I had just left an acting audition for Chol Theatres Beast Market by Andrew Loretto. I was coming out of semi retirement because the work was good. Buzzing excited that I had kept up with Balbir Singh’s demands after all these years NOT dancing.
As the part-time Artistic Theatre Director of Yorkshire Women’s Theatre it had been frowned upon to continue as an actor, apparently I would not be taken seriously as I continued to learn my craft as a Theatre Director in my own right and being Black and a Woman I needed all the ‘being taken seriously’ I could get . So attending that audition was my first step in defying YWT and going on my own instincts and trusting .
In the school of stating the bleeding obvious there is a massive difference between the role of Artistic Director and that of Theatre Director. In my first year I looked at the heritage of the company, unpacked the canon of work, and learnt the values and motivations behind the work and human behaviours. I also learnt how to deal with people looking for my ‘boss’ over my shoulder for the real AD as I introduced myself.
The second year I looked ahead, looked at planning, looking at context. Context a word I came to love and still do. Where did we sit in Leeds, the north the world as a company?
The third year arrived and I came into my own, the future, my first three-year plan.It was horrible, but it was mine. I began to understand the difference between working in rehearsal and the work towards making it happening. Unfortunately as I understood the role and complexities of leadership, as I began to get the courage to take the reins and take the company where they deserved to be. The lack of understanding of our own context sunk us.
I realised too late that the head of the company and the Board were no longer leading. Not enough eyes, The Company was not strong enough to take the blow.
I sat and thought and asked for help and it came in the shape of the amazing Stef of Red Ladder and Maureen of T.I.E when most ran away they ran towards and worked hard. We collectively made the decision to close the Company. It was time. All the work on rebranding, road mapping and community engagement was not lost just stored away for another time. Companies are made up of people.
I did not die, not that day. I looked at my part in this. Good and bad. I learnt my lessons and put them in my bag to share with others to remind myself. Always.
Today many Arts organisations will have got ‘the letter’ many of them will be delighted and can now build for a better future, many will be devastated and are looking amongst the debris wondering what happened. Cut or gone it feels bad.
Nearly three years on and I’m stronger, fitter healthier and happier. Whatever news you get today build for a better future and remember arts cuts do not mean you are no longer an artist. That is up to you.