Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Autumn Stroll

A seven month gap between blog posts is acceptable, right? I have just read through four half finished blogs which were all attempted at moments where I thought that my brain was working enough to write and that I wouldn’t fall asleep or become distracted. Ridiculous!

What this says to me is that my year is bookended by quiet, reflective moments and everything in between is an absolute riot...which is a tad depressing. Posting now is also indicative of the influence the change of season has on me. A lazier writer would bore you at this point with clich├ęs about enjoying the crispness of the air, the change of colour and smell around you, shorter days and all that Autumn jazz. And I do enjoy all those things but mostly Autumn feels like breathing space to me, which is the main reason I like it.

In between sentences I am creating a playlist called Autumn Stroll, which you can enjoy here, if you are so inclined. Creating playlists is a recent habit, I quite like it.

So what am I thinking about at the moment? Recently I read a blog by Pony Pie entitled Art, Money and Reasons We Do It Our Damn Selves and the way it resonated with me was almost like a physical sensation. Akin to being shaken vigorously and told no, really, you are not the only one who has thought and worried about this. I was particularly affected by the paragraph on the “DIY practitioner”, because of the stark and profound truth of it. When you are an unfunded artist or theatre-maker just trying to make work and forge a path for yourself, fighting against becoming downhearted, upstaged, exhausted and ready to quit is half the battle.

When I started Rhymes with Purple it was in response to knowing something that I didn’t need to be told. That ultimately not being a genius, a graduate of a certain institution or lucky enough to find oneself in with the worthy crowd were serious barriers, potentially insurmountable ones. If I wanted to create and stage my ideas then I had to do it myself. And nothing has been harder, more soul destroying and painful than the result of that decision.

Being deemed “worthy” has been a five year long argument and even after all that time we still haven’t reached maturity for the very reason that holding down other jobs to pay the bills and laying the foundations of a theatre company, even a tiny little one, requires a vast amount of work and energy. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of what we have achieved, but we aren’t setting any creative fires yet because after the needs of the day are met fatigue begins to leech on the desire to experiment and create. I used to worry that this was making excuses, that in fact I wasn’t very prolific even though sometimes it felt like I was having a hundred ideas a second. Ideas that called on me to grab and anchor them but the weight of getting by prevented me from being quick enough before they flashed by.

When I read Pony Pie’s blog I felt relieved, reassured and a little less like an outsider. I’ve been at this since I was 19 and at 26 it has made me feel old and I am not going to pretend the thought of quitting hasn’t entered my head. But then, I’ve come pretty far; the job that pays my bills is in the arts and provides me the flexibility to be creative and thoughtful even though it’s extremely hard work. Despite always having a day job of some kind I have carried on producing, creating and making because for me failure is not an option. I can’t let being a DIY practitioner exhaust me because I have come too far to quit now. I believe what I am doing is worthy, the artists that I collaborate with and the audiences that come to the shows all appear to agree so stopping because it’s hard just seems like doing myself and my peers a disservice.

Reading Pony Pie’s blog on this debate, which does encompass and cast a critical and informed eye on all the wider issues facing DIY and subsidised artists, came at exactly the right time for me. Because although I know there is a wider discussion to be addressed, that it’s hard for everyone and that a solution is not rapidly forthcoming it inspired me. Like Pony Pie, I’ve always known that I am doing it all myself because no one will give me any money but now rather than seeing that as the catalyst for “artistic death”, I feel more than ever it’s a call to arms, the motivation to continue and fight because I value my artistic output, even if those handing out the “worthy badges” do not. And with that value I can survive. Pony Pie passed onto me her sense of knowing where I stand in relationship to “worthy” community oriented practice and practitioners, which is firmly on my own two feet right alongside them.

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