We all know that 2020 was a year like no other. Events in America and the Black Lives Matter movement against racial and social injustice shook up the status quo and made us look at the way we live and what we can do about it. So much positivity has and will come out of asking those difficult questions. We will understand each other better and be more sensitive to how we impact upon each other. We need to support each other through this process.
It would also be easy to let any newsletter be dominated by Covid-19 but let’s just put that to one side for the moment.
There were many things that made 2020 worth celebrating.
The year began by giving me the opportunity to co-direct with one of my favourite actors, Kathy Burke. With I Think We Are Alone by Sally Abbott, we made a show that had our characters ache for contact and connection. It was very much a theme for the rest of the year.
The pandemic meant the tour was cancelled nearly half way through. This was a painful but unavoidable decision. What I found remarkable was how the company responded. What hurt them most was the denial of the opportunity to apply what they had learnt from the last performance to the next performance. People might think performing is just repeating what was created in the rehearsal room but it is much more responsive and alive than that. Every performance is an opportunity for exploring, learning and applying that knowledge. It was this that was ripped away from these brilliant, dedicated individuals both on and off stage.
February also saw the first time we had assembled our male and female Ignition cohorts. They trained together with a unique energy that only Ignition people can bring. It is easy to forget how positive this felt, how this made us excited about the future of Ignition and those young people. What followed, of course, changed everything but we are still working hard to keep Ignition alive and provide this kind of opportunity and way into the arts for young people across the country. We launched #weareigniton to demonstrate the reach and success of Ignition and highlight the lack of funding and risk it faces. Without support it cannot continue but we need to hold onto the positivity of that room in February and keep fighting.
As we were all plunged into lockdown it struck me how important our relationship with education was. Our teachers and students were desperately trying to navigate how to inspire and learn online and they needed help. We created a Teachers Panel to find out what the strains were and how we can support. With this knowledge, much of our focus shifted towards what we could do to make our work connect in a new way.
We created Frantic Digital, a series of around 60 new short films, interviews, discussions, warm ups and creative tasks, all designed to create a sense of connection, to inspire activity and response.
We took the skills we learnt here and applied them to our first Online Teachers CPD Course. What teachers have done this year is extraordinary. They have responded by embracing (wrestling?) new technology and totally changed their working model. We decided to do the same and created this course to show teachers how our current situation is just a series of limitations and if the Frantic Method shows us anything it is that limitations and constraints can be very useful creative tools. The CPD course has been embraced by teachers across the world and is helping them make work in unprecedented circumstances.
We also worked with our practitioners to develop, adapt and pilot the online delivery of our workshops for students in school or in isolation at home. This has also been developed into training opportunities and creative residencies, even creating shows via Zoom! This makes our work and Method accessible from anywhere in the world and has created much needed employment for our practitioners.
And this is why I can easily find the positive in a very difficult year. Creativity has not gone away. The inspiration and resilience of those around us has been extraordinary. We have been working hard to find new ways to connect and inspire because it really matters. It matters to the educators and those freelance practitioners who have had their world turned upside down. The creativity changes the way we work and feeds into the work we aim to make. We have learnt so much over this period.
2021 will not be ‘normal’ but we will find new ways of making and sharing our work. We will create those opportunities for collaboration and fight for the Arts as a viable and vital opportunity for all. Resilience and inspiration are all around us.
Here's to 2021
PS We have also had three Frantic babies this year! Welcome to Emilia, Raffie and Ivy!