18.12.14

2014

For the past 4 years, every December I blog my year - I'm the Sarah Jessica Parker of live art! I often feel weird about doing it as I never want it to come across as an exercise in ego but its slightly inevitable. 

This blog is a break down of the highs from the last year that will get me through the blues of the new year but most importantly its a chance to thank you for supporting the silly projects I invent in my studio and reveal whats on the cards for the next 12 months.

This year has been insane...

January
I started work at BBC Radio 4 as a co-host on Loose Ends. My first interview? Cleo Rocos! She made me drink tequila at 10am and told me stories of her nights out with Princess Diana (in drag!), knocking back shots at the RVT! 

The Worst of Scottee (WOS) photobooth was sent to Melbourne and I fell in love with Australia! There I met some beautiful queers in Sydney (you might remember I blogged about finding queer there). The show gained 4 star reviews across the board and I flew home happy, sun burnt and ready for more international-ness. It's here I realised that London isn't the centre of the world.

February
No sooner was I back from Oz with that photo booth was I readying myself for its debut London run. I decided I wanted to be a bit Les Mis about this show - do it regionally first and bring it into London once it had a chance to live a little. Again, it stormed the reviews. I got 4 stars from Aunty Lyn Gardner which is no mean feat. My Mum called me an artist for the first time.

Doing WOS across the road from the place a lot of the incidents I explore happened proved to be extremely emotional, I knew after the opening night that I couldn't do this show forever. Sometimes we make work that is damaging to ourselves, as much as that is a great for the punters it can be like picking a scab, repeatedly.


March/April
The forth and final Hamburger Queen! All good things must come to an end! I announced that this years contest would be the last. It costs Scottee inc. in excess of £25k to put that show on and it almost cripples us/me every year! 

The show is surrounded by drama - people drop out, sponsors decide they no longer want to be a part of something promoting fatness, heat winners decide they don't want to do it anymore, venues pull out... I'm too old for the level of heartburn it induces.

To send the old girl off in style we hired Bloomsbury Ballroom for a night of ridiculousness! 400 fatties turned up to cheer on our four contestants, some of whom had come from as far as Germany!

As much as I love HBQ I also feel conflicted with presenting a one sided argument of 'FAT IS THE BEST'. With this in mind I set up shop at the South Bank Centre to research my dance show (Autumn 2017) with Lea Anderson...




Psst! There will be another Hamburger Queen but not in the UK - the show will hit Syndey in November 2015!


May
Oh hi LA! Tamie Adaya, the woman behind the Shangri La hotels invited me to be one of her artists for BritWeek. 

BritWeek is Americas way of embracing their love for our little island and inviting creatives to come and talk, present and party against the backdrop of the Hollywood Hills. 

I had a brilliant time in LA with Felicity Hayward and Tamie -  swimming in drag, playing hop scotch and even appearing on a cake alongside Gary Glitter (who knew?!). 


June/July

Scottee inc. (the charity we set up to better support my community engaged work) turned 1! 

Grandad and I set to work on our ageism project! We managed to raise £6k to enable him to make work, spend time with artists and produce a solo gallery show. Grandad is now a bit of a celebrity, LOL.



In the new year Grandad will be working towards his debut solo show! SCREAM! Keep up to date on his progress here - www.realliamgallagher.co.uk 


August

After two years of making work in the studio theatre at Roundhouse I was allowed to head up into the main house with a special edition of Camp... CAMP LIVE! 

Camp has gone from strength to strength since its first clumsy run in 2012. To date it's played fields, festivals, tenant halls, working men's club and old train depots!

2015 will see Camp continue to take over the world. We're planning a UK tour in the Autumn and a Christmas run in London!



September
Highlight of the festival calendar has to be Bestival! This year I bought 4 productions, 23 performers and 1 minibus to the island! We're back next year bigger than ever with a few surprises! 




September saw the birth of Fraff, my poetry night for people who don't like poetry. I really love Fraff - it's a low key Friday night that's popular with my lesbian sisters. We drink cheap beer, eat sweets and laugh until a socially acceptable hour - whats not to love?

Next year Fraff will be popping up across the country at various festivals! We're on the look for open mic'ers - check out www.facebook.com/fraffing  
   
October/November
The End of the WOS! We announced the final UK and Oz dates - I'd had enough! There is only so much crying in a photobooth you can do but I'm glad we got to go to as many parts of the country as possible. 

I ceremoniously smashed up the photo booth, hungover after my closing night party...



...which felt amazing.

big shout out to Holly Revell for documenting all my work. Without people like her my projects become the things of (not so) legends.

Oh yeah and I got married.





December
My podcast After The Tone was invited to present a live version of the show at Tate Britain! Fancy! This was the first of two residencies at Tate. The next will see me making audio with complete strangers in January - http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/performance-and-music-special-event/towerblock-tracks 

Kristmas Karaoke this week was a lush way to end the season of tinsel! I've know Bourgeois & Maurice for going on a decade now - we're starting to feel old.


...and that was 2014! Thank you for spending your wages on my silly ideas! Without your support I can't show off, show the world its downfalls and make a nuisance of myself in the process.

Whats Next? 
I turn 30 in 2015 and so at some point I'll have a nervous breakdown! Aside from that I have lots of exciting things on the cards. I'm directing a new UK tour, starting work on a New York commission, a quick trip to Perth, a brief stint in Edinburgh, a few dates in Asia and my 30th Birthday show that you're all invited to! 

I really hope you are all able to make Camp NYE at Black Cap, I've booked Black Lace! It'll be a lush way to wave off 2014! FYI there are only 130 tickets left! www.campery.co.uk

That's enough about me... how are you?

xxxx

If you've got 2 minutes to spare could you fill out this quick survey? It'll help me know what you'd like to see more of... https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1W-MUcreDjADf8UhabrOYk0QTgBVCrWu3fKsCKoVQ6iA/viewform?usp=send_form

5.12.14

Can a Man be a Feminist?

On Friday mornings I usually go for a walk and I often find a place with reclaimed wood to drink an over priced herbal tea before the calamity of the weekends work! It's a chance to have a bit of a day dream and listen to Radio 4 - I think this means I'm aspiring to be middle class.

This morning, around 10.05am I threw my flat bread on to the table and sighed through a discussion on Woman's Hour - can a man be a feminist? 

The notion of questioning if a man could or should be a feminist is a bizarre one to me. My Mum raised me proper - she empowered me with femme rage and showed me how women were and still are having to fight for equality. I was (a) feminist from the age I could read the cover of 'Fat is a Feminist Issue' on my Mum's beside table. 

Before this discussion I thought all feminists, like myself wanted men on board. In fact regardless of our gender if everyone gets behind feminism surely we move towards a gender balanced society? Apparently not.

Karen Ingala Smith's got beef with blokes, she thinks feminism is about 'the liberation of women from male oppression' I agree... but because we 'socialise differently and have different experiences of the world men can't be feminist'.... sorry, what? 

I spent and continue to spend most of my social time with women and I'm all too aware of the affects of patriarchy so does that mean I'm exempt? Am I allowed to be a feminist?

She then went on to say '..[why would] a group of power hand over that power to the oppressed group? This I think is really interesting as it implies that the feminism Karen wants is one where women are in the current position of men - oppressive. My version of feminism is about equality and liberation not oppression.

I'm starting a new project that will come to fruition on 2016 with Roundhouse that explores extremism in oppressed or semi-liberated groups - I'm really interested in why this exists and want to work out the logic behind it - I wonder if Karen would be a good candidate to interview?!

She continues '..if you get men involved in feminism you water down what feminism is' - and now you see why I spat my tea out. The idea that only a woman can keep feminism integrity is faff - it's a bit like saying only white people are racist, only straight people are homophobic, only men are misogynistic! 

This idea of 'mine' marginalises feminism, it keeps it underground and is counter productive let alone reductive! The owning of an 'ism' is dangerous - shared values, understanding and action create change. 

...and then the show stopper 'gender equality is an oxymoron'

This mornings radio has told me I am not a feminist, I'm not allowed to be one and I'm watering down the cause - confused? No.. really bloody angry but what an insight.

I'm really annoyed at this short sighted feminism, the sort that dictates what equality should look like - that's the oxymoron, Karen!

I'm frustrated that the producers didn't have a counter voice in the studio after all it is the BBC. I feel misrepresented shouting at my iPhone.

What have I learnt this morning? Karen nor Woman's Hour, BBC, feminists or misogynists can decide if I can or cannot be a feminist... I ALREADY AM!

18.11.14

(Not) Lyn Gardner's (Festival) Theatre Tips

It's perfectly acceptable to let Christmas into your life now people. Stop being anti-tinsel! 'Tis the season and with it some gorgeous shows are hitting the capital...

Jonny Woo's East London Lecture
Woo is often credited as the woman who invented the neo-perf-art-drag scene in London. Woo presents a verbatim piece that voices the ever changing East London. It's a must see, queen. http://www.themillcoproject.co.uk/east-london-lecture/

Selina Thompson: Chewing The Fat 
In every way Selina is brilliant. Her work is important and should be shown to kids having a hard time. It's messy, both literally and the subject matter she eloquently shoves down your throat. Catch her in London whilst you can, she northern. http://www.cptheatre.co.uk/show/chewing_the_fat.php#.VGsCML5CYeM

The Possible Impossible House
I love it when experimental theatre makers like Forced Entertainment make shows for all ages. Duckie did this gig 3 years ago with Copyright Christmas. Forced Ents show also promises to be a family freak fest / walk about piece of joy. I need a kid to take to this, any takers? http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/here-lies-love

Here Lies Love
OK so on the face of it a musical set in a pretend nightclub with people moving you about and a fake DJ pumping the air sounds cringe but it's actually delightful. Well worth grabbing a ticket. It's SOLD OUT so you'll need to check on the morning of the performance for returns. http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/here-lies-love

Timber!
Timber is back! Imagine a family show, performed by a family that had a lot of wood in it... oh yeah and they do lots of fancy tricks. Go see it, it'll make you open jawed like when you were a kid. http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/timber-84344


Usually I put on a Christmas show each year, this year I have three for you to choose from. If you come to all three you'll be sent one a One Size Fits All tee! Just keep your stubs / receipts and send them to studio@scottee.co.uk to claim your pressie!


Fraff #2 | 5th December
My drunken poetry night for people who hate poetry performed by non-poets. Get it? There are sweets for the audience, cheap beer and a line up that is well worth the £8. 
http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/fraff-scottee/

Kristmas Karaoke | 15, 16, 17th December
I first met Bourgeois & Maurice on myspace - we're that old! We've made a few Christmas shows in our time but this one I'm most excited about. A karaoke machine, a raffle, a pile of complimentary* Ferrero Rocher, a bag full of MAC cosmetics prizes and a few covers from us. 

Camp NYE
Where else will you be able to see Black Lace on NYE? Nuff said. We've hired out the Black Cap for the night, ordered a shed loads of helium and some fancy tracksuits for the occasion. Tickets are selling out - you have been warned! http://campery.co.uk

See you at something or other. x

9.10.14



Final Stop - Perth

48 hours ago I landed in Perth - it's been a whirl wind visit to see the worlds most remote capital city!

Coming from the scenic Sydney, Perth was a bit of a culture clash. It's has a bit more of an underworld to it, there is more visible poverty but by no means is this all it has to offer. 

Perth has seen a recent boom in mining and so the extremes of wealth and poverty are visible - similar to London, Vegas or New York but Perth doesn't lack heart.

Everyone I met in Perth welcomed me with open arms, I had invites to dinner, offers to stay in beach houses and even presents! 

Perth World Fringe is fairly new in terms of fringes but it's aspiring to be the global leader! Everyone who talks about the fringe says "...oh it really takes over the whole city" so my first meet was with Perth World Fringe! 




The fringe gals were really helpful in sign posting me on where to present, who to talk to and how to sell a show. What became apparent from talking to them was their audience figures! Their numbers wipe the floor with other fringes, shows average 70% audiences - now that's a city that's behind the arts!

Most of Perth's arts spaces and galleries are situated in Northbridge or what city planners have re branded as the 'Cultural Quarter'. Check out the Blue Room in that part of town - they produce (and they make it very clear its hands off producing) new work by new or emerging artists. PICA is also a fun hangout with wall based art - reminded me of the ICA (RIP).

Connections is a stones throw from the arty bit but it's the place you're most likely to hang out. Imagine the RVT, Soho Theatre and Madam JoJo's under one roof! It's a bar, club, theatre, cabaret space, terrace bar, drag bar.... it's sort of everything. The owner Tim is brilliant and has a real vision for queer Perth. Needless to say we're going to be making shapes together! 

After 16 days of meetings, turns, shows, planning, budgets, blogging and prepping I woke up this morning dead to the world. Fortunately my last few meets didn't happen so I found a bus going to the beach and laid down in the Indian Ocean. 




Needless to say I now have an English tan and I'm sat in Perth airport ready for a 20 hour flight back to the UK. 

It's been an amazing journey made possible by Arts Council England and British Council. I've really been able to get rooted here, meet the right people and start to plan how Australia becomes a place that will receive my work but most importantly how I can make work here. 

I owe a massive thank you to Theatre Works for sponsoring me especially Daniel Clarke for all his hard work in getting the Aussie arts doors opened! 

Australia is a place that is encouraging - the countries motto should be 'good on you' - people commend others who put their neck on the line. This mantra is infectious.

I hope I get to come back and realise some ideas. I'm not looking to break Australia, I'm hoping to build a network here, establish a queer family whilst making beautiful shows about ugly things. 

London, I'm coming home. 

8.10.14

Community Spirit

No sooner was I touching down in Adelaide was I taking off... but what a brilliant 48 hours.

There's no doubting that Adelaide is way smaller than Sydney and Melbourne in terms of population which I think is why I'm leaving with a sense of community.

Daniel had told me to meet, and I quote "a 40 yr old lesbian" outside a pub in the centre of town. As the queens minced past that feeling of dread entered my stomach. I'm not one for gay places - I'm slightly embarrassed to be in them. Some people might call this gay shame but I think its something far more complex - intruder syndrome. 

I don't feel any affiliation with gay men but I'm aware I'm often thrown in that box. This awkwardness around gay men comes from the fact I used to be queens bullied and mocked me in their spaces when I first came out so I just feel uncomfortable being there. I'm much more at home with the lesbian community.





I was greeted by Catherine Fitzgerald, Artistic Director of Feast. Feast is a queer arts festival that's held annually in Adelaide. Every Sunday they play gay bingo at the Light Hotel to raise money for the Feast programme. As I dripped steak sandwich over my bingo cards I looked up and suddenly I was a part of the gang.

Unlike London the room was filled with every affiliated letter of the gang. LGBTQI - all co-existing in the same space. I think Adelaide's size helps - it's diverse enough but small enough. I left that room with an infectious sense of community.

Later on I went to see a drag show - Vonni's Big Arvo! It's everything you expect from a Sunday night drag show in Australia. What I was really touched by was the young queens trying out new work. They projected selfies and lip-synched with videos of their pre-drag self. If this was in an arts space it would be contextualised or appropriated as queer. The fact it was in a room, above a straight pub with every queen, local and non-traditional arts crowd watching on made it really exciting. I bloody loved it.



After a swim, spa and sauna I was off to meet Adelaide's elite. Carin at Adelaide Fringe was really helpful in terms of helping me decide if I should present at the fringe in Feb-March. As I mentioned in my last post the model here is really difficult to make work and so I needed to know what I'm going into and have all the right information.

Fellow cabaret makers should reach out to the cabaret festival - they are based at Adelaide's Festival Theatre and produce a variety and cabaret season each year. Jared and Dana are nice people trying to make new things happen - this is evidently an Adelaide trait.

I am now sat in my hotel room, face down on my bed trying to make decisions on numbers - art and money don't mix and when forced they both repel. The next 24hrs will be do or die for my proposed tour in Feb/March... watch this space.

6.10.14

Goodbye Melbourne, G’day Excel Spreadsheet

I’m 19,000ft in the air enjoying the delights of a Qantas domestic flight with 5 very homosexual attendants – my time in Melbourne has come to an end.

I’m sad to leave, I really enjoyed my time there and so I leave with a heavy heart and a head full of possibilities. I’ve had strong interest in both Sydney and Melbourne about coming back and developing Australia as a touring territory with the exciting potential to make work here too – mission accomplished.


Yesterday Daniel and I sat down over a iced coffee to number crunch the possibility of bringing Camp and The Worst of Scottee to Perth, Adelaide and Sydney but a sad truth emerged – the numbers don’t quite add up.

The fringe model here is even more difficult than Edinburgh. Not only do the house expect a guarantee, a door split (usually 60/40 or 70/30 if you come with kudos) you also need to front the cost of marketing, advertising and registration and to top it all the fringe take a percentage of your ticket price too.

This was $3 of every ticket at Adelaide Fringe in 2013 with the costumer paying a $3 transaction fee. Since 2014 the promoter is expected to hide this cost, meaning a whopping $6 of your ticket price goes directly to the fringe.

I have many problems with this – not only is this deceptive to the audience but it means ticket prices are even higher in a culture that already has $30 tickets as the norm, thus making the arts for the blue collar elite.

The nature of Aussie fringe means the artist is likely to not be paid and front the bill should the show make a loss… without the artist there is no fringe.

What do you get for your $6 a ticket? Well not much because there are 900 other shows to look after - of course you are in the programme, on their website and they’ll tweet about you  when they can.

So why do artists here put up with it? Most programming in Australia happens under a festival, season or fringe banner. Apparently it’s difficult to reach audiences outside of these models but I don’t buy that – it just takes more effort. We’re just starting to see this culture emerge in the UK with everyone and their dog producing miro-festivals or thematic seasons - this is informing the work that’s being made.

Luckily I am a bit more established than some fringe artists and can be a bit shrewd with festival programmers.

However, to make Camp work here I need to bring 3 UK artists over. I need to find some funding to cover the flights - I’m determined to make that happen.

I think you need to have a three-tiered approach to making the figures add up here…

1.   Sponsorship / Subsidy – anything you can get from funding to hotel or flight sponsorship, it will help lower costs (I met some amazing people at Ruth’s long table event at Big Huey’s Diner – a Melbournite meet up and networking event designed to enable such things to happen)

2.   Back of House – get work workshopping, teaching, consulting etc. during the day to keep the pennies coming in. Sell merch – most variety shows here live off merch money

3.   Realistic Forecasting – don’t assume your show will sell out. Your budget should reflect a 20% capacity and breaking even is a success

On a more personal level this leg of the journey has reconnected me with someone I haven’t seen in 8 years, Booby Tuesday. Booby is my drag mother – behind every drag queen is a brilliant woman. She taught me how to paint my face, how to thread a sewing machine and how normative is subversive.



I’ve got to put my seatbelt on now because the gays are giving me evils.
Next stop… the city in question - Adelaide. 

2.10.14



Oysters and clammy palms

I've been in Melbourne 5 days now and I'm seriously considering if living here would be viable. Melbourne is the gutsy, gritty culture capital of Australia. Since arriving I've spent most of my time hanging out in St Kilda (the Brighton of Melbourne... but way closer).

We opened The Worst of Scottee (WOS) for it's second season with Theatre Works on Tuesday. I spent most of Monday grumpy that I had to do this show again - it's not a feel good piece is it?! No one wants to constantly remind themselves they were a knob head.




As opening night approached I was nervous. I haven't performed WOS for a few months - it was clammy palms and shaky hands at curtains. The response has again been marvellous. I've done a few radio appearances, grabbed two 4* reviews (here and here) and met some wonderful audience members - some of whom were on their second visit! 

I love working with Daniel and Theatre Works, they are really on the ball and want to make everything as pain free as possible - that's important with a show like this. They put on oysters on opening night... love that.




I have been meeting lots of people to discuss making work in Melbourne. Today I took the tram to North Melbourne and met with Georgie Meagher (whom you might recognise from her summer moonlighting with Duckie!). Georgie has just taken up a post at Next Wave - a festival and training programme for new and emerging artists to create, develop and present. Live artists who are just starting out and want to make new work here should reach out to Georgie. We spoke a lot of UK and Oz similarities and funding culture - I was particularly critical of artists who are informed by funding agendas - the UK is rife with people making shows about the body as a result of Wellcome trusts bountiful pockets.

My Melbourne tea date was with Jenny Jennings of ThisIsPopBaby. Jenny has made and toured work in Australia and was really helpful in sharing the pitfalls of touring the antipodean islands. She suggested finding one big anchor gig that can cover your base costs and building a tour around that. 

If you get the chance to come to Melbourne you have to pop to Arts House. It's very similar to BAC in terms of their approach to making work, what they programme and it's based in a converted Town Hall. Their programme is exciting and risky. Melbourne makers seem to have the guts / public subsidy available to make the experimental work. Live art is a new art form here.

I then met with the very lovely Jackie Johnston from Arts House. We walked through the streets of North Melbourne discussing immigration and it's complexities. Jackie gave me a wonderful insight into making work here and we discussed the problematic ticket prices in Australia. My show is currently priced at $35 - that's £19 which I think is the higher end of what alternative theatre audiences want to pay. My fears are that work that is priced this high excludes those I want to see it. Jackie also had these feelings towards price over access and it made me think about how to make it accessible. I understand ticket price needs to be higher to make the books balance but diversity is far more important.

Daniel and I are really trying to get some dates off the ground in February / March but it's proving harder than we thought. Australia curates all of it's theatre and cabaret performance around festivals and fringe seasons. These fringe programmes are over subscribed meaning 2,000 artists are then fighting for an audience of 10,000 people not to mention registration fees, advertising and flights to the other side of the world.

The culture of fringe means artists are underpaid and overworked but what's more frightening is this informs the artistic decisions of what audiences get to see. It's becoming more apparent why Oz performance is largely variety, cabaret and circus - this is accessible, gets bums on seats, has a $30 ticket price and works in a festival capacity. 

If I am going to make my summer season work here it's likely I'm going to need to knock on every door possible. I'm determined to make it work.

What I have noticed:

1. People don't like using the public transport. Sitting on a tram for 30 minutes is considered to be 'making the effort'. 

2. Those Carling adverts from when I was a kid have informed my paranoia when using the toilet in the southern hemisphere. The less talk about funnel webs the better!

3. Australia is bloody expensive. A meeting with two producers, 3 coffees and 2 cupcakes stung me for $30! Be prepared to throw money at meetings.

What next? I need to find someone or something to sponsor my flights. 

29.9.14



Goodbye Sydney, Hello Melbourne

My final day in Sydney was epic! It was my birthday weekend so Kelli Jean took me to Coogee beach to eat kangaroo... and it was amazing.



That evening we checked out The Bearded Tit - a cocktail bar / performance space with a caravan in the garden 'for intimate gatherings'. This space really personifies Sydney - all encompassing, community minded, open space for booze, free love and performance.

It's worth knowing that Australia is currently fighting against the government's lock down laws. These enforce restrictions on when and what alcohol you can buy and more strangely the registry of everyones I.D. on government computers when they enter licensed venues  (and re-enter after a fag) in certain neighbourhoods. I wonder if this will effect the performance and cabaret scene here? Control seems to be the word of the moment.

This isn't just about making sure people don't get too drunk. The government seems to be extremely paranoid that the world is going to eat it. Central station in Sydney is on a higher state of alert so you need a passport to get in, a man walked through automatic doors in the wrong direction in Sydney airport so the terminal was shut down and yesterday a politician during a TV interview actually said "...we're worried that foreigners are going to take our jobs" - these feelings are not shared by any of the people I've come into contact with.

I really enjoyed my time in Sydney - everyone I've met so far is really warm, welcoming and I've made even more friends on the other side of the world!

After missing my flight and scoffing a sulky sausage roll my hangover was cured and it was time to say hello to Melbourne! I arrived at my antipodean home Theatre Works to drop off some equipment and get ready for The Worst of Scottee's return to Melbourne.

I am doing a four performances whilst I'm here as part of Melbourne Fringe (you can book tickets here) so this morning I did a line run on the beach - if any of you have seen this show you'll realise that the gorgeous back drop of St Kilda beach is a strange one considering it's content.  The last run was so well received I'm anxious about bringing it back. This week I have interviews with a few radio stations, some key Melbourne venues and some performers - perhaps they'll settle my nervous.



Last night Daniel Clarke (AD of Theatre Works) and I downed 13 glasses of champagne to see in my 29th year on the planet and talk about our plans for next year. Today I'm regretting the 13th glass but really excited about what the future holds here. Theatre Works and Daniel are really championing both Bryony Kimmings and I - their support is proving invaluable in getting audiences to see us, opening doors and making sure the right people are on board. 




Today I'll be mainly sitting in Theatre Works whilst people play with the lights - hard life this theatre malarky. Melbourne... do your worst.

Things I've noticed today: 

1. Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia - there's a lot more spaces, festival and opportunity here but Sydney shouldn't be written off - they both have bite.

2. There is a lot of plastic on the beach and I feel angry about it. 

What Next? There's lots to do and I don't know where to start. I'm thinking a lot about how exciting next year will be - New work in NYC and London, Camp and Fraff tour UK, gigs in Tokyo, returning to LA, and more of everything in Australia!  




26.9.14


Sydney is a tough nut to crack! I've been here three days and again feel like I don't want to leave. Since my last blog I performed at Voguey Bear at Tokyo Sing Song in Newtown - if you're if planning a trip to Sydney and want to meet some gorgeous folk then head to Voguey Bear. It's a sort of queer, performance, laid back social with cocktails fronted by the Stereogamous boys. 
When I was last in town the boys made sure I was fed and watered and enjoyed my first experience of Oz - this time was no different with pre-show dinner and 'french champagne' at Matt Format's home.
Since then I've been in every Uber and on every train this city has to offer. I've been meeting makers, producers and curators to sell my wears and start conversations. 
From meeting with artists Zoe Coombs Marr and Phil Spencer, producers Virginia Hymn and Rosie Fisher I've been creating a better idea of the cultural climate in Sydney (which I think is a really important thing to do before trying to get stuff off the ground anywhere that isn't home). What's quickly becoming evident is that Australia loves international work, often elevating its above home-grown work but the platforms to present work are few and far between - making Sydney a beautiful, welcoming community that's extremely competitive. 
Funding is difficult to come by, space to present in is expensive and audiences won't cross into other neighbourhoods that don't have parking or a train line! I'm currently firming up a tour in February and March 2015, it's becoming apparent a creative approach to funding it is needed - part commercial, part subsidised, part educated risk and then getting everyone to contribute to the air fare - flight sharing is big here! 

I suggest any performer or artist arriving in Sydney reach out to Carriage Works (via the extremely wonderful Rosie Fisher). An amazing space not too far from the centre of Sydney it's a sort of mix between the Tate, Battersea Arts Centre and Summer Hall. A multiplex of spaces for shows, installations and film in a series of converted train sheds - it's glorious and their programme is really exciting. Tip: pop down to their cafe, it's cheap (for Sydney), some of the art is free and you're likely to bump into someone like Richard DeDomenici or Kelli Jean Drinkwater. 
After a few more cabs and carriage rides I made my way over to the British Council. Now, I didn't really know what the British Council did (apart from help fund this trip) but the answer I think is really useful for any British or Australian artists wishing to make work or tour in each others country. British Council Australia can facilitate you meeting the right people, be signposted to the right organisations and put you in direct contact with key players. Effectively they are pro-active advocates of culture and cultural exchange and the girls in the Sydney office are uber helpful! I recorded a podcast with them about my hopes for building an audience here - I'll let you know when it's up. (Check out the picture of their toilet sign!)

As someone who makes socially engaged work I can't help but find the stuff that is less attractive about a place. I've been having lots of uncomfortable conversations with people about Australia and racism. I'm currently dreaming up an idea for a production with Roundhouse on the same topic and feel increasingly it could be an extremely important piece to develop here too. 
Things I've noticed today:
1. Lots of women work in construction! On the face of it this is wonderful but look closer and these young women only hold the stop and go sign and often wear a pink polo as opposed to the men's yellow and navy ones.
2. People stand on the left on the escalator. 
What next? Get packed for Melbourne. Thank the people who've given me their time. Have more uncomfortable conversations 

25.9.14


Why isn't your show in Sydney?

Early this year I visited Australia for the first time. During my season in Melbourne with Theatre Works I received lots of good reviews. My Ozzie producer (the wonderful Daniel Clarke) and I thought we should build on this success and develop more of my work here. 

As soon as I got back I applied for a grant called Arts Council International Development Fund (AIDF) run by Arts Council England (ACE) and British Council. AIDF's aim is to support English artists in getting their work further afield, developing new territories, encouraging us to meet other show offs, producers and venues that could support work in the future - isn't it brilliant they do this?! 

I was successful in my application to ACE so over the next three weeks I am in Australia making work, meeting artists, showing work and starting conversations with venues and makers ...but everyone I meet can't seem to grasp why I don't have a run in the towns I'm visiting - my answer is as useful as Facebook relationship status 'it's complicated'. 

People imagine booking a show is as easy as just asking. Unfortunately it's a lot of coffee, ground work, red tape and visas not to mention the fact you need to find those willing to take a punt on you. Getting your work to new audiences means you're effectively starting over with a new crowd of people you need to impress before they write you off as foreign muck. Then being able to fund it is the next hurdle.

Over the next four days I'm in Sydney working towards getting projects like Camp, The Worst of Scottee and new work, specifically for Australian audiences off the ground. Today I started my mammoth adventure to see if any of it's possible.

I'm excited to be here and want to make work here - why? OK the obvious stuff about the weather, food and beaches helps but during my last trip I really did find a queer family / identity in Oz not to mention to keen-ness for my work to exist here.

While I'm here I'm meeting some key makers who I think are the best thing since sliced bread. I want them to be a mini cultural exchange so I've aptly titled them 'Tim Tam and Tea'. 


Today I met my first art crush - Kelli Jean Drinkwater. Those of you who are old enough to remember my club night Anti-Social will know Kelli Jean as our infamous 'Fat Grace' poster girl. 

Kelli Jean is a brilliant artist, film maker and director. She's fat and makes work about it... can't see why we get along?!

Over looking the harbour we spoke about where both of our countries are at - we painted a bleak picture of less public funding but that creating more excuses to make work. We also chatted about our love for the Sydney queer family (namely the Glitter Militia) and the need to make something together.

Through osmosis Kelli Jean and I are making shows, at the same time, on opposite sides of the world with similar themes without realising it. We're exploring the world of fat politics through contemporary dance! Kelli Jean's production debuts at the Sydney Festival in 2015 (info here), mine opens in the UK in September 2016 (you can see R&D here).

Our government subsidised tea session was a success, we're going to collaborate on a project in late 2015 and I'll be performing alongside her collective during Mardi Gras in Sydney - this AIDF malarky is really working!


Tonight I'm off to do a few small turns of the dance floor at Voguey Bear - a weekly performance art piss up. On paper we're calling it audience development, in real life it's a chance spread some love and sew some seeds.

Things I've noticed today: 

1. Working class people are easily identified in Australia as everyone who works in service industry or construction has to wear a yellow and navy polo top - I'm intrigued by this idea of 'working class uniform' and what it means. Perhaps I will have a sequin version made to make the middle classes aspire to dressing like us, the working class thus creating a statement about cultural appropriation - DEEP! 

2. There are a lot of VIP bars in Sydney - does this mean there are lots of very important people or does it mean everyone is equally important therefor making the VIP redundant?

What next? Sort out new work. Great ready for tomorrow. Be excited for the year ahead.