Part of Derby CAN (Creative Arts Network) Sunday 27 September, 2020 Derby Theatre
Derby Theatre and partners celebrate easing out of quarantine and lockdown with community co-creation project. To celebrate the city’s emergence from quarantine, and easing out of lockdown, Derby Theatre and partners of Derby CAN (Creative Arts Network) are thrilled to announce Derby Rises, a radical combination of newly commissioned artistic pieces of work, community-based workshops and an evening of celebration and entertainment at Derby Theatre on Sunday 27 September.
Derby Rises is a citywide version of The Bakery Of Slow Ideas; a community art practice created by Leo Kay from London-based Unfinished Business. Together, Leo and Project Collaborator Anna Smith, make interactive and intimate performance, working with both artists and non-artists in the UK and throughout Europe. For Derby Rises, they are currently working with Derby Theatre, various community groups, artists and partners from the region to creatively explore the themes of hope, identity and how we emerge as a city from lockdown. On Sunday 27 September, the overall project will culminate in a socially distanced cabaret-style performance and celebration at Derby Theatre, which will also be live-streamed. The performance will bring together the content of the workshops, presented as artistic responses to each community group’s work.
The artists who will perform on the evening, and those involved at the workshop stage, are: Jamie Thrasivoulou (an award-winning writer, poet, lyricist, and educator from Derby); Amy Pennington (an artist who makes work using humour to connect human experiences and socio-political issues); Symoné (a hula hoop artiste, dancer, rollerskater and Vaudeville Dynamo) and Mr Supreme (a UK rap artist based in the East Midlands). On the evening, each artist will perform their short response piece and a performance poet will perform a new poem inspired by the words displayed and contributed via the Graffiti Wall. Sinfonia VIVA, a British, award-winning orchestra from Derby, will play a short set from a string quartet at the event and Derby Jazz, a long-established organisation who support and develop Jazz in the city, will also perform.
An invited audience on the night will include members of the community involved in the workshops, their friends and families plus an allocation of tickets available to members of the public. Community Workshops Since early July, Leo Kay, Derby CAN Partners and the commissioned artists have collaborated with the following groups through workshops: the LGBTQ+ community; the New Arrivals, Asylum Seekers and Refugee community and a newly formed group who identify as Working Class. The workshops explore each community group’s response to the pandemic, their personal manifestos for the future, and their hopes for their city.
The commissioned artists are attending each workshop to develop and create a short performance in response to each community’s contributions which will be performed at the Theatre on Sunday 27 September. To complement this, from Monday 21 until Saturday 26 September, a Graffiti Wall will be erected on Cathedral Green in the city, a creative space that will be accessible to the public to add their thoughts and dreams for their respective communities post-lockdown. Project partner, Baby People, a music and arts development organisation based in the city, the UK’s first dedicated Hip Hop school which uses art and culture to engage and support the needs of the most deprived in our communities, will engage with various groups to decorate the wall throughout the week, to enhance contributions from the public.
As part of this, local graffiti artists will run drop-in workshops for the public as part of the Derby Festé art trail. Derby Rises is part of Derby CAN (Creative Arts Network), a 3-year, multi-partner Arts Council England £1.5 million funded project to work, co-curate and co-create with different communities, to support and strengthen the performing arts sector in the local area. The project partners include: Baby People, China Plate, Crying Out Loud, Déda, Derby City Council, Derby County Community Trust, In Good Company, Maison Foo, Milk Presents, Not Too Tame, QUAD, University of Derby and Wild Rumpus. The Derby Rises celebration event will be on Sunday 27 September and will take place at Derby Theatre from 7.30pm.
Syndicated interview with lead artist, Leo Kay (from Unfinished Business)
As an artist/company who specialise in making live art and participatory performance, can you describe your ways and styles of working, ethos and approach to community projects like Derby Rises?
At the base of our company practice is a desire to blur lines of definition between artist, participant, professional, amateur, performer and audience. To create a context where people can celebrate their own relationship with the act of creativity while being held within a caring and boundary-applied environment. My work has moved from performing physical theatre, through dance theatre, into the direction of spoken word and live art. At some point, it fell off the stage and into bedsits, warehouses, community halls, and people’s homes. It moved away from presentation, towards interaction: the possibility that if the artist (professional or non-professional) brings themselves to the table as wholly as possible, and creates a context for real communication, then the participant/audience can bring themselves to the table and new depths of interaction and insight can occur.
I and Anna Smith (co-founder, Designer and Producer for Unfinished Business) have consistently placed as much importance on working with non-professionals and semi-professionals as with professional artists. I would say that whoever we work with, the work now occupies a space somewhere between a performance, a workshop and a ritual. Slowness, dialogue, deep listening and an attention to creating equity are focuses of our practice. How can we give up power to the group, how can we open the possibility for people to empower themselves within a workshop, a ritual or a performance context.
Derby Rises is based on my current artistic practice, The Bakery of Slow Ideas, which engages the act and metaphors within food fermentation with a specific focus on Sourdough Bread baking. It asks us to slow down, to take time to reflect and take care, to avoid hurting ourselves, and all that surrounds us. I think of it as a political, and in some way, spiritual art practice. Slowness, care and the acknowledgement of a societal tendency towards hyper productivity, and the resulting damage and exhaustion, is at the heart of the practice. Derby Rises was born out of a conversation between myself and Sarah Brigham (CEO and Artistic Director, Derby Theatre).
Whilst describing my current work, Sarah’s eyes began to light up. I described a series of events which combine the popular, collective act of baking, combined with fun performance elements and ethical and inclusive dialogue; and she felt that it could be the perfect ritual to bring the city of Derby out of lockdown, offering various communities the opportunity to engage in creativity and take up space within the city at a time when people may have been experiencing further isolation and exclusion due to Covid-19.
How did the concept/idea for The Bakery of Slow Ideas come about?
The Bakery Of Slow Ideas was born out of a period of research into slowing down, ‘doing nothing’ and ritual within personal empowerment and political resistance. I was thinking about the links between hyper-productivity, personal exhaustion and ecological burn out. For most of my adult life, I have overworked and had digestive problems. I am wheat intolerant, which means that my body reacts badly to eating contemporary industrialised wheat, so in 2016 I started baking my own rye and spelt loaves.
Then one day, as I was baking and thinking about these research ideas, it hit me: the ritual that allows me to digest, that allows me to slow down, and brings meaning, calm, rhythm and satisfaction to my life is this act of baking. Since then, I have held day-long baking and dialogue processes and associated workshops and installations in various communities across Europe and the UK. I think of The Bakery of Slow Ideas as a platform for slow consideration and the digestion of ideas. I think of it as an exploration of the art of hosting, which I believe to be an essential practice within our current climate of borders, nationalism, fear of the other and separatism. The practice aims to welcome, to invite people in and offer space to share, to reflect, to express themselves and to have fun.
Which communities of Derby have you been working with on Derby Rises and how/in what ways?
We have collaborated with three of Derby Theatre Associate companies: Maison Foo, Not Too Tame and Milk Presents, creating workshops for the communities that they make for/work with. These include creative individuals from the new arrival, refugee and asylum seeker communities, the LGBTQ+ community and those who identify as working class. Members of these communities will attend bespoke workshops which have been planned specifically for each community group.
Our collaborations with the associate companies means that we have been able to reach out to people within each specified community and establish a level of trust even before beginning the workshops.
Can you explain how integral and invaluable it is to involve the community on projects like Derby Rises?
Derby Rises is a community arts project. The roots of the practice are based in a desire to nurture healing communication, to allow communities space to have a meaningful dialogue, to digest together and to allow for emergent ideas to arise from this interaction. Whether that community be within an arts context or within a culturally, socially or experience specific context, the aspirations stay the same. The fact that the communities that we are engaging with in this specific process are not often afforded space to be seen and heard within contemporary urban culture, makes their engagement all the more important.
On a recent episode of the podcast ‘How to Survive The End Of The World’ the writer and activist Autumn Brown said: It is the people who are on the margins of society, who are already surviving on the margins, who have the solutions that we need. Because they are already having to survive within space that was constructed without them in mind or actively constructed to get rid of them.
Therefore, the question for me is not: what the opportunity to engage in collective creativity and dialogue can do for those who participate, but more poignantly: what emergent solutions for our society at large can come from hosting contexts where silenced and marginalized communities can find their voice, express their visions and dream our futures? I believe this movement from centralising my own situated creative voice to hosting and listening to others is a key and vital shift within my art practice expressing my desire to contribute to the societal transformation that must occur if we are to survive as a species.
Can you explain the benefits and importance of co-creation and co-curation?
Derby Rises is about inspiring and enabling conversations within and across various different communities in Derby. It’s about local artists strengthening their connections with the communities they make work with and for. It’s about sharing creative practice and life experience in search of better ways to move forward together as we continue to face the challenges posed by Covid-19. Whilst developing Derby Rises, what has been brilliant about attempting to co-create and co-curate has been the opportunity to learn from one another, to share ideas and experience and know that it’s ok not to have all the answers, because someone in the community will. We’ve been collaborating on lots of different levels, with lots of different people and working like this means that we move away from any sense of hierarchy and towards a space where everyone is valued for their contribution.
What impact do you envisage Derby Rises will have on Derby Theatre, the project partners, artists and the communities it serves? What do you hope will be its legacy?
Derby Rises is part of the longer term Derby-wide arts development initiative called Derby CAN. Sarah Brigham was enthusiastic about The Bakery Of Slow Ideas as the basis for Derby Rises because she saw it as a platform for exchange, dialogue and co-creativity with the aim that it could service Derby CAN’s vision to develop, deepen and expand the citywide creative collaborative networks. Myself and Sarah explored ways in which the project partners, associate artists/companies and specified communities could collaborate.
Derby Rises has three stages to it. Throughout September there will be community held day-long Bakery Of Slow Ideas and Sauerkraut Spell Making processes working with associate performance companies: Maison Foo, Milk Presents and Not Too Tame and working with their target communities. Within this process there will be three commissioned local artists who will make a creative response to the processes and on Sunday 27 September, 2020 there will be a socially distanced performance event at Derby Theatre where all participants of the workshops will be invited to break bread together and watch these especially commissioned works inspired by the workshops they participated in.
The current vision is that these individuals and their wider communities will then be invited to engage in the construction of a co-created piece of participatory art in 2021. It’s exciting to be a part of a larger project which prioritises a longer and deeper process of engagement with both professional and non-professional collaborators who make up the creative network within Derby. I believe that this spider-like approach to nurturing local art will help enrich the creative culture of all involved.