This week I escaped to Dartington, just outside of Totnes in Devon with my friend, peer and sister Selina Thompson.
I first met Selina at some point in the past, I think it was in Edinburgh about 5 years ago, Selina remembers it differently ...but you can read about that in my new book.
I remember saying hello to her because she was the other fat one in the room, a lot of the time fatness means you compete with each other - you compare bodies, you work out whose fatter, who looks better. Selina and I just smiled and immediately began becoming friends.
Looking back I realise it was never just the fatness that bonded us - it was being the outsider, being the one that spoke differently to the rest of the live art crew, being the ones that both side eye’d when we thought work was a bit up itself, being the common ones, the ones giving it a go, the ones who don’t have a fall back plan, the ones looking to find their crew.
Selina is a close, brilliant and thoughtful friend, someone whose able to ask you how you are and when you respond with a lukewarm answer asks you to tell them the truth. She’s also a killer artist who makes work that is super brilliant - its nice when you don’t have to pretend that you’re friends are good.
Most artists friends shy away from working with each other - there’s a perception that collaboration is hard, difficult or risky. That you’ll end up falling out or make bad choices. When the opportunity arose to collaborate with Selina I didn’t worry about any of that stuff, I immediately said yes.
This week we’re in residence at Dartington Arts at Dartington Hall Estate kick starting that collaboration. We’re in a studio theatre with tables, masses of snacks, herbal tea and stationary - it’s a bit make-a-theatre-show-paint-by-numbers ...but we’re alright with that.
This week we’re beginning to think what this collaboration will look like. We’re creating a thing, a piece of work, a dedication within our practices to the social care system, specifically the adoption process.
As many of you know for the past 18 months I’ve been navigating the adoption system as an adopter, Selina is an adoptee. We’re interested in how folk like us are made to navigate these system, how careful the care system is, who its designed for and how we might use our skills and lived experience to affect it, change it, start again.
It’s an ambitious project and so at this point, on a Wednesday afternoon, after three days of talking through our interactions with the system we think this project might take us a decade. Throughout that time we think we might make a series of things, curate a series of things, present a series of things. Some of this stuff is about a radical rethink of the social care system, some of it is about changing approaches to parenting, some of it is about careful, gentle conversations and learning.
Despite the ambition we’re taking this process easy on ourselves because the wounds are fresh, this stuff is about our lives. We’re working shorter days, we check in in with each other and at lots of different points asking each other about our top 5 fruit and vegetables, chocolate bars and takeaways dishes.
This week I’m reminded that to do this sort of big thinking, to rethink the world and dream better realities we need brilliant organisation like Dartington Arts to invest in us. We need to be able to have space away from success, audiences and critics to stretch our legs to plan and prepare.
Our next stop on this project is to hang out with each other in Southend and Birmingham to meet each other’s families. We’re then off to Hanover for a few weeks to see how the systems in Germany work ...or don’t.
This is the start, we’re not sure how we might get to an end ...if at all there will be an end.
The Adoption Project first residency was supported by Dartington Arts and is a collaboration between Selina Thompson Ltd and Scottee & Friends Ltd.
You can find out more about Selina's work here