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Saturday, 7 December 2019

Inspiration Exchange at InDialogue

Inspiration Exchange: The Story of the Day
InDialogue at Nottingham Contemporary, 21 Nov 2019

This is the second time I’ve run an Inspiration Exchange in The SHED. The first time was in Derby in the summer. We had the Shed in its open configuration – as much outside as inside. Today, it’s autumn-almost-winter. The Shed is in its fully closed set-up and we have heaters inside. It is cosy in the afternoon, when we usually have five or six people in at any one time. For The Story of the Day summing up performance at the end of the day, there are at least 25 of us squeezed in around the table. Many of the people who shared a story have come back, and everyone else is a delegate at the InDialogue symposium which the Exchange is part of.

Once everyone is inside, we close the door and I welcome them all to the Exchange. And then I say something like this.

**

Before we start, I am thinking about coincidence.

This is a themed Inspiration Exchange. The Exchange has shifted shape many times over the last nine years: multiple artist/storytellers, a ‘closed-loop’ group of artists, even some phone / email exchanges in advance or as a follow up. But usually the format is this, me and a set of story cards.

My rule is that in each starting line-up there is at least one story given to me from every other iteration of these ‘solo’ Exchanges. But I have not done a themed version before. My good friend and sometime collaborator Hannah Nicklin did adapt the format for her own themed version of the Exchange, Games We Have Known And Loved, which I was really happy about (you can get Hannah’s Zine of it here.) But I’ve never done it myself before.

Today’s theme is Site Place and Location. So I have been back through the list of stories, all of the stories that have even been in the exchange and selected the ones that related to place in some way. Sometimes place is really significant, in others it is a more tangential element.

But in looking for stories of Place, something I notice is that the Exchange does like coincidence. In our recent show The Department of Distractions, Lockhart, the boss, says to new recruit, Daphne:

People love coincidences don’t they? They love to tell each other about them. They think they are clues. That they are evidence of something else. That they have meaning.

And so before we start, I’m thinking about that. About coincidence, about serendipity, about cause and effect. The right place at the right time. I am wondering, as I’ve already noticed it, if this will turn out to be another theme of the day.


I have prepared 28 story cards, but as you can see, only 24 cards fit on the table. This happens sometimes – changing the ratio of the grid means one or two cards don’t make it. I always feel bad for the stories on the table that don’t get chosen. But what of the story titles written but then left unused on the subs’ bench?

I leave
HOW THE CHURCH BELLS WORK
SEAGLASS
TEN POUND POM
and GOTCHA
off the table.

As it turns out, coincidence is not one of the themes that emerges particularly strongly. This is an Exchange that features phone boxes, love stories, the iconic versions of countries we know, particularly America and Scotland, and people, and the good things that they can do.

I swap 01369 870 212
for TEENAGE LOVE
Both of these are phonebox stories. In Teenage Love phoneboxes are windows to memories of travel, and love stories, even if they (phonebooks) do frequently smell of urine. In one scene that is particularly romantic to this UK audience, our storyteller arrives off the bus in Times Square (in the 1980s, I think) and has to find a phinebox to let her boyfriend know she has arrived in New York so he can come meet her.

However. Here’s a thing.

01369 870 212, the title of the starting story, is the phone number of this phonebox:


But I was back there this summer to find that the phone has been removed. It feels like the story title should be the number of a working phonebox, so on the way in to the Exchange this morning I found a new phonebox and prepared an extra card, 0115 950 6369. Which is the phone number of this phonebox on Lower Pavement in Nottingham:


I swapped DESIRE PATHS
For DESIRE BEFORE MOBILE PHONES
In which our narrator, a photographer, makes her own desire line across a crowded night club to ask her friend to introduce her to a beautiful guy she has had her eye on for a while. They make a date to meet up, choosing a field they both know, out of town. On the day, neither of them can find each other, and because they don’t have mobile phones yet, they cannot call to say where are you…?

I swapped THE WILD CEILIDH
For DOWN AND OUT IN EMBANKMENT
Another love story set in the days before mobile phones, and featuring lovers meeting at transport hubs, and one of them doing a chimpanzee impression on top of a phone box, and this is the moment they fall in love. Later a phonebox has to be found in order to call 999 for an ambulance, because of food poisoning so bad the husband cannot stand up.

I swapped “I’M GOING ANYWAY!”
For THEY LOOK LIKE UMBRELLAS
A story for her dad, because he rarely goes out, and does not get to tell people about this, but it is important to him. So our narrator chooses to tell this story for him.

Her dad likes fishing for pike. Not to kill or eat. He throws them back. He finds it relaxing. But what he has noticed over the last few years is that the population of pikes is decreasing, and the population of cormorants is growing, as their migration patterns change. People notice that there are more cormorants around, and they like it, but they don’t see the effect that has on the pike population. People should know, so his daughter is telling us.

“What does a cormorant look like?” someone asks.

“They look like umbrellas.”

I swap FOR THE LOVE OF SCAFFOLDING
For SKEG IS NOW A PLACE FOR US
People have put things done or said by other people into the Exchange before, but this is the first time, I think, that someone has specifically put another person in to the Exchange as the specific Inspiration.

The story to explain why this person is being put into the Exchange is the story of a proposal. A planned trip to the seaside, to look at the sea and recharge, which covers another plan for a marriage proposal in a message in a bottle, washed up on the beach at just the right time. 

This secret plan is almost sabotaged by the person who is meant to be finding the bottle becoming distracted by picking up litter that is going to get washed out to sea. The telling of this bit of the story involves the word ‘Wombling’.

**

In my retelling of the story in the packed Shed my use of the word Wombling prompts a conversation about regional specificity in language, cultural memory, story-telling and, obviously, Wombles, which then becomes a thread woven into the rest of the Exchange.

After this entirely appropriate distraction of the Wombling…

**

…and after the proposal has been found and accepted and mini bottles of prosecco have been produced from pockets and uncorked, the two fiancés sit looking happily out to sea.

“You do realise…” begins the proposee, “that this means that Skeg(ness) is now A Place for us?” 

I swap BARBERS CHANGE LIVES
Which is one of the amazing coincidence stories that I had noted earlier
For TUNNOCKS
A story of a caving expedition, sponsored by Tunnocks, who now get to sponsor the story. 

**

Cue more discussion about the cultural specificity of ‘Tunnocks’ and whether this translates to an international audience, and whether the wafers or teacakes are better, and do they really only make two things?

**

And this is also, another story that puts a person into the Exchange.

A sixteen hour caving expedition, visiting previously unmapped caves. A moment to think about the fact that humans had not been in these caves for hundreds of thousands of years – if ever. Twelve hours in, a friend is starting to struggle. By some people’s standards he is not ‘fit enough’ to undertake this challenge.

Back on the surface and one of the cavers is vocal in his criticisms and insults about the ill friend – slowing them down, putting himself at risk. And then the realisation. Listening to this tirade, our narrator is struck by “the dramatic contrast between what you are hearing and what you are knowing.” He knows that the angry caver is wrong. What the friend deserves is admiration and respect. Our narrator understands some of the challenges his friend faces, and that he will not be deterred. Whatever the challenges other people set for themselves, “it might take him longer, but he will still do it.”

I swap TAKE MY CAR
For HESITATION
A story of unexpected kindness and consideration from a stranger. The slip-road shunt is your fault, and will cost the other driver far more money. But instead of shouting at you through the window, as you are expecting, his main concern is that you are okay.

I swap EMPTY BENCHES
For THE SHOES
A story from a friend. A story about how we can’t always know the whole story. We can’t always know what happens next. A story about generosity and kindness. About how we can’t always know whether our acts of kindness will have a lasting effect. How we can’t always know our own motives for those acts of kindness. But how, in the end, the important thing is that we do them.

Finally, I was warned in advance that I might not get a story back,
but I still told “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!” “I KNOW!”
And in keeping with the spirit of that story, I didn’t get a story back. Which meant that at the end of the day the table looked like this.


**

Huddled into The Shed for company and warmth, no one moves to leave. Conversation returns to stories and Wombles. 

Thanks everyone who came along.

A few months ago we were delighted to hear that our application to jointly host a PhD with Sheffield University was successful, and that Rob Fellman would be joining us to start his work on “Contemporary theatre-making and company longevity: technologies of creation, collaboration and remembering” this autumn. We’re looking forward to working with Rob, and very excited to see what he finds in our archive - both literally and analytically! So, slightly later than planned, we’d like to introduce him. Or rather, let him introduce himself…


By way of a brief introduction, my name is Rob and I am a PhD researcher at the University of Sheffield. I recently started working on something called a ‘collaborative doctoral award’. These ‘CDA’s’ (as they are more simply named) reflect changing approaches within Higher Education institutions and funding bodies alike, to enact a more integrated form of academic learning; positioning researchers alongside partner organisations to produce mutually beneficial outcomes.  

It all sounds rather formal put that way, but it essentially means that over the next three years I have the unique pleasure of working with Third Angel, as a collaborator of sorts. I will be beginning my journey by looking into the archived materials that Alex, Rachael and their past creative collaborators have produced during formative rehearsals, whilst also looking ahead to what might still be to come… There are many possibilities that can arise from the reflection and evaluation of the past, that might unearth an essence or ‘trace’ of what Third Angel contribute to the field of contemporary theatre (and indeed what importance they are still yet to play). I am intrigued to find out what relationships exist between the knowledge contained in Third Angel’s archive and the knowledge held by its members and collaborators. How might Third Angel’s approach to ‘collecting’ and ‘retelling’ be considered, especially in view of their company’s longevity (approaching 25 years in action)? 

The recent book launch of ‘There’s A Room’ (you can read the recent blog post on this here for a bit more context) marks a defining moment in Third Angel’s journey. Its release acts as a commitment. Just as their words are committed to paper, so too are they reaffirming a commitment to the sharing and openness that has characterised much of their creative practice to date. Third Angel are, by their very nature, a collaborative company and the texts of ‘There’s A Room’ are no exception. Alongside Rachael and Alex the likes of Jerry Killick, mala voadora and Chris Thorpe knowingly make their marks on its pages, whilst unnamed others may (or may not) have contributed in a multitude of different ways; in stories shared, in chance meetings, or in simply being in the wrong place at the right time… Third Angel are masters of observation, so anything could make it in!



What then of all the collaborators to come; readers and performers of these texts (you? Me?) through which the legacy of Third Angel can be breathed a lasting life; their stories once again re-told and re-imagined? My research hopes to engage with some of these (admittedly broad!) questions. I hope to find out how collaborative work impacts on the potential for longevity in the arts sector that Third Angel so wonderfully embody – is it true that there is a strength in numbers?  

I plan to keep you updated on this blog with some of my findings, both with attempts at answers to the questions posed above, as well as some exciting discoveries from the archive (we hope)! I look forward to sharing my journey with you. If you are interested in keeping a closer eye on what I am up to, you can find me on Twitter @Rob_Fellman so please do feel free to connect with me on there. Oh, and if you haven’t got your copy of ‘There’s A Room’ yet, you can grab yours here!  

Watch this space…

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

We’re looking for new trustees!

Could that be you..?

Third Angel has a brilliantly supportive board of trustees who keep a broad overview of our plans, support the team, champion the work and ensure we fulfil our charitable purpose. They also keep track of the balance of skills and representation on the board itself as members’ terms of service come to an end, and so we’re regularly looking for new trustees!

We’re at an exciting point in the company’s development as we approach our 25th anniversary in 2020, so it’s an excellent time to join as we celebrate achievements of the past, and think big in our planning for the future.

Daragh O’Reilly has been on our board for almost three years now, and this is his take on being a Third Angel trustee:

“A colleague drew my attention to Third Angel 3-4 years ago, and the fact that they were looking for board members. My own background was originally in sales and marketing, and more recently in arts marketing research and teaching. I checked out the company’s website and was impressed by their work and story.

“After an initial chat over coffee with Hilary Foster, currently Executive Producer at Third Angel, I submitted a short expression of interest form, and was invited along to a board meeting. It was exciting to have the opportunity to see how organisation works from the inside, and this confirmed my interest in wanting to contribute.

“Like with any new organisation, it took me a while to get a sense of the business cycle, and the specifics of the operating environment (cultural policy, funding, theatre/performance business practices). Because Third Angel is an extremely well organised company, this process was made relatively easy.

“During the time I have been on the board, I have seen the company become a charity, successfully renew its status as an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation, and move premises to Harland Works. One of the most moving shows I have seen in my thirty years in Sheffield was Inherited Cities, a show devised and performed by Sheffield school pupils under the guidance and direction of the Third Angel team.

Inherited Cities group selfie

“There is always something going on at Third Angel, whether it is the touring, the development and presentation of new work, business planning, fundraising, profile raising, or reaching out to new funders, mentees, schools, and audiences. This means that there is always plenty of scope for a trustee to contribute from their own professional perspective and skill-set, and to help Third Angel become all that it wants to be.”

We welcome applications from everyone who feels that they can support, encourage and contribute, but we are particularly interested in applicants with the following skills and experience to complement the current membership of our board:

  • Human Resources (HR)
  • Entrepreneurship / enterprise / sales strategy
  • Public relations (PR)
  • Property and estate management
  • IT / digital

Department blood projection

Third Angel is committed to ensuring that our Board of Trustees is representative of the diversity of the UK population and would like to encourage applications from people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds as well as those who identify as D/deaf or disabled.

Closing date for applications is Friday 1st November 2019 – please download our application pack for more information here: https://tinyurl.com/y3o3gd82

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

THERE’S A ROOM Book Launch

This month, which marks the 24th anniversary of our first performance, Testcard, we are delighted to be publishing There’s A Room: Three Performance Texts by Third Angel with the brilliant folk at Oberon Books.

Early on in our career we talked more about writing down than about writing. The durational and installation works were represented as lists of instructions – if they were written down at all. Texts for the theatre pieces were assembled from improvisations, transcriptions of film dialogue found texts and conversations with audiences. We didn’t really think of them as scripts, or about other people performing them.

That probably changed with Where From Here, which we made with Jerry Killick in 2000. We’ve talked in the past about this show being a ‘coming of age’ show for Third Angel, and certainly it toured more extensively than anything we had made before. Several times in the touring life of the show Alex stepped in for Jerry when he wasn’t available. Even though the show was made and presented using a substantial amount of autobiographical improvisation, we found that Alex borrowed most of Jerry’s material and only added his own material in the final scene. At some point there was a conversation about other people performing it, and after the touring was finished, Rachael and Jerry wrote down their improvised sections (the rooms and the stories in them, if you know the show) and we added in the written speeches and made a script. There were a couple of conversations about publishing it, but it never quite happened.

Since then writing has become a more deliberate aspect of our process, and even in the more devised shows, printed scripts/texts are created for dramaturgical and technical purposes – for cueing the shows and for surtitling international gigs.

From the Introduction: There’s A Room
“Who’s in the room?” This is the question we ask ourselves about each project. It means, who is making this show? Who is in the room in which the work is getting made? Whose voices, whose expertise, whose experience is being brought together to tell this story with us?

When we started talking to Oberon about publishing some of the shows, a couple of years ago, we realised that a ‘complete works’ volume was not financially viable, and that we had to make a first choice of what we want to publish in this collection. We were interested in collecting shows that were created through exploratory, collaborative devising processes, and had resulted in scripts that could be performed by other artists and companies. With that in mind it was clear that the other two texts should be Presumption, made with Chris Thorpe, and What I Heard About the World, made with Chris and our Portuguese friends at mala voadora. These are the shows that have either been performed by another company (Presumption, The ECC, Brussels, 2012/13) or people have asked about the performance rights.

So we’ve gone back to the touring scripts, updated whilst on the road as the shows evolved, and added in some stage directions on top of the Stage Management notes, expanded some of our performer short-hand to make a few things clearer. We’ve written new introductory essays to explain the devising process of each show, and some more background about the company. We’re looking forward to it being out in the world.

The title of this collection also refers to the situation of each show, and the concerns of the work. Each takes place in a particular room – in which the audience are acknowledged to a greater or lesser extent. In each piece the lives of the people in the room together are affected by events in the world beyond its walls. Events they have taken part in, events they have heard about, events they have imagined. Taken chronologically, the three shows turn their attention outward, from the intensity of personal relationships and our domestic lives, to the overwhelming number of stories and events taking place in the world beyond.

We’re launching the book on 14th October 2019 at the Off The Shelf Festival in Sheffield, at 7pm, at Sheffield Hallam University’s Performance Lab on Arundel Gate. Rachael and Alex will be in conversation with writer and critic Lyn Gardner*, and we’ll be reading a few selections from each show. We’d love you to join us – tickets are available here.

After the launch There’s A Room will be available to buy from Oberon Books or directly from us.

**

Thanks to everyone at Oberon for pulling this together. Cover design above by Konstantinos Vasdekis. Photograph of Rachael Walton in Where From Here by Rob Hardy. Publication supported by Leeds Beckett University.

*Update: we’re sorry to learn that Lyn has had to clear her diary to deal with a family emergency. Chris Thorpe was scheduled to be with us for the event anyway, and will now help lead discussions. We wish Lyn the very best and thank Chris for stepping up. 

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Help us do more, for more people!

After a long and rigorous application process, we are over the moon that Third Angel is now formally recognised as a charity, and this opens up lots of new ways for people to support our work.

Inherited Cities. Photographer Joseph Priestley


During 2019-20, we are aiming to raise £16,000 from individual donations, grants and sponsorship to ensure that we can deliver our full programme of activity.

These funds will mean that we are able to:

·       Make time to research and develop new shows;

·       Explore new ways for people to experience theatre, especially for those who can’t get out and about;

·       Encourage young people aged 14-19 to find their voice and raise their aspirations by getting involved in the arts (Future Makers) and gaining qualifications outside of school (Arts Award);

·       Make development opportunities for artists / companies accessible to all by paying artists for their time and offering free training (BOOST);

·       Nurture diversity in the arts and encourage a wider range of voices to be heard.

Can you help us to achieve our goal?

There are a number of ways in which you can support Third Angel’s work:

The Desire Paths. Photo Craig Malone


DONATE! Make a donation through Wonderful. The wonderful thing about Wonderful is that they pass on EVERY penny that you donate, plus 100% of the Gift Aid, direct to us, no fees or charges.

SHOP! Raise money for Third Angel when you do your online shopping without spending an extra penny:

o   Easyfundraising gathers donations for Third Angel from over 3,600 online retailers when you shop with them.

o   Nominate Third Angel as your favourite charity on eBay and you can donate at checkout or nominate us to receive a donation when you sell an item.

CONNECT! Do you have contacts in local or national businesses that might be interested in supporting our work or sponsoring our Future Makers programme of workshops for 14-19 year olds? Connect us up!

And most importantly of all, SPREAD THE WORD! If you know someone who has been touched by Third Angel’s work, has received support from our team or has benefitted from our programmes, please pass this on.

Future Makers Behind The Camera workshop 2019

Every penny we receive will help us to continue to create and tour high quality artistic work, and help others to achieve their potential and broaden horizons through participation in the arts.

Thank you!

Laura

General Manager

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