How to start to establish a community theatre company based in Newport, Shropshire whilst managing the demands of being a new parent and maintaining an income?
To answer or at least beat about the bush around this mammoth question (!) and ideally help me continue to take action, Stage Directors UK have provided funding for me to be mentored this year. I have luckily found not one but two mentors who feel right. Both working in the arts in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. They are Maggie Love, the Artistic Director of Shrewsbury Youth Theatre and Mike Layward, Artistic Director of DASH (Disability Arts in Shropshire).
As part of the remit of the SD-UK funding, I am to record my learning and engage in regular self-reflection ‘of whatever kind is going to be most helpful to me’. I felt starting to write a blog would be the best way of diarising my thoughts, and making them accessible and visible to those who can help the theatre company grow and also be helped by its’ growth.
I’ve made up a rule that I’m to blog after I meet with either mentor – if I’ve not got much time, I’ll still get something up!
So I had my first meeting with Mike Layward last Thursday. I opened up and shared a lot about me. He’s a great guy who I feel I can be open with and not be judged, in any way really, just held and listened to compassionately – that’s a superior skill not many have in my experience.
It’s been coming to a head that I’d sort of forgotten I’m slightly dyspraxic. I was diagnosed late – when I was 30, studying for my drama teaching PGCE at Goldsmiths. And this part of me has been ‘playing up’ ever since I left Concord College in 2017 to pursue the dream of setting up the theatre company and being a fully present mum. It’s been a bit of a mystery maze and, as I’m so out of my comfort zone, in pretty much all areas of my life (and my energy has been seriously zapped by all this change), I’ve felt overwhelmed regularly and my dyspraxia has played up. I sort of zone out and my brain melts and I feel panicked when my system overloads with too much new stuff. As you can imagine, I’ve not really known what to do with having being diagnosed slightly dyspraxic and I really had just forgotten about it completely and got on with being a drama teacher just accepting I have to work hard behind the scenes. I hadn’t told any of my schools I worked for I was slightly dyspraxic. And I’ve survived this long without needing any help with it.
However, now, with feeling on a mission to birth this theatre company and hopefully help many, I need to admit I really do need help first! I am too much at sea with the dyspraxia side of me playing up much more often. Boy I’d be relieved if I didn’t feel so isolated with this mission and found people who compliment my skill set who can equally see how awesome this theatre company will be for Newport and its’ neighbours.
I never set out to be a one man/woman band. I’ve always felt the right people would appear at the right time. In allignment with this quote: ‘A woman who walks in purpose doesn’t have to chase people or opportunities. Her light causes people and opportunities to pursue her.’ (Dr. Farrah Gray) . I still have to walk though. And get better at meditation so I’m ‘in purpose’ every day! Last year my original plans fell apart (get an arts council grant!) and I’m in that vacuum post plans and really just needing to accept more time is needed. And to take a much wider view. I feel the right people will emerge if we do a project together but I’m not yet in a position to do a full-blown project… and I’m also still balancing my son’s delicate needs. He’s nearly 3, and there’s no way I want to let him down by disappearing into theatre director / project management distant mum just yet. I did leave Concord partly to be there for him at this crucial early time in his life, and I hoped my quest with the theatre company would entwine nicely with my quest to be a great mum.
And then there’s the maintaining an income bit which I’ve so not yet resolved, although I’ve managed til now (with a huge slice of support from the ‘universe’ around me shall we say). Hunches are coming up as to the next stage of rolling out the green financial carpet beneath and I will take action. It’s very much an intuitive journey.
Which leads me to saying at the heart of all this brave transitioning I’m doing lies my spiritual side I’ve been developing for a long, long time. I now believe in Angels, Fairies, Unicorns, Dragons, the Universe, Source energy, my sixth sense. You name it. I’m very open and curious about the invisible; however, I stay much on the side of the light and what I deem to be a good influence. And I’m totally aware I need to be grounded too which I can struggle with. I hugely believe in nature. Connecting with trees is becoming paramount to my health. And the words: surrender, trust (ok, this one p**s me off at times as it’s tough when you can’t see land yet) and hope.
So, back to what I learnt from Mike, he’s shared with me practical advice that I can get free ‘access support’ with my next Arts Council application (my last three attempts failed) and it may be worth my while looking into the new ACE ‘developing your creative practice’ fund. Something about ‘Access to Work’ being a government initiative that can support someone like myself. Loads of people he thought of who sound interesting (but yes I got wholly overloaded by email links after and can’t take on board at the mo!). Oh yes the neurodivergent movement which sounds very cutting edge and, although I’ve heard the term bandied about, in actuality I know nothing about… I sense I am neurodivergent but then. wouldn’t we all be? Perhaps some are simply more ‘off the beaten path’ than others?!
I did share with him a dream is to co-create a spectacular community event like the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Chetwynd Deer Park one day. “Nothing big then” he said. Yup. I’m aware that’s years away. For today I’m learning how to write a blog, and I sincerely hope I haven’t bored you – I’m learning you see. Think perhaps I’ve written too much… but I’ve started ?