As my Starcatchers residencey draws to a close, it seems like a good time to reflect on my time as Artist-in-Residence for East Renfrewshire. Throughout the year and a half I have had a number of memorable experiences. From being given the opportunity to create my own theatre show and installation to working with the children at the McCready Centre, it has been a time filled with an assortment of activities. There have been things to learn and things to show, things to do and things to see, things to make and things to hear. Above all it has been a wonderful opportunity to be given the time to spend developing my practice as an artist and creating my own work.
The children in the McCready Centre have taught me so much, and have greatly contributed to both my final pieces and I have very much enjoyed spending time in their world. I have also learned a huge amount from the staff, found new ways of working with children and encountered very open-minded approaches to learning and creativity. Throughout my time at McCready together with my collaborators I have performed various different versions of ‘Too Many Cooks’ as it evolved over time. We learned what worked well and what worked less well, and during this time the children contributed numerous ideas to the process. Similarly with ‘Sonic Playground’ I would regularly bring in switches, buttons, telephones playing audio samples, the Soundbeam and various other interactive audio devices for the children to discover and experiment with. These sessions were an invaluable part of the development and creation of both pieces of work.
During the creation of ‘Too Many Cooks’ I was fortunate enough to work with some extremely talented artists – Hazel Darwin-Edwards, Alasdair Satchel Ali Maclaurin and Rick Conte. These collaborations taught me a huge amount about the process of creating a piece of theatre for young children. Once the show was created it was time to take it out on tour, which brought its own share of adventures. At times it was an extremely tiring process, especially the early morning drives to each venue, followed by unloading the van, assembling the set, doing two to three performances in a day before dismantling the set, repacking the van and driving home only to repeat the whole process again the next day. All this carried out by at team of two – Hazel and myself – but so often the audience responses made it all worthwhile and it was a pleasure to perform alongside Hazel for an audience of laughing children and their parents. Likewise, the hours spent wiring up switches, lights and buttons for ‘Sonic Playground’ were well worth it to see the finished installation filled with happy smiling faces. The staff in the venues were incredibly helpful. It was especially enjoyable working at Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline, Lyra Theatre in Edinburgh and Platform in Glasgow (despite the van tyre blowing out en route).
To describe the process as a whole I would have to say it’s been an experience, an adventure, a learning process, a journey, stressful, enjoyable, difficult, and easy, a lot of work, and a lot of fun. There have been days spent chilling out playing relaxing music for babies and days spent carrying a heavy set up six flights of stairs because it didn’t fit in the lift. There have been meetings and discussions and there has been laughter and music.
In one of my final sessions at the McCready Centre I was delighted to spot a basket containing a collection of musical instruments. I was informed by members of staff that based on the music sessions I have been doing, they have put together their own collections of instruments. Shakers, drums, thumb pianos, buttons that make animal noises, ocean drums, chime bars etc etc. I hear they are still very much enjoying the sound quiz I put together and musical pots and pans can still be found throughout the centre.
It makes me very happy to see that even after I have left the centre they will be continuing to provide musical and audio experiences for the children using some of the methods I have introduced to them.
I am delighted to have been given this great opportunity and that I have had the pleasure of sharing it with so many skilled and creative people.
Many thanks to everyone involved!