I’m aware this week the internet has become a plethora of endless lists about 2016; Top 10 Celebrities who Died, Top 43 People from X Factor who Almost Died, Top 10 Great Blonde Dictators - Click Here Because the Answer will Really Shock You etc. but still I’m going to yet again compile my year.
This is now a bit of an end of year ritual for me, I can see the end in sight and I sit down, decipher my dyslexic diary and mark out what I’ve done and who I’ve done it with. It’s a way of justifying my existence, demonstrating how I spent some public money and question if it was all worth it.
Without further ado – here’s what happened in 2016. Spoiler: I didn’t die.
I went on a whistle stop tour of England with my mate Debbie, we recorded lots of different people from lots of different places – these recordings were the basis of Putting Words in Your Mouth.
2016 was the year of the residency – this year I’ve been on 11 residencies. More and more I’m making work by hanging out somewhere, finding the problems, seeking the clumsy solutions and then making something big and obnoxious for that place. St Helens is no different, after the success of TakeOverFest with Heart of Glass in 2015 I was back to work out what I could make next for the town. Back down south, Lea Anderson and I set up shop at Metal Southend to finalise the plans for my next theatre commission. Fat Blokes in association with South Bank Centre will debut in A/W 2017 - it’s about fat men* finding liberation through femme DIY culture.
I joined Selina Thompson’s board! Selina is a brilliant artist - if you don’t know Selina’s work you should click here
February and March
That last bit of the winter was a bit of a write off. My depression reared its ugly head. Obviously I wrote a column in i-D about it. I did however pull myself out of bed to interview Pam St. Clement, because it would be rude not to…
Narked at yet another email asking me to work for free I …wrote a blog. The result was the Pay Us for the Work We Do campaign – which you can read about here
I trended nationally, apparently. I wrote a piece for Londonist about leaving London which got a lot of support and claps emojis.. More residencies – this time in Peterborough with Peterborough Presents and Metal Peterborough, working towards my first sculptural commission *hair flick* plus another in, with and for Hull!
In May I bounced back, attended a theatre conference which wasn’t what I’d hoped, again I wrote a blog that rallied the troupes. I also set up the Live Art Syndicate – another Scottee attempt for artists to raise their own cash to spend on whatever they need with justification. So far we haven’t won much but we still have a few months left to win big.
Towards the end of the month I was back on residency at Metal Southend. This time accompanied by a bunch of bloke-ish artists to explore my uncomfortable relationship to maleness versus their perceived comfort with it. Supported by Arts Council Englaid we created five films, all of which will be released in February and March 2017, leading up to mini working-in-progress tour and four showings at CPT. Look out for this one, its horrible (again) and is titled BRAVADO.
I was honoured to compere Roundhouse’s 50th birthday party! Roundhouse has always been and will continue to be my second home and to be able to introduce some brilliant acts in front of 500 of the best was really bona.
Throughout June, with the help of JRRT and Hackney Showroom we held public discussions about that thing that happened that month. Party Politics invited those from both sides of *the* argument to talk it through in a big circle – like theatre of the 70s…
BRAVADO went up to Yorkshire – to Batley and Dewsbury with the brilliant Creative Scene. In yet another residency I found myself in an Indian restaurant introducing the locals to my work and in a few pubs speaking to Yorkshire blokes about patriarchy.
This was followed by the most effecting residency this year, one that saw me travel across the length and breath of Wales, in 5 days. Accompanied by Owen Parry in collaboration with and funded by National Theatre of Wales, I met LGBTQI* people and discussed what life is like for them that side of the border. I came out of that residency with some beautiful but haunting #inkyoutbursts that will contribute to a collaboration with the Welsh LGBTQI+ community in the near future…
I got on lots of trains in August! Back in Batley to talk bloke-ness, over in Hull to create something special, across to Stoke to show my children’s speakers corner piece Podium and a very special outing of Camp…
One of my favourite gigs of the year was performing at Hackney Showroom’s Disco Loco – a sort of Glastonbury for children. Dressed in 4 inch white stilettoes, an over sized blouse and not much else I debated with hoards of children about gender, pollution, politics, stereotypes and career choices. I want to be in full drag, with children, talking about the things that matter more.
Roundhouse is great, I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Who else would let me take over a space for a week, lock myself in with a gang of queer kids and say I have no idea of the outcome. Over 5 days my queer collective created zines and text based activism for the outside world.
August also saw the debut of a new project I’m really proud of - Any Excuse. I asked the nice people of Peterborough with my friends at Nene Park and Peterborough Presents if they’d like a free champagne hot tub for themselves and three mates. Loads of people responded, obviously. However, once drunk and half naked we made them tell each other why they loved one another…
Our work in Hull came to a crescendo with The Door. Again, another public call out – this time asking residents of Hull if they were brave enough to step through The Door? Over the course of the first weekend of September hundreds of people did step though. One woman brought her kids in their pyjamas because she was convinced only her house had been chosen to be a part of it. What lay on the other side of The Door I hear you cry …well, you should have been there.
I moved to Westcliff on Sea, near Southend. It’s really nice; it’s works for me.
Time for another lush residency – this one with National Centre for Circus Arts, workshopping a show for 2018 called Risk. Risk is a circus show about queer sex.
Producer Molly and I then repacked our bags and got on a plane to New York. With support from All for One we met with lots of queer folk in NYC to research a new project called Queen. More on this in 2017.
In October I climbed Ben Nevis (well, a bit of it) to prepare myself for making Putting Words in Your Mouth and delivered a speech called ‘Are You Part of a Queer Community or do you just show up to things Queer People are at?’ for Hackney Showroom and And What? Festival
Putting Words in Your Mouth – my very ugly, uncomfortable show about queer politics, liberalism and belonging opened at Roundhouse. A show I couldn’t have made without the minds of a brilliant gang of artists – Travis, Jamal and Lasana. PWIYM was my first theatre show in over two years. First day of rehearsals I panicked - can I do this? Am I good enough? etc. a fear I’ll always own.
I am very proud of this piece and of course the critic’s response to it. Matt Trueman honoured me with my first five star review and listed it as of his top 10 shows of 2016 (LINK) – however awkward I feel about my legitimacy I’ll always happily listen to gratuitous praise.
PWIYM was my last show as Roundhouse Associate Artist - after five years I’ve handed over the mantel and ready for new adventures.
December was about resting, getting back to Westcliff and hanging out with the locals, planning a body of work I am hoping to make here.
As ever I’m rounding off the year with my annual New Years knees up! Camp NYE has become an institution for queer weirdos, homosexualists, Mum’s and those partial to a vintage blouse. I’m remembering the bizarreness of the last three – Lauren Harries turning up with no CD’s to DJ, Black Lace doing the conga at what was The Black Cap and Margarita Pracatan almost falling off stage, twice.
This years knees up is again going to be a gorgey one – Jayde Adams, Le Gateau Chocolat, Unskinny Bop, Ginger Johnson, Fancy Chance, Thom Shaw, Titus Groan, Japans People, Munroe Bergdorf – the list goes on! Fancy joining us?
So, almost 15,000 of you came to see my projects across 21 towns and cities. I got you drunk whilst I spent the year sober. I made you tell the world what you thought, made you angry, uncomfortable and some of you even cried. I discussed maleness, fatness, queerness, whiteness, homophobia, transphobia and politics in pubs, restaurants, safe houses, trains, hotel function rooms, debt collection shops, meadows and kitchen tables. I received four letters saying I was “not successful this time”, ran the whole thing on 50p, with a small amount of direct funding and did it with the best girl gang ever …and I only decided to pack it all in on two occasions this year.
Next year I have some very exciting projects planned – BRAVADO will show for the first time in a rugby club locker room, a pub and lots of different male spaces across the UK. The first of my online workshops kick-starts in January – come and join in. I start work on my dance show about fat men and at some point the big empty gaps in my diary will get filled in so I can stop worrying about paying the bills.
My hope for 2017 are:
I want to write more – not blogs, proper things
I want to get to do theatre more – I enjoy ruining it for proper theatre people
I want to be given big stacks of cash to spend on brilliant, positively destructive things in places where that sort of thing doesnt usually happen.
Lets see if any of it comes true.
Until next time weirdos, keep it weird. X
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