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Celebrating fatherhood

For Father's Day, we thought it would be a nice idea to ask recent father Rob Drummond to reflect on his experience so far. Over to Rob:

I’ve been a father for 139 days. So far I’d liken it to voluntarily signing up for a forced labour camp run by a tiny mute dictator. I’m not finding it complicated, I’m finding it mentally and physically gruelling. Like moving twelve heavy cement bags from one van to another. And knowing that you have to do the same thing again tomorrow. What? Not cheery enough for you. Well that’s something we need to change. Of course it’s wonderful to see him smile at me in the morning. It goes without saying that I love him with a fierce instinctive love which is different to any I’ve experienced before. I’m definitely glad we did it. It’s just that people don’t talk enough about how gruelling it can be. How taxing on your relationship. It feels like I’m expected to talk with unqualified positivity when someone asks me if I’m ‘enjoying being a dad’. I’m enjoying parts of it. I’m enjoying watching him grow and learn. I’m enjoying getting more and more feedback from him. And I’m looking forward to the time where we can hold a conversation. My life is better for having him in it. But it’s also less my life.

And that’s the thing about it. In a few months I’ll turn my attention to Our Fathers, a new play I’m working on with Nick Bone and Magnetic North, which is about communication between fathers and sons. When you have a child you are willingly giving up part of your life - or at least agreeing to live for someone else rather than for yourself. And it’s more intense than the commitment you make to a partner because a partner neglected might leave you but they certainly wouldn’t starve to death. This little boy relies on me and his mother one hundred percent of the time for one hundred percent of the things he needs. His physical and mental self will develop according to the things we feed him and the things we tell him. So what do you do with such responsibility? How do you make sure that your child grows into a balanced adult? How do you communicate effectively with him? Do you tell him what to think or teach him how to think, at the risk that he will end up coming to the ‘wrong’ conclusion? My father and Nick’s were both clergymen and we are both now unbelievers. What if my son, when he’s older, has a fundamentally different worldview than I do? Will we still get on? Will he respect me? Will I respect him? At this stage as you can tell, it’s far more questions than answers.

For the time being I guess I’ll just try my best to enjoy the bits I enjoy, take pleasure in his company and remember something that we seem programmed to forget; IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. If I do that for long enough maybe he’ll grow up happy. Which is all I really want.

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Rough Mix 2017 in Peebles

This year’s Rough Mix (our multi-art form residency) will take place at the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles from 19th June, and is supported by the National Theatre of Scotland and Creative Scotland.

We have a wonderful group of artists coming - including a composer, dancer, visual artist and occasional filmmaker. You are welcome to join us for a sharing of work at Eastgate Theatre on Friday 30th June at 6.00pm.  Book a free ticket here.

Here is a brief introduction to the experienced artists:

Annie George is an Edinburgh-based, Kerala-born, writer, theatremaker and occasional filmmaker.  She was recently awarded the Inspiring Scotland Saltire Bursary by the Saltire Society and Scottish Book Trust to support her writing. She is currently writing Home Is Not The Place, with dramaturgical support by Alan Bissett, for this year’s Fringe.  Most recently, Annie presented a work-in-progress of Untamed, a play with live music at Imaginate’s Ideas Exchange. Annie’s solo show The Bridge was commissioned for Glasgow 2014, and toured Scotland, and to the Nehru Centre London, in 2015. Annie directed I Knew A Man Called Livingstone at National Library of Scotland at Edinburgh Fringe, Scottish International Storytelling Festival and Storymoja Hay Festival Nairobi Kenya in 2013; and Nzinga: Warrior Queen at Fringe 2016 (both by Mara Menzies).
anniegeorge.net

Caitlin Skinner is a theatre director based in Edinburgh. She is Artistic Director of the Village Pub Theatre, one half of visual theatre duo Jordan and Skinner, and Director with new writing theatre company Pearlfisher. Her directing credits include Hair of the Dog, The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde, Sanitise (winner of 2014 Scotsman Fringe First Award) Selkie and The Happiest Day of Brendan Smillie’s Life. Caitlin was dramaturg on As the Crow Flies and rehearsal director for A Stone’s Throw. Caitlin has worked as Assistant Director with National Theatre of Scotland, Dundee Rep, Traverse Theatre and Royal Lyceum Theatre. Caitlin is co founder of collaborative theatre project Scrapyard which creates opportunities for artists to form new collaborations and explore different ways of working.
twitter.com/caitskin

Ross Whyte is a Glasgow-based composer, originally from Aberdeen. His compositional output has included collaborations with artists of disciplines different from his own, including dance, theatre, sculpture and web design. In 2014 he collaborated with musician Alasdair Roberts on the Sound Festival project New Approaches to Traditional Music. He also has a particular passion for working alongside dancers and dance choreographers, and has collaborated with many key practitioners. Ross is one of the founding members of Orphaned Limbs Collective, an interdisciplinary group of artists that push the boundaries between disciplines. Ross has received several awards including the Chris Cadwur James Award for Composition and two Derek Ogston Postgraduate Scholarships. His debut album, Kaidan, was released in 2015 by Comprende Records. In 2016 he released the album Fairich as part of the Gaelic Ambient duo WHɎTE.
rosswhyte.com

Karl Jay-Lewin started dancing at 27, after a background of carpentry and social/political activism. In 1997 he become an Associate Artist at The Place Theatre. Since then he has been working as a professional choreographer and performer. In 2000 Karl moved to Findhorn, Moray in North East Scotland.  As a dance maker Karl’s work is generally rooted in the post modern, experimental dance scene. His recent practice has been significantly enhanced and developed by two important collaborations; with seminal choreographer Deborah Hay through her Solo Performance Commissioning Project (At Once 2009, I Think Not 2011); and with composer Matteo Fargion, with whom he made the live dance and music piece Extremely Bad Dancing to Extremely French Music.  In addition to his work as an independent choreographer and performer, Karl is co-founder and Artistic Director of Bodysurf Scotland and co-founder of Moray Culture Café.
karljaylewin.info

Flore Gardner lives and works between France and Scotland. She has been exhibiting her work in private galleries and public institutions in the UK, France and internationally since 2004. In 2016 she took part in the Hidden Door Festival in Edinburgh, for which she created an installation with the M(ob)ile, a one-mile long cord she took four months to French-knit, and which makes monumental drawings in space. From 2011 to 2013 Flore was a member of the artist's group UCD Un certain détachement, based in Grenoble. They specialised in the production and sale of art multiples, presented in recycled vending machines situated in non-art spaces, a "gallery in a box”. In 2003, she founded and ran for two years the artist’s restaurant, Les 19... in Marseilles, France. Flore invented and cooked monochromatic/thematic menus, serving a different one every day.
floregardner.wix.com/flore-gardner

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Space/Time 2017: Re-boot and flourish

From 7 June five artists will embark on a creative retreat we call Space/Time in Dumfries and Galloway. Their mission? To nourish their creativity. Three of the selected artists have written about how they hope Space/Time will allow them to re-boot and flourish:

Ian Spink

TheWorkRoomPortrait02

I’ve been a participant in a couple of Rough Mix workshops in the past, but this is my first time with Space/Time. I’m looking forward to it.  I think the act of getting away from the everyday routines for a while, and being able to have the luxury of focussing on why or how we make things, with a small group who create different kinds of things...leading hopefully to revealing how we might or indeed may have, found ways to nurture and sustain that spirit.

I’ve worked in dance for a large part of my life, but from the moment I extracted myself from the world of ballet (a very long time ago) I’ve been interested in a post-modern mixture of devised forms: happening, theatre, performance, installation, film, live art. Over recent years I’ve derived satisfaction from co-creating events which make use of video, sound, found objects and locations. I like to work with actors, musicians, singers, visual artists, dancers and fearless people. I’m currently interested in exploring the areas where possibly random events coalesce and become a performance. I think maybe this relates to the creative process of putting things together to make some art.

Which piece of work do you feel most proud of?
I think sometimes the most painful pieces (the process of making them) in retrospect, but usually where people are inspired and collaborate . Often I can only fully recognise what I was making when it’s all over.

Who do you most admire in life?
In people: an ability to see positive things and be generous. In general: the fact that the world we inhabit contains so much detail, complexity and magic.

Out of date bits of me or my work can be found in various places: www.airfieldarts.org.uk
 http://theworkroom.org.uk/people/ian_spink

 

 Kirstie Cohen

Northern Sea k.cohen

I have been working from my rural purpose-built studio near Inverness for the last 25 years. I studied Drawing and Painting at the Glasgow School of Art from 1983-87, completing at Post-Graduate level in 1988.

I started to develop landscape in my work, holding my first solo show in London in 1990. I have subsequently had many solo and mixed exhibitions nationwide.

I was partly brought up in East Lothian, where the expansive skies and coastal features were a huge influence, and presently in the varied and diverse landscape of the Highlands.

My work is a fusion between a traditional approach and an integration of abstract elements, both very important aspects for me, contributing to the development of the composition, and the final dynamic of the painting

I came upon the Space/Time opportunity completely by chance. At the time it seemed like a gift. The creative problems I faced were overwhelming, and this was a wonderful opportunity to re-boot, and maybe hear from other artists on how they are able to sustain their practice and overcome their own difficulties and continue to flourish.

 Sophie Bancroft

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A poem first, and then some prose:

 
SPACE AND TIME
Space and time to breathe
And leave the daily distractions held so dear,
That fill my heart
And anchor my bones
Yet constrain a creative soul,
That tugs and jostles at its moorings,
Asking to be cast free
To sail and soar
An unfettered path,
Uncluttered and clear.
 
As the retreat approaches I hope for space and time for reflection and creation. I hope to be inspired,  influenced and expanded through hearing my retreat colleagues journeys, thoughts and creative ways, and watching them use their space and time whilst I use mine. Growth through osmosis.

I wrote songs and poems as a young child. I grew up in a jazz and medical family, and became a professional jazz singer from 17, which I continued throughout my psychology degree at Edinburgh University. On graduating I became a full-time musician. After several years of singing jazz standards I became disillusioned with the lyrics and started writing my own songs for my professional career. Now three decades later I am partially disillusioned with song as the only medium for my creative expression and am bringing poetry and spoken word back in to my life. I have been accepted on a creative writing masters degree starting in September 2017 - exhilirating and terrifying!

The work I am most proud of is not my highest professional achievement but more personal - my series of greeting cards which include my landscape photography from walks that have inspired some of my songs. The back of the card features a song lyric in poem form and a QR code to listen to that song. 

Professionally I most admire three music colleagues and dear friends of mine, Fionna Duncan, Liane Carroll and Sara Colman, personally - my mum Judy Greenwood and my daughter Lisa Bancroft and creatively Joni Mitchell for her voice,  her guitar playing, her lyrics, music and paintings.
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Our Fathers April 2017 development week

We’ve just finished our final development week on Our Fathers before we start rehearsals in mid-September. Our Fathers is a collaboration between me and playwright/performer Rob Drummond, based on Edmund Gosse’s 1907 memoir Father and Son and its connections to our own lives as the sons of clergymen. As I wrote in my last blog on the production’s development (Making ‘Our Fathers’), we’ve also begun to explore the modern connotations of the book to see what it has to tell us today about how people with opposing views might talk to each other more respectfully.

 

We were fortunate to be working in Traverse 1, which is where we’ll open the production in October. This meant we could get a sense of how we might talk to the audience – an important element of the show – and how we might use the space. Ian Cameron (who is co-directing with me) and Jenna Watt (assistant director) were with us all week and we were joined at various points by other members of the creative team: composer Scott Twynholm, designer Karen Tennant, lighting designer Simon Wilkinson and voice director Ros Steen.

Our aim for the week was to establish the structure and ‘voice’ of the production. Rob and I are collaborating with each other for the first time and, to make things harder for ourselves, are working in a way that is new to both of us, though it’s a method that incorporates elements of our individual practices. Rather than writing a complete script for rehearsals, we are creating what Rob calls a script-ment, which is somewhere between a treatment and a script. A treatment is a stage of screen writing which describes in some detail what will happen and usually comes at the stage before a full script is written. In our case, the script-ment will combine dialogue for some scenes with outlines of action for others – the dialogue is for scenes adapted from the book, while the outlines are for the semi-improvised scenes of discussion between me and Rob. Ah yes, perhaps I should have mentioned that before: Rob and I are performing in the production. We play Edmund and Philip Gosse and versions of ourselves, exploring our relationships with our fathers – and our own sons – and talking to the audience about their own experiences of faith and disagreement. Rob has frequently performed in his own work, most recently In:Fidelity at the High Tide and Edinburgh festivals last year. I’m a more infrequent performer, but also performed at last year’s Edinburgh fringe – a semi-improvised movement piece with In the Making. What connects us is that we both trained with Anne Bogart.

 

As I’ll be performing and as the subject matter is quite personal, I decided that I wanted to work with a co-director who could be an outside eye and would bring some objectivity to the process. Ian Cameron has worked on many hugely successful shows like White, Black Beauty and The Voice Thief and has a fantastic eye for what happens on stage, partly because of his background in both visual art and clowning. As anyone who has seen him perform knows, he has a wonderfully reassuring presence on stage, and he brings this quality to the rehearsal room as well. 

During the week, we worked on different aspects of the play, finding the different elements that will be threaded together in rehearsals. Scott taught us a hymn – Eternal Father, Strong to Savewhich we tried to sing in harmony; Ros worked on ways to speak Gosse’s sometimes rather purple prose – he has a tendency towards rich description which is sometimes beautiful, sometimes overbearing; Karen and Simon watched closely, scribbling away and every so often chucking in a wonderful observation. Jenna Watt has been working with us throughout the process and combines forensic note-taking with a great ability to remember details that Rob and I have forgotten in our rush onwards.

 

The next time we’ll all meet again is on the first day of rehearsals in four months’ time. Meantime, we’ll all have worked on other projects, but I know from experience that the work we did will be percolating away at the back of our minds ready to be drawn forward again.

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Making 'Our Fathers'

When I was growing up, there was one thing that just about everyone I came into contact with already knew about me: that my dad was the local vicar. There is always a frisson of recognition whenever one clergy child meets another. This is because there are some things that are particular to being a clergy child: your weekends are always focused around your dad’s (or mum’s nowadays) work, people often assume you actually live in the church, people think you’re deeply religious as well, everyone knows who you are, and you exist in a strange world of genteel poverty because the clergy don’t get paid very much (I suppose on the basis that people don’t really go into it for the money).

A few years my dad asked me if I’d ever read a book called Father and Son by Edmund Gosse. When I said that I hadn’t, he replied - slightly cryptically, I felt – that I might find it ‘interesting’. I discovered that the book was about the relationship between Gosse and his preacher father and how Gosse junior gradually lost his faith in God. As my own lack of religious faith was a topic about which my dad and I never seemed to quite have a conversation, I assumed that he thought I might find some illumination in the book about our own relationship. After he’d gone home – my parents lived 400 miles away so we only saw each other a few times a year - I bought a copy and read it, waiting for the moment when I would think “Ah, that’s what he wanted me to see!”  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was he’d wanted me to learn.

When he was next visiting, I told him that I’d read the book and he said, “Oh yes, I read that years ago – I can’t really remember anything about it.”

Which was a bit of an anti-climax.

But it planted a seed in my mind about adapting the book at some point, though I felt I needed someone else to work with me on it and didn’t know who that person was. A while later I saw Rob Drummond performing The Bullet Catch and, when he mentioned in the show that his father was a Church of Scotland minister, a light went on in my head. We talked about it and agreed to collaborate on it.

That was 4 years ago, and now we’re in the midst of creating Our Fathers, which will premiere this autumn. From the starting point of adapting the book, we’ve found ourselves making something that is as much about us and the strange political events of the last year or so as it is about Edmund Gosse and his father. The Gosses’ story is still at the heart of the play, but one of the central themes that has emerged is about how people talk to each other when they disagree strongly. Are there better ways than those currently modelled by ISIS or Donald Trump, for example?  Is it possible to do it respectfully, whilst still agreeing to disagree?

Also floating about in all this is the conversation I never properly had with my dad, and now can’t have because he died two years ago. What I did do, though, was record an interview with him about his relationship with his own father (who was a born-again evangelical Christian preacher), and this has been the setting off point for conversations that Rob and I are having with people who do and don’t believe in God. We’ve had some fascinating conversations, including with two Mormons who gamely agreed to be recorded talking to us about their beliefs after they stopped Rob in the street on his way to work with me on the project.

We’re now having a pause in the development process, because Rob and his wife are about to become parents for the first time. I know from personal experience how life-changing this is, so will be fascinated to see what difference this event will have on Rob’s approach to the show. Especially if he has a son.

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J. Sharp Taking A Walk
07 September 2014
Very much enjoyed your show at the Brunton Theatre last night and the silent walk to start was an excellent addition, creating the perfect atmosphere....