Looking back over my shoulder…
As the country starts to venture out into the 2021 summer, it’s been rewarding to pause and look back over the last 12 months on our work during 2020.
Recently, we commissioned five Coventry artists/writers to create work for our Shop Front Theatre Windows. The artists/writers are Shahnaz Akhter, Laura Nyahuye, Andrea Mbarushimana, Lainaire Aderemi and Raef Boylan. All artists responded to our central provocation of Humanistan. The work created was so moving and it was great to witness people reading each poem in our Shop Front Theatre window gallery over the last few months. The poems will be shown all together in the windows from mid-April so take a look if you are in Coventry.
As we couldn’t get together in our theatre space, we ran a series of City Voices writing workshops online instead. Developed for writers of all abilities and ages in Coventry, we invited two local writers to help run the sessions, thus supporting their own professional development as workshop leaders. The workshops ran for six weeks and we invited two national guest writers/poets to run elements of the sessions, these were Liz Mytton and Liz Berry. This programme also included paid micro commissions with dramaturgy by Chris O’Connell and playwright Vanessa Oakes and was supported by the City of Culture Trust. We then curated a live online sharing of work generated to an invited audience. The event was incredibly rewarding, retaining the intimacy of the Shop Front space although it was a digital experience.
We offered and delivered ten online dramaturg sessions to writers via national call out. We had over 60 writers apply. The one-to-one sessions were delivered by writer/dramaturg Ola Animashawun and Theatre Absolute’s writer/director Chris O’Connell. It was great to support writers across the country.
Although the Shop Front Theatre was closed to the public, we were able to support ten Coventry artists/performers with our Theatre Labs. We gave the artists solo access to the Shop Front Theatre to explore narrative within their practice and begin to develop new works for performance. Artists included Jessica Timmis, Connor Alexander, Paul O’Donnell, Wes Finch, Amy Kakoura, and Lou Sarabadzic. We can’t wait to see their work develop further!
Carrying on our support of local artists, we also hosted a photography exhibition in our windows of work by local photographer Neil Catley who founded Confidence Through Photography – a local network dedicated to the wellbeing and mental health of visual artists.
As we were unable to host internships during 2020, we hosted three drop-in events for young emerging artists online to offer support as their aspirations for careers in the arts have been stalled. Our producer and projects coordinator are now providing ongoing mentoring with two Coventry members of the group. It’s been incredibly hard for freelancers over the last year, including those who are at the beginning of their careers.
Finally, we also created and launched The Writing Box, the project encourages the public to request a free box of writing stimuli that we deliver within Coventry or post out further afield. The first print run was for 300 boxes and we reached every Coventry postcode (CV1 – CV6) as well as Nuneaton, Stratford, and Warwickshire, plus some national and international areas including Birmingham, Leeds, Cornwall, Lincoln, St Albans, London and even France!
Thank you to everyone who has supported and engaged with our work during such an unusual year. We look forward to bringing you more new work in 2021 from some fabulous writers and artists. Here’s to a brighter summer for everyone!