Supported by Live Art Development Agency and Create Ireland, I ran a workshop exploring identity, otherness and difference in Dublin in September. Working with a bunch of brilliant artists we had a roaring time exploring, pushing, and instigating change. Boom!
It has been one hell of a choppy week!
Waves crashing into rocks, making a racket in my head.
A very unsettling sort of a feeling, as if like walking on broken glass. Dodging shards of opinions and looking for space to land my own. To nest my own feeling of despair, uncertainty and unknown.
I think, two things have contributed to this.
One- saying No! Saying no to an outrageously bad deal and feeling guilty about saying no, recognising my powerless position, recognising how that can become quite the powerful position if I spoke about it and how by speaking about it I might then deal with the consequences!
Two! The Referendum! Everything about it. The in, the out, the unknown, the known, and where I sit amongst all this.
I am 34! I left Bulgaria when I was 17, precisely 17 year ago. I am in the middle. My childhood background defined by communism, by rules, by being from the provence, by poverty, by running wild on the streets, by going to school on my own changing buses and feeling totally safe, by my utterly brilliant young parents who instilled every sense that I can do whatever I want, by my dog Sara, by being other, the chubby one, the one with short dark hair, the one that was the first on the dance floor. The one unafraid to be looked at.
In November 1989, I was 7! Then, there was rebuilding! Of almost everything!
In August 1999, I landed at Heathrow Terminal 2. I remember queuing at The British Embassy in Sofia on a hot summers July day preceding that landing, well actually three days of being totally petrified – “what if they say no?” People: I had won a scholarship! A scholariship to study in the UK for a year, a full, all expenses paid sort of scholarship. A dream come true sort of a scholarship, one place sort of a scholarship with 200 others students fighting for that one place. And yet, what I remember most is queuing. Waiting. For another person to make the decision on my future. I got a yes!
A year later, I did some more queuing! A year later, more queuing, more queuing etc, etc, you get it. I became quite accustomed to being the other, to queuing, to waiting for others to make those decisions. Don’t get me wrong, in the meantime I was working my little socks off. I paid for my education almost entirely, I had no loans. In the first year, my parents helped me – and a very generous donor. I got a job and paid my way entirely from then onwards. Between my second and third year at college, I took a year out to work and make the money for the final year of my studies. I got a 1st Class Honours Degree, not that that fact counts for much in life, but it does look nice on paper.
In 2005, I married an Englishman. On my interview for a spouse visa, they asked me the most scrutinising questions about our relationship, they wanted to see photos of our wedding, they asked what food we had, who were the guests. They asked everything you can imagine and the things you probably can’t imagine. I got the visa.
In 2008, Bulgaria became part of the EU. I went home especially to join in the celebrations. I remember drinking cheap fizzy wine with my parents and my brother in the main square in Sofia. Dancing and feeling a great sense of jubilation. Not a great deal has changed since then but one defines all my parents dreamt they were able to do. To travel!
I remember the next time I returned to the UK using a different aisle on my way to passport control. I remember having the feeling that now I would like to travel a bit more and learn about other cultures and countries.
Since then I have done a bit of travelling, mainly in Europe. I have learned a bit about every country I have visited and I have loved being at each one. I absolutely love going online and being able to search for short holidays in Europe knowing I could visit if I wanted to. I absolutely love being free to do that without visa restrictions.
So, here I am, writing this from a small conservative village in Hampshire on the Sunday of the monarch’s birthday, hearing stories of English football fans embroiled in violence, the day after a visit to London seeing an exhibition of knickers at the V&A, after a night on which 50 or more people have been killed in Orlando, on the day when no doubt some boat somewhere is trying to reach Europe. Trying to reach Europe! Oh, Europe!
I write this as I feel so very totally unsettled by the provocations of the Out campaign, the scaremongering and wondering, really what would happen on June 23rd! Where would I be, not geographically but where would I end up being as a human, as a Bulgarian, as a European, as a person who knows Britishness so well, as a person who thinks and dreams in English, as a person whose identity and place will never be clearly defined. As a person who opposes definition. As a person who rebels to be defined. As a woman dating a Scotsman. As an artist?
I am an immigrant! I came from one place to another. I migrate between borders. At each place I change and return different. I am not just a woman, not just 34, not just a Bulgarian, not just European, not just an artist, not just heterosexual, not just into grapefruit in the morning, not just a resident of a small conservative village in Hampshire, not just….
And the crashing continues, the radio is full of debate, and imagining the ugly faces of some politicians keeps annoying me to no end. And the waves get higher and higher and my breathing is somehow slowed down, like slow motion horror movie, and I am poised and I just can not wait for the horror to finish. Then, I will deal with the consequences……then I will try and deal with whatever comes.
Here I am sitting at the very lovely Lyric Theatre in Bridport! I am devising, directing and writing a new piece by Michelle O’Brien based on her relationship with her 91 year old Mum. It’s coming on very nicely indeed!
In the meantime however I have been doing a bit of drawing in the evenings, to relax! Below are a few drawings done on A5 cartridge paper with sharpies! As ever, for sale! Enjoy!
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!
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….
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.
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!
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.
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 http://www.twodestinationlanguage.com/?page_id=1196