The Work Is My Power

I want to write a blog about how tired I am. 

About my chronic exhaustion. 

About the new level of energy depletion. 

About how hard I am finding it to find money to make new work. 

About how behind I feel. 

About how old I sometimes feel. 

About how this level of inequality is aging me so fast. 

About how angry this makes me feel.

About how I feel I am running out of time. 

About the lack of support I often feel. 

About how I don’t apply for things because I don’t believe we’ll be successful. 

And when I do I am told someone’s else was preferred so it reinforces the notion that my effort is futile. 

About the hostility I meet so often.

About the gaslighting.

About the lack of funding. 

About the lack of energy.

About despair. 

About what it actually takes to lift things off the ground. 

About getting the tiniest bit of cash and about how that cash is conditional on getting other cash. 

About that vicious circle.

About how none of it is enough. 

About how building back better is an idea so far in the past. 

About how when I am asked about my ideal and I say a full production budget, people just laugh. 

About how that is not funny. 

About not being able to fund it. 

About that fear. 

About that responsibility. 

About feeling let down and being let down. 

And about how ultimately tired I feel. 

About that chronic exhaustion.

But I know I’ll be told I am not the only one. 

I know this. 

But being not the only one doesn’t make it any better. It’s not helpful or useful.

It’s systemic.

So, I don’t. 

I won’t write that long blog.

I will only allude to it here.

But of course, those feelings don’t disappear or go away, they resurface again and again, they accumulate and accumulate. And they disempower me. They narrow my imagination. They shutter my hope. 

So I retreat into further isolation. Because there I find some more safety. And those moments of safety and I repeat to myself….

It’s not the work, it must be me that they don’t like. The work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work,the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

It’s not the work, the work is good, the work is my power.

Hold Your Nerve!

Hold Your Nerve!

Hold Your Nerve!

For how long am I to try holding my nerve?

You are Here to RISK your HEART

“You are here to risk your heart” Louise Edrich, from The Painted Drum

I finished the Spring tour of 40/40 two weeks ago.

I didn’t sleep well during the tour – the density of the dates meant that there was little time to come down from every show, so it took me about a week to start sleeping and about another week to find space in my brain to reflect.

And so, to cut to the chase – 40/40 is a risky work! And those that have presented it so far – get that! Yes, it’s full of joy! Yes, I hold the room! Yes, I dance my feet off and yes, people are almost always talking about how they wanted to join me on stage! Those bits are all very glorious.

But that stage that I have made, that 6m x 6m – is for me! I claimed that space and I worked very hard to claim that space. I am also in no illusion that this so called claimed space is mine – it isn’t – I am borrowing that space for 50 minutes. And that is all I wanted with that work.

I am interested in writing a little about risk. I have been thinking about risk and so I wanna talk about it because of

  • Audience patterns and the perception that live events are up against the telly. That’s true!
  • Lack of commissioning money for new work and if you get a bit of the pot (which is an achievement in it’s own right) – just how much work you need to have done before you get a tiny bit that may unlock another bit of money to make the thing. That other money you may never get, so you might have to return the first bit.
  • The risk of not taking risks after fourteen years of tory government!
  • The risk of not fully embracing representation – and here I am really talking about the phenomenal lack of commitment from most venues to create, sustain and develop work that speaks to communities from Eastern Europe – frankly – the risk is that there is active isolation of an audience. Same goes to venues who do not consider access to their building and events from disabled audience members or welcome much work by disabled artists. 
  • The risk of not being honest
  • The risk that things may fail.

Okay, that is plenty to drill down a little….where to begin?

I am going to start with the failure bit because I think it’s really important. In truth – I don’t believe that there is such a thing as failure. Having said that I often experience the sense and sensations that I may have failed or that I am a failure. But once I find the strength to step aside from that – I do believe that people make mistakes and I actually think that by making mistakes – there is a lot room for learning and self development and growth. I have made many mistakes in my time and no doubt will continue to do that. In our complex human nature we find ways to connect and communicate to others complex natures. So, conversation can be a risky business. Mistakes and failures sit next to risk. But if we don’t take the risk to convene with those unlike us – we will continue to live in a divisive society and this is especially relevant to art making. There must be risk, things must fail for innovation to have any chance at all.

We gotta be honest when things don’t work out. The fear of this in relation to funding is a block. Funders must understand why risk is closely connected to innovation. As artists, in rooms, we often say – this bit is not working, so we take time to chew it’s fat and we come back to it, we find ways to make it work or we simply recognise that it isn’t working and we move on. Why or why is this not happening on a larger scale?  Often we see some venues not working for years, we see unhealthy leadership, we again and again experience toxicity in a few of them – and yet, rarely are they given the chance to fold down, so a new thing can be re-imagined.

Things don’t always work out and that’s okay. I am calling for more care around that. In fact, I think we need to learn to let some stuff flow away naturally otherwise things can spiral out in very damaging, toxic and harmful ways. (not all things of course!) We got to look after each other better than that. 

If we don’t take risks we have no chance of envisioning new ways of being in a time of climate catastrophe, in a time of wars and major polarization. We got to try and understand the other. And one of the ways we are gonna do that is by supporting and commissioning new work. Work that doesn’t fit boxes, work outside boxes, work by artists with no boxes or messy boxes, or navigating cracks, work by lesser known artists.

I’d honestly love to see a festival with artists I have never heard of before! Because I really wanna be surprised! I have brochures from festivals from the past decade – still lots of the same BUT it’s so exciting to see some new names — because there is more, so much more than the known in this cultural landscape. Lots more! I want more risk in those programmes! I really really do! Imagine if, say TDL appeared on the Lyceum stage – that would be a surprise, wouldn’t it and blimey as an artist I’d take a few risks there. Because we have to! And that is just one reason why it’s so important to welcome and enable international work to visit the UK.

Audiences! Yes, patterns have changed. People are choosing to stay in, in a major way! Care, comfort, tighter budgets. And I get it. But that isn’t all of us audiences. So, we also got to cater to that too. Also, on audiences – if your town or city has a Polish or a Bulgarian or a Ukrainian food shop – it also has people who have grown up with culture not as an elite sport, but with culture as part of the week. Please, look into catering for us/them! Please take the risk of beginning that conversation. Please, let’s begin to radically invite them in.

And so to 40/40. It’s risky work!

It has a woman with weird features -not pretty, not thin, not young, not popular. That woman wobbles her fatty bits. She talks about acceptance and about permission and some of it is hard to hear. She talks about migrant experiences and working hard and for predominantly non- migrant audiences – that is also hard to hear. It’s hard to be so close, literally so close to a performer, a woman on her hands and knees moving as if cleaning. It’s there, right there! And above all – it’s risky because it embraces joy! You turn on the TV and hardship is everywhere and we are so conditioned to see that. Because, it’s everywhere!

And so for me, art and culture — it has to not just reflect but has to create other realities so we as humans can imagine other realities. And without taking risks – we are in danger of an endless repeating loop and I think we need surprise, boldness and stuff that may “fail”. But really, we gotta keep trying to imagine anew! 

With huge thanks to everyone that went on the risky business of 40/40 with me. It really was with your acceptance and permission that I borrowed that space for 50 minutes. And for that, I thank you!

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?

Every Conversation is a Possibility

Hello! How are you?

(For those that may have across this without knowing me – I am an artist, a woman, a migrant, I come from a place and a family of cultural abundance and little money, I was born in 1982 in a communist country, I suffer from long term ill mental health- these things don’t define me but they inform who I am and how I see the world) 

Since you asked, I am fine! I am fine. Most of my days are half full than half empty, my family is okay, the fridge has some food, and I have nice friends. I make good art which feeds my well-being and my imagination. I rely on little external validation although I acknowledge – it’s very nice when it comes. There is a dog sleeping next to me – I am fine!

Why am I here? Well, I have been thinking. 

I have been away from my base (and safe place) for two months. That has been brilliant and interesting and often very hard work. I have been in Europe and in London. So, it seems that naturally I find my return home a moment to reflect. It’s funny really, because I have begun to do a lot of reflection, a lot of observation and a lot of noticing. This is mainly because I have been choosing to stay at a distance, away from the thick of it – prioritizing my own well-being. 

I have had quite a lot of conversations with friends in the sector and colleagues in the sector about the shit show, the broken system, the lack of money, the terrible culture of “open calls” etc, etc, etc, you name it – we have chewed it. I would say that in each and every conversation, words like knackered, I just don’t know how I am going to survive this, have you seen what so and so did or said, etc etc etc has been somewhat dominant. 

And so, I am so aware of how fragile we all are. Report after report, blog after blog, tweet after tweet I read is about the shit show, the lack of, the closure of…..and I find it so devastatingly sad. Sad with an aura of helplessness. How do I draw that?


And then, the question came our way “How do you guys do it, how do you stay positive?”

And we looked at each other, and kind of smiled…

Because so often we find it so hard to be positive, and often we are not…

But there is a thing we do do, and that is approach each conversation in the hope and with the belief that if a conversation is on offer — we treat it with care, kindness and we know that in that moment the desire to chew the fat together, to look for a way, together is of phenomenal importance. And this moment, this offer of conversation we treat like gold dust.

It has been just over three years since the covid pandemic and the collective desire for better. Better has come in some circumstances, and not in others; for some people and not for others. I have not experienced much of the better outside my immediate surroundings because I have tightened the pool significantly – focusing and prioritizing my wellbeing and that of my trusted collaborators because We Are All So Fragile. But through my conversations, I know that all sorts of workers are not just looking for ways for better and more equitable exchanges but there is some success. And this is what I would like to talk about. This is why I am here.

The other day I had a meeting with a leader of an organization I really admire – I admire the leader and I like the organization, especially in how it has evolved since this new leader. Our conversation was open and honest and hard – hard because there was acknowledgement from both sides as to the endless conundrums around the systemic obstacles, making my life as an artist hell and making the other person’s life hell as a leader of an organization. All of those things were rooted in scarcity, and its effects over the whole time I’ve been a worker. We talked, half-seriously, about moving to Finland, and laughed because you can’t do that if you don’t speak Finnish and we don’t speak Finnish; none of us there spoke Finnish.

I tremble gently, my heart beat quickens “I don’t want this person to leave”

And so – what now? We acknowledge each other’s pain and circumstance and now what?


The system is so broken, we both mutter gently under our breath.

But for as long as there is communication across, for as long as there is dialogue – there is a possibility. This is why I am here. Just to point this out!

To point out the obvious – as we say in my native language Една Птичка Пролет Не Прави One Bird Does Not Make Spring – we need many. To have many we need dialogues – we need open communication and we need to be kind to one another.

I believe we need to try and have the care to approach each and every dialogue in the hope that all sides, all people, all parties have come together to try to find a way. I really believe we are all trying and I really believe that we are doing our best.

I believe that it is only through this, a kind and caring way to have a conversation, we have any hope in keeping going, in keeping looking for more equitable ways. Otherwise we are in danger of eating ourselves and the sector – and that is what the tories want. And, we can’t allow that!

And if you are wondering how so and so are doing, be a human, reach out – find out, it may be the biggest transformative action you can do that day. A divided sector is a weak sector, a connected sector is a strong sector, for us ALL.

this one’s special

Katherina Radeva in 40/40, photo by Beth Chalmers

Hiya loves,

Here I am, writing a wee blog about coming full circle, and so because I am not sure there is ever such a thing as a full circle, I googled it. The Oxford dictionary has this…

Returning to a previously held belief or position

It got me thinking about how long it has taken me to return to this particular circle. 

It got me thinking about the first time I entered the Place and what that felt like.

It got me thinking about the numerous shows I have loved there.

It got me thinking about what it will feel like for my body to take that space.

It got me thinking about London and when I left London and why that happened.

It got me remembering…

It’s Spring 2002, and I am young, like 20 or 21 and a student on the Performance Design Course at Wimbledon School of Art. I’ve put my name down for a project called Design Collaborations. It’s a project between second year design students from my course and second year dance students from London Contemporary Dance School. I remember it like yesterday – doing the project was dead cool – I, less so. 

Everyone was dead hot. Like steamy sort of stuff. My collaborator Phillip (German)  was doing the choreography. We had four dancers – two Italian women – Leticia and Elena and Chris (English) and Christian (Danish) who I fancied and basically didn’t speak to, ever. Because it was too hard. Christian kept doing some weird movements with his arms and back and honestly I did not know where to look so, I just didn’t. And then, there was me. Mega shy, super excited and very broke indeed – doing extra shifts for the tube fares to and from Euston.

This project though was entirely transformative. Like, one of those transformations which words could not describe. It was magical. From watching them at work to sharing my visual ideas to making it all happen to having a real live audience which laughed and cried. Although students, it felt like we were all pros. 

My design was simple. I had made it myself and then carried on the London underground because I could not afford a taxi to take it there. It had a super long tab, fresh flowers, and a commode. The boys costume was mainly repurposed from the wardrobe department at The Place, the girls costumes – I made. I had managed to convince Phillip to set this whole thing to Balkan Roma music and a Maria Nedkova track. We did – it sounded mega. Two Bulgarian friends came to see our show – and needless to say – they cried with abandon throughout.

Then that was that. Over the years, I have done some other designs which have sat on this stage. This time round, my body will sit and dance and draw on it too. As I write this I recognise and feel the privilege and of course the pressure. This one’s special – this one is really special. 

It’s Spring 2023, and I am 40 and I am touring 40/40. In a funny way, you could say that it’s sort of about coming of age – about acceptance and love and about migrancy and about womanhood but mostly it’s about J O Y. And about context. And I deeply hope that the London audiences will connect with that joy I am giving myself the permission to foreground.

40/40 the book – by Katherina Radeva – to get a copy head over to

my edi fringe in 2022 – some observations

a shit safety curtain at the fringe – ink on paper- drawing by Katherina Radeva (no use without permission) x

Hello Friends, how are you?

I say Friends because I doubt that this will reach anyone outside my immediate network of friends, fellow creatives – people whose faces I actually know. But if I don’t know you and you don’t know me – hello! 

This has been a very hard year on many levels but it has also been full of so many joyous moments and so much learning. One of the joyous moments was my seven day run of 40/40 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was joyous for a few particular reasons for me – none of those relating to the capitalist notions of success and because of that I am able to reflect on some things I observed. This isn’t intended as a document for someone thinking of taking work to the Fringe in the coming year, but it might be useful if that’s your situation. I do not claim to know anything new or better or radical – this is purely my recent experience and my observations. 

2022 was the fourth time we brought a show to the Edinburgh fringe (not counting design works with super loves such as Scottee’s Class and Selina Thompson’s salt. amongst others)

2014 – we took Near Gone to the fringe, for a full run, supported by East to Edinburgh – at the end of the run, we won a Total Theatre Award for Innovation, Experimentation and Playing with Form – yes, it was fucking phenomenal! This however meant that no other fringe after this one would be as good….the combination of being “discovered” by many, bringing a show with my native language and dancing my feet into oblivion and then winning a peer recognised award was – yes, I’ll say it again – fucking phenomenal! Thank you universe!

2015 – to align with the then British Council showcase (for which we applied four times and have never been selected), we thought: fuck this – we are gonna do a week and hope that some international promoters will see the work. Some international promoters did see Near Gone and booked it. The show sold out the Old Lab in Summerhall all five nights (capacity of 80 I think). It didn’t pay us but it covered costs and we were coming for one specific reason – to expose the work to international promoters. Tick.

2018 – we took Fallen Fruit – to book a tour of the show for Autumn 2019 to coincide with the 30th year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall in November 2019. We were planning ahead like proper pros. We played the whole fringe in the Tech Cube in Summerhall (capacity 120) which we sold out many days. We booked a tour – like 40 venues across the UK which was mega because it’s a political work led by an eastern european woman soon after brexit. Tick.

2022 – we were supposed to bring Fault Lines, part of made in scotland showcase. We withdrew the work – a very hard decision but the best one in the circumstances. It cost lots of money, it cost friendships, it cost relationships, it cost profile….. It was dead difficult. 

Because we had a time slot with a super venue we proposed to bring a totally new thing, a thing I was tinkering with; encouraged by some mega people who listened to us, this new opportunity propelled me to focus and propelled us to pour the little energy we had into a thing which was clearly giving me joy. I guess that’s the first part of my learning: concentrate on what gives you joy.

Some of my other learning from that seven day run, with 40/40 in 2022 are, in no particular order:

  • ZOO Southside and James Mackenzie were really superb. James went for the entirely insane idea that we are swapping shows in the middle of June, with 40 days to go – a recipe for disaster we all embraced. A venue tech called JD saved our skin on a few occasions. Thanks pal, you are great!
  • Venues could be dog friendly and credit to Dance Base – their Horizon Hub became a place to hang out with our dog who was also our main carer! 
  • The lack of app from the fringe society was unforgivable. I am all for abolishing the paper book and making the app the way to book tickets. If paper is desired for access – then make a small number truly accessible. Or make a website that ‘s functionality is easy, accessible and quick.
  • Not once did I visit the fringe society hub – it didn’t feel useful to me – I didn’t know where it was, I didn’t visit it.
  • When we asked the fringe society for the arts industry list – something available to all fringe participating artists we received a short list of around 50 people – this was not right as we later found out there were over 500 accredited industry people from the UK and about another 150 international. It was not clear to me (beyond the obvious comedy promoters to whom 40/40 was never gonna be a thing) how they decided the other accredited industry folk weren’t relevant to 40/40. 
  • Accommodation costs are already starting to break the fringe. In February 2022 we booked two airbnb’s as we were then looking to take a company of seven to the fringe. The cost was okay-ish. In mid April those airbnbs operated by estate agents pulled out and by this point there was very little accommodation left and the prices were already stratospheric. We managed to book a five bed (single beds) student flat for £3500 for 8 nights. We ended up needing one room (just for me) Alister commuted every day. We were insanely lucky to manage to offload 3 of the rooms at the same cost as we paid. In the accommodation – I had many conversations with punters – many from abroad and some from the UK – most of them said that they used to come for the whole month, now had come for a week and those who used to come for a week were in Edinburgh for the weekend. I dared flyering one of them who kindly said to me – Oh, this looks weird, I am here for the comedy. Fair enough I said, I did also say – mine is quite funny actually – they ended up coming and loved it – We had such a laugh they said. So, what does that tell you – well, it told me everything I need to know- audiences, like artists, are really struggling with the stratospheric cost of accommodation. So, the Edinburgh Fringe, can simply become for Edinburgh based artists and Edinburgh based audiences – nothing wrong in any of that…but do we then need the fringe society? 
  • Here are some numbers – I am not ashamed to share these because I truly believe that these numbers are not a reflection of the quality of the work we presented. They are a reflection of the context. While in 2018, Fallen Fruit made something like £12k in box office sales, 40/40 in 2022 made £1980. This is £20 less than our venue guarantee but minus the VAT and various taxes, just on the venue guarantee we were £600 under. 
  • So, any money spent for accommodation, travel, subsistence, marketing, pr, dog treats, self care, seeing other shows, oooooooh, and paying ourselves for performing and producing……ammmmm, yeah. Let’s just re-iterate – didn’t do it for the money but……
  • Awards! – my mum, bless her, was very disappointed with the fact that 40/40 didn’t win an award – she was properly disappointed despite me explaining to her that there was simply no award that recognised anything like 40/40. With the lack of the Total Theatre Awards there is little hope for acknowledgment for physical, visual, movement led work, little hope for peer led discourse, little hope for artists making innovative and experimental work. All credit due to the text led work- a well established priority in the UK propelled by many development schemes so it’s good there are awards to go with it. The absence of Total Theatre Awards – Network as it is now known is a real issue for the profile and longevity for much exciting work that simply does not get seen by the other major awards – Fringe First, Three Weeks, The Stage etc. This is in no way a criticism of the absence of the Total Theatre Network – it must be seen as an endorsement – an incredible little machine run by two women volunteering their time and brains for the greater good of progressive experimental work and co-powered by the independent artists and producers who assess for the TTN awards. Anybody with any money from any regularly funded organisations and npo’s stashed nuts (I know you have stashed nuts behind leaking warehouses storing sets you will never again use – give some of your nuts to the Total Theatre Network! Awards are profile. They are gigs, booked tours, they are interviews in papers, they are ticket sales – they are recognition – they are work – we all know this!
  • Seven day run will hardly get you any press …even when you are a lucky girl like me to somehow be seen by the top critic for innovative work at your first show, it doesn’t result in audience. But can you afford a full run if you are not Edinburgh based? 
  • Let it be known – I love the Edinburgh festivals in August – I love performing there and I love being able to see so much incredible work. I say this as someone coming from a post soviet country and had I stayed I probably would have never had the privilege to witness so much work I have loved and loathed. Also, it’s special – it’s really special and if you come to me tomorrow and say – I have this slot on two days, I am likely to be metamorphosing into a labrador puppy drooling for a biscuit….I will sit and lie down and give you a paw for the smallest of crumbs…….or is that just being a freelance artist?
  • Preparation – I didn’t know some of the above until the very beginning of August. The fringe announced no half price huts and no app very late and it kept reassuring artists and venues that bookings are coming but it’s all very late, so hold your nerve. My show opened on the 14 august and around the 10th I began to see the pattern of little sales and so I had a few days to prepare for this. I rehearsed runs for two audience members – I needed to know what to do with my gaze if there were very few eyes meeting mine. This was insanely good to do: every audience member felt like a win.
  • I completely stuck to my care plan. 100% percent – religiously so. No alcohol, no late nights, protein, yoga every morning, managing who I saw and how – regular journal writing about how it was all feeling and lots and lots of dog time. No review-reading (there were very few and mostly came after the run anyway so that was easy) and most importantly together with the utterly amazing Louise Charity, we devised a signal which should I need to use – she was ready to do a show stop. We never needed to use it but having it felt like a game changer. I felt I had some control of who meets my gaze and how.
  • I only saw work in the venue I performed and one other because I had a pass. Comparatively, in the 2019 fringe I spent shy of £300 to see pals work and work I was interested in – in 2022 I spent £90 for tickets to my own show to enable a few first generation migrants to see the work at no cost. I am sorry I missed many shows I wanted to see. I did not make it to pals’ work and for that I am sorry. I had limited energy and limited resources.
  • Was 10am a good slot? I honestly have no idea – perhaps it wasn’t, perhaps it was? I liked getting up, doing my stretches, doing a show and having a coffee with a pal between 11:30-1pm. At 1pm, I had lunch and then napped to wake up around 4pm and see at best two shows that eve and be in bed and asleep by 10am. I tell you, being 40 is super sexy!
  • I think this year I observed the buzz creators in a way I had not seen before. It came about in an unexpected way. I was queuing for a thing everyone was raving about. Just in front of me -one VIP was talking to another VIP about two playwrights who both had shows on, supported by the major funder and made in scotland. The two VIPs’ conversation revealed that while neither of them had seen the show we were all about to watch, they had been telling their international colleagues to see it. It was really interesting to watch – it was like a sitcom – very tragic, very funny, really sad and ultimately for me – playing out before me – just how it works – the work secondary to the mega investment already poured into getting these two people to this moment in time – like two proud mums outside the school gates shouting at each other “Our two kids are better than the rest”. A harsh, but useful reminder.
  • There is a great deal of fantastic people invested in the arts working for the best interests of the artists – they are the box office staff, the techs, the pr people, they are the independent producers – they are trying to make it all feel fairer – to them I say – I see you and I salute you.
  • Nothing and no one is equal to another, each artist, each venue, every person’s circumstances are different- this can mean – great inequality at play and knowing this and if you can – accepting it, can be mega useful. If it annoys you – it’s a real headfuck – I have been there and know how that feels. In my humble opinion – pour your energy in creating the environments that give you joy rather than trying to change those that are seeped in “it’s just the way it is”
  • Knowing why you are doing the fringe – is super important – it might be to book a tour or to get a particular critic to see the work or because you want to get laid every night with a different person – whatever the reason – what matters is that you are clear with yourself so at the end of it all – you can reflect on all of it – what you liked and what you didn’t. This will hopefully inform your decision next time you are facing the empty page of your notebook and a vast spreadsheet with the title – To Do The Fringe or Not To Do The Fringe. 

I honestly don’t have an answer, there are a plethora of options because it’s really complex. All of this is very complex or we say in my household – it’s vemplex. My circumstances this year gave me the opportunity to observe some things objectively with far less emotion than before. Recognising them has been useful.

Keep well, with love and warmth, Kat x

Rajni’s words by Katherina Radeva – posca pens on cardboard 80cm x 100cm (no use without permission) x

on (taking) space


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!

What’s with pay what you decide drawings, Kat?

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

On Money

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 …

Weightlifter, ink on paper, 30 cm x30 cm – if you would like to buy this drawing – email me. it is two hundred and fifty pounds framed in a white frame.

Building Back Better – Care, Cash, Community

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 


BACK equals CASH


Care, Cash, Community.

On Care

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. 

On Community

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.

Weightlifter by Katherina Radeva ,ink on paper, 30cm x 30cm – if you would like to buy the drawing, email me it is one hundred and seventy five pounds and it is framed in a white frame