Sometimes I imagine! On unpaid work

Sparked by an article at The Stage about potential “exploitative” working methods of You Me Bum Bum Train, I felt like writing a thing or two.

So, let’s just come out and say, I have never worked for You Me Bum Bum Train in any shape or form so I do not have a first hand experience of their working methods/process. I have seen their ads for unpaid internships many times and many times I chose not to apply.

But, I was reminded of the time I did assist on such opportunities, so the below is about that!

About twelve years ago, I “worked” for about three or so years as the assistant of a theatre director on large projects. I did almost everything that didn’t involve soldering bits of electrics – good thing too, because I would have brought down the entire grid, no doubt! Prop making, set building, directing, designing, stage managing, you name it I did it. I did it all for either no pay, or expenses only. I learned so much! In fact, I could say I learned almost everything. Almost everything of one person’s methods of making theatre. I got a hell of a lot out of it, so much so that I began to think I COULD DO THIS!

At the end of those three years I was knackered, and I felt rather unhappy that somehow I could not progress from getting expenses paid, to getting my knowledge and ideas paid. I was certain that I simply cannot have a day job to subsidize a theatre job. I wanted to be good at my theatre job and I wanted to be paid for it, so, I stopped assisting.

It took precisely a month to get a paid job in theatre. Paid for my ideas and knowledge. It paid very badly, but it paid. Then it took another nine years for me to leave the day job and for theatre to become the day job. So, for the last three years I have existed on my theatre work (for the record, no mummy and daddy pay my rent, they never have, although I am sure they wish they could!) When I say theatre work I mean – designing set & costumes, writing, devising, performing, teaching, running workshops, painting, model making, set building, producing, writing funding bids, stage managing, tour booking, production management, etc, etc… I am 34! This means that when I reached 31 I was able to start to “reap” the benefits of my education as my sole income.

Now, let’s get this straight. This is pretty complex stuff.

Sometimes I imagine a 20 piece band playing music live on stage while Alister and I play.

Sometimes I imagine working with such vast budgets I could flood a stage.

Sometimes I imagine working on a vast stage!

Sometimes I imagine wearing a different outfit I have designed every time I go to London.

Sometimes I imagine I have a house.

Sometimes I imagine I have a dog.

Sometimes I imagine shopping at Waitrose and buying everything I want.

Sometimes I imagine I can pay my way so happily I would not need to check my current account balance every day, a few times a day.

On occasions, now, I sometimes have assistants. Sometimes, I can’t manage the work load, or I can’t be in two places at the same time, so I pay people to help me out. I pay my assistants. Always!

Back to the complexity. People have choice. Except when they don’t. There is never an unpaid opportunity. It doesn’t exist. Someone somewhere is paying for it!

In the arts we are quite simply in danger of undervaluing our own work so much that it becomes hard to make the case for other people to value it. A good place to start this little campaign, is by paying the people we value and the people we literally cannot do the work without.

It takes time to make work. It takes time to fundraise for that work. Sometimes, it takes time to recognise what the work is, which bit of it is the work, this bit, that bit or all of those bits in one.

It is ok for time, to take its time. And it’s absolutely fundamentally necessary for the work for be ambitious. But just remember, someone somewhere somehow is paying for it.

In my mum’s words “The cheese in the shop costs the same for everyone”.

Sometimes, I wish it didn’t!

New screen print paper collages- March 2016

I was revisiting recently some screen prints I made a few years back now, I looked at them in a new way, with new ideas informing my thinking right now. They are all original screen prints worked on with paper and card. I have been thinking about the meeting point of abstract forms and representative forms as I work on the new Two Destination Language piece Declining Solo. More coming soon….IMG_20160313_133748








LANDED : Two Destination Language

Hello WORLD! My May has been mad!

We ( Alister and I from Two Destination Language) conceived, made and designed our new show LANDED! LANDED is an intimate outdoor piece based on memories of love and falling in love. Working with four non professional performers over the age of 70 we created a beautiful performance encounter where the intimacy and magic of theatre melt your heart and break any notions of age, love and what it is to find yourself back on your feet! Below are some images of the set/installation.

Originally commissioned by and presented at Salisbury International Arts Festival in 2015, it has toured to Eastleigh Unwrapped, Arts by the Sea Festival Bournemouth, Ageing Well Festival Brixham Devon, Hat Fair Winchester, Elland Yorkshire and Landlines and Watermarks Piece Hall Halifax.


Salisbury Playhouse: work and design with young people

I am pleased to say that the two plays I designed for Salisbury Playhouse’s young company Moonfleece and Discontented Winter are looking smashing and there is yellow, pink, red and blue a plenty. I am very happy with the set which was essentially a scaffolding construction I had designed. To me however, it makes it even more exciting because it’s recyclable- its cheap to hire and we don’t have a lot of set to throw away or store, so in my green book- that’s definitely a winner! The costumes, I doubt will be easily reusable as they are quite wacky and specific, but then again- perhaps someone out there is looking to hire a dog costume, pink crazy tutus, geometric tops and well lots of props made from cardboard- guns, knifes, mobile phones and binoculars!

Discontented Winter Discontented Winter Discontented Winter Discontented Winter

Moonfleece & Discontented Winter
Moonfleece & Discontented Winter set

Two award winning shows at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014

I am just back from a fantastic month at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival . This year’s Festival was extraordinary! I return to England with TWO AWARD winning shows, both costume and set designs by me, Katherina Radeva!

– Falling in Love with Frida by Caroline Bowditch won a Herald Angel Award

– Near Gone won a Total Theatre Award for Innovation, Experimentation and Playing with Form.

Falling in Love with Frida
Falling in Love with Frida by Caroline Bowditch
Near Gone
Near Gone by Two Destination Language

Dusty Feet begins!

As Falling in Love with Frida by Caroline Bowditch continues to tour- and if you haven’t seen it already, you really should- it’s a juicy performance, I have started designing the print for the Dusty Feet exhibition! Dusty Feet will open on 17 July 2014 at Salisbury Library! Its an exhibition exploring meanings and the evolution of language and its a project ran by Wiltshire Council and Two Destination Language. So, I am designing plinths, the print for the exhibition, the general lay out and all the little nuts and bolts that will string the show together.
You can get involved too

Falling in Love with Frida

So, Falling in Love with Frida by Caroline Bowditch is touring now! Go and see this jem of a dance theatre show!
7-8 March 2014 at CCA, Glasgow
20 March 2014 at Basement, Brighton
30 March 2014 at Skanes Dan’s Tester, Malmo, Sweden
16 May 2014 at Pavilion Dance South West, Bournemouth
12-17 August 2014 at Dance Base, Edinburgh Fringe Festival


World Stage Design 2013, Cardiff

I have just had an absolutely amazing week at WSD2013 in Cardiff. Brilliant designs from all over the world- a very inspirational time- thank you Sean Crowley, Fiona Watt and everyone in the the amazing team who made the event happen and the week run like water!

I was there with Two Destination Language’s piece A Journey of a Home- a one on one audio performance walk, a piece I designed in 2011 which is still happily touring in the UK and abroad. Here is a few images of the Booth and journey cards.