I am looking forward to performing HELP! at Coslton Girls School later today.
I have wanted to perform in schools, particularly to young women for while because of the result of some research read about.
I had my first period of ill health when I was a teenager. It was a scary and confusing time and I remember finding great comfort in the books I read that explored themes of mental illness. I felt so much less alone, even if was a distant author writing over 50 years before. I hope that in a schools context I might be able to be that voice for someone else.
If you are interested in the increase in mental ill health in young women here is some info:
‘Rates of stress, anxiety and depression are rising sharply among teenage girls in what mental health specialists say is a “deeply worrying” trend that is far less pronounced among boys of the same age. They warn that the NHS lacks the resources to adequately tackle the problem.
‘Our daughters must not be scared to talk about mental health issues’
New NHS data obtained by the Guardian reveals that the number of times a girl aged 17 or under has been admitted to hospital in England because of self-harm has jumped from 10,500 to more than 17,500 a year over the past decade – a rise of 68%. The jump among boys was much lower: 26%.’
Cases of self-poisoning among girls – ingesting pills, alcohol or other chemical substances – rose 50%, from 9,700 to 14,600 between 2005-06 and 2015-16. Similarly, the number of girls treated in hospital after cutting themselves quadrupled, from 600 to 2,400 over the same period, NHS Digital figures show.
NHS data shows 68% rise in hospital admissions because of self-harm among girls under 17 in past decade
Suicide rate among young women doubles in a decade
Self-harm among teenage girls up 68% in three years, shows research
A quarter of all 14-year-old girls are depressed, research shows.
I am currently looking for a producer who is going to be at The Edinburgh Fringe to work with me on producing HELP!
Its mainly going to be compiling a list of venues, funders and producers and co-ordinating Invitations being sent out these. It would be beneficial to work with someone who has tour booking experience and existing relationships with venues, funders and producers across the U.K. (though this isn’t essential).
It will then be sorting comps for these people as well as managing requests from Arts Industry Office during the Fringe.
I would like it to be someone at the fringe, so that we can meet up to check in.
Someone who will be honest with me.
Someone who will say clearly what they can and cant do.
Someone who will let me know how I can help to achieve something.
Someone to have my back when I am professionally vulnerable. (particularly in week 3 when I feel like my world might be ending a little bit)
I want someone to say. Yes, thats fine, stop worrying about it.
I want someone to say, you need to pull your socks up, work harder and do this, because if you don’t these are the consequences.
I want to work with someone interested in working on HELP! now, and this being a way to create work for themselves in the future.
Going forward I would like to work with this person to create a tour pattern from the interest generated at the fringe and apply for a GFTA to support this. And I would love for this to be the beginning of a long term relationship with a producer preferably based in Bristol or The South West.
If you think this might be you, then please get in contact.
Today I am more scared than when those people mercilessly drove a van and got knives out to kill people in my home town.
That’s because an excess of 30,000 sick and disabled people died in 2015. Excess deaths are deaths that went over and above the number of expected or easily explainable deaths. This is due to cuts in health and social care.
So far we have had to accept that our government are making choices that lead to excess deaths, killing some of our most poor and most vulnerable.
Today we have the opportunity to change that.
I am scared that we, as a nation, won’t.
Please use your vote to save lives today.
(I know that I am probably preaching to the converted.
Please share this information with anyone who isn’t.)
There’s a bee outside
and its drowning.
laid on its side
two waterlogged legs un-moving
body too heavy
to roll itself over.
In front of me are the boats
and their sails
and their flags
and the children eating ice cream
and the bee which is dying.
But the gap is too large.
I’d need A pool cleaner net
and even that might not reach.
I could fashion something out of a broom and cardboard
but even that might not reach.
I couldn’t reach if I tried.
So I look at the waves reflecting the sunlight,
and the boats
and the flags
and the ice cream
and the children
and for some time I don’t look,
but the bee catches my eye again
and I watch it as it dies.
I want to take off my clothes
and jump in.
Jump two meters down
and into the water.
I want to jump in
to the water
and save it.
I have the overwhelming urge
to take off my clothes
and jump in
to the water
and save it,
but there is nowhere to climb out.
My fingers twitch with Adrenalin.
The water pulls me towards it.
The gap is too large.
I want to jump in.
to the water
and lie with the bee.
To hold it above the water
in my hand
or rested on my body
and wait for my fingers
to go numb.
I want to lie with the bee
as someone notices
and someone gets their phone out
and someone shouts,
and I will close my eyes
and lie with the bee
as it dies.
And the cold will spread to my torso,
and my heart
which begins to beat slower.
I am laid on my side
with the bee.
two waterlogged legs un-moving
body too heavy
to roll itself over.
I have sat down to work and I am angry.
I am angry that I am going to spend a day working to perform at something where I will not be payed.
I am angry that the ticket price for the event is £60.
I am angry that some people that are part of the day are going to be getting payed and I am not.
I am angry that most of these people will be in woking roles that already give them a salary.
I am angry that I do not have a salary and I will not be payed for performing.
Other people will speak.
I will perform.
This is my art.
I have poured more than three years of my life into this piece.
I have poured literal blood sweat and tears into this piece.
This piece that I will work on to shorten so it fits into the the timeslot you have given me.
I thought maybe working for free for you meant that in someway I was an activist.
That I was bringing something different and important to a cause that I believe in.
That this was my way to bring my voice to this conversation dominated by ‘experts’ and ‘professionals’.
But I am an artist.
Which means I have -£99 to live on this month.
Despite the fact that last week I worked 50 hours over 5 days at minimum wage last week to try and make ends meet.
I am angry because my ‘activism’ my commitment to work with you, a charity who I believe in is costing me around £200 in time, space, and materials.
I am angry because even if I don’t include my time, or my technicians time (and this is ridiculous because of course we should be payed). This is still costing me around £50 in cash.
So now I am living on -£145 this month, because I have increased my debt to perform for you.
This month I will be eating the inside of my cupboards.
I’m not sure that this is the way to be an activist.
I’m not sure that this is the way to bring my voice to the debate.
I feel very tired.
No, I am not.
I have a problematic relationship with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
I have taken one show there in my time as an artist, I was 18. It was one of the biggest learning curves of my career. Without proper PR and Marketing we struggled to get audiences large as we had hoped, the average audience size at an Edinburgh show that year was I believe around 6. This is partly because there is so much to see. You only have to walk down the royal mile (a road I diligently avoid when at the fringe) to find this out.
Is this kind of over saturation exciting? Well yes. As a 15 year old going to Edinburgh for the first time with my step-mother I fell in love. I had never felt so close to hundreds and hundreds of people who, like me, shared a love of performance. Here we all were gathered together to do it, and see it and celebrate it. I was absolutely sure I wanted to be a member of this community. Going from show to show was an emotional and physical rollercoaster. Some shows blew my tiny 15 year old brain, and some remain some of the worst work I have ever seen (at this point I hadn’t gained the skill of weedling out a good blurb from a bad).
So back I headed the year after, the beginning of my annual pilgrimage, and a few years later I took a show. It was my A-level drama piece, a fairytal-y, dream like, white faced, puppety, musical-y Blue Beard. ‘So far, so Edinburgh’ as Fringe Review described it, but in that review we were highly recommended. We appeared in the Scotsman because they did a little feature of shows with beards in the title and we were pictured alongside Beardyman (thanks Beardyman PR for the leg up there). People liked us, because we embodied what the fringe is all about, that anyone can naively and bravely make and present performance. A bunch of young, creative, unafraid and provocative women (this was probably the corsets rather than any political agenda) can say look what happened inside our brains, look what we made, do you like it? is it good?
And that is why Edinburgh is partially so wonderful and so fraught, because most of it in my opinion isn’t good.
Edinburgh continues to sadden me.
The arts in general continues to sadden me sometimes because of the gap between good and money. Thousands of pounds can produce a terrible show, and pennies can produce something wonderful. I know too many artists who would like to take good, urgent and necessary work to the fringe, but can’t because it is not financially viable, and too much of a risk to personal finances.
I get the majority of my income from working in a cafe and I am but one person. The concept of raising the minimum (from my budgets about £7,000) to take a show to Edinburgh is a big ask, and thats not including the cost of making the show, which would have had to be done on a shoestring.
At the fringe I would have been penniless and broke, presenting a show that I would probably be unhappy with due to a of a lack of resources, then it not getting the exposure I wanted due to a lack of resources and feeling angry, tired and unfulfilled. I don’t want my performance work to feel unfulfilling, I am in this for the long run and need to avoid personal and financial burn out.
You may wonder why people are asking for money to take shows to Edinburgh, and it’s because there is very little funding to support companies to take shows there, as it is over-saturated. This is why people like my friends have to fundraise, asking their friends and family to support them. Unfortunately this is being a professional in the Arts.
Going to Edinburgh will not only mean they have the opportunity to reach a wider audience, including theatre-goers, other artists, potential collaborators, producers, tour bookers, funding bodies and venues. These connections will probably lead to a tour and make them more sustainable as a company, and giving them work/ income over the next year.
I want them to be working in theatre for the next year (they will be regardless because they are ace and talented, and determined) but Edinburgh will help.
These girls have given me a sofa to sleep on whenever I need it.
An ear to listen when I need to be heard.
A critical eye when in creative panic.
A cup of tea when nothing else will do.
They are my peers, my friends and I am so flipping proud of them.
Support them, please, they are too good to burn out.
So I have a few updates, update and developments.
- The Gran Show at Bristol Old Vic went well. People seemed to enjoy it. I got some smashing audience feedback and I’m excited to go into the next stage of the project.
- I have started working with a producer. The fantastic and talented Charlie Parker check out her website here: http://www.charlie-parker.co.uk
- I have become a trial member of Artist Collective Interval, an artist led studio space and support network based in The Exchange building above St Nicholas Market in Bristol.
Today we had a collective lunch where I ate all the lovely food we had to share until I felt a little sick. (Whoops my fault- I’m a sucker for free food)
The most interesting thing we spoke about today was acting hard and being soft.
As an artist we are all put in situations where we have to act hard. With funders, with bookers, in meetings, with venues, with technicians, when writing applications. We have to look like we know what we are doing. We have to be leading the way, because most of us work as independent artists or directly represent a small collaborative group, and there is no one else to spear head the operation, push it forward or act like the big boss. We have to make difficult decisions. We have manage our affairs and We have to seem like we know what we are doing at all time. We have to ACT HARD.
But sometimes we don’t know how to do any of the above.
And feel pretty mush and soft and vulnerable.
And this is what I think Interval’s greatest strength is, and I only needed to flick down the facebook group wall on the day of my induction to understand this.
It is a group of people united be a sense of vulnerability.
Interval members have created an artist led space, both a physical and mental one in which you can say;
I dont know how to do this, do you?
Could you share some information with me about this?
Would you mind helping me with this?
Because I dont know what I’m doing right now, and I can’t really tell anyone because I have to ACT HARD, and Im worried that I am making mistakes.
At Interval you can just ask, you can be frank about your vulnerablility. Knowing that someone else might feel the same, have felt the same and will probably feel this way again.
And so its members are united in their vulnerability and within that grows an open-ness and honesty, that through sharing and and hypothesising and talking individuals within the group can be better than the sum of their parts. Feeling less alone, in what is a sometimes a scary industry, full of over saturation, self determination, and repetitive failure.
And I feel a little sad that I feel the need to ACT HARD all of the time. Yet we also spoke about times when we needed to take responsibility for when we are hard and when we are soft.
We needed to be harder in certain areas, for example transparency with our budgets. When an organisation/ collaborator/ booker raises an eyebrow at a fee, we have a duty to explain patiently and fully why we have valued our work in that way, what we believe in that has lead to that decision. We hope that our openness and honesty and hardness is taken seriously. And we hope that we will not be rejected at this point for being hard, for being firm for being clear about when we need in order to continue to make work.
So from now on, Im going to try to let my hardness and softness co-exist, I’m going to be a little bit more like a mento.