At the end of last year, I wrote and performed my first poem for a small audience of friends through the Roundhouse Poetry Programme.
Soon after, one of these friends recommended I apply to be part of a project for emerging Spoken Word artists. The focus would be on writing for children, under the theme ‘Child Migration.’
My initial thoughts were:
• What’s child migration?
• That sounds interesting and I really like working with children.
• But I’m not a Spoken Word artist. Am I?
• And then – You get paid?!
I had never come across an opportunity of this nature before. As a 2011 Drama School graduate, I have a variety of experience across performance and arts management and I had become used to internships, profit-share projects and subsidized spaces on workshops, but Apples and Snakes were offering something different; Professional Development.
Being paid for the workshops not only meant that I had to source less income from elsewhere which therefore bought me more time to write, but validated my new habit as a talent which should be developed. Every project-day that I have spent with the One Way Ticket team has done this; I have been challenged at every stage. From the audition: write a short piece suitable for children on a serious theme. To the R&D: Collaborate with two professional poets to write a thirty minute show suitable for 8-11 year olds about the British Child Migrant Scandal, across three afternoons – and then perform it on the 4th day to fifty local children.
I have felt supported, and nurtured throughout this process in what, for me, has been a new way of making performance. This support network was quickly formed in the first phase of Professional Development. Alongside eight other young poets, we took part in five workshop days across three venues in the South East/London, run by Rosemary Harris. Each session was bursting with activity – we shared previous work, watched two spoken word performances for children, met with a key member of the child migrant story, worked practically together and fed back on the solo pieces we were writing for the showcase. We shared books and our own stories relating to the theme. The group was incredibly diverse and our voices distinct, which created a rich variety in the final showcase, but more importantly we could hear echoes of each other in our work. Those who had participated in similar programmes before commented on how supportive this process had been in comparison, and this is evident in the way that the group have remained in touch. There have been lots to celebrate for individuals since the workshops, including Asfa Ali winning the Christopher Tower Poetry Competition with her piece Origins, developed from her One Way Ticket writing. It was also brilliant to see half of the group in the audience for the R&D showing at Half Moon.
I was delighted to be invited to join the next phase of the project, and was keen to define what my new role would be, now that I was working alongside Rosie who previously had been mentoring me. Having made time for 1:1s earlier on in the process (a really valuable element), Rosie and I already had a good professional relationship and I have felt part of an open dialogue about the potential of this collaboration since the beginning. We clarified that I was now part of a professional team and agreed that exploring this new dynamic between us made this way of working really exciting. Justin Coe completed the team and it was immediately clear that we had a winning combination.
The next four sessions were fast and focused. Rosie invited Justin and I to write as much for our characters as we liked, whilst she remained responsible for the overall narrative and shape of the piece. Sometime we wrote in the sessions but mostly between meetings, using our time together to join up the dots. Chris Elwell from Half Moon and Lisa Mead from Apples were fantastic at offering direction and invaluable for testing and tightening the story’s continuity. One moment in particular stands out: we were all sat around the table with our new scribbles and mugs of tea, collectively deciding on character names, laughing. For me, this is what has been at the core of this collaboration – a place for three imaginations to invent a story together, finding our way ofmaking a difficult part of history accurate yet playful for our young audiences.
Looking ahead to the next phase of development I would hope we:
• Build on the feedback from our audience (children and adults) in terms of narrative and structure and more ways the audience can be invited in to the storytelling.
• Seek more opportunities to write in direct response to one another and for each other’s voices.
• Interrogate why we are telling this story and why we have chosen this form to tell it; push the potential of spoken word.
• Begin to think about the potential of the workshops and what impact One Way Ticket has on those that experience it.
One of the most successful elements of the project is how clear the leaders have been about their long-term goals for the piece whilst acknowledging the personal goals of everyone involved.
This model has generated a hub for people to feed in and out of, acting as a springboard for new projects and collaborations alongside the shared focus of One Way Ticket.
I’m really pleased that I took a chance and responded to the ad all those months ago.
This project has given me a network of new collaborators (artists, programmers, directors etc.) and the process has given me the confidence, and tools, to achieve my aims;
- Create child-friendly material and explore ways this can be communicated
- Develop my style as a solo artist; exploring character, narrative and how I engage audiences throughout longer pieces.
It feels as though I am at the beginning of an exciting new chapter in my own story. Sophie Rose