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Next Steps and Career Focus
Some times all it takes in a nudge!
When I graduate from Applied Theatre, Arts, Action, Change in October, I will continue to develop my skills as an arts practitioner with confidence and clarity. Confident, in respect to how I approach my role as a socially engaged arts pracitioner; and clear, with who and what it is I want to work with (initially at least) and how to get there.
A practitioner’s practice varies from practitioner to practitioner, however for me, the theory of care is beginning to underpin everything I hope to do. This means working with communities by responding to their wants and needs, hopes and desires; being responsive, reflective and open to how my practice will change and develop over time. However, what will be rooted at the heart of everything I do, is my passion for knowing that theatre arts and performance has the ability to transport communities.
Last year, I was awarded a working bursary from the university for my work with a new organisation based in Stratford upon Avon called Streets Apart. They work with people who have lived experience of homelessness and run weekly music and drama workshops to engage them in creative activities. The hope is to lift their spirits, bring them together through the arts and increase their confidence. I joined forces with founder, Jackie Lines, who introduced me to the charity, Refuge, who support females who have fled domestic violence and provide them with secure accommodation. The organisers were looking for ways to boost the women’s self confidence and offer mechanisms to help them cope with to day to day living in the hope that they their friendships grow. We ran a series of workshops with the women between October and December in a therapy centre close to the santuary.
Jackie gave the reigns to me in terms of the workshop content, but before I could make any decisions, it was important for me to get to know the women and them to get to know me. Most importantly, I wanted to ensure that the women understood we were not experts, nor teachers or any kind of leader, but curators who cared. We utilized the beautiful spaces in a local therapy centre, with homely rooms and a tranquil garden. Simply by inviting participants to join us in these spaces and explore what they noticed, we were able to get to know them. My aim was to gauge the type of skills I could bring from my performance background and invite them to participate in such techniques as breathing and grounding exercises; expression through movement, free writing and drawing.
It was such an uplifting experience to work with these inspirational women, women who had made enormous sacrifices for the sake of theirs and their children’s safety. Complex discussions opened up about how they identified with themselves beyond the day to day trauma they suffered, revealing how much they had to offer as independent, strong willed, talented women. Evidently, I learnt so much from them about the complexities of escaping trauma in a society which does not care and is dominated by capitalist, brutal ideologies.
This has fuelled my desire to continue working with an ethic of care with women suffering injustices as a result of their strive for freedom. So, having been encouraged by the amazing lecturers at Warwick, I have reached out to the manager of the charity as an independent practitioner -researcher, asking to come and volunteer in the sanctuary closer to my home town. She has welcomed me in with open arms and have been invited to run my own workshops when I feel more integrated and known to the community. In order to do so naturally, I have been attending weekly art workshops at the santuary as a participant and volunteer.
This Refuge branch works closely with Soroptomists, which is an international female empowerment charity who strive to transform the lives of women and girls all over the world. The director of Kenilworth Soroptomists was volunteering at the last workshop and told me about the incredible work they do locally such as curating a project in a local town park inspired by famous quotes, words and poetry from inspirational women throughout history. She also talked about how they provide funding for birth care education endevours for women in Blantyre, Malawi. I was over the moon to have met her and share my dreams of curating workshops for female empowerment; she too seemed thrilled to know about my endevours and invited me along to their next meeting.
Simply by being nudged to reach out by my lecturer’s, it has brought be so many opportunities and inspired further ambitions for my steps after the course. My aim is to curate workshops with the Refuge in the summer, utilizing everything learnt this year about being a reflexive, caring pracitioner. I want to continue building my network of advocates for female empowerment and creativity, and dream to put an exhibition on in the town’s yearly festival, Art in the Park, to showcase incredible journeys of female voices everywhere.
I am someone who has always gone with the flow because I realise it’s difficult, and can be dangerous at times to pre-empt exactly what will happen; particularly with the profession that I am in. However, I am confident knowing that by reaching to people of a like mind, one can join forces and create something spectacular. It just takes a bit of nudging sometimes. In the words of Amelia Earhart, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity.”