to school with Kat, our co-artistic director! We got proof after seeing a primary school photo of them together from 30 years ago, when they were just 9 years old. It is a small world!

 

Over a series of weeks we pieced the show together, making material both as a core team and as a whole ensemble, sometimes with 20 performers navigating their way around the rehearsal space. The set design was a multi coloured playground beautifully designed in rich autumnal colours, great for us big kids and the actual kids to play on and find some fun physical moments. We learnt about people’s capabilities at different ages and made sure we were mindful of looking after each other. The family was expanding!

 

"I enjoyed how complicit we all became. It felt more than a group of participants but a family and I'm forever grateful for the experience; especially the stories and wisdom told by the 80s"

Participant | The Albany

 

 

 

Making a new show comes with a lot of anxieties and this one in particular, sharing such personal content was daunting. However once we had it in front of an audience, as is always the case, the show really came alive. We really looked after each other in the performances and talking to our audiences after each show was so eye opening. People laughed, cried and the unlikeliest of people identified with the unlikeliest of moments. You never know what goes on inside a person’s mind or what they might have gone through and might identify with given their own experiences.

 

“A wonderfully entertaining and poignant show - Very courageous. Bravo” 

Audience member | The Albany

 

After a short break over the winter months, the show began its journey at ARC Stockton and then The Gulbenkian in Canterbury. Over a matter of weeks, we sourced participants, the core team were up and down the country workshopping and getting to know our new ensembles; a logistical and creative puzzle which we pieced together bit by bit.

 

Arc Stockton

 

We’ve had a unique relationship with this venue that’s spanned a decade, from bringing ‘Home’ there in 2010 to numerous productions in-between. The participants here were from all over, but living locally in Stockton or nearby in Teesside. They included a Finnish student who had lived in numerous countries in his 21 years, a social media star with tens of thousands of followers, local youth and theatre group members and even a holistic healer from Germany who helped with injuries that occured during the show. Our nearly 40 year old bodies aren’t quite what they used to be! From our first day altogether as an ensemble there was a family feel again.

 

A few of us indulged in the local delicacy that is the Parmo! So delish. You must try it if you’re ever in Stockton. We have to shout out to Borge, a local restaurant that is home to the World’s Best Parmo. It’s won awards. We went numerous times in our production week after 12 hour days in the theatre! We do love our food. Anyway, I digress. 

 

There were a lot of special moments at each theatre. Time spent chatting in the dressing room, after the performances in the bar, during the tech (when you were meant to be quiet!) These were some of my favourite moments, really getting to know the individuals properly as people. At ARC one moment that stuck out was the impromptu singing altogether straight after coming offstage in that darkened backstage corridor - the little moments of magic that made this a really special show. 

 

 

The Gulbenkian

 

One week after saying a teary farewell to the ARC family it was time to move onwards to piecing the show together in Canterbury at our final theatre, The Gulbenkian. We’ve a rich history of touring work here (just like at ARC) so we were excited to be back and this time making it a local affair. The lovely participants at ARC had written short notes to the future participants at The Gulbenkian offering words of advice and well wishes. 

"Be brave, try new things and have fun" | "Be true to yourself" | "Keep smiling"

They were gratefully received by our new and final ensemble including a student from University of Kent who had ended up their as part of a refugee program, we had a retired couple both who had worked in education and were patrons of the theatre, an international student from Greece (who managed to throw a little bit of Greek language into the show) as well as a retired London bus driver turned artist who now resided in Margate and not to forget, my Birthday twin!  The shows were so well received and we enjoyed meeting and nattering with the audience afterwards, seeing which bits resonated and why. It was the sort of show you can really talk to your audience about in the bar afterwards, I personally had a lot of very frank, honest and open chats. People really opened up and shared their own experiences from seeing us share ours. That felt really special.

 

“How privileged I feel to have been on stage with your talented company. Thank you all for making us feel so welcome and involved in the process. It was so lovely to be part of an inter-generational project instead of being segregated by age as we so often are”  

Participant | The Gulbenkian

 

 

At all three theatres a unique ensemble was created in a relatively short space of time. The results were very different at each theatre given the range of people we worked with, but also there were so many similarities and moments of synchronicity. There was a lot of joy felt by everyone and it was such a privilege to hear how people were impacted by being part of the show. Sifting through our audience feedback forms after each performance was so valuable and affirming too. All the generations mixing together was a beautiful thing to encounter. We feel so lucky to have had this opportunity and widen our pool of amazing associates and performers across the country. We are also so relieved that we got to finish the whole project before the current Covid-19 pandemic, but are cherishing all the memories from this show in these isolated times and hope everyone is safe and well. Our response to Covid-19 can be viewed on our website 

 

With this strange time in mind we are offering a Half Life Penpal Challenge. If you participated in Half Life in any capacity, and you would like to stay in touch with your on-stage family with letters and/or drawings to cheer up your fellow castmates while we are all in lockdown, get in touch. We at TF will receive, photocopy and forward all letters on to spread the joy. 

 

If you think that is a good idea and you would like to take part then please email us your name and address at  contact@tangledfeet.com to find out how to get involved.

 

All of us at Tangled Feet feel so honoured that so many of you got stuck in and gave so much of yourselves to the shows at each theatre, so a HUGE THANK YOU to EVERYONE! I could talk about the whole experience forever but this blog must end so I shall sign off with this. . . Words from The final scene at The Albany in Deptford, October 2019 written by Pauline, (aged nearly 80) in all her wisdom:

 

There are many challenges in life.

Things will happen to us without warning

If we knew what was coming could we do anything differently?

Maybe, maybe not.

The wheel goes round.

The waves come for us. Sometimes, rough seas carry us and we are helpless.

What are we going to do, sit and cry?

No.

Look after yourself.

Eat properly.

Love properly.

Forgive properly.

Learn to let go of anger.

Meditate.

Take each day as it comes. Make the time count.

Laugh, and say, WOW!

 

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read more Mar. 20th 2020

Tangled Feet's response to COVID 19

Like everyone working in the arts, charity and educational sectors we are coming to terms with the short term and long term effects that coronavirus is bringing about.

We are in a fortunate position to be an Arts Council NPO and have been hugely reassured by their support at this time. Before we were an NPO we were in the same boat as many of our friends and colleagues – freelancers and a project funded group surviving from month to month – so we know the fragility of that existence. 

The values in our Mission Statement (see end of this document) are even more important in this time of great uncertainty and anxiety, and we will be finding new ways of championing these values. 

We will do everything we can to support our colleagues and communities and share our resources and expertise.  We will also be an advocate and friend for you - so if you want to share your worries or have a chat get in touch. 

 

What can we offer right now?

Advice, support and a shoulder to lean on

- Please get in touch should you want to talk, share ideas, ask questions or use our expertise and experience at this time. Within our core team we have performing, directing, finance, contracting, social media, dramatherapy and participatory arts expertise and we’d be happy to chat at any time. 

If you’d like to read any of our funding bids, Business Plan or Policies get in touch.

We've put together an emergency policy to cover increased flexible- and family-friendly working practices and additional sick pay cover which will be necessary at this time. We've shared it with PIPA and are happy to share with others. 

 

Practical Resources

We have a LWB van that is insured for any driver over 25 with a clean license, and a storage/workshop/making space in Mile End (London). Could you make use of these over coming weeks and months? 

 

Online Mindfulness

We are working on getting our Mindfulness Programme for primary & secondary school ages online and sharing digital tools for anyone to practice Mindfulness in what will be an anxious period.

 

Dramatherapy

We have put in place measures to make sure that the young people we support through dramatherapy continue to be supported even when schools are shut. We are looking at what other resources our dramatherapy team could provide to support the mental health of young people at this time of intense pressure. 

 

Access to our shows 

We will put all of our shows we have full recordings of online and specifically try and get our shows for younger audiences circulated to those stuck at home. 

You can watch Butterflies and Need A Little Help 

We will be sharing our Resource Pack for Need A Little Help (designed for Primary Schools) for people to access at home.  

You can download that here

 

Luton-specific support

We are keen to hear from any artists and young people in Luton who need some support at this time and would like to chat about their challenges or concerns. We are looking at what bespoke support we can offer in Luton, and have connected with the other major arts and culture organisations in the town to join up our efforts effectively. 

 

Support for older people 

We know that older people may not be as well connected online and will be some of the worst affected by social isolation. We are urgently looking at ways to stay connected with older audiences and friends. As a starting point we will be calling all of the people we met making Half Life and offering them an friendly ear on the end of the phone if they would like a chat at any time.

 

Creative projects

We are restructuring our creative plan for the year in light of new circumstances, and looking at what creative projects we can bring forward or advance as R and D in the immediate term in order to provide much-needed work for freelancers. 

We hope we can help support and create a better future once this period is over and a future with a greater sense of shared power, collective responsibility and kindness. 

 

Love, Tangled Feet

 

Our Mission Statement: 

 

We believe that art has the power to transform lives.

We believe art succeeds most effectively when people are put before profit.

We believe art must be available and accessible to all.

We believe that collaborative creativity can achieve things that a single artist working alone cannot.

We believe in shared decision making, in equal creative stake, in fair and equal pay.

We believe in young people’s potential to change the world and their right to be seen as a significant part of that world

We believe that sharing stories and narratives in public spaces builds our empathetic connection with each other and brings us closer together.

We want to entertain, to challenge and to delight; to create lasting memories and to inspire other artistic journeys.

We are a dedicated ensemble and believe in long-term rehearsal and performance history. The company formed in 2003 as a group of like-minded artists and friends with a shared vision, and commitment to a collaborative, physical working methodology.

 

read more Jan. 29th 2020

Hello 2020

2020 has lot's in store for Tangled Feet. 

 

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.

 

More info and 2020 tour dates here

The Mindfulness Project is 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!

 

Contact Emily on participation@tangledfeet.com for more information!

read more Jan. 29th 2020

2019 in review

What a year, collaborating with so many wonderful creatives on so many different projects and productions. Here is a look back at everything in 2019:

Factory Reset September 2019. Photo by Greta Zabulyte

 

Need A Little Help toured for its 5th year running to the South East.

That Parking Show hit the road for the second time touring nationally across the UK from Stockton all the way down to Bournemouth.

R&D began on Rave New World, a new outdoor production for 2020/21.

Development began for a new show about Looked After Children with Rowan Tree Dramatherapy.

The Mindfulness Project, a collaboration with Adventure Yoga launched into schools & businesses across Luton.

We mentored 4 young companies.

Our annual Sibs Project took place for the 6th time.

The Children & Young People Now Awards nominated us for a Young Carers award for our 'Helping Hands' learning research pack made in collaboration with West Sussex County Council.

Half Life was developed over the whole year and premiered at The Albany in Deptford

In Luton we made Factory Reset, a huge outdoor production working with local and national collaborators to mark the re-opening of the Hat Factory Arts Centre where we now have our very own office!

We enjoyed countless collaborations with our good friends at Next Generation Youth Theatre, cementing a brilliant partnership in our official base of Luton. 

Need A Little Help | That Parking Show |  NGYT rehearsal for Factory Reset | Original cast of Half Life

read more Nov. 13th 2019

The Mindfulness Intern - Charity

By Charity Muiruri  
 
I'm Charity and I am one of the two, selected, project interns for Tangled Feet's Mindfulness Project. What is Mindfulness? It's being aware of yourself and others (thoughts, feelings etc) at any time, in any space and understanding why and then how, we can manage these states. 

Throughout my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, I experienced different levels of intense stress or anxiety or hopelessness or sadness and sometimes a combination of them all. I wasn't aware of what I was experiencing therefore I didn't know who to ask, or how to ask, for help. That's why I was interested in being part of this project- I want to support younger people in their journey of well-being.
 
The Mindfulness Project has created a safe space for youth to learn how to communicate as well as express what they’re feeling. During circle time, Emily would ask the participants to share what they had been up to, during the week, in school or in the morning of that day. This encouraged them to reflect back on their experiences whilst processing the different perspectives in the room. In addition to that, when exploring Tangled Feet and Half Moon's co-production of, 'Butterflies', the participants could identify with the character's journeys and were able to assess how they might feel at different points in the story.
 
Through the practice of yoga, the Mindfulness Project explores the body as well as the mind. To some people, yoga can be seen as a daunting experience or even a boring one- especially because it requires more focus and physical strength.

Rachel would demonstrate a series of yoga poses that we would then encourage, and support, the participants to shape.

It was impressive how quickly the young people picked up and remembered the different poses- even if they didn't always remember the name. What was really sweet, was witnessing them help each-other when making the poses together.

 
It's evident that the young people leave each session being enriched with knowledge, skill and sometimes a keepsake that they created. My personal favourite is the storm jar ''storm rolls in, storm rolls out." Very simple to make- it's a jar filled with water and glitter, lots and lots of glitter which when you shake, it symbolically represents a storm. The purpose of this is to reassure people that when you're faced with difficulties in life, it's only temporary and like the glitter, it will eventually settle. 
 
The Mindfulness Project has been a wonderful experience that I hope will continue to reach and improve more lives.
 
Charity x

read more Oct. 22nd 2019

The Mindfulness Intern - Hannah

By Hannah Kelly

 

When I was asked to be an Intern for Tangled Feet’s Mindfulness Programme, I jumped at the opportunity. Through working with Next Generation Youth Theatre, I have seen how art can transform young people’s lives as their self-worth builds.

Anxiety is something I recognise in many children I have worked with in the past. A report from the Children’s Commissioner in 2017 found that there is an ‘epidemic of anxiety’ in young people. I believe the Mindfulness Programme came along at the right time.

 

KS1 children from Stopsley Primary School took part in the retelling of Tangled Feet’s brilliant show, ‘Butterflies’ over a period of 10 weeks. Led by Emily Eversden, we explored the butterflies you get in your tummy when faced with something scary or worrying. Alongside this, Rachel Rookwood introduced yoga techniques into the sessions. A sense of calm would often fall across the room (they could be very loud!) as they practised their yoga poses and focused on their breathing.

 

The children became braver as each session passed; it was touching to see their confidence grow over such a short amount of time. They began to openly share their feelings with the group. A few children were very shy in the beginning but by the end, they were all putting their hands up and getting involved.

 

My favourite week (and the messiest) was when the children each made a Storm Jar. They were told that whenever they felt a little wobbly and in need of some calm, they could shake the jar and watch the glitter fall. It warmed my heart when a little girl came in a few weeks later and said she kept it next to her bed.

 

The support they had for one another was undeniable and it became stronger each week. Whether it was helping someone up a rocky mountain they created, a hold of the hand or simply listening to one another, it was lovely to see. I felt proud and emotional in equal measure in the last session.

 

It had such a positive impact on the children, one that I hope they will carry with them. A focus on mindfulness in schools is something every young person deserves access to. It’s an opportunity for young people to connect with their emotions and become more empathetic towards others. In a world that seems more than a little scary at times, kindness and understanding will go a long way.

 

A massive thank you to Tangled Feet for this unforgettable experience. Tangled Feet are so full of heart and care and made me feel completely comfortable in my role as an Intern. I'm so excited to see what’s next for the programme!

read more May. 16th 2019

Mindfulness Project

By Rachel Rookwood

 

I was thrilled to be asked to take part in Tangled Feet’s pilot mindfulness project for KS1 children. Yoga for children and being able to offer it in schools is a passion of mine. I believe that we are facing a mental health crisis across all age groups and demographics. Anxiety and other mental health issues are becoming more and more prevalent in our young people with 1 in 10 children suffering with a mental health disorder.

Introducing yoga and mindfulness at a young age can give children the tools to express and work on their feelings of anxiety that we all face in a healthy and supported way. This can help them develop into healthy and well-adjusted adults, which is what we all hope for in children.

Tangled Feet have an amazing show called “Butterflies”, and with the project leader Emily Eversden we set to work on creating a 10 week project telling its story. With the addition of yoga poses and mindfulness exercises we wanted to create a fun and interactive project that would develop concentration and improve behaviour as well as giving us the opportunity to talk about anxiety and how to deal with it. Fourteen handpicked children were excused from normal lessons at Stopsley Primary to take part with us and our pilot scheme was off.

 

Focusing on a different part of the journey each week we travelled on boats, walked up mountains, explored caves and meadows making new friends and facing our fears along the way. Highlights included making glitter jars to mimic starry nights and flying butterflies around the room.

The progress we saw each week was heart-warming, with the children always excited to see us and opening up more each week telling us about their worries and how they were going to face them as well as seeing improvements in their behaviour and concentration.

 

Every class ended with a mini meditation, letting them snuggle up with blankets and eye pillows for maximum relaxation. This was always my favourite part of class – watching them relax, take a break and let their little minds settle. It was also where the difference was really seen with the children settling quicker and more calmly each week.

 

The feedback from the children and teachers has shown that the progress was taken out of the project and into the classroom which is everything we wanted for this project! I can’t wait for our second run.

read more Apr. 18th 2019

Half Life

By Sara Templeman

 

Life expectancy in the UK is 80 years old. Most of Tangled Feet’s core ensemble and founding members will be turning 40 soon. It’s made us think about what life is like as you approach your expected halfway mark. Also what was it like half a life ago, and half that time again? What will it be like in another 40 years?

In this intergenerational show we ask different age groups these life questions. What’s your world like? What do you care about? What’s important? What do you look forward to? What will life be like in 10, 20, 40 years time?!

 
Half a life ago, the founding members of Tangled Feet met at Middlesex University and embarked on a massive journey together. 10 individuals all met studying for a drama and theatre studies degree and formed the company. All of us are still involved in the company in some way. We run everything ourselves from general management, artistic direction, finance, social media and marketing, production, casting, participation, fundraising to drama-therapy projects. What is at the core of our company is the individuals who have always put in that little bit extra, harnessed new skills to evolve as an ensemble, to grow and expand. Who knew 20 years ago we would still be going?

At the core of this show is our methodology which we have been developing from the start of Tangled Feet. A shared and devised process which used to take a long time to create, mainly because back when we started we had no money to pay ourselves, so we would sacrifice our evenings and weekends to make the work. There were some benefits in working in this way as it gave the time for work to marinade, breathe and grow. However we pride ourselves now on being able to offer fair and equal pay for all our ensemble and collaborators including interns. Artists should not have to work for free. Unfortunately that still often seems to be the case.
 
Our shows now have a shorter R&D period and then a bulk of a few weeks of rehearsals and then it’s performance time. We wanted to see what it would be like to take our time again, if possible, developing a show as we used to, which features our founding members 20 years on. Some of us haven’t exercised our performance muscles for some time, some of us have appeared in nearly every single show! How do we still work together as a core? What’s changed? What remains the same? We have experienced all of our adult lives together both professionally and as friends. There have been marriages, births, divorce, death. Lots of life has happened. How does that affect how we create work and what will be the outcome? How are we all at our half life point?!
 
Over a whole year, we are developing Half Life in this original way, taking our time with short R&D periods. We are nearly half way through that process now and are collaborating with different age groups to help make the work which will premier in October 2019 at The Albany in Deptford. The performances will feature our core ensemble with chosen collaborators aged 10, aged 20, aged 40 and aged 80 to bring to life the experiences and stories of a cross generational cast. We can’t wait to see what we uncover.
 
For more information on Half Life, or to find out how you could get involved please visit https://www.thealbany.org.uk/get-involved/ Half Life will also be developed with other collaborators outside of London in 2020. Watch this space for further info.

read more Mar. 8th 2019

A Manifesto for supporting emerging ensembles. What we are doing - and what else can be done.

Lyn Gardner's column in the Stage last week (We Will Face A Crisis If Early Career Artists Aren't Supported) posed some urgent questions about how we support early career artists. Are we - as a company, and an industry, doing enough?

Many would say (are saying) that we are already facing a deep crisis in terms of our industry's ability to encourage and retain talent from a range of backgrounds. As young people without the benefit of privilege discover they can't make it work, we collectively undergo a kind of cultural apartheid. The range of voices telling stories narrows to a thin, white, male, middle class trickle.

It took Tangled Feet 16 years to achieve the stability of regular funding, and for a large part of the first decade the ensemble was sustained on friendship, loyalty, creative curiosity and a huge number of second jobs rather than actual tangible resources. It wasn't easy at times, but we've always been passionately committed to the methodology and the politics of ensemble working, despite it being often at odds with a theatre industry that isn't set up to nurture work made collaboratively and often over long periods of time. 

 

We created our ensemble mentoring scheme four years ago to address what we saw as a yawning chasm in terms of support for this type of theatre-maker. Although we don't have a building and aren't (often) in the position to give companies money or development time (those vital things that Lyn rightly identifies), our ensemble mentoring scheme aims help emerging companies develop the skills they are going to need to negotiate the difficult early years and to make the most of opportunities that do present themselves. As one of our mentored companies summarised this year "it gives us something we didn't realise we needed, but we really do: time to think about the company, and not just the work".

 

As an ensemble, you've probably discovered a fantastic creative alchemy together – but how do you negotiate roles when it comes to the immense legwork of getting a show out there? Who does the administration and the finance when (probably) none of you have the training (or necessarily the inclination) to do those things? How do you put together a tour, write a budget, structure a funding application, construct a marketing strategy, pitch to a venue? And how do you develop the resilience, as a group, to stick with it when times are tough?

 

In our experience, a lot of it is learned through trial and error, making mistakes. A lot of talented ensembles hit a wall or run out steam trying to negotiate a landscape that, as Lyn Gardner identified, isn't particularly receptive to creative ideas that don't develop through script form, and is hugely resistant to the perceived 'risk' of new talent. 

Our scheme runs for a year, and over four weekends we bring companies together to learn from our mistakes and from each other. As well as workshop sessions with experienced professionals to develop all of those producing skills that we are supposed to develop somehow via osmosis (fundraising, financial management, pitching, tour planning, marketing etc) we offer each company a dedicated mentor for the year who they can call on for advice or guidance in whatever form they need. 

 

We've found that it's really valuable for companies to have this sounding board – someone they can ring at 9pm on a Thursday night for some urgent advice about negotiating with a venue, who'll help them make difficult judgement calls about when to stand their ground about something and when it's best to work a compromise. 

 

We also help them find a route through the madness of Grantium. The majority of the 13 companies who've now undertaken the scheme have put in their first Arts Council bid with our support. All of those bids have (touch wood) been successful so far. And Tangled Feet continue to cheer from afar as our previous mentees go from strength to strength – in the last few weeks Ditto Theatre and High Rise have been shortlisted for the New Diorama/Underbelly Untapped Award and Ivo Theatre have landed a commission as part of the Albany's Rebels season.

 

Last weekend marked the end of our fourth year of running the scheme – the last workshop day is always an emotional one as we look back over where we've come together, the distance we've travelled and the friendships we've formed. The mentored companies always provide huge inspiration for Tangled Feet, and we've sought out opportunities to work with these artists where possible with paid opportunities, and to maintain the relationships. Our hope is that over time we help to develop a network of ensembles who share information and offer support, guidance and inspiration to each other as we find a foothold in the industry. 

 

WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE? Tangled Feet's Ten Point Manifesto for supporting emerging artists 

 

How can NPO-funded buildings and companies help ensembles?

 

  •  Space is key and often it sits empty because hire charges are too high. All funded buildings should be factoring into their financials to offer space at discounted or free rates to emerging artists.
  • Seed Commissions: £12k - a small chunk of change for an NPO building - could germinate 12 companies over the year with £1k seed commissions that they could match-fund with their first Project Fund from Grants For the Arts. One a month with a bit of space and expertise as in-kind support - and you've created a year-round hot bed of ensemble creativity. 
  • Marketing: Too often we hear the line that it's too hard to sell tickets for new/emerging work. But in our experience, with a collaborative, imaginative approach and a company willing to put in some legwork, really sizeable audiences can be found. Theatres need to stop using the lazy defence that putting a show in a brochure should be enough to magically sell tickets and commit properly to audience development. Emerging companies are often full of ideas and happy to expend energy trying new things. This could be a learning opportunity for both sides. 

  • Paid internships: If Tangled Feet can commit to putting a properly paid internship on every single production, then so can major buildings and companies. Target these internships towards those without privilege. 

  • Take stock: what can you spare or share? Once we are funded and resourced, we often have more than we need or can use at any one time. What's that portable lighting rig doing between shows? Is there a bit of extra space in your store? A spare desk in your office? Could you loan out your van at cost? Find someone who will benefit from your very kind in-kind contribution. 

 

How can Emerging Ensembles help themselves?

  • Stop subsidising the sector with unpaid labour. At least keep track of unpaid hours and their equivalent value so you can demonstrate what the actual costs are. As soon as you are able, build the cost of producing and administrating into your show budgets to sustain yourselves between projects.

  • Build in self-care: You can't keep going if you're not looking after yourselves and each other. Emotional well-being is vital: take time to check in, address issues and prevent burn out. 

  • Find a fair way to share the load: If one person is doing all the legwork unacknowledged, resentment is going to set in and then it's game over. Keep communication open and clear about who can do what; this will likely evolve over time as people's capacity changes. 

  • Ask for what you need: don't be shy, people will often say yes. 

  • Remember to have fun: Allow yourselves time to play stupid games, make each other laugh, hang out as mates. It's the fuel that will keep you burning long-term.  

 

Tangled Feet's mentorship scheme has been supported for the last four years by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation. We're taking a short hiatus while we secure funding for the next round, but hope to begin the next year this autumn.

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Taking Part

Inclusive, fun and creative Working with young people
  • The most accessible and original theatre company working in the UK today”

    The most accessible and original theatre company working in the UK today”

    The Stage
  • Tangled Feet offer a glimpse of magic”

    Tangled Feet offer a glimpse of magic”

    Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
  • For Tangled Feet, theatre is a contact sport”

    For Tangled Feet, theatre is a contact sport”

    The Stage
  • Tangled Feet, the masters of physical theatre”

    Tangled Feet, the masters of physical theatre”

    The Independent
  • They are defining the future of theatre”

    They are defining the future of theatre”

    The Edinburgh Guide
  • An astounding spectacle..a uniformly excellent ensemble…stunning”

    An astounding spectacle..a uniformly excellent ensemble…stunning”

    www.fringereview.com
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