HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF BEING AN OUTSIDER ARTIST
I've had the privilege of spending time in Boston, Lincolnshire, to bring out my inner Dora the Explorer and work with Thomas Middlecott Academy and The Stump on the Emerge project.
Discovering a new place has always been exciting for me. I've got a sat-nav for a brain (I get it from my Dad) so I rarely get lost, and it allows me to really take in a town's setting. I also like to write about people in my work, and often use overheard conversations as starting points for poems. Exploring Boston for the first time I've made some observations about the physical landscape and vibe of the place. There's a bus which drives through a pedestrian zone every 10 minutes or so, and has a cute little jingle which plays to warn people. Lots of shops boast of their location 'Boston Newsagents' 'Boston Fish and Chips' etc. You can see the Stump (town church) along the skyline from pretty much wherever you stand.
There's an interesting dilemma every artist faces when working in a new place. Do I have any right to use the stories and tell the stories of the people of this place when I'm only here two days a week? Do I have enough time? How do we make sure this project has life after I'm gone? It's going to be an exciting challenge for sure, but I'm well supported by the young people I'm working with, and some great partners.
Here's some initial musings from my first couple of months getting under the skin of Emerge on how I've tried to make the most of my time in the town.
I'm not as young as I thought I was, so listening to what's current is key. Something that came out of one of the first sessions I ran with Thomas Middlecott was that the group really want to see performance art which is relatable to them. Cast their own age. Stories they want to hear. We all shared examples of our favourite pieces of art and performance and discussed how we can translate these ideas to the festival. For example James showed us a couple of Youtube series he watches; a mixture of animation and tv series. They also all use Instagram and Snapchat over any other social media.
Some young people see the Stump as a barrier. It's a truly beautiful building to an outsider like me, but to some of the young people who we've spoken to so far it's just a big church they don't feel comfortable in. Through working with Transported who have hosted lots of unusual events inside, we hope to inspire them to think of the limitless possibilities a glorious venue like this can provide for the festival.
Be transparent and adaptable and have fun experimenting. Right from the off I've told the group that they're in charge of the stage, I'm just there to work the curtains. I've been sharing my knowledge of organising a festival, and helping them make sure it all fits as one cohesive event and really feels owned by Boston, but other than that the possibilities are pretty endless! We've titled the festival 'Random Acts of Shakespeare' so that gives you an idea of the vibe we want to create and have been experimenting with different art forms. Pictured is some of the group from Thomas Middlecott, ft. Rap Royalty, Lady CJ, Lady McB, and original Gangsters.
You can catch Random Acts of Shakespeare in Boston on the same day as the other festivals, Saturday 21st April. Still loads to be done before then, but we are so stoked to pull it all together.