The thing about the truth is you have to be clear of your intentions and where it may land. Because your truth is your truth as far as you know it, as far as you have experienced it or as far as you have observed. I’m glad that we are now moving away from ignoring or worse still denying people’s lived experiences and learning to listen and take action for a better future for all. I’m landing what I can whilst I can and sharing what may be my most useful lessons for us all.
Over the years I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside fellow artists, thinkers and academics and people going about their daily lives who share their points of view coming from where they're from.
If I’ve come from more or less the same place, then we are able to use our common language, code and shortcut in order to communicate and connect together. Sometimes however this very fact of familiarity has caused a pause for concern, questions on my ability because we quite simply have been told that what we know is of very little value. We are only to be studied and be part of a conversation about us, and not with us. We rarely have a chance to take part in these conversations - much less lead. If this is the case for those of us who come from more or less the same place then what about those who feel like they are from another planet? Those people who are valued more than us because of the way this world has been constructed. In the case of Black women that would be everyone else being valued more than ourselves.
The world though has changed from when I’d run home to tell my Mum & Dad about my lessons. Let’s face it the world has changed since I last blogged in the Summer!
I know what I know. I know what I know because I was raised a certain way and I have taken the time to deconstruct what was on offer and build my own understanding from there. I told the good people who joined us here at Hull Truck recently on the Discover Day for Abigail’s Party that I’d come home from school and tell my parents what I had learnt about British History. They’d laugh and look at each other and fill in the gaps with what they knew, through stories of Jamaican National Heroes like Paul Bogle in Morant Bay. My Mum took us to visit Paul Bogle’s statue and memorial in St Thomas, Jamaica. We learnt from songs of resistance and redemption that my Dad constantly played in our family home. Had Bob Marley lived, he’d be the same age as my Dad is now.
Because of this I’m used to seeing stories from all around the world at all sorts of angles and to ensuring that people coming from where I’m from are in the story too and for checking who else may be missing. I love telling a good story, for me casting is like picking a great sports team. I said this to a young man who recently visited on an ‘Off Stage Choices Day’ to Hull Truck with his school. He asked if as a Director I made notes for the Actors? I watched his face light up as I explained that for our current team we did a quick check of the moves, action and set pieces and that once the match starts it’s with them and the audiences. We aim to win every night for our audiences and ourselves.
I’ve just completed making Abigail’s Party in a way that I fully believed in, with a team who believed in me. This belief did not come freely, it had to be rightfully earned. I don’t know about you, but I know my best work is created where we create a safe space, where we can be free to discuss difficult things, to be brave and to leave very little unturned in the search for the best way to tell the truth of a story even if you have to dig through painful truths. It makes for a rich experience and a chance to get to know ourselves and each other and better and stronger way. This is why I was excited and delighted to introduce Angela and Tony Cooper as a Jamaican couple in Abigail’s Party, it made sense to me. A young aspirational couple, she a Nurse, he working in computers, moving into the suburbs of a leafy street in England examining a welcome they were truly not made to feel. A play for me that was about class, race, gender politics, destructive relationships, the U.K's relationship to drink and loneliness. Thank you to everyone who joined us for our version of this rollercoaster classic of a play.
So here are some truths from me.
- I have learnt to use the low expectations from both my own communities and those people different from me who appear to be from another planet to my advantage. Then I have to smash it harder than even I imagined because these low expectations will not limit me.
- Because of my experiences, I look to the left and right of what has been presented to me.
- If I had two pound seventy five for every coffee I was invited to have over the years to tap my brain of my ideas and not simply share and exchange ideas I’d be able to seek match funding from the Arts Council for my own Theatre Building. (*Price of actual coffee)
- A Freelance Director's annual income is below 15K a year. SDUK successful Directors can expect between 20K – 25K a year (Data: https://www.stagedirectorsuk.com/2016-fee-campaign/ )
- Campaigning for what is right on behalf of an industry can drain the campaigners of artistic experiences, as they find themselves on countless panels and meetings and never gaining the chance to make the actual work.
- Our actual work with inclusion and integrity at the heart of it, is part of the campaign and contribution to a change that we will all eventually benefit from.