10 Things to Do

I can’t help but be political at the moment and this post is inspired by Stella Duffy’s blog, where she challenged people to write their own list of positive things to do in these fast-moving, challenging times.

Here’s mine. It’s in no particular order, just the order ideas occurred to me today.

  1. Support City of Sanctuary, an organisation opening its arms and offering practical help to refugees and asylum seekers.   Lancaster and Morecambe City of Sanctuary is my local one and it is doing incredibly important work.

2. Donate to and publicise Paper Airplanes – an organisation fostering links and relationships between American and Syrian students.

3. Be part of  Fun Palaces. Lancaster Fun Palace 2017 is holding a launch meeting on February 9th at 7pm in The Toll House Inn. Everyone welcome! With around 280 Fun Palaces made last year, there is almost certainly one near you to take part in – and if there isn’t, start your own!

4. Take part in the 64 Million Artists creative challenges. The January Challenge is almost over for 2017, but you can still sign up to take part in a challenge a week for the rest of the year. It is empowering and positive to join such a friendly, thoughtful community – and it’s huge fun too!

5. Be political. Be brave. I’m really saying this to myself. I – in company with many, many of us, I suspect – shy away from talking politics publically – even, often, with friends. When things like the Muslim Ban (yes, I know I’m using social media shorthand, but it’s that kind of short post) are occurring, I feel I have to be brave enough to speak out and say that it is wrong. I think if we all do this, in whatever way we feel comfortable (or maybe slightly out of our comfort zones, increasingly outside our “echo chambers”), explaining our views to those who disagree, then an increasingly positive and united society should start to emerge.

6. Take a look at Frack Free Lancs. Speaks for itself.

7. Read – support libraries! – and read books from different cultures. (I am not recommending the books in the previous link, necessarily; I just came across it when pulling this post together and it looked interesting.)

8. Join with like-minded people – online and off. This one links to number 5 as I do think there is strength in numbers and individual confidence can be increased through the support of friends. (We often see this with far-right groups; we need to be more vocal to challenge this.) Tell the stories that are important to you in your own way.  I’m  hoping to make more work – shows/events – that highlight some of the issues above and am beginning to identify possible collaborators – do get in touch if you have any interest at all in being involved in any way.

9. Smile. Sing. Hope. Look out for beauty everywhere – even on gloomy days.

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10. Make your own list. And Do.

elaru xx

 

 

 

 

 

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2016 in Pictures

2016 has been a busy year.

In January, the Rose Company dominated with Arts Council funded Research and Development on the battle scenes of Coriolanus. Working with a talented team of women started the year off in an excitingly challenging way.

 

Both The Rose Company and ELART Productions were involved in the Bard By The Beach Shakespeare Festival in April. The Rose Company provided an afternoon workshop and a series of Shakespeare “statues” that came to life, delivering monologues when an audience appeared in front of them. ELART Productions presented Shakespeare’s Seven Ages (pictured below in rehearsal) – and this was the start of a run of ELART Shakespeare – perfect for #Shakespeare400!

 

June saw a return visit to The Eden Festival in Scotland with our Shakespeare extracts show All The World’s A Stage. We had a great time and it was a joy to perform on the fabulous Melodrome again, this time in the Chas Ambler Would.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream came next in two different venues – a charity performance in St John’s Hospice Midsummer Marquee, followed by a sell-out evening performance in Lancaster Library. This was the biggest cast I had worked with for ages and the energy and fun was fantastic all through as should be clear from the pictures below, taken in a range of rehearsals  and the Dress Run.

 

Kendal Yarns followed at the end of July  and what an experience that turned out to be – I still can’t believe how much was achieved in a fortnight! Concisely here, as blogged in much greater detail earlier, it was an absolutely brilliant community festival.

 

The day after Kendal Yarns we performed All The World’s A Stage on the Melodrome Mobile Stage again. While in some ways the timing wasn’t perfect (I was exhausted!), it was a particularly special event for two reasons: firstly, I’d wanted to put something on in Lancaster Castle courtyard for ages – what a location on a sunny day! – and secondly, two of my goddaughters were in the audience.

 

The ELART Mechanicals had one final 2016 outing and enjoyed playing in Warton St Oswald’s church for a charity 16th birthday concert for – and organised by – the youngest member (I think) of A Midsummer Night’s Dream cast. After this, the third Lancaster Fun Palace opened its doors at the start of October for the now regular (yay!) annual celebration of arts, science and community. See http://www.funpalaces.co.uk for full information – and get in touch to get involved…

 

Finally at the end of November, came an event in aid of Lancaster and Morecambe City of Sanctuary – a charity close to my heart.

 

And that was 2016. During what I’m sure many of us will agree has been a challenging year, I have managed mostly to retain a sense of positivity and hope – in no small part due to the events listed here. Thanks to every single person who has been any part at all of any one – onstage, offstage, audience etc… Theatre and the Arts could not be more important than now and there are already several ELART and other events in the pipeline for the new year, but more warmly welcomed – collaborations, commissions etc… Get in touch, however fledgling the idea. Let’s work together!

All the best for the festive season and beyond.

elaru xx

 

 

#LoveTheatreDay

The #LoveTheatreDay feed today is inspiring. Clearly, there are lots and lots of us about who do love theatre – heartening in these challenging (to say the least) times. Despite being besieged on so many sides, it seems, many people still recognise that theatre – and its cultural sisters and brothers – has an enormous amount to offer to individuals, communities, societies, nations.  By being part of live performance, on-stage and off, we feel connected, united, strong; we have our experiences broadened, our prejudices challenged; we laugh; we cry; we share; we live. What’s not to love?

Lancaster Library (including Lancaster Fun Palace), The Melodrome at The Eden Festival, The Devonshire Cat, Sheffield (with Drunken Chorus) are just some of the places ELART Productions has enjoyed making theatre this year so far…

 

#LoveTheatreDay

elaru xx

Getting The Job Done (The Secretaries)

The secretaries in Memorandum are a great example of very differing work ethics. The secretary to the Translation Centre works hard, follows orders (for the most part) and is clearly a great employee – though this doesn’t necessarily serve her well. The secretary to the Managing Director, however, is vain, lazy and seems to do the bare minimum to keep his job. Clearly, these polar opposites, are caricatures in many ways, though Havel’s clever writing does give them each a journey through the play and more depth than my surface analysis would suggest, and both of them have features that many of us will recognise from our own working lives…

Memorandum Rehearsal 12th April 2015 012 Memorandumrehearsals19and20April 129 Memorandum Rehearsal 12th April 2015 065 Memorandum Rehearsal 12th April 2015 014 Memorandum Rehearsal 12th April 2015 084 Memorandumrehearsals19and20April 098 Memorandumrehearsals19and20April 116 Memorandumrehearsals19and20April 128 Memorandumrehearsals19and20April 175

And now, I’d better get on with my job.

As a cast member said on Facebook this week:

If you only find time to do one thing next week – VOTE!

If you find time to do two things – VOTE and see Memorandum. Wednesday 6, Friday 8 and Saturday 9 May (see – not May 7 – you can definitely do both!). Lancaster library, 7.30pm. Tickets available from Lancaster library, by contacting emma@elartproductions.co.uk  – or just buy on the door.

Really hope to see you there!

elaru xx

Iphigenia by Lady Jane Lumley

It’s happened! The Rose Company’s first show – Iphigenia by Lady Jane Lumley – the oldest known dramatic work by an English woman and the earliest known translation of Greek drama into English. It happened- and it was well-received – and it was fun!

I travelled to Reading by train and so was the first to arrive at The Minghella Building at Reading University. I was impressed with the space – very new and with great facilities – and had a brilliant time being shown all around by one of the space’s technicians. (The highlight of this part of the day was getting to walk on the steel-wire mesh above the theatre to play with the lights (see photo below)!)

When the cast arrived, they too were pleased with what they saw and we got straight down to an intense rehearsal afternoon, really finding out how to use the space.

And then – seemingly in a flash – it was time for the show. Although some of the cast were suffering from colds and coughs (I feel to blame for passing one around…), Doctor Theatre worked its magic and everyone performed with huge energy and skill – I was really proud of them all!

The audience – an academic one, staying at Reading for a conference – were responsive and clearly relished seeing such a rarely performed piece. We enjoyed performing such a rare text too – and are really looking forward to playing with it again when we revive it in autumn.

 

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Agamemnon and Menelaus

Agamemnon and Menelaus

Drirector on the lighting mesh as the cast warm up.

Director on the lighting mesh as the cast warm up.

Do take a look at The Rose Company’s site for more photos – http://www.therosecompany.posthaven.com

As one of The Rose Company’s founders said on twitter this week: “Watch this space; this rose has only just begun to bloom!”

elaru xx

My Case For Culture

The Guardian’s 100 Voices Case for Culture was published online yesterday. Here’s the link, in case you haven’t already seen it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/interactive/2012/dec/07/case-for-culture-100-voices?fb=native

Reading through the hundred quotes, looking at almost a hundred faces all putting forward essentially the same message, was an exciting and humbling experience; I was very proud to be one of them and my mind has been buzzing ever since – buzzing with the question: why do I feel so strongly about this and why am I compelled to make a case for culture?

In the current economic climate, I know that some people may feel the country faces bigger problems than a shrinking of arts provision, that culture is a luxury we can ill-afford, but, while admitting that there are a range of major problems facing us, and acknowledging that some tough choices do need to be made, I still feel that a case must be made for culture; it is not a luxury but a necessity for a healthy and forward-thinking society.

I was brought up in a small village in the north of England. My mother was a single parent and we lived with my grandmother in her house. I don’t mention this to win sympathy votes – my childhood, while, perhaps, not ideal, was far from deprived; I mention it to refute the idea that culture is  merely for the rich, the elite. Money was not plentiful in my upbringing, but the arts were. In my village there was a thriving choir, which I joined at the age of 9, and a fantastic drama group. Both organizations were (and still are) full of talented, committed people and I found myself singing a wide range of music – ancient and modern – on a weekly basis, and performing in plays by  Ibsen, Shakespeare, Miller etc several times a year. Through these activities I grew in confidence, creativity, discipline; I learned to work as part of a team and made a range of life-long friendships with people of all ages and backgrounds. Eye-opening and mind-broadening trips to theatre, cinema and concerts were also a regular part of my teenage life. Mum took me to all the events my school offered, whether or not I was in them, and we often attended theatre in the nearby city and, occasionally, but memorably, took trips to Manchester and even London. I know mum made sacrifices for these trips, but they couldn’t have been more important to me.

So my childhood – and later life path – was moulded and shaped by culture and I believe my life is hugely richer for it. I also believe that everyone’s experience can be enriched by exposure to the arts in any form. To give just one example: as a freelance theatre practitioner, I spent two years working part time in a Young Offenders’ prison, teaching literacy and running some drama workshops. It would be untrue to say the workshops were always wholly successful – anyone who has worked in this kind of environment will know how challenging the individuals can be – but when they did work, they were fantastic: the drama activities and devising processes we used unlocked emotions and experiences that the Young Offenders rarely talked about or explored and I watched them visibly grow in confidence, relate more effectively to each other, value themselves a little more and gradually begin to trust one another – something this group of individuals often find very hard to do. I truly believe there are very few activities – if any – other than arts ones, which would have allowed this to happen.

I could go on and on and on… and may do in a later post – perhaps in a more useful and systematic way than this personal rant. But for now, I want to finish with some of my favourite quotes from The Guardian’s interactive wall:

I value culture and the arts because…

“Without them, we are less. Less human. Less empathic. Less inspired. Less inventive. Less resourceful. Less fulfilled. Less creative. Less visionary. Less future-proof. Less socially aware. Less globally aware. Less economically viable. Without them we are less of a society.” Anita Holford, Freelance writer and comms practitioner Writing Services

“…This is all the more important at times of hardship and austerity – what one banker earns in a year would be enough to sustain hundreds of arts projects and livelihoods for artists.” Dorothy Ker, Lecturer, University of Sheffield

“The arts are essential to the formation of any culture; they are what define a culture. They are not negotiable, they are irreplaceable.” Jeremy Holloway, Director
Transient Theatre Ltd

“How dare we make drastic decisions that affect young people and kids who will never be able to undo the damage being done? Cuts might need to be made but they shouldn’t be rushed or dramatic. Implementing fees will only discourage those who can’t afford to go, adding fuel to the fire that culture is for the elite.” Mar Dixon, Audience development consultant

“Cutting art funds is going backwards as a civilised society.” Nicholas Smyrnios, Visual artist and designer

I hope you agree!

elaru xx