Monthly Archives: February 2010

Tales From Ovid: More Press

Back at the start of The Brixton Project I did an interview for IdeasTap for an article about empty shops and it went live on Friday. If you don’t know IdeasTap it’s a website that has many, many goodies (including information, advice and even money) for people who are twenty five or under and interested in working in the arts. And now some of my “wisdom” graces the site. Currently (though this is changing) you can only read the  content if you’re a member so I’ve put my part of the article below. To give you some context, the article consists of some really cool people like Dan Thompson from the Empty Shops Network, Hannah Hooks from Space In Between, Emma Rice from Kneehigh (given that I wrote a study of Kneehigh for part of my Masters degree I’m quite happy to be in Ms Rice’s company) and, erm, me talking about the good, the interesting and the difficult about puting art/ performance into unsual spaces:

“Licensing issues can be a real pain,” says Corinne Furness, co-founder of Write by Numbers who last month staged Ovid Reworked in a disused shop in Brixton. “Very few empty shops will have a performance license so you’re in the position of either going through the paper-filled and expensive business of applying for a permanent license or using a temporary license which lasts for a maximum of four days. There can be a lot of administration that you don’t have to consider if you take a show to a traditional theatre.”

And then:

“For me, empty shops are quite literally a blank canvas,” says Corinne. “The only limit is your imagination. It makes you engage with the building, the area and the community. With shops it’s quite accepted that you can step through the door and have a peek, they’re inclusive spaces. There isn’t a barrier that says ‘this is a theatre, and this is how I must behave’.”

Over the course of Ovid Reworked I did end up talking to a number of people who were interested in the ‘how’ of the process and – though we’re taking baby steps compared to someone like Dan Thompson – in putting on our first production – or rather festival as it turned out – we had to learn a lot very, very quickly. I’ve got lots I want to say (and maybe help others to avoid some of the holes we fell face first into) so in the coming week’s I’m going to do a post/ article for either this blog or the WBN website talking about some of the practicalities of specifically putting theatre into an empty shop. As a warning I will most likely feel the need to excessively use capitalisation to display trauma levels.

The One With Lots of Metaphorical Hats

I’m going to talk about hat wearing.

And that’s not just because I like hats (though I do) but because it’s something I’ve been very aware of since, just over 18 months ago, I decided to stop writing in my spare time and decided to do the thing that paid my rent in my spare time and write in my full time. Being a writer means you’ve got a lot of hats to wear.

“What do you do?” is an easy enough question. But how do I answer it?

Well, there’s my Writer Hat. I write plays. I’ve got a half written novel. I write blogs.

Then there’s my plethora of Write By Numbers Hats. I’ve got my Artistic Director Hat. I’ve got my Marketing Hat. I’ve got my Accountant Hat. I’ve got my Tea Making Hat. I’ve got my Planning Hat. I’ve got my Workshop Leader Hat.

I’ve got my Literary Associate Hat. My Dramaturg Hat. My workshop Assistant Hat.

I’ve got my Journalist Hat. I’ve got my Columnist Hat. I’ve got my Reviewer Hat.

I’ve got my Shakespeare Hat. Given that this is the hat that (most regularly) pays my rent I’m reasonably fond of this one. But it’s the one I define myself least by.

And what do all these metaphorical hats mean? Hat- hair I guess.

Having had the luxury of spending a good chunk of January/February entirely wearing my Ovid Reworked – The Brixton Project Hat I’m very aware now that I’m back to the hat swapping routine. Some of that is very exciting – I am itching to get back to work on some of those stories that are floating around my head and commit them to the keys on my laptop. My head is buzzing with new plans, new opportunities which The Brixton Project has opened up for us. But some of the hats are, I know, hats I wouldn’t necessarily choose to wear if choice were an option. They’re hats I wear, to borrow a phrase from Avenue Q, “only for now”.

But I know if I were to go back to Writers School (if such a thing exists) I would tell anyone thinking of writing to get ready for the hats.

Tales From Ovid: Press

Just over a week ago – during the day where I was asked lots of questions and I gave vaguely coherent answers to about 33% of them – I ended up being interviewed by Katharine Hibbet for an article about arts and empty shops. And obviously I’m being cool and nonchalent about this (and not shrieking – Write By Numbers is in the same article as Punchdrunk and The Royal Court!!!! Or, as Charlie pointed out to me, that I’m quoted in an article before Dominic Cooke is. Hi Dominic. ) but the article was in today’s Sunday Times Culture Magazine.

Obviously Ovid Reworked – The Brixton Project is Write By Numbers’s first production so we’re just a little bit (read: a lot) merry about this.

Tales From Ovid: If I could change Brixton…

In the next few days I’m hoping to have the chance to catalogue all of our Brixton Village responses to our Wall of Change on our website but for now, they’re all up on our Flickr page which you can see here. The range of responses is both interesting and touching.

On pretty much the first day we opened our shop this tag appeared:

Brixton Theatre

I nodded when I read it but, two weeks later, I’d changed my mind slightly. I wouldn’t build a theatre, I’d ensure there was a space for theatre. And that space doesn’t need to be a theatre-building in the traditional sense. It just needs to be somewhere where people can perform – theatre, music, dance, spoken word, fire-eating – whatever category of performance they choose.

It doesn’t need to be the same space every week, there just needs to be a space. And while we’re at the subject of space, I’d throw in space to rehearse, space to workshop, space to meet. And I think we proved during our residency that all that space doesn’t need to be traditional either. Crikey, we rehearsed, workshopped and performed in a series of empty shops without heat at the end of January. Forget money (well, not entirely some of that might be nice but I know we’re looking down the shrinking corridor there), give me space.

For think of what we could do with that space. What the others like and unlike us could do.

And the first thing I’d do?

I’d start this process by making Shop 82 the first space for performance.

Audience - by Ash Finch

Everyone involved in the Space Makers project have proven that the audience is there.

Snap - by Ash Finch

So, just the space then.

Tales From Ovid: The Bench

I get a phonecall from Designer Emily:

“You know where we should be tonight?”

The proverbial penny drops.


That’s an “oh” with the emphasis on the ‘h’ rather than the ‘o’.

During Saturday night’s get-out from Shop 82 when we were working out how to get all of our furniture into one car in one trip the decision was made that, quite frankly, our bench wasn’t going anywhere. On a majority vote our bench (pretty much the staple piece of equipment for our fortnight residence, what with it being seating, barrier and set) would have been consigned to the ‘anybody who would like these items please TAKE THEM’ pile.

But Emily and I had other ideas. Given the fact that a second empty shops project is looking very likely (we’ve got the bug it seems) we wanted the bench. And if there was no other way to keep it then we were jolly well going to carry it from Brixton, up the hill, to Streatham where we could store it until its next outing.

Full of our final meal (for now) from Etta’s Kitchen we left a luggage tag on the bench apologising for leaving it and promising to collect it on Tuesday night.

Only, we both manage to forget this until it is far too late to do anything about the bench, let alone walk it to Streatham.

Which is why, this morning, Emily and I ended up in Brixton Village Market contemplating exactly how good an idea it had been to want to preserve our bench. A bench that, though its legs fold up, is still awkward and heavy enough that you wouldn’t want to carry it from Brixton to Streatham. And when half of the people doing the moving bit is me (who Charlie pointed out that when he saw me lift a chair during our get-in that this was the first time he had seen me lift ANYTHING) there might be a problem.

After deciding that no busdriver was going to let us on a bus and that Brixton Hill is indeed a hill and, oh, MY ARMS and the bruise that is now on my thigh and, come again, why exactly did we decide that we had to get this bench back? we re-thought, got on the phone and found the bench a temporary home in Brixton Hill. And thereby decided that from now on everything that Write By Numbers does will involve this bench.