Archives for category: The Secret Life of You and Me

We met in a cafe at nine o clock, I wish every working day started like this. Maybe it can. I have worked with Liz Postlethwaite for years now and we have built up a good friendship and work wavelength. I am inspired by her commitment to making life and art a bit better. She can keep bees and sew, she has an allotment that has a blog. Anyway, after an epic conversation that touched on Almodóvar, evocative music for making cups of tea, and ageing; we set off for the first assignment. Shopping.

I went on a hunt to find versions of me that I expected to be at 30. I was shopping for myselves, the ones that didn’t exist, that didn’t happen, that may yet be. We went to dressing rooms and I frantically tried on clothes, dressing up in a future me’s.

We bought fruit and had an early lunch of fine Arndale Market curry (the lady had a ‘Keep Calm and Curry On’ t shirt) and then we went to the studio. We explored a lifetime through the medium of fruit. We obsessed over Nick Cave. Ways we could stage a disappearance.

Then had a first technical meeting with Steve Oliver who’s doing ‘technical stuff’. There are already some exciting ways I think the technical will sit amongst the art, and resonate with the heart of the show. Which, seems to be about time. How we don’t have a lot of it.

Ended the day with a drop of cider in a plastic cup, for the first year visual arts show. It was stunning, stark and sensitive,which is pretty phenomenal for first year work. Bright sparks in the face of big shitty cuts that are looming. Spending this week at Salford University has reminded me just what a sacred space an art school is. A sanctuary for learning and creativity that is essential for making change in the world, and defies commodification.


I was joined in the studio by Jessica Longmore who is a fellow artist in residence at Salford University. As part of her ongoing project  ‘Objects for a Studio’ she spent a day with me in my studio. She worked almost invisibly and whilst she was there for her own work it was very helpful having an audience to test out yesterday’s material. It was also a little nerve racking having a witness to the bits people don’t normally see. We talked about Anthony and the Johnsons, commitment to  intention and the ups and downs of a creative process (how a big part of the journey is to feel stuck or lost or unsure).

I took a couple of pictures in homage to Jessica’s project of things that are starting to exist:

Spending days on this piece is doing it the world of good. It has time to sit: coincidences are being found and connections formed.

In other news I had an insatiable appetite for biscuits (8 cheap jam rings) and I made a human being check-list and browsed through mathematical theories. Some performance students came to visit my studio with Mary Oliver. My friend and confidante Léonie turned thirty yesterday (good timing  in relation to this project. It also gave the day a hungover pinch).

At 6.30pm I shared some ideas at Zion Arts Centre for Word of Warning’s Works Ahead that I’m performing in at the end of the month. So there was more analogue technology, sparkly shoe and heart on the line action.

I am really tired and really trying to remember this is what I’ve spent years longing for!

Today was quite daunting, I was alone in the studio. I better get used to that what with the solo show and all.

Luckily, as Leonie said, I had two tasks to do on arrival (wash up cups and brush up broken glass from yesterday). Also, I was armed with starting points from Julie.

I took over a wall, to see ideas that were emerging, and were asking for attention. I saw a glimpse of the beast I’m making for the first time:

I started by making instructions for my solo show in the eventuality that I couldn’t perform it. This felt a cheeky place to begin, as I haven’t made the show yet, but I do like working with nothing but ambition and hope. I even have five minutes of material! It wasn’t long before the old slide projector came out.

Then I spent some time with Salford University students. We talked about their work and ways to take it forward, they looked at mine. It is nice to grow alongside each other. Keeley gave me a present yesterday, a beautiful silk scarf with oranges on it, after the performance workshop I did. There is a good community here, which is busy fighting against cuts and changes it faces.

I spent the later stages of the afternoon thinking about death. I played with a projector and danced. Then it was time for a much needed cup of tea and creme egg in my ironic mug I’ve adopted for the week. Cheers.

Now, it’s time for Leonie’s real life thirtieth birthday! Very good research opportunity!

From our brilliant day together that started the week.

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I am really starting to see the value of dedicating time to an idea. I’d like to be an Art Judge. I’d sit there and listen to an artist’s plea, and decide on an appropriate penal measure. ‘You are an emerging under-confident artist,’ I’d say, ‘I sentence you to four weeks in a studio, with weekly meetings with a mentor’. Maybe you all knew that already, but to make things happen, commit yourself.

I invited Juliet Ellis an actress, director and film maker to give me a day long workshop.

It turned out to be a 24 hour enlightenment. We met the night before and talked about life and art. We talked about letting go, long distance and empathy. We talked about the nature of regret and the ending of things.

I made a salad for us before we set off to the studio the next morning:

The day was lots of activity: ways to start, writing, actioning and micro-performances. I think we even came up with a potential structure for the piece (it will have two parts!) and a sense of a mood for the work. Julie reminded me about the work of Sophie Calle and Cindy Sherman, and their playing out of characters, to reveal something more truthful. We were then joined by Leonie and Sophie, also working out their solo shows who are coming on board to develop their own and offer thoughts on mine, and Sonia.

Thank you very much Julie, an incredibly intelligent and imaginative artist. Very generous and insightful. I feel full up!  I have two days in the studio on my own next, and I am going to experiment with: opposites of what I would normally do, translations and revisit existing material. And to end, a parting tea with Sonia and Julie (as Sonia said, sharing food is a good for discussion and togetherness).

Veggie burgers! Now, tomorrow, I really am solo on this solo show…

I was in the studio for the first time today. Rachel Brogan is a director and we have worked together on a few things before. I admire her search for the truth, meaning, and heart of even the most barely-there ideas or hare-brained plans.

Today she wanted to know: what’s going on for me? We did life coaching which was clarifying, personally and professionally. The idea was, I might find out why I need to  make this show now, which will be the foundation for all the activity to come. Suffice to say, Hobnobs were crucial.

I identified that I am uncertain, I am hopeful, I am sad for the entire world and everyone in it, I am fascinated by real life and dressing it up, I am freaking out about being a thirty year old woman, I am scared of being left behind.

We thought a lot about the role of tragic heroines. My actual homework is to watch loads of black and white films with the Hollywood greats, Davies, Crawford and Taylor. I’ve kicked it off with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

I came away, lighter, and excited for the first time about this show’s realisation (not just the idea of it). It may not have a title, but it will find one.

To begin at the beginning, I met up with Sonia Hughes, who is a writer, performer and friend extraordinaire. It’s funny that it’s her starting this process, as I met her on my first ever performance in Manchester, and we’ve gravitated to each other accidentally and purposefully ever since. I asked her to be my mentor, to keep an eye on me, as an artist, at odd points in the process.

We ate crisps and spicy nuts with tonic water, treated the barman to one for himself, and lounged in the shadows at the Royal Exchange. She helped me think about the process: the need for clarity, specificity, honesty; how to manage the many voices I’m working with; how to find and trust my own.

She posed the question: ‘Where does this sit in the world?’ I will endeavour to answer this during the fortnight.

Then she took me to see Crave by Sarah Kane. It was like being in a cross section of the brain, unbearable and brilliant. Here’s some notes I made (after drying my eyes). It was a marvel to see brilliance, true craft, which I’m normally not excited by. I wasn’t sure if the cast were performing or acting; and I liked how they blurred that.

After a walk home through the city, I thought I hope I can be half as honest as Sarah Kane.

I have just been made the happiest artist in the world, I have got funding from Arts Council England to develop my solo show. I will be mapping it’s progress over this intensive fortnight here!

Here’s what I said to the Arts Council in my proposal that I would do:

“A two week research and development period in May in preparation for my solo theatre show that has been programmed at The Lowry Studio in January 2013. The two weeks will comprise of:

  • four one day workshops from invited artists based on my initial ideas at Salford University with a workshop for students to participate
  • a series of rehearsals alone and with a creative team (Director, Artistic Mentor, Peer Consultants) to help me present my findings in a sharing for an invited audience at The Lowry in May 2012
  • to be followed by public sharing at Word of Warning’s Works Ahead festival at Contact Theatre in May 2012

I want to research and develop themes and ideas in preparation for my final show, ‘The Secret Life of You and Me’, programmed for two nights in January 2013 at The Lowry on my thirtieth birthday. Turning thirty is a time of reflection, a natural moment of looking at where you are and where you are going. This autobiographical piece will share this seemingly pivotal, personal moment to an audience, and asks the question – what do any of us actually have? What happens to all the things we should have done when we didn’t do them? In between the unreliability of the past and the uncertainty of the future, what is happening now? By examining my own life at such a heightened moment I hope the audience have space to think about their own lives. During the research and development period I hope to understand a little better how we measure human existence.”

You can now follow this section of the website to watch it’s progress! From today, there will be a daily post.

Your intrepid artist,


23 April 2012