03/10/15 An inspirational group of amazing women (and a couple of fantastic men)

We've just got to the end of 3 weeks work on our next project 'Sheriff'. It was a remarkable 3 weeks for many reasons. Let me try and explain...

We were twice unsuccessful in getting any support from the Arts Council for this project. This in itself was, of course, very disappointing. This was a stage of development that was being supported by The Unicorn Theatre, Shoreditch Town Hall, The Young Vic, The University of Mexico and Rockmount Primary School - it involved high calibre artists and a world renowned Psychoanalyst and Social Anthropologist - it created work for a number of artists and involved primary school children in the making of high profile new theatre. But we didn't get the money that we applied for (twice) - we also never got a satisfactory reason for not being awarded the grant!

So... as artists and theatre makers what do we do? It seems too depressing that a group of bureaucrats in Manchester who have never seen our work should be deciding whether we should make theatre or not, and the generosity of all the other partners still held. A ticket had already been bought for one of our collaborators to fly over from Mexico so we decided to change the approach and go ahead anyway.

We wanted to turn the situation into something positive and exciting, so we wrote to a large group of amazing women we had worked with before, or had been interested in working with, to see if they could come and be part of what we were trying to do. The project focuses on women, motherhood, disavowal and violence, which is why it was important to us to open the process up to women and not men. We didn't have any money, but with some incredible generosity from the Young Vic and Shoreditch Town Hall, we were able to offer people a contribution towards travel and food. We had to let some aspects of our plans go, but despite the ethical questions over lack of pay, we were able to do something that we'd never have been able to if we'd got the funding. Over the next 3 weeks we worked with 17 amazing women, one baby and a couple of fantastic men, and we were able to thoroughly interrogate the themes and questions that had been hovering around the project since the beginning. What we could or couldn't offer was very clear, so no one was there under any illusions - and it was beautiful.  

So for now I'd just like to publicly thank Lucy Moore, Edgar Chías, Evan Placey, Purni Morell and the Unicorn Theatre, Nick Giles and James Pidgeon and the team at Shoreditch Town Hall, David Lan and Sue Emmas and the Young Vic and this incredible group of women; Duška Radosavljevic, Flick Ferdinando, Helena Lymbery, Jemima James, Mandy Lawrence, Miriam Nabarro, Jarrah Nabarro, Rachael Spence, Sacha Plaige, Steffi Müller, Helen Iskander, Jo Tyabji, Jade Lewis and Akiya Henry.  It was fantastic to be surrounded by such generous, passionate and creative people.  We'd also like to thank the brilliant Andy Griffiths and Anu George Canjanathoppil from International Justice Mission for their inspiring talk on the work they do bringing people out of slavery, sex trafficking and all those who suffer violence because they find themselves outside of the protection of the justice system.

Now it's time for us to let those ideas, offerings and conversations settle and to see which remain strong - we've got a shed load of material and we can't wait to get the project to the next stage.  Hopefully this will be with the financial support of the Arts Council as, let's face it, it still remains the only realistic way of putting together new work.  Most importantly though, something wonderful came out of a very difficult situation and a remarkable group of people were a reminder of the passion and commitment that needs to be behind any work, paid or not.

Here are some pictures of the days...

Sacha Plaige, Jemima James, Miriam Nabarro and Jarrah
Helena Lymbery, Akiya Henry and Amanda Lawrence
Flick Ferdinando, Carolina Valdés and Sacha Plaige
Carolina Valdés, Rachael Spence and Flick Ferdinando
Helen Iskander, Carolina Valdés and Flick Ferdinando
Jarrah
Jarrah Nabarro and Fick Ferdinando
Jarrah Nabarro and Carolina Valdés
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