International Fest for Emerging Artists…First Blog Post!

July 14, 2008

Hello everyone. So much for my well intentioned plans to post up Stratford Royal progress on a regular basis! A week in and let’s just say it’s been pretty busy. Here goes…

First of all, I’m on a train. It feels pretty groovy to be typing this as opposed to telling you on my phone ‘hey, I’m on a train’ that’s what people do though – they ring other people up on their phones and tell them. It makes the journey more interesting. For them at least:)

Anyway. I’m on a train to Gateshead. I’ve been in London for a week (which I’ll talk about in a second) but today we’re going up north. I think the plan is to do lots of creative things there – more masterclasses, co-labs (collaborative sessions), show watching, cake eating – and this is pretty much what we’ve been doing in London. It’s kind of like IFEA saying ‘look – see you do stuff in London…look – now you’re doing stuff in Newcastle! No hands!”

You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not making much sense . I haven’t really slept much since being here and was up at 5am this morning. Let me tell you what I’ve been doing:

Get up 8am. Breakfast. Leave for Stratford Royal (then, depending on the specific schedule for that day, the following, in one or other order) … masterclass, 3hrs co-lab session, see a play, see another play, lunch, dinner. Finish ‘day’ stuff at around 10am. Scratch sessions in the theatre bar. Go home and get drunk with my new homies in the kitchen. Go to bed between 2 and 3.30am. We have an impressive collection of beer and whisky bottles.

So, we’ve all been burning the candle somewhat. The drinking bit probably sounds a bit irresponsible. In a way it is but it’s also kind of part of the culture here: a device to get to know each other better, quickly. Everyone sits around in the kitchen, we play games, talk about the day, play music – on one occasion play all the kitchen cupboards and utensils like they’re instruments to jam with (20 of us) and in general get stuff out of our systems and gelled together – a bit more every night. Drinking isn’t compulsory, it just seems to happen. This week I will try and be moderate!

There are 52 of us, of which 2 are poets – myself – and a very gifted young man from Manchester, Niven Ganner. The rest are dancers, choreographers, theatre makers, playwrights, puppeteers, muscians – you name it, we’ve got them. They are also the best – or at least the top of what their country has to offer in their artform. Two French guys – Steeve and Sophian – are able to move in a way that almost defies belief. In France they are national body popping champions, and it shows. There’s a comedian from Pakistan, Saad, who has made me laugh continuously since being here. He’s just constantly hilarious and incredibly quick. We’ve got an amazing fiddler from Aberdeen who’s fiddle seems like a third arm – and a sickingly good cello player, Ayanna – who I can’t even begin to describe. As well as being one of the most attractive women I’ve ever met, she’s almost prodigal in talent. She carries her cello on her back wherever she goes like a hunter, picking her way through a forest, reaching for it like a bow and arrow. She can find the notes for anything – words, moves, looks. Everyone wants to work with her.

The days – if a bit packed, have been incredible. It’s really hard to know where to start. I’ve seen my peers show some amazing work – both their existing material but also, stuff they made in co-lab sessions. At the end of each of these we have to perform the results to everyone, so they’re not without pressure – but I’ve also not had as much fun in a long time.

It’s a hard thing to tell a large group of people to just work together and make stuff – so that’s not what the facilitators have done. Last week started with an open space session where lots of topics and areas of work were thought up. People joined individual groups (which they don’t have to be fixed to) then in the co-labs collaborate around those areas.

I’ve been working in a sex and gender group. I’ve danced the Rwanda dance for selection and seduction – and said I love you in the same language (da – goo – cunda!) I’ve done improb with a mover/mime from Amsterdam, and co-written a piece with the other poet.

This co-writing was done in yesterday’s session and is a kind of ‘Cinderella Foot Fetish’ dialogue. I’m cinderella, dealing with the deviant, foot loving leaning of my supposedly perfect Prince Charming. We’re still writing it and plan to go deeper. At the moment it’s pretty funny – but she’s going to catch him looking at foot porn on the net – and then comes the sex therapist. The aim is to start light and in the (twisted) spirit of the fairytale..but then get darker and realer -what do you do if the person you love wants something physically that you don’t?

In our co-lab session, we started to write the piece, but also worked with Dan, the musician to give the characters their voices. The words and music weave together, stop and start, change or mirror mood and tempo. It’s just been so fantastic! Before coming here I never thought so much could be achieved in 3 hours – but this process has proved that it can be.

The sex and gender group is also called “The Tantric Room”. This is Linar’s (the amazing mover/mime’s) idea from something he’s wanted to do in Amsterdam for a while. I think the group’s it’s set to get even bigger in tomorrow’s session as more people want to join it – but that doesn’t matter. We’ll work out what to do with it all later!

There is so much more to say. SO much. I haven’t even mentioned the London Liming and other spoken word things I’ve been to see at The Southbank – and I haven’t mentioned the masterclasses in any details, and oh god! – there’s just been so much that has happened! I’ll get to it in another post.

One last thing though. sorry to all those people who haven’t heard from me. I’ve wanted to get in touch – and meet those people who might have been in London – but their just haven’t been any spaces in the schedule – this train trip has been the first.

Hope you’re all good and ok with whatever’s happening where you are. Will post again soon.


4 Responses to “International Fest for Emerging Artists…First Blog Post!”

  1. ivoryfishbone said

    sounds amazing!!!!

    i’m really glad


  2. I know, just at Gatehead – can see millennium bridge from the restaurant I’m sat in – done some writing about it:) LXXX

  3. Pam said

    It all sounds wonderful, Lyd!x

  4. KW said

    Wow Lydia .. all very exciting .. sounds like you are getting to meet some great artists, having a fab learning retreat and moving toward a terrific performance all at once .. all the best – oh, of course you realise we are all gonna expect funny stories and amazing new material when you return to Word! .. haha .. Cheers KW {;o)

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