Category Archives: Disability arts and culture

Singapore: talks, festivals, performances, artist meetings and a royal reception in a borrowed dress

Kaite O’Reilly at British Council talk, 17/11/17, Singapore Art Museum

 

The past month in Singapore has been a phenomenally busy but rich time. I fly back to the UK later today, having completed my teaching of Dramaturgy at ITI – the Intercultural Theatre Institute – and writing workshops for the emerging Deaf and disabled writers and practitioners of Project Tandem. Last night I presented my British Council ‘Knowledge is Great’ talk: Nothing About Us Without Us – What Can Singapore learn from 30 years of the UK’s Disability arts and culture?’ I presented in the Glass Hall of the beautiful Singapore Art Museum and am so grateful to have had this opportunity to speak about my work and the UK’s disability arts scene. Singapore is currently embracing all things to do with disability and diversity – a time full of great potential for reshaping a more inclusive society and arts scene in the future, although there are many questions, particularly regarding the difference between Disability arts – led by disabled artists, informed by the Social Model of disability and often an expression of lived experience in a disabling world, and arts and disability.

Singapore – natural and manmade

 

It was great to be able to speak about the work I’ve made both within the so-called ‘mainstream’ and with Deaf and disabled collaborators over thirty years, and to share some video and images from productions in the past five years. The response was fantastic, with many questions and comments and right at the end of a lively post-talk discussion, assertions regarding the need for agency and disabled and Deaf leadership opportunities, as opposed to the charity model currently prevalent in Singapore. It was a lively and stimulating event, and I’m thankful for all those who made comments and asked questions. All the organisations and individuals I have met in Singapore have said how dialogue is so important – to discover if there are lessons or shortcuts to be learned for Singapore from the experience in the UK. Every country has its own context and history and will forge its own path forwards to what we all hope will be a more fair and egalitarian future – and if I can assist in this dialogue of difference and diversity, I am more than happy to.

Ramesh Meyyappan, Sara Beer, Peter Sau, Lee Lee Lim and Grace Khoo: R&D ‘And Suddenly I Disappear: the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues’

 

I was so pleased we were able to share earlier this autumn the work in progress of my disability arts and culture collaboration with Singapore: And Suddenly I Disappear: the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues. An international r&d commission from Unlimited, it was a good example of disabled and Deaf-led work and the seeding of work by Deaf and disabled artists into the cultural sector – Unlimited’s mission statement.

Natalie Lim, Lee Lee Lim and Nice the dog, Kaite and Danial Bawthan at the High Commission

This month has also been rich in meetings of the unexpected kind, with an invitation to the High Commission with my fellow collaborators for a royal reception. I attended with Nat Lim,  Peter Sau, Danial Bawthan, Lee Lee Lim and Nice the dog, in a borrowed dress, courtesy of Nat (thank you). Formal attire was not included in my suitcase when I packed to come to Singapore and I was certainly not expecting to meet Prince Charles.

The Indomitable Irishry: Singapore Writers festival

 

I was in Singapore at a great time to indulge my love for workshops, panel discussions and readings, as I coincided with the Singapore Writers’ Festival. Further fortune came with the focus this year being on Ireland, and I was able to meet and hear some of my favourite Irish authors and poets. Notes on these sessions and from some of the talks and workshops I attended will follow at a later date on this blog.

Artist Chng Seok Tin in her studio

 

 

 

A final and most delightful meeting was with artist Chng Seok Tin at her studio. Seok Tin works in an astonishing breadth of mediums, becoming more tactile in her work after she lost her sight many years ago. It was such a pleasure to meet a woman artist so inventive and expressive, who embraces change and learning new techniques and form. I have asked her to participate in my ’20 Questions…’ series and so hope to present more information about her and her work in a future post.

Masjid Sultan, muscat Street, Singapore.

The sun is blazing on this, my last day in Singapore, as I prepare for the chill of the UK and the closing-in nights of winter. I am so thankful to all who hosted me, met me, supported my work, talks and workshops and hope to return in Spring 2018.

Nothing About Us Without Us: Lecture by Kaite O’Reilly. Singapore. 17 November 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing About Us Without Us – What Can Singapore Learn from Three Decades of the UK’s Disability Arts and Culture?

“The British Council in association with ITI, Intercultural Theatre Institute  is pleased to bring to you the upcoming British Council  ‘Knowledge is GREAT’ Lecture featuring distinguished playwright and disability artist and advocate, Kaite O’Reilly.

Kaite is a multi-award winning dramatist who works internationally. Winner of the Peggy Ramsay Award, M.E.N. Most Innovative Play of the Year and The Theatre-Wales Best Play of the Year, she was also presented with the prestigious Ted Hughes Award for her re-imagining of Aeschylus’s ‘Persians’ for National Theatre Wales. A leading figure in the UK’s Disability arts and Culture, her Unlimited Commission In Water I’m Weightless was produced at Southbank Centre by National Theatre Wales as part of the official Cultural Olympiad celebrating the 2012 London Olympics/Paralympics. She is currently developing her Unlimited International Commission And Suddenly I Disappear… The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues: a dialogue about disability, diversity and what it is to be human from different sides of the world. She is patron of Disability Arts Cymru and DaDaFest – the biggest Disability Arts/Deaf Arts Festival in the world.

Since 2003 Kaite has been developing what she coins ‘alternative dramaturgies informed by a Deaf and disability perspective’, working within subversive and innovative disability arts and Deaf culture. Join her as she shares her work over twenty five years, showing video examples of her use of the ‘aesthetics of access’ from In Water I’m Weightless (National Theatre Wales / Southbank Centre / Unlimited Festival), spoken / visual languages in Woman of Flowers and other work from her selected Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors (Oberon).

There will be an opportunity for questions and discussion about the differences between Disability arts and culture, arts and disability, and inclusive arts.

Free tickets here.

And Suddenly I Disappear….Singapore ‘d’ Monologues…..

Some of the ‘And Suddenly I Disappear…’ team, including Sara Beer and Ramesh Meyyappan outside Centre 42, Singapore.

Jet lagged but satisfied after a fabulous but frantic fortnight of research and development in Singapore with my r&d international commission from Unlimited. Time to catch my breath and start reflecting on a fascinating learning experience. Meanwhile, here’s a few images and a blog collaborator Peter Sau and I wrote for Unlimited Impact earlier in the month… On Witnessing….

Sound designer mentor Bani Baykal with emerging artist Danial Bawthan

Singapore ‘d’ monologue rehearsal photos 1

A week into rehearsals for And Suddenly I Disappear…. the Singapore ‘d’ monologues… Sara Beer, Phillip Zarrilli and I arrive to work at Centre 42 in downtown Singapore, the air heavy with tropical storms.

Grace Khoo and Ramesh Meyyappan – in rehearsals for And Suddenly I Disappear,,, The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are working flat-out in preparation for three work in progress sharings at the end of the month – only  ten days of rehearsals for this new inclusive company of UK and Singapore Deaf and disabled artists, working on an International R&d commission from Unlimited.

Rapper Danial Bawthan in rehearsals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text is delivered in multiple languages, reflecting the cultural diversity of Singapore. I’m also working in visual language with Ramesh Meyyappan and find myself writing a rap for emerging Singaporean artist Danial Bawthan.

Teaching Lee Lee Lim the sign for ‘disappear’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time is short, with twelve hour rehearsals leading to the first sharing later this week, but I will try to blog when possible. Meanwhile, here’s an article from Huffington Post this morning

 

And Suddenly I Disappear… cycles of inspiration

 

This is a story of collaboration and inspiration…. of how a project inspired a poem and the poem inspired a design and the design became a poster and therefore the image for the project…

There is a poetic symmetry to this cycle of inspiration which I find hugely satisfying.

I am in the midst of an international collaboration – And Suddenly I Disappear: the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues. commissioned by Unlimited, which you can read about here, here, and here. My collaborator in Singapore, Peter Sau, had recently embarked on a massive research exercise, gathering the stories from d/Deaf and disabled Singaporeans to inspire The ‘d’ monologues I would write. One of Peter’s research volunteers, Shai (Nur Shafiza Shafie) became fascinated with the title…. what might the ‘d’ stand for? That tantalising enigmatic letter became a thought, became a response to the project and our ambitions – and became a poem:.

Invitation to D
 .
Dearest,
Disadvantaged, disempowered
Despised, deprived, downtrod
Deviant, daring and disturbed
Devoutly disillusioned with God
 .
Destroyed, damaged and dirty
Dishevelled and disheartened
Dismayed, depressed and dreary
Demonised yet defiant
 .
Determined, deserving, delicate
Different, distinct and diverse
Disabled, deaf and deliberate
Definers of your own dark universe.
 .
Do it. Defy the disbelievers.
 .
Disarm them. Deflect them.
Dance around their dreadful hum.
Devour them. Diminish them.
Drown their egos with your drum.
 .
Decry them. Deplore them.
Dilapidate your despair.
Disturb them. Distress them.
Devastate them if you dare.
 .
Debate them. Debunk them.
Dig down deeply for the fight.
‎Destroy them. Defeat them.
Drag them kicking to the light.
 .
(C) Copyright Shai (Nur Shafiza Shafie) 2017
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The project’s UK producer, Grace Khoo, shared Shai’s words with me and I was delighted that our project was inspiring such a creative response from our generous volunteer.
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Then Shai’s poem was seen by our publicity and marketing designer Ho Su Yuen, who swiftly responded with a striking block letter design, using the words from the poem. I, meanwhile, was developing the title of the project. A common theme seemed to be emerging from the video footage and transcripts from the interviews – that of d/Deaf and disabled people being made invisible. This sentiment offered the full title to me: And Suddenly I Disappear…. The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues. The new title was passed on to Ho Su Yuen, who immediately responded with a new offering. 
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Various conversations followed and the design went back and forth as it evolved, Grace and Sara Beer (collaborator on the project and development officer for Disability Arts Cymru) advising on making the logo more accessible.
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And suddenly – there it was…. The beautiful bold image, above… the logo for our project, the poster image created from defiant poetry written in direct response to the interviewees who are inspiring the fictional monologues. This is such a wonderful example of how generosity feeds inspiration and creativity generates more creativity…
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With great thanks to Shai (Nur Shafiza Shafie) and Ho Su Yuen for your beautiful contributions.
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Commissioned and supported by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, with funding from Arts Council of Wales and British Council.

How to live and make art….. Peter Sau

Elbow-deep in revisions and new writing for my forthcoming visit to Singapore and the r&d of my Unlimited Commission And Suddenly I Disappear… The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues – I read an artistic statement on the website of Peter Sau, my leading collaborator…. What he writes is so striking, so evocative of the practice we are trying our best to pursue, so encouraging and inspiring, I have to reproduce it here:

 

http://petersau.com

ART & LIFE

THEATRE is an evolving art form that stems from life.

An artist needs to react responsibly and envision open-heartedly.

An artist needs to learn consistently to reflect deeper about his/her practice.

An artist should step out of his/her comfort zones and always find new languages of work.

An artist needs to give importance to his/her heart, mind and body.

An artist should create works that can transcend boundaries, languages and nationalities to reach the universal.

An artist should inspire others to work honestly from the SELF but not be selfish so as to provide vast imaginative and empowered spaces to the audience.

An artist should resist the temptation of consumerism and overproduction.

An artist should reach for depth, not skim the surface.

An artist needs to be mindful of his/her ego.

An artist needs to be truthful and ethical.

An artist should and needs to care.

ACTIVE CITIZENRY.

INCLUSIVITY.

DIVERSITY.

EQUALITY.

A THEATRE WITH HEART.

AN ARTIST WITH CONSCIENCE.

20 Questions…. Paul Whittaker

Continuing my occasional series on probing process and creativity with a wide range of artists, I’m delighted to introduce Paul Whittaker’s 20 Questions

Paul Whittaker

Paul Whittaker is a Cardiff based Artist, Writer and Filmmaker. Having worked as a freelance Filmmaker for over a decade, Paul completed his Masters in Creative Writing at Swansea University achieving the grade of distinction. Since he was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Manic Depression whilst studying for his BA in Film Paul has spent his life exploring his own condition through the Arts and working with the Public Sector. Several of his projects made with Public Health Wales have received National and International recognition. Driven by a desire to continually expand his knowledge base Paul has exhibited as a digital artist, worked in theatre, television, dance as well as independent film. His numerous clients include – The Sherman Theatre, The Old Vic, Channel 4, Mind Cymru, The Kevin Spacey Foundation and Arts Council Wales. His play Gods and Kings opens at The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, 6-9 September 2017, details below.

What first drew you to writing/directing/acting?

Ever since I could remember writing has been a way for me to purge my mind of thoughts that if left unexplored would become rules that limit my existence.

What was your big breakthrough?

As an 18 year old I worked for my father’s architectural practice and people used to come into the office to do photocopying. One day I noticed a man copying a script. It turned out that his name was Glenn Chandler and he was the creator of Taggart. One night I got the courage to buy him a pint and told him that I wanted to be a writer. He accepted the drink and told me to give him a sample of my writing and if he thought I showed promise then he would sit down and talk to me. After reading my work I had three years of weekly writing sessions until I left the village.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work/process?

Due to my mental condition I have often written for the wrong reasons. I have written through negativity, arrogance, revenge, contempt, ignorance – my words weighted to make my case in the firmest way possible; but I have only ever experienced success when I write from a place of openness and honesty.

Is there a piece of art, or a book, or a play, which changed you?

 Throughout my childhood I constantly read books of fantasy and adventure and every few years I still re-read The Swiss Family Robinson but the writing that changed me was Billy Bob Thorton’s screenplay Slingblade. I saw it after I had been diagnosed and it was the first honest voice about living with a mental illness that I encountered.

What’s more important: form or content?

 For me content has to be first but choosing the correct form to write that content can make or break a project.

 How do you know when a project is finished?

 I don’t know when a project is finished. I have written to deadlines and had to accept that my time was up but, if I can, I like to let work sit and revisit it at a later date so I can read it with an emotional distance and a critical eye.

 Do you read your reviews?

Gods and Kings by Paul Whittaker. 6-9 Sept at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

 

 I am a man who does not do social media or google himself but reviews are different – but you have to know how to read them. The first play I wrote was in response to a lack of authentic characterizations of mental illness. Whilst the members of my audience with lived experience thanked me for my honesty, a reviewer, who generally liked the play, felt unconvinced by the portrayal of my condition thus proving my point.

What advice would you give a young writer/practitioner?

 This may seem against conventional wisdom but I believe you should read less and write more. Meaningful success only comes when you discover your voice and stop emulating the voices of your literary heroes. Writing is a craft and you must learn it through hard work, dedication and openness to criticism.

What work of art would you most like to own?

 Though technically not a work of art I would like to own the carved edifice of Hamelin Cathedral in Germany.

What’s the biggest myth about writing/the creative process?

 I think the biggest myth is that people are out there looking to steal your ideas so you must hide them away under lock and key instead of talking them through with others.

What are you working on now?

 I have my first solo art exhibition coming up in 2018 and I am collaborating on a number of theater and dance productions. Just like every writer I am also always working on a novel that may or may not ever see the light of day.

What is the piece of art/novel/collection/ you wish you’d created?

 I think I would have liked to have created any of the works from the Old Masters simply because I cannot paint and I am in awe of their skill. I was so bad at drawing bowls of fruit at school my teacher let me sit in the corner and write to save us both the pain of my efforts.

What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

 I wish I had known I had some ability. I have countless anecdotes of professionals that I respect telling me that I can write but even as I type this I am still unsure.

What’s your greatest ambition?

I’m not going to lie and not say – be financially secure. It is what we need to follow our dreams. In lieu of that I would be happy just to help someone understand themselves or others better.

How do you tackle lack of confidence, doubt, or insecurity?

 The only way I have found to counter insecurity is to surround myself by people I respect and listen to their voices over mine.

What is the worst thing anyone said/wrote about your work?

 It wasn’t honest.

 And the best thing?

 I still think about it.

 If you were to create a conceit or metaphor about the creative process, what would it be?

 In my case if I don’t give my mind something to nourish itself on then it starts to consume itself.

What is your philosophy or life motto?

 Be a shepherd or a wolf but never a sheep.

 What is the single most important thing you’ve learned about the creative life?

 People care and are willing to give of themselves greatly to ensure that a project succeeds.

 What is the answer to the question I should have – but didn’t – ask?

 Hannah Gordon.

Gods and Kings by Paul Whittaker

Paul’s production of God’s and Kings runs at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, 6-9 September. Challenging perceptions through powerful drama – further information and interviews here 

Booking details here

For further information about Paul Whittaker and his work, please visit www.hideproductions.co.uk