It’s Monday morning and I am on a train. This can only mean that I am off to somewhere. Somewhere new.
After three years I am headed to a rehearsal room to make something new and to hopefully disentangle a little history, perhaps even shed something. How I long to feel I could cast off an old skin, be a new self. I am not sure, for me, shedding anything is ever possible; what is possible is creating a new layer. A new point of interaction, sitting on top of the old.
I am also really looking forward to having some fun and joy. Just writing the words fun and joy commits me to embracing that space of play. This is incredibly exciting and also incredibly scary as I will be taking space. And I am walking into this with the anxiety of taking space.
Much has changed over the past two years. I have tried to step aside and make space for others- many, different others. I have worked to enable spaces for communal sharing and for carving out some kind of perceived equal footing. That is so silly though, isn’t it? – there is no such thing as equal footing but nevertheless. I think we have succeeded a little and failed a lot. The structural inequality is too big for us to tackle properly. I just hope that by tackling them a little, it emboldens and empowers others to do the nudging they can. Because nudging is necessary as there continues to be much complacency and entitlement.
Alternatively you could say that not nearly enough has changed. Peers have lost jobs, much-needed talents from under-represented backgrounds no longer enriching our cultural lives. I have also seen others profiting from the crisis. it has and it continues to be a wild ride of survival.
This is the frame I carry with me at this start. I have paved an uneven path,a narrow space for my ideas to brew. As a migrant woman, I enter this space with anxiety and trepidation – why me, why now, why at all, who cares? Anxiety shaped by society’s need to elevate some over others, a society built beneath the massive pillars of capitalism.
Hello, here I begin.
If you want to see where I got to – I am doing a wee sharing on 4th March at 4pm at Dance Base Edinburgh. It’s free but book!
So, I tell you what I am thinking, what I have been thinking.
Context. Let me give you some context. Context one – I really want my work to be accessible. I draw a lot, constantly and some of those drawings I think are worthy of hanging on other people’s walls. I would love my work to be enjoyed by others and I really love it when that happens. I know that people who mostly buy my work are people who are in my network. Most of these people are happy people on low incomes. Context two – to me, art is like food – I need it. I need to look at it, in books, on my walls, at friends houses walls, in galleries and museums and online. It feeds me. It feeds me ideas and thoughts and that is really great. So, if my art feeds others, I want my art to be price point accessible. Context three – I really don’t want to be one of those bastards that says shit like…art has value and mine is high. Art does have value and part of the value of my art is that I am interested in engaging in a dialogue, a conversation about that value. Please, don’t be afraid to make an offer. The worst that would happen is that I might say no to your offer. That would be ok, you will be ok. It’s not like a rejection in a relationship – it’s more like – not now, not for this drawing or not at this time- that’s not a no, that is a maybe another time. If it helps you – imagine me in a market where talking money is ok. Context four – I send money home. This is the money I send home – every sold drawing is food on a table, the gas and electric bills for my family. I am proud of where and who I come from and this is my thank you, this is my care. I see no shame in this, and if you do- I’d find that very disappointing. Context five – I wonder what the western world would look like if art was not seen by many as elitist? I wonder if having access to images, texts, theatre, film was more accessible – what would that society look like? I want to be a part of that more inclusive picture. Perhaps what I am doing is still inaccessible- it’s not free, I’m inviting people to partake in the capitalist system still, and I am hoping that the way I am doing it may be a little more nuanced. Context six – when the world changed in March 2020, I started offering my drawings on a pay what you decide basis, like this now. In 2020, I sold over twenty drawings and the average offer was £87. I had emails from unknown to me people telling me this is not how the art world works, I wrote back to say that I knew little of how the art world works and what I am doing here is my way of doing things and I believe it’s harmless to others. Some things I found quite interesting – drawings with sexual content were the most popular, so were drawings directly addressing the situation we found ourselves, then were drawings that loosely showed my theatre aesthetic. Context seven – I am interested in what happens in 2022 and I will blog about it at the end of the year. Context eight – pass this to a friend, please help me spread my thinking and the experiment to others. It might sound a bit mad, but why not change just a little how the art world works. Context nine – this is not a joke. My work is serious, I take it seriously, very seriously. Context ten – this whole thing may fail. It probably will. That would be ok because I would learn from it and when I learn, new ideas come along so it may appear as a failure to capitalism but not to engage in new ways of thinking and making art more accessible. Ok, enough contexts for now. Thank you for reading, I hope wherever you are, you are happy, Kat x
We often talk about money, but we don’t really talk about money. Or rather, many of us really want to talk about money, but we don’t talk about money with pounds and pennies examples. I mean, not really. We are embarrassed about how much we earn or how little we earn. We are really scared about what that conversation might do to our image, perception, assumptions others make of us and we make of others.
When I came to the UK in August 1999, at the age of 16 and a half, I had fifty pounds in my pocket. My dad gave it to me.
My first job in the UK was as a waitress, then I worked in two shops. I also cleaned and babysat children who at the age of six and seven would mock my accent. I wonder where they learned that? Just a year before that I had my first solo exhibition and all drawings were sold and with the money, I financed the rest of my high school drawing expenses.
It’s Autumn 2021 and I am currently cash flowing a show I am designing because the fancy trust which holds the cash the company won two years ago, about to open at the swankiest of venues in London, hasn’t actually given them the money and so the artists only get the money when we send them receipts. You must be joking! I am not!
I send home money. Every month. That money often goes on gas, electricity and water. Sometimes if I’ve done well that month, I send some more for food. Let me be plain- I come from the richest family- their richness in the culture with which I have been brought up and the work ethic they have installed is something and everything I never wish was any different.
There was that time when I had to go to Equity for help to extract five hundred pounds from a director who refused to pay me with the words “it’s such a good exposure” It was exposure into some of the workings of the industry.
There was that other time, when a show I designed in a pub theatre nearly transferred to the west end. I wonder how my work and my life in relation to money would have changed.
In June 2020, I submitted a drawing to an open call for Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival and Yale University publication. In October 2020 they emailed to say the drawing was chosen. From December 2020 to the end of March 2021, I chased them every month for a small fee of fifty pounds. In early April 2021 the director of Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival emailed me to say that “as you can imagine, we have been very busy” and sorry about the delay. You must be joking. I am not.
I hate waste, of all kinds of waste. And I hate people who are careless with resources. I especially hate food waste.
I wonder who I need to be to attract the attitude of being paid well and on time for my work.
I wonder who I need to be for theatre companies to honour the royalties clauses I have so often tried so hard to write into my contracts.
I really like being able to pay for a round of drinks.
I often feel guilty that I don’t have enough or that I have too much.
In March 2020 I decided to only buy clothing I really needed. Thus far, I have had to buy some knickers, socks, two pairs of jeans and a shirt. This feels really good, especially in relation to reducing my carbon footprint.
Who owns the right to decide how much I should get paid?
Who owns the land beneath your feet? Or the building you are currently sitting in?
Are you a homeowner?
Why do you think that Universal Basic Income is so scary for our leaders?
How much is your local bus ride?
What is it about our fascination with stuff being free? No stuff anywhere is free. Someone, somewhere, somehow paid for it.
Do you play the lottery in the hope of winning over a million, calling it a day, leaving the rules of this elitist industry and heading to a small island on the west coast of Scotland for a crofting life. I do.
There is this friend of mine who I love, and who is one of the best producers in the UK who runs an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation and who often complains that don’t have enough money and how much more money she needs to raise for them to make the show.
Why do I have to often ask what my fee is? Why can’t it be in the first email?
How much do you think I earned last year? Have a guess, dm me a number, if you are right, you get a drawing. You must be joking! No, I am not.
Yesterday, actually just last night, I texted a director of an arts organisation to ask how much money they put in that show. He responded with a coin emoji. I then felt embarrassed for asking and he said – no problem at all.
Do you think this blog is worth anything – a pound, two, fiver, a tenner, twenty, fifty, a hundred? If you think it’s worth something, what would you do?
Do you pay your way or do you expect others to pay for you?
How often do you say – Let me get that!
I am reminded of the time a friend said that people meet you where you are now, not where you have come from or where we have been.
I remember Katy Baird’s show where she gets the audience to keep their hand up if they earn 15k, 25k, 30k, 50k. I remember looking around being astounded.
In Bulgaria, the country of my place of birth, the average monthly salary is 650 euros a month. Many older people especially those who live in rural places don’t earn that, many survive purely on what the earth gives them and what their children and grandchildren sent home.
People often look at my drawings and say they love them and then say things ”I just don’t have £60 for art” but you have £300 for a fancy jacket?
Where do we play value and are we prepared to pay for it?
Do you think people wear what they earn?
Do you think it’s crude to talk about money?
Do you think that it’s bad taste to talk about money?
It’s a late Sunday afternoon and I am on my way to London from the north. I am on a train. I love trains but I am not in love with this one – the carriage is packed and I am one of three people wearing masks. My train ticket is £59.80 and it has proved a valuable space for me to write this.
The other day I got an email from a large National Portfolio Organisation telling me that this year they are celebrating giving five £500 bursaries for local artists. You must be joking! No, I am not.
When will it be enough?
The other month I watched a performance with a budget of over £200k I recon. For one single, singular, one off, just the once show. The show, about labour, felt like a parade of wealth.
Apparently I don’t play the system.
Last year I sold over twenty drawings on a pay what you offer basis. If I thought your offer was ok and I liked you, you got a drawing, an original. One of my friends offered me thirty pounds for a drawing. I accepted it because I was too scared to say no. I was too scared to say that that didn’t feel right. I learned a lot from that.
I am often too scared to say no.
When I go home I pay for mostly everything – from groceries to tram fares.
How do I value my labour?
How do I decide that this drawing is a hundred pounds and that design is two grand? How do you?
How much energy and time is wasted in chasing payments? How and when will it get easier to say – My day rate is …
I gave the below post as a keynote for a sector event which took place on 1st February 2021 online
Hello, my name is Katherina Radeva but most people call me Kat. I am a 38 year old woman, with short black hair and a mole right between my eyes as if it’s a visible third eye. My skin tone is light. I come from Bulgaria and more specifically from the Thracian Valley. The Thracian valley was and still is a geographic area where a few ethnic groups meet and co-exit. Sometimes there are tensions which are mostly prodded by politics rather than the people who reside there. My peoples were slaves for the Ottoman Empire for over 500 hundred years. English is my second language. I have no idea how you would describe my accent, those who don’t know sometimes say: You are not from around here, are you? I arrived in the UK aged 16, on my own. I had £50 in my pocket and two bags full of drawing materials, clothes and an orthodox icon. I would not describe myself as religious but I am a believer. I am neurodiverse and long term ill mental health is part of my everyday.
I am here to make a short offer around BUILD BACK BETTER.
I will approach this through my lived experience and my interdisciplinary approach to making work- some people call that a portfolio career, I just call it- I need to be good at many things to survive as an independent artist.
So, when I think of BUILDING BACK BETTER, I would like to translate this to
BUILD equals CARE
BACK equals CASH
BETTER equals COMMUNITY
Care, Cash, Community.
To build for me means to make something happen. More and more in my thinking I come with the question for myself – HOW am I making that something happen. And if I am jumping into someone else’s process- how they are making that thing happen.
So, the how, is really about care. What is the care I have put as a foundation upon which I make anything happen. And what is the care in place for me when I enter a team.
I suppose with this I am looking for less of a product driven outcome and more of a process driven outcome. If the process is juicy and caring, I trust that the outcome will be reflective of that. In here under the care bracket, I will also insert responsibility. What is my responsibility for the thing to happen with care and what is our collective responsibility to build this thing with care. Care is not one directional, care is multi directional.
So, I have changed BACK to CASH. Linguistically this is not an easy fit but I think it is actually a really important point whenever you think of making anything happen, wherever you are trying to build a thing.
I am going to talk about CASH through my own personal experience.
When I came to the UK aged 16, it was common knowledge of those around me, the few people around me that I had £50 in my pocket. I thought that was loads because that is what my parents gave me. But those around me took the collective responsibility to enlighten me that that it really wasn’t very much at all. They took it upon themselves to throw cleaning jobs, babysitting jobs, waitressing jobs, you name it jobs, my way. And I took it upon myself to view every one of those jobs as essential, vital to my survival. I am a good immigrant. Thankfully no one told me that having a cleaning job wasn’t cool, I personally thought that cleaning posh people’s homes was a good way to earn my living.
So, when it came to me trying to make it in the arts, I thought and still think to some extend, that being able at and quite good at sawing, carpentry, choreography, dramaturgy, drawing, painting, printmaking, image editing, administration, producing, fundraising, designing, sourcing, directing, writing, communication, translation, performing- I thought it was a good thing. This varied skill set has made it possible to get a foot into the arts in the UK and continue working in the arts to this point. Not one single one of these things would be able to cover my rent, bills and subsistence and that is the harsh reality.
This has been and still is my greatest challenge. People love a neat edge. They love a box – which you can tick and they can easily tick too. Ah, Kat the artist, Kat the writer, Kat the designer, Kat the performer, you get what I am alluding to.
I don’t blame the people, they are following a system. A well established machine which is broken but by quickly patching this bit or changing this clog, it restarts again. Trundling on and exacerbating the inequalities.
I am trying to challenge, nudge and ultimately change the system. It is going to take my lifetime. The system which currently does not recognise intersectionality, the system which privileges one or another point of view. A system which should be more inclusive. I am after a system which looks at creating or shape shifting space and a system which is not driven on fear of losing the little that we all persieve there is. There is money in the arts, let’s re-distribute where it goes. I would love to see a system which celebrates difference, spillage, mixity and inclusion especially around cross art-form pollination.
I am doing this challenging and nudging by choosing to engage in better practices and removing myself from situations that don’t put care and cash as a foundation of a fair exchange for my labour.
My understanding of community comes from childhood days in communist Bulgaria where my grandma pear tree fed the village and where in exchange for pears, we got potatoes, fish, plums, peas. For me, community is built on cooperation, not competition.
I am not alone, you are not alone, we are not alone. We are here because we care. We are a community. Like in a garden, when you water your plants you don’t just choose to water the carrots, you also want your tomatoes, cucumbers, apples and raspberries to do well. Well, I do. I want variety on my plate.
And I really want variety on the stages, in the parks, in the village halls, in the exhibition halls, on the library shelves.
I want Reggie and I want Jazz and I want contemporary classical and I am really after some heavy metal from time to time.
I am after poems, and autobiographies, I am after feminist literature, I want to see more contemporary eastern European writers translated.
I am interested in folklore cultures from Japan and Peru, Poland and Finland, to name a few.
I love a crisp sandwich and I am into my Haggis. I’d do anything for an Irish stew and my mum’s bean soup.
Variety is the spice of life but if we forever invest in middle class work by middle class artists, then you really are just watering your carrots. So, if you want change, you have to be that change and do that change and if you are a person with power or money- it starts with you because you have the resources to enable the change. And you do that by starting to invite those unlike you at the table and once they are there, you really need to listen to them.
It’s early August and around me harvest is in full swing.
The fields have been yellow for about a month. Hurrying tractors and large farm machinery have been speeding outside my window late into the night.
Harvest is very beautiful to watch and this year, due to the pandemic, I have been home since the middle of March walking an average seven kilometres a day across the landscape around me. I have noticed the fields, what is seeded, what grows, areas left to their own devices, many farm workers busy late into the nights. You could say I have noticed the seasons but I think it would be more appropriate if I say, I have noticed the weather and how it is affecting the land.
Yesterday, 3rd August 2020, was a weird day with a kind of quiet nervous rumble. Nothing much happened. I went swimming in the reservoir with my friend Rachel, had a wee squabble with my partner about nothing and fell asleep during the 10 o’clock news.
Yesterday, 3rd August 2020, a weird day was plentiful. I went swimming with my friend Rachel, had an impassioned conversation about capacity and expectations with my partner, weeded around the leek seedlings, later on watered the beans, carrots, courgettes, the beetroot and what is left of the cauliflower seedlings. I wrote three emails seeking labour engagement. I seeded food and labour.
Yesterday, 3rd August 2020, marked twenty-one years of life in the UK, life as a migrant, life as an immigrant, life as a person of no place, life as a foreigner in the land of my birth and in the country of my residence. A foreigner in both languages. I am reminded of my impermanence, of my fragile state — not just as an artist during this time — but a fragile state of non-belonging desperately trying to make new acquaintances while looking for validation.
Harvest is all around me. Reaping the little seeds sown and those that just self-seeded. A cultivated crop and a crop that simply bursts. It is so easy to focus on cultivating a crop, on creating the conditions to reap what you have sowed. It feels harder to notice what has seeded itself. What has developed without much cultivation. What keeps recurring even when you pull it out. This tension between control and chaos.
Twenty-one years in the UK feels like a lifelong daily negotiation between swaying in the wind and trying to root. In the past four years I have come closer to finding a place to root. I have also been swaying lots:- between feeling like I’ve got this and coming close to giving up altogether.
I suppose I will never arrive anywhere. Or I suppose I am arriving all the time. I suppose I will be forever travelling. I am forever travelling, forever learning, forever listening and forever wondering. Being a migrant just exacerbates this search for belonging, for loading to belong.
The harvest is all around me, in early August, it is in full swing.
I haven’t written in more than three months. Prior to lockdown I was too busy with design works and company work and since lockdown, drawing has been my way of processing these times. But in the past seven days, there has been much to acknowledge and I am choosing to write a little about it here.
Last Saturday, about midday, our foster dog Jess left us to go to her forever home. Jess has been our lockdown rock and I think I will always remember the lovely moments (plenty of difficult days to remember too) during lockdown in the shape and feel of Jess. She really is a gorgeous animal with so much love to give and receive. We started fostering dogs almost exactly a year ago. We love dogs. And whenever we have a spell at home like a couple of weeks or so we look after dogs who are waiting to be adopted.
On Sunday night as I was reading in bed The Debatable Land and then I checked my phone. The news announcing the passing of one of my role models stared right at me. I must have been about 5 years old when I saw a poster of the Surrounded Islands in the one room flat of our family friends Dima and Joro. I distinctly remember thinking how did they do that, who did that? Then, in my early teenage years I looked for ways to align my story to his. I was also looking for some kind of freedom. Then I was about twenty one when I first stood in front of seven of Christo’s drawings in some west end London gallery, somewhere up some stairs in an old apartment with a cool receptionist who looked at me, scanned me up and down and I could read her thought:- a romantic nobody looking at a genius. Yeah, she was right. It’s completely insane to wish or imagine there is a tiny piece of Christo in me, but it’s sort of how it feels to me, so I am gonna stay with the impossibility and claim it as mine. After all, what are role models if not claiming a bit of their genius as close to me. It must be the common land and history and peoples we share that makes it feel like, he is a little bit mine too.
On Tuesday, I blacked out my social media profile in solidarity with the numerous black lives lost. It is an insignificant gesture really, there is a lot more to do than that, but we all need to do our collective imperfect best. I understand that I will never understand but I stand next to my friends of colour and I count myself lucky to think I have a few. If you can donate, please do support Black Lives Matter UK.
Tuesday was also nine years since the rebirth of my little sister Damyana who we nearly lost when she was just four. Each year we mark her birthday twice, the day of her actual birth and the day her soul came back to us after a near death accident. For those of you who have seen Near Gone, you may know a little of what that might have felt like. I celebrate her every day, she is my purpose.
Wednesday marked a long day of making some decisions. Or trying to make some decisions. We received over 150 submissions for FIELD and choosing was very hard. It was a kind of slow heartbreak that we can not do more at this time. But also a kind of commitment to do more, everyday, in whatever way we can. I then listened to Bernardine Evaristo.
On Thursday I mainly cried. I hadn’t slept well for a few nights. I joined a zoom and spoke to our dear friends Rich, Jyothi, Ivan and Helene and I spoke of hardship. They were simply amazing, as they always are. Later in the afternoon I joined another zoom about care and I cried some more, I managed to do that off camera this time. We sent over one hundred and forty disappointing emails and that felt so difficult, I felt, I feel so guilty and so not enough and so like I carry so much responsibility. Later that night I cried some more.
On Friday we set off to do our first bit of creative work, the first time I had left home to do some socially distanced work since March. We drove a little and not just to check our eyesight but also to film a little BSL video of A Journey of a Home which we are releasing on 11th June. We drove to Hadrian’s Wall. A place of history. Journey is a bit, a big bit, of my history too. A piece about migration and travel, about crossing borders and of learning. So, if you fancy a 20 minute walk with us, check it out here from 7:30pm on 11th June.
It’s Saturday again, today, and it’s about midday and I am about to join Sonia Hughes and Jo Fong’s The Sun has Come Out. I watched them write earlier in the week and I loved it, so I am going back for more. Thank you Sonia and Jo.
As the decade comes to an end, I look back mainly to this year but also to what I have achieved in the past 10. The past 10 years were cracking- mega tough and mega brilliant. I left London, I left my ex husband, I embraced the unknown and the unknown finally lead me north and I have been enjoying north since I made the big move three years ago. I have been with the same darling for ten years and that feels really special. I have been so fortunate to work with some top theatre and dance babes and I love what that brings with each project. I have made some real friends and I have been so saddened by losing some of those I thought were my friends when I left London. After years of trying to fit in, I decided that will never happen so I began to embrace not fitting in and especially foregrounding my culture and language.
I started the decade completely broke, having little to eat, crying every day and while I carry some of that with me every day, I have more to eat and I am very happy to be sharing what I have with family and friends.
2019 has been a very busy year for me, the busiest I have ever had spanning all three of my favourite things- Two Destination Language, designing with / for brilliant artists and showing my visual art work. So, here is my year in numbers!
I designed 5 shows with collaborators/artists other than Two Destination Language.
My designs reached audiences in Ireland (with 2 different shows), China, Japan, Canada, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In royalties I received £510 for one show and £0 for another despite it being written into my contract and it touring the world. (Don’t think about saying- Why not chase it? I will tell you why- chasing money is easy for some and rather hard for me, again, wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t have to chase those royalties!)
The work I have designed reached 8855 live audience members.
My design fees for the 5 shows total £7900.
That is £0.89 of my work for each of those 8855 audience members.
My designs for Declining Solo are in a group exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and this year alone, live audience members are around 18,000. I have spent £734 of my own money towards this exhibition and it’s damn worth it.
I designed 2 Two Destination Language shows, both premiering in 2020, so watch this space! More about that below…
I had 1 solo exhibition featuring 101 drawings, prints, paintings and objects.
The exhibition reached more than 3,600 live audience members.
I received a £5,000 artist fee for the exhibition
The exhibition costs were £1,475
I sold 3 works during the exhibition and another 3 at other points in the year
Total sales for the year are £1354.50
I performed Fallen Fruit 29 times this year, my performance fees total £5,000.
I performed Manpower once totalling £250
I performed Lone Wolves as work in progress 4 times, totalling £750.
I saw 51 shows this year- dance, theatre, live art and I went to 1 gig. Yes, I saved up to see Bjork! I paid for 43 of those shows totalling £620. I too don’t have the go and see budget which so often programmers tell me is the thing that stops them seeing (more) work.
I shadowed 2 large scale productions with my design hat on. Both shows were interesting projects. One made me feel like despite my humble working class, unprivileged and unconnected migrant background I could make it, the other one was an absolute disaster in that respect, an affirmation that I will never make it because of my background and lack of London-based power-agent bullshit-bonanza.
I spent £1,620 on travel to meet programmers, directors, i.e people who may give me/us jobs/gigs. I can’t calculate how much of that time and expense may come off- maybe sometime in the future a project will come to live to cover that.
My total fundraising towards personal projects is £13,560 from which I paid 7 artists.
Participants in the 3 workshops I ran this year total 35 young artists, my workshop fees total £800.
So, there we have it – my total live audiences in 2019 are 30,455. THIRTY THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED and FIFTY FIVE THOUSAND. My earnings will be about £24k that is before my expenses and of course pre tax! It may seem like little to you but for me 2019 has been a phenomenal year in my calendar!
As I tidy my desk, my working table in my studio, I keep finding bits of old card. Card for model making. Or, as I like to think of these seemingly old and discarded bits of card- the leftovers of ideas. I am confronted by my own leftover ideas which have in the past year more or less resembled evolving ways of situating spectators on the same field.
In the past year I have mainly been creating spaces around tables. Tables for eating and tables for discourse making. In some instances tables that will facilitate both – discourse making for the soul and feeding of the body. Tables have been taking centre stage. Sometimes cheap trestle tables, other times custom build tables. But broadly speaking a flat surface on four legs around which people could gather.
All of these projects have essentially been looking at ways to structure, enable and carve space. Space for conversation and space for meeting one another. Space for difference and space for communality. Space for growth and space for debate. Space for anger and space for delight. A safe space. Space without discrimination, where listening takes place, where what is said lands in solidarity.
A meeting place. A place where a meeting will happen. Time will pass. Ideas will forge, ideas will break, change, evolve and transform.
Conversation is how I make anything happen. Yes, I often close the door to my studio so that I can draw uninterrupted but then, I open the door and ask of those around me – what do you see? More and more I wonder how much of theatre making is really given time for a genuine critical conversation to take place around any given live work.
So, what happens when the live work is the conversation?
What happens when we stop “entertaining” you, and instead ask of you to be present and participate? What happens when there is a demand you listen?
Back to tables! In the past year, most of the projects I have designed have been about facilitating conversations. Often conversations between strangers. When an invitation is presented, to share a small space and to investigate a common ground, often I find that people arrive prepared to do just that- find a common ground, listen and contribute, even though their contribution maybe appear to be small and quiet, they are there for a reason. That reason could be simply to listen. Listening as contribution.
This has really altered how I think about designing space. I think of them now as listening places. A place to allow that space to actively listen, because when you do actively listen it allows you to hear another voice, a voice different from yours. So, when we talk about diversity in the arts, for me that means- voices I know little of, voices I may not understand, voices I hardly hear, voices I barely see. It is though enabling listening that I hope I enable change. Change to enable and foreground exchange!
The next Selina Thompson project I am working on as a designer and creative collaborator is SORTITION! Continuing on from the brilliant Missy Elliot Project working with Black British teenage girls in Manchester, London and Leeds, SORTITION is asking you, the young people across the UK to think about ‘our’ political system. So, if you are 18-30 year old, GET INVOLVED!