One of my earliest creative memories was being given and easel and paints by my grandparents. I must have been around 5 years old.
I set my self up in front of the window of my bedroom in order to get the best light for my masterpieces (yes, plural)
After thoroughly researching how many different ways I could turn the page brown I moved on to expressing my artistic flare on the walls. Surprisingly, my parents did not champion this area of my work as I thought they might. It did however, give them a much needed reason to strip that 1970’s wall paper ( you’re welcome parents 😉
No dessert for a week aside, one the strongest feeling I have of that time is contentment. Pottering along, exploring my creativity in a safe space may have seemed such a simple pastime, but looking back I see the value it had and continues to have everyday.
Perhaps then, it’s not such a shocker, (yet still to me is still amazing) that fast forward 25 years I’m part of a team that gets to explore and share creativity for a living. When one hears the name Bounce Theatre its easy to jump to the conclusion that our work happens solely on the stage, but as a company we are learning that there is so much more to be found below the depths of theatre and performance. The participants of our Creative Clubs are a prime examples of this, bringing their own interests and skills and helping to evolve our practise far beyond the proscenium arch.
This is not to say however, that we have abandoned the notion of performance, we can still create drama with playful costumes and crazy puppets. We can still transform ourselves into race cars or birds with beautiful wings. We can make films and paint portraits, we can dance and sing and build forests using only our imagination and plastic bags. But there is more. We can look further into what it is to be creative, what we as individuals bring to the table and begin to recognise the value of our contribution as a single act and or part of something much bigger.
Our creativity doesn’t need to be formulaic, we can write letters or bake cakes, we can knit and garden and stand on chairs chanting or run as fast as our legs will carry us. We can distribute random acts of kindness or transform a space and meditate. We can be noisy. We can be quiet. We can talk about the big stuff and the small, and then we can ask important questions like ‘How are you today?”. We can listen, not only to each other, but to ourselves.
Sometimes we make work that is put in a frame, onto a stage and is admired by our teachers or family and friends. Other times, we take what we’ve done back into our minds and hang it in our on Wall of Fame, in-between the 70’s wall paper and the 100 shades of brown.
2016 was the year Bounce turned 10 and the year I became a mum. I spent most of the year covered in milk or carrot stained handprints. I mothered my little boy through a life threatening illness. I didn’t run any projects. It was a year where I didn’t sleep, the world seemed to splinter into division and a lot of famous people died…
Not cheery but certainly thought provoking. It was the first year that I didn’t go out and deliver projects. I did have a lot of time to reflect on what it meant for Bounce to turn 10. It has been my life since I founded it around the kitchen table with couple of friends.
Over the years, we’ve often felt on the fringes of the theatre world. You get given a lot of labels ‘community’ ‘participatory’, ‘amateur’ and you say you work with ‘hard to reach’, ‘disengaged’ and ‘vulnerable’.
You try and digest them and often you don’t really enjoy wearing them. Sometimes they are infuriating because you actually can make great art…but it’s in a disused theatre in a borough which was under national levels of engagement in the arts. So you either give up because you can’t get an audience or you carry on. You carry on because the 25 bolshy teenagers that drive you mad cry when you said you might leave the space.
I recently read a report from Kings College about cultural policy, cultural democracy and everyday creativity. It was for me quite exciting, as it’s the first time, I’ve thought ‘that’s what we do’.
It’s really simple (the report wasn’t).
We work with people.
As a team we all felt excited by it.
We work with people in their own spaces and create the platform for them to engage in being creative. Often its their choice whether that means making theatre or it means painting the community room. That’s why alongside me, we have a Creative Learning Director to develop our understanding of the different ways we learn creatively.
The ideas is crystallised in two of our Autumn projects. Urban Stories will see 165 children and young people imagine a city and build an interdisciplinary installation. In Creative Spaces a group of mums are upcycling a disused space for creative pops ups for families. One will end up in the Saatchi gallery and one will bring military and civilian families together. Both equally and important contributions to well-being, learning, culture and to vibrant communities.
In the context of 2016 it seems ever more so more important to recognise the potential of culture outside of established theatre buildings. Creativity Matters as a programme is intrinsically our feelings about the world, our politics and our thoughts on education and learning. It’s about recognising our capacity to make work that stops wearing labels and simply focuses on people & the need we all have to look after ourselves in order to look after the little bit of the world we all have a responsibility for.
Worthy? A little. I’ve stopped worrying. It’ll be an epic amount of fun and it will combine digital celebrations, with pop up events, informal performance and some theatre making. We’re excited about it. We’re excited about the evolution of Bounce into it’s 11 birthday as it crosses into new boroughs and engages with 900 young people every week from now till Christmas.
We’ll be documenting our process and our learning on the way. We hope that you will take a look in every now and again and see what we’re doing.