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Artists on lockdown: Conrad Murray

Lockdown obviously has huge consequences for live events and performance. We’re having to drastically change the way we’re doing things – and we really want to listen to artists in that process. We want to make sure that the changes we bring in are guided by what will help artists to keep creating great work.

We had conversations with a couple of theatre-makers (and paid for their time), to get their input. Here’s what Conrad Murray – an actor, writer, director, rapper, beatboxer, singer and theatre-maker, who has led the BAC Beatbox Academy since 2008 and made a host of five-star shows, including Frankenstein – had to say.

How has lockdown been for you, and for your work, so far?

It’s hard, honestly. All the projects I’ve been working on – all those deadlines have gone, overnight. And being an artist but with no projects and in a national emergency – it makes me feel like ‘what do you even do now?’ Like, what is my purpose?

I’ve been trying to create for its own sake, just trying to find stuff to do that is meaningful. And that’s why it’s nice to get invited to take part in some new, online events – it gives you something to work towards. But it’s also tough, because there’s all these things you’ve been working on for a long time, and you get deep into a certain practice with those, and then that’s suddenly all taken away.

It’s quite depressing, y’know? Like, “What am I doing? FUUUUCK!”

A couple of venues have checked in, just asked how I’m doing – that’s been good. And I’ve had some students – some of them from years back – just call out of the blue, tell me what’s happening for them or asking for advice. And I love that! It’s nice to feel needed…

That’s why one thing I think is really important is for artists to get money to do things. Obviously, people really need monetary support at the moment, and that is massive. But purpose is important, too – like, I wanna be getting paid, to make artistic work. I’ve worked so hard, for years and years – I’m always working – and now that I don’t have an immediate thing to work on, you can get into this kind of crisis of “Who am I?”

Is that part of why you’ve been looking at ways to do things online? How has that felt, is it different?

Yeah, really different. Not so much cos it’s online, but just because you’re having to start something totally new. In some ways, it gives you ‘total freedom’ – but actually that’s weird. Normally, you have all these different ways to get input – but now there’s no interaction with other people, or the inspiration that can come from that.

And theatre is very ‘of the time’, but at the moment everyone’s in the same ‘time’: how much ‘corona content’ can there be?!

Ha, yeah – what do you think about that general ‘lockdown rush’ to take work online?

Like I say, it’s good to see people doing things like scratch nights and stuff; it’s nice to try and have things to work towards. But overall, I think it’s really hard for artists. Like, who’s your competition now? Suddenly, I’m supposed to compete with Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber!

So actually, even though anyone can put something out there, it’s worse for most artists, because everyone is in the same space. How can you get an audience when you’re up against these global superstars who are starting out with 10 million followers?

Plus, the fees being offered for digital work and shows online are, like, 25% of normal, if that. It’s hard to take that on. And it can all feel like you’re just devaluing yourself.

Yep, that’s really not great. And actually that’s something we want to do with this time: to see if we can use the disruption to bring some bigger, lasting improvements in the arts industry – to things like artist pay. So, on that: what would be high up your list of changes you’d like to see?

Pay is definitely a big one. There’s gotta be a better way to pay artists. Less short-term, less unstable. More like a salary, I guess. I don’t know exactly how it should work but there needs to be more security for artists, so that you can build the thing you’re working on.

Just overall, there’s this fixation on novelty – a flash-in-the-pan mindset, producers obsessed with crowbarring in the latest gimmick, even if it doesn’t make any sense in the work… That’s not how you build things, not how you invest in them.

Theatres have become like a factory for neoliberal capitalism. Crank out the next thing, make the money off it, chuck it away… When you make a show, you give over the entire IP to the venue! And then, when the run’s ended, that’s it – the whole thing’s gone, like it never existed.

These places all say they want ‘more diverse voices and audiences’ – but it takes time to put down roots in communities. You’ve gotta build those connections. And you can’t do that if it’s always just ‘make a one-off show to get a one-off grant’.

I know of artists – really talented, amazing artists – who have gone from ‘upcoming star’ to Job Seeker’s Allowance. Literally, to JSA. That’s messed up.

You’re right – and, sadly, it’s the sort of thing we hear a lot. On that, just quickly, lastly, is there anything else you’d want to say to organisations like us? I mean, we’re only small, but we can still make choices about how we commissioned, book and pay artists…

Just, ‘help me to be great at what I do’. Like, I know I don’t know how to do the admin, the funding, the logistics, whatever – so I want help from people who are experts at that stuff. But I am expert at what I do – so leave me to do my thing; allow me to use that expertise! I wouldn’t tell the admin person how to do admin – in fact, I want them to show me how it’s done! So give us the same courtesy: let artists be artists, and support us to build work.

Massive thanks to Conrad for his time, and his insight 🙏

As we’ve mentioned, at Strike A Light we want to use this time of disruption to make some bigger changes to the way the arts industry works. If you’d like to join us in that quest, you can read a whole lot more (soon, real soon!) about the little revolution we’re trying to get started.

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News

What kind of events are you dreaming of?

We’re all working from home at the moment, and we’re trying to find ways to keep some of the sense of creativity and connection and community while we’re all stuck indoors. We’re also starting to let ourselves dream a bit about what it’s gonna be like when we’re allowed back out and we’re (eventually!) able to put on incredible, live, in-person events again.

We really want to hear from YOU about what’s important to you when it comes to post-lockdown events – so please do get in touch!

Instagram: @strikealightfestival
Twitter: @strike_a_light
Facebook: Strike A Light

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CG commissions

Sarah Dixon: ‘What Do You Dream Of?’

A community art show in a phone box!

For her #creativeconnection Sarah has set up a gallery in a decommissioned phone box on her street, and is inviting residents to create artworks for exhibition in the individual windows. Anyone can get involved and see the work; check it out on Instagram and Facebook!

About the artist

Sarah Dixon is a socially-engaged conceptual artist using a broad range of platforms and media to create participatory works. A founding member of the WAAS, her work explores how the human social organism functions and evolves both online and IRL.

sarahdixonfineart.co.uk

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CG commissions Uncategorized

Katy Costigan: ‘Stella’ Activities for Kids

Having brought our family show ‘Stella’ to Gloucester Cathedral last Autumn, we wanted to use this original story as the basis for a number of online activities aimed at children and their families.

WISH UPON A STAR – A simple instructional craft activity. Create your own star, make a wish and share it on social media channels, with the additional option to receive Star letters in the post, like a Star pen pal!

HOW TO BE AN ALIEN – An interactive session with Stella, our very own girl on the moon.

STELLA STORY TIME – The story of Stella told online by Ivy from the show. Features original illustrations and an original musical soundtrack, with the aid of green screen software to transport the audience into the world of Stella.

About the artists

Filskit Theatre was formed in 2009 with a mission to ignite the imaginations of children and their families whilst developing artists, accessibility and hard to reach audiences. Filskit are committed to building future young and family audiences and a more inclusive, diverse and sustainable sector by developing the art form and the skills of our collaborators.

filskittheatre.com

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CG commissions Uncategorized

Danielle Salloum: ‘Sisterhood’

Sisterhood is a photography and mixed media project highlighting ten women from the Gloucestershire region. The portraits and artwork have recently been exhibited at The Wilson (up until the temporary closure of the venue). These uplifting stories of diverse, extraordinary women from the local area celebrate and pay tribute to the multi-dimensional beauty of women, and the value of that beauty in this time of crisis.

Each woman will share her thoughts on aspects of COVID-19, encouraging the audience to look at the current scenario from another perspective – to interact and connect with other people in this unprecedented time.

The project will be placed on a variety of online platforms including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as well as Create Gloucestershire’s website.

About the artist

Danielle is a young photographer, filmmaker and artist who is passionate in raising awareness of issues she feels strongly about, from human rights and social equality, to the struggling environment and the rise of veganism.

www.daniellesalloum.com

Categories
CG commissions

Viv Gordon: ‘Voices from Lockdown’

Viv is compiling a series of short videos that tell the beautiful, funny and real stories of local people in lockdown. These will reflect the unique, the unexpected and the shared experiences of the Gloucestershire community during social isolation.

Call out for voices

Watch the short video to find out more about the project. And if you’d like to add your voice please go to https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/VivGordan to let Viv know you have a story to tell.

About the artist

Viv Gordon is a theatre maker (writer/performer), arts and mental health campaigner and survivor activist. The majority of her work explores mental health, abuse and trauma grounded in my lived experience of childhood sexual abuse. Viv’s work is a campaign to forge survivor voice, visibility and community.

Find out more at vivgordon.com or on her Facebook page.

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CG commissions Uncategorized

Soozy Roberts: ‘The Covid Covers’

The Covid Covers is an online project by Soozy Roberts, where you are invited to dedicate a song to someone who deserves a shout-out during lockdown and social-distancing. The idea developed out of a series of self-portraits she created in 2017 that had songs as titles – the challenge being to create your own song cover using yourself, household members and objects.

The dedications will be played on BBC Radio Gloucestershire and a special one-off show on deepbedradio.org. Song covers and dedications will be exhibited on the website gallery and the top 10 images will be printed, framed and presented to GRH as a thank you for their amazing efforts. We hope to hold a concert in Gloucester when things return to normal. Get involved over at www.thecovidcovers.com!

About the artist

Soozy Roberts is a socially-engaged artist working in a range of disciplines and with communities to bring art into everyday environments and site-specific spaces.

www.soozyroberts.com
www.robbinsandroberts.com

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Lockdown Uncategorized

Collected poems – from Halima Malek

Halima is a Gloucester-based poet and long-time friend of Strike A Light. During lockdown, she worked with her local community, encouraging people to write and record their experiences. This is what she collected.


In The Corners Of Minds

Rizpah Amadasun

Restless with no sense of time, for what once was. 
In denial that we might never get it back again. 
What if the future is better then what is desired to be repeated. 
Wonder on what can be done in the present. 
Than cast gloom on all we knew. 
There are simple ways to laugh. 
Kinder ways to journey through memories. 
Now is important to find a joyful way to live too.


Lockdown

Abdul Huq (age 10)

Everything had closed down like: schools, shops, markets, swimming pools, everything and it’s because of a virus called coronavirus. This virus is new and it’s taking over the world and it’s ruining everyone’s life and a lot of people are dying from it. So the government had decided to force people to stay at home from this, because they are worried about us and because of the virus, you have to keep the social distancing from others because they might have the virus and you don’t know about it. When you cough you must put your hand and cough as well when you sneeze. This is really important for your safety so you know that the whole of the world are collaborating to find treatment for this pandemic so we start the normal life like before so we have to remember the good times. We have missed going to a party or going to the park with your friends and swimming with your family so much. So you should forget about the bad Pandemic that is making us feel sad and scared, but don’t worry one day everything will change and everything will be like before and your dreams will come true.


Our Guest

Sajida Kathrada

You came uninvited, and you decided to stay
No red carpet or banquet was prepared for your way.
Although no transport by sea, road or air
You still managed to enter planes no one would dare.
No restrictions, no rules, you were free to roam the world.
From China you set forth, no baggage or passport, no visa required
You came alone.

Travelling from one country to next, you enjoyed and rested well
No immigration laws of Brexit could stop you on your way
Nor the walls or barriers of Trump’s USA
No missiles of Putin’s Soviet could deter your track.

No race, religion or colour do you have,
Yet you still enjoy the freedom of your travel.
You prey on your host, making them weak.
You do not choose rich or poor.
Your aim is to control and leave the world in despair.
Your presence caused “a lockdown” –
A word we never knew…
Families distanced, prisoners in our own homes,
A life so unreal in this modern world.

Yet you made us reflect, made us think.
The value of ‘life’ –
Kindness, care, helpfulness, appreciation were
No longer just words but the actions we took.

However a small request now:
It’s time for you to depart
Please, “guest”, leave us now
So we may love, laugh and huge once again.


Words by Lina

With this situation, I feel calm most of the time and optimistic that the end of this situation is close to the end, and that I take advantage of being with my children for a long time, but this feeling does not last long.The study of children is what worries me most, and my husband work as well, and I wish everyone the best.


Poem

Halima Malek

What has happened to the world?
Why is it crying out in pain?
What have we done so wrong?
Who has caused this pain?

I feel a numbness, around me
I smell fear in the air
The deserted streets
No sound of laughter
But children crying in fear

What has happened to the world?
Why is it crying out in pain?
What have we done so wrong?
Who has caused this pain?

The flowers all still blooming
The birds still sing their songs
The bees buzz all around me
The butterflies spread their warmth.

What has happened to the world?
Why is it crying out in pain?
What have we done so wrong?
Tell me who caused this pain?

Humans now all dress in masks
Walking away, without a hello
No good mornings
Or ill see you soon
No come round for tea
Or a pop in and how are you?

What has happened to the world?
Why is it crying out in pain?
What have humans done so wrong?
Who really caused this pain?

Blossom has now been and gone
Just like the daffodils of spring
Tulips now colour the ground
And lavendar has spread her wings.

What has happened to the World?
Nature is pushing us far away
Humans are not wanted anymore
Mother nature is screaming out in pain

Nature is still around me
The sun still shines the same
The grass is green
The sky still a vivid blue
The stars are still twinkling and talking to the moon
Everything looks familiar in my garden
But the world outside my front door has changed

But nothing is the same
My heart isn’t the same
I dont feel safe
I dont feel safe
I fear people around me
I yearn for a hug
A touch
A warming embrace

I wish that this was but a dream
I’ll soon wake up to life as I’d known it before this began
Where I walked, and said hello to my neighours
And could Hug and kiss my Nan