what a year – at the end of the year – 2023

Hiya babes, how are you?

My brain gave up work sometimes at the end of november after a seriously hard time across October and since then I have kinda slogged a daily attempt at useful-ness. I have also been doing my daily swing. Not that kind! Daily swing from “what’s the point” to “it’s not all bad, just look at where I have come from and what we have done?” It’s a pendulum dance and I am getting great at it. Although a balance somewhere in the middle would be great.

Recently I found myself standing in-front a decision making man telling him what’s in my mind – he looked at me with an absolute amazement and I kinda had to ask him- does that sound mad to you, his response was – It is mad but then life is a constant change so in that context – not mad at all.

Life is a constant change!

To be honest – I am totally down with that programme BUT I mainly like it in the context of art making — which in its very nature it is all uncertainty, it is all a constant change at least in the multi-art form art making I do – it is always changing so I kinda need life to have some points of regularity. A few roots firmly planted in the ground so I can keep flying the kites.

But the prevailing regularity this year feels like — a sense of hardship. Despite that I have quite a lot to be proud of — first off – I am still here and still making and while this is predominantly a KR blog, ninety percent of what I do is with TDL so, here we are — we are still here and we are still making! I honestly feel like that is some hard earned praise that I am giving myself, I am giving us. I am proud of that. There, I have said it.

In the interest of balance, here are some highlights and some lowlights.

In January we started the year at SSW — writing, drawing, embroidering, walking, with no secured funding from the year before or the year ahead because they had turned down a glorious rural project twice. So, we began to look at hope, in hope, with not much hope, but in some kind of fantasy that it will work out. 

The rest of the month saw us talking to people from across the Borders about their covid experiences and how should a memorial for those experiences look like or feel like in The Borders, as part of the Scotland wide project Remembering Together. 

I spent some days in Bristol working with two glorious artists – we did do fab work but we also had a very nice time together!

In February we took 40/40 to Tramway, Fruitmarket as part of manipulate, our old fave Colchester Arts Centre and The Place in London. The show at the Place was fucking amazing. It felt like I was on speed (never tried speed)! Got a very nice review from the dance critic at The Guardian and yes, it does matter and yes, I felt like I was on cloud number nine. And yes, I am proud of it.

While on the road I wrote a Clore Fellowship application. Mega love goes to the pal who supported me though that and who nominated me.

I also helped with dramaturgy and mentoring two Eastern European (Ukrainian and Latvian) artists based in the Midlands — a show about migration, potatoes and love. With luck, and a lot of work, hopefully it will open in 2025.

In March we were nearing the end of Phase One of the large co-created project we have been running in the Scottish Borders. We have a lot of experience in “best” practice with community co-creation of the past decade but doing it at this scale in an area whose identity is somewhat based on rivalry and parading each tiny town’s borders brought new challenges and of course new learning. Highlight was the presentation event at the local hospital surrounded by a large choir of health professionals. 

We took a few days off in the west coast of Scotland, around Oban which was a total delight. But in true freelance life, we did have an application to write. No, we didn’t get it, but it led to conversations and those conversations have us looking into somewhere new.

In April my sister turned sixteen, we spent it in a remote part of the Rhodope Mountains.

I had booked a tour for 40/40 in ten venues in England which I was really happy with and now Alister was about to go though the hell storm of writing a two stage touring Arts Council bid. It was hell. My tour booking was easy in comparison. Talking about producing – I had some nice chats with the Feral girls which was really very useful. It felt really good to have my back supported for a few hours.

In May we visited Leeds 2023 for the WOW Barn, there had been some chat about performing 40/40 but it didn’t work out. I enjoyed listening to Andi Oliver chat about food and culture. In the middle of the month I left for Denmark, to Bornholm to take part in an international women’s residency. A brilliantly challenging and mega creative time. I made some mega drawings, I listened to my instinct, I pushed some new ideas about, I met some fairies and some elfs and some difficult energies and I loved all of it.

I had an interview for The Clore Fellowship. I knew it was between me and another for that particular fund. Two weeks later, I found out it was the other person that got the fellowship – a venue running person. It felt really useful to think about my creative practice in relation to leadership and how the very nature of the projects I/we create is leadership.

In June, I went to London to make a show I had been designing come to life. This job nearly broke me physically and it totally broke my spirit. It reminded me of the exploitative practices I experienced a lot as a young designer.

Finally, after many years — I wrote my access rider. Happy to share if you ask me directly.

In July we got a nice phone call. The kind you barely ever get – some hope and this time with an international collaborator. Plans for Phase Two of Remembering Together in the Scottish Borders were a go – it is super exciting work with lots and lots more work to do, because we chose to continue to co-create within the process in a really meaningful deep way.

In August I designed and made the set and costumes for a film. I went to Edinburgh and experienced a very unhealthy dose of exclusion. I saw Pina Bauch’s Rite of Spring- that choreography still keeping me warm. We got the ACE money to tour 40/40 in England! A tour with a month to prep! All venues (bar one) where totally brilliant and supportive!

In September, I tried to rest a little. I swam in dying coral reefs. Climate catastrophe is beyond repair in my non-professional opinion. I sweated a lot. 

Two bereavements in the 40/40 team threw up new challenges. Still, I kept rehearsing. A reminder that in theatre – the people are everything! Alister started to write a monumental application. I kept reading.

In October, we did the first six 40/40 gigs. Two of those sold out, four were really good. I threw up at one but kept going! The body changes and you gotta roll with its changes. More nice reviews, radio interviews. Hotel breakfasts and daily naps. Lotsa audience love. 

More world fire went up. Where am I in all this — what can I really do in all this?

We devised colour workshops and conversations to go with co-designing a tartan for the covid memorial in the Scottish Borders. We spoke to sooooooooo many people about colours and feelings and about what colour invokes. And it was really remarkable to engage people across backgrounds with that — we became custodians of so many personal transformations.

In November I was in Bristol for a few days, working. We spent time in Wakefield with hope and our collaborator from Ukraine, enabled by Unlimited. It is good to see what talking about hope does to people. On the last day of the residency we found out about two big rejections. Yes, there were many tears but there was also one more 40/40 gig to do.

In December we went into a studio and began work on a new thing — a thing which feels like a total spectacle when and if we get some money to make it. And then we had a total collapse. Brain, energy and enthusiasm had ran out. That was it — over and out! The world burning and what the hell are we doing about it? Does any of this matter?

Accepting the limits of the body and the mind has become really important to me — those limits have become very clear to me and so are the boundaries I need to place which is easier said than done. It is also very clear to me that we have not built back better, we- as a sector, have mainly re-established old hierarchies and that is evident by and across the systems at play. We are all orbiting around exhaustion and competition. You wanna read about the dreams we had in 2020-21 about building back better, buy the FIELD books!

And so we look towards 2024 and I wish myself to have enough imagination to orbit far less around that capitalist exhaustive system. I wish for myself plenty of happy audiences and I wish for myself — care — places and people who care for one another and the work we make collectively because kindness and love is the only thing I am interested in. Everyday is a school day and life is a constant change and with care we can all make better art.

To the people (and dogs) who supported us this year in small and big ways — THANK YOU!

40/40 touring in SPRING 2024 to coincide with International Women’s Day! Whoop!
First How Are You meet up is on Friday 5th January 2024 at 10am online — email me if you want a link to the online space. This space will be for five people only, it will last an hour and it will start and end with the question How Are You?