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Learning to Dream! / 21 January 2014

It’s absolutely brilliant to be given funding to develop your own creative ideas, exciting yet the responsibility is daunting.

I’m fascinated about our life stories and how we choose to tell them and how they interrelate with traditional stories and songs where disability appears (either symbolically, metaphorically or literally) in my case visual impairment.

Learning and telling traditional stories is one thing, kind of pretty spontaneous for me really you hear or read the story, break it into sections, relearn it and tell it improvising and playing with it’s shifting nuances provoking different audience responses. To tackle my own life and weave it in and around folk/fairytale and song is proving to be a different experience. I’ve wanted to find a way to share my story for years and I eventually want to encourage others to tell and share their stories too.

In late 2012, I began the process on a course led by Mark Hewitt through New Writing South. Actually writing my life down getting specific about some of the things I wanted to say. After receiving positive feedback from the small sharing of extracts I decided to go for G4A funding. But it took me a while to realise what it was that I wanted to develop. And it took a networking event led by Young Vic and National Theatre and one conversation with one of the directors to encourage me to think differently actually to think bigger.

I’m so used to working on my own it easy to stay in my own box, and the four crucial words that Sarah said to me: ‘what about creative play’, pushed me into action.

Lesson one: attend every networking event you can you never know where conversations may lead you.

My story explores ‘learning to see’ living in that half world of light shade shape colour shapes shifting, so there’s scope for playing with colour and sound. My story has strong themes around identity and acceptance, there are symbolic and metaphoric links between my tale and several folk and fairytales waiting to be woven together.

It does work as a stand-alone piece as reflected upon after my recent Together sharing commented upon by Stephen Portlock, but to push myself beyond my usual practice and flesh out it’s full theatrical potential I needed a dream team and I think I’ve got one.

Lesson 2: have as much in place as you can and think of your own access needs

Before you fill any form, you’ve got to try to get as much of your plan and partners in place as you can. It’s not easy and can take months. (ACE’s access fund is invaluable go for it if you find form filling in difficult)

Inspired by Sarah’s words I approached who I wanted to work with and the result is impressive. Mark Hewitt to direct (from Lewes Live Literature), Sound artist Joseph Young, who’s also got a fab singing voice and will help me explore the musicality of the work, Filmmaker/ documenter, Abbie Norris to explore the look, Rachel Gadsden to provide live visual art on stage and the dynamic Caro Parker and Roger from STAGETEXT to help me investigate creative captioning and Deaf access. I got the people in place fairly quickly but securing a Brighton venue to mount my play days proved much more challenging, because sadly we just don’t have enough accessible spaces available.

I’ve had to make some compromise, but the partners I’ve amassed are exciting, New Writing South, Nightingale Theatre, MAC Birmingham and Half Moon YPT.

I don’t just want to research the creative potential but I also want to find out what different audiences think and how they respond to the performance styles used especially young people so attached to the creative play are a series of ‘sharings and Q&A’s which will lead to me being able to develop a tour.

Through creative play we can push this work into a new direction and I will grow and have something new to invite professional audiences to come and see me working in a different way.

Okay so I’ve not been idle over the last few years I’ve been telling stories in different settings but I haven’t been seen on the disability arts circuit for a few years and it’s time I changed that.

Lesson 3: You don’t have to take your clothes of to have a good time but you can be inspired by others who do!

Not long after I received the fab news that I’d received the funding. I had the enormous pleasure of catching Mattt Fraser’s wonderfully sexy interpretation of ‘Beauty & The Beast’ at the Young vic. I’d seen this piece in it’s infancy at Dada-Fest several years ago when Mat was first weaving his dream. I provoked Mat to think about the metaphoric links around disability in this dark and beautiful tale and I was delighted that through Improbable’s Phelim’s imaginative direction Mat and Julie’s true love story was intrinsically woven into their theatrical retelling of the classic fairytale.

This was such an inspiring piece of work powerful and extremely funny it completely validates the model for disabled artists exploring the role of their own life histories and the magical world of folk and fairytale.

In the bar afterwards I congratulated Mat, Julie and Phelim and told them that I was about to embark on my own creative journey and perhaps there may be similar theatrical devises employed - although you can be reassured I don’t have any immediate plans to take off my clothes! (well not yet anyway)

Lesson 4: Learning to let go and fly

Mat said one of the hardest things he found was learning to let someone else take your initial ideas and lead you into new territory, but you have to trust and then you learn to fly. On the train home I reflected that that’s what I’m just about to do. I’ve always respected Matt’s approach he dreams an idea, develops and nurtures it, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t but you don’t get anywhere without taking the risk! So I’m going to go for it.

Thank you ACE

Keywords: fairy tales,performing arts,personal story,special school,story telling,theatre