Magnetic North Blog
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Our next Space Time retreat will run from 23rd-27th February 2018 at the Swallow Theatre in Dumfries and Galloway and the application process is now open. Experienced artists from any art form are welcome to apply by the deadline of 5pm on Friday 22nd December.
Space/Time is a paid creative retreat for experienced artists from all disciplines that asks the question “How does an artist keep developing?”
It aims to refresh participants through a stimulating examination of creativity. During the residency, we will explore how creativity can be nourished and how artists can continue challenging themselves to develop.
The residency combines facilitated dialogue - built around a series of self-generated questions - with time for individual reflection and work. It is led by Nicholas Bone and Alice McGrath.
You can find out more about how to apply here.
Our next Space / Time residency - a creative retreat for experienced artists - begins on Friday at Cove Park on the west coast of Scotland.
Space / Time aims to refresh the artists taking part, and to give them the space and time to reflect on their own creative practice. The residency is led by Nicholas Bone and Alice McGrath.
Here is a brief introduction to the artists coming:
Tam Dean Burn
Tam has been an actor and performer for 45 years. Born in Leith, he performs regularly with the London art radio station resonancefm.com. His acting work includes: Tutti Frutti,
Home Edinburgh (National Theatre of Scotland); Mary Stuart (Donmar Warehouse and Apollo West End); The Cutting Room and Filth (Citizens, National Tour and Calgary, Canada). Television work includes: Longford (Channel 4); River City (BBC); Taggart (STV).
A visual artist (mainly in carved natural stone) based in rural Moray, Mary's practice includes studio work, commissions for public places and education work. All of her practice is concerned with how we relate subjectively to our physical world. Trained at Edinburgh College of Art, her professional experience has included public commissions, including artwork at Bennachie, Aberdeenshire; Mallerstang, East Cumbria and Mugdock Country Park, Milngavie. She has worked with high profile architects like Page/Park (Eden Court Theatre) and Malcolm Fraser (Scottish Poetry Library), and with Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and Historic Environment Scotland.
Lynda is a playwright and dramaturg from Cork, who has been based in Glasgow for the past 12 years. She writes plays and mentors other writers and creatives. Her play Futureproof had an Irish tour earlier this year, and The Interference premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in collaboration with Pepperdine University. The Interference was also revived in California this year, and is currently playing at the Hollywood Fringe. Lynda is developing plays with Magnetic North, Stellar Quines and MACCT students from the Royal Conservatoire Scotland.
Elaine has been working as an artist for the past 20 years in a number of disciplines: installation, performance art, dance; and over the last eight years in film. Her film work is informed by an interest in and experience of movement. The films she produces are developed from a relationship with and an interest in a particular person. Over the past four years she has specialised in working with people with dementia, drawing on her experience of working in this field with dance throughout her career. Her next film will explore the impact of dementia on a relationship.
The first recipient of Magnetic North Artist's Attachment award Hanna Tuulikki is a visual artist, composer, and performer who works with the voice. Her approach is relational and place-responsive, and she is interested in how sound, gesture and language frame our connection with our environment. Though she works across different media, the voice is central to her practice – her first love is to sing and she composes for and with the voice, creating tapestries of a cappella sound that sit at the heart of live performances, films and audiovisual installations. Over the past few years, she has begun to blend her musical compositions with gesture and costume.
The next Space / Time retreat will be held in February 2018. Application information will be available in early December - join our Artist Development mailing list to receive details.
One of the challenges of being the child of a minister, as we explore in Our Fathers, is the set of preconceptions that go with that. Looking at children of ministers in public life, past and present, we can see where some of these clichés are borne out.
There’s an idea that the 'sweet-talking' sons and daughters of ministers, influenced by watching their father standing up and talking for a living, are likely to end up in some kind of performance related career. In the course of making this show, we've certainly found a few other sons of ministers in the Scottish theatre community, as well as Rob and Nick. David Tennant’s father was a moderator of the Church of Scotland. Prominent musical children of ministers include Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and DJ Tim Westwood’s dad was the Bishop of Peterborough.
The next expectation around being the child of a minister is that you have two options - rebel against your upbringing or else channel it into a dutiful life of public service.
Several of Edmund Gosse’s Victorian contemporaries shared his loss of faith and rebellion against their parents’ beliefs. Matthew Arnold, the son of Rev Dr Thomas Arnold, wrote about the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of his faith in Dover Beach. Friedrich Nietzsche moved about as far away from his Lutheran pastor father’s beliefs as it’s possible to get when he proclaimed ‘the death of God’. Joining him in the spectacularly rebellious sons of clergymen team, although in terms of behaviour more than philosophy, is Branwell Brontë. His and his sisters’ father, Patrick Brontë, was the curate of Haworth, where the family lived in the Parsonage. Branwell tried and failed to be a painter and a poet, became addicted to alcohol and laudanum and had a scandalous affair with a married woman. His sisters – perhaps inevitably in Victorian England – were less obviously rebellious, but Charlotte has Jane Eyre rejecting the promise of salvation through missionary work and choosing a fulfilling life on earth in 1847, two years before Edmund Gosse was born.
Although being stereotyped by her father’s job is probably not her biggest current concern, perhaps the most influential child of a clergyman in our public life at the moment is Theresa May – with the ‘vicar’s daughter’ tag often repeated in the media. Or ‘the vicar’s daughter in kitten heels’, defining her by her father’s job and by her clothing just to show how much sexism can be compressed into 6 words. Similarly, we were regularly reminded in Scotland that former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a ‘son of the manse’ - in some kind of shorthand for serious-minded dutifulness, with a side order of a dour, driven work ethic. It would be interesting to find out if there is a German version for Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor.
Of course, it’s probably the case that sons and daughters of ministers are as different and various as the children of everyone else. But in Our Fathers we found some common ground between Edmund Gosse, son of a minister in the Plymouth Brethren; Nicholas Bone, son of a bishop in the Church of England and Rob Drummond, son of a minister in the Church of Scotland. You can find out what that is when we open at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh on Sat 21 October.
I think about my father every day. Just over five years ago we had to let him go, he died due to poor mental health and cancer, but he’s still with me, and still in my heart.
At times I hear his disapproving tut, sometimes I see the look he had on his face when he thought he said something funny. Most of the time I see him when I look in the mirror and when I catch myself saying something he would’ve said. I was still learning about my Dad when he died, and still trying to figure out who he was, and why. More importantly I was still trying to figure out our relationship. I knew he loved me, and I loved him, though we seldom said those words.
His legacy is that he makes me think about how I bring up my sons, how I hold them, play alongside them, share knowledge, and marvel at their own discoveries. Aye of course when I get annoyed around them I think of my Dad too.
When I was younger there I could feel a tension between the two of us, there was so much unsaid. I had no way of knowing how to start asking him the big questions. We had small moments of honesty and truth, mostly snatched conversations whilst in the car.
These are patterns that I see repeated in my work with other Dads. There is so much that goes on between fathers and sons, and so much more that remains unspoken.
My sense is that there’s a process we all have to go through with our parents, as we grow up and start to find ourselves we expect our parents to hold us. They need to allow us to push at their boundaries. We need to test out how far they will let us fall and fail.
Whilst I never had my Dad’s words to use as a compass to guide me on my adventure of being a dad, I had his actions, and his mannerisms. The love was there, but given in different ways, and implied by his actions. When he died I was angry at him, for a lot of things. One of which was around why he couldn’t have told me (and the rest of my family) that he loved us more than he did.
As time has passed, I’ve come to the realisation that perhaps it was down to him being a product of his generation, and indeed his family background (that’s a whole other story). I’ve mellowed and given him a break. It was never going to be easy for him to tell me he loved me. I’ll never know what my dad was thinking, but I know he loved me.
I had to let go of my father, just as I was coming into my own fatherhood. I would encourage all parents, sons and daughters to feel the fear and ask those questions you’ve always wanted to ask. Find out who your parents are, before you need to let go.
How can I try to explain,
Cause when I do he turns away again
It's always been the same, same old story
(Father and Son, Cat Stevens, 1970)
Every father I know or have worked with, has, to a greater or lesser extent, but usually the greater, wanted to do the best for his children. What is hard to come to terms with is the sheer weight of the opposite. That is, fathers depicted as unlistening, uncommunicative, distant, tyrannical, I could go on (‘feckless’, ‘deadbeat’).
You would think that seventy years after Edmund Gosse’s description of "the hush" around the stern father and lonely son "in which you could hear a sea anemone sigh", that things would have changed for the better. The World Wars of the first half of the 20th century may have made men more taciturn about their feelings but, surely, the loosening of role-divisions over child care and the lessening of demands on men to be the sole breadwinner that came after, ought to have made a difference in how fathers and children got along with each other. Not so for Cat Stevens.
As a Scottish father, I am pained by accounts of unloving fathers that turn away. More so when they are Scottish. There is no end of memoirs about abusive Scottish fathers from, for example, comedian Billy Connolly, author Alan Burnside and actor Alan Cumming. Clearly there are troubling (and troubled) Scottish fathers but the sheer volume of their depiction, seems to have led to the creation of a widely held view of all Scottish fathers. Cruel fathers of the type played by Peter Mullan in the film Neds (2010) and described by Andrew O’Hagan:
Those Scottish fathers. Not for nothing their wives cried, not for nothing their kids. Cities of night above those five o’clock shadows. Men gone way too sick for the talking. And how they lived in the dark for us now. Or lived in our faces, long denied. And where were our fathers? We had run from them (Our Fathers, 1999).
Such characterisations of men stretch back many years and continue to be repeated. So, I have not only been pained by such accounts but I have also been spurred to find out as much as I can and to write about the day-to-day micro-challenges that men can face when trying to be good fathers. If you dig deep you can find contra-accounts, stories, for example of the Dundee house fathers of the 1920s. But these accounts are in a minority.
What’s the answer? Every time children (of all ages) are asked about their fathers, the one consistent thing they say they wish they could have (or have had) more of, is his time. Fathers don’t have to do anything or buy stuff they just need to be with their children. And when they are far away or absent for whatever reason, children need to know he has kept them in mind. Not much of an answer but it costs nothing and can move mountains.