I am extremely grateful to have been given the Seed Commission by Rifco Arts, as this has enabled me to get the support I need to finally put my creative ideas from page to stage. My meeting with Holly and Pravesh was refreshing to meet such welcoming people in the arts that are willing to develop my idea and nurture me as an artist. We sat down and talked about my artistic vision and how they can help with producing, dramaturgy and putting my showcase piece on at Watford Palace. After my individual meeting with them we met the other artists they are commissioning, it was lovely hearing their ideas and artistic journeys. I look forward to January to see how each one has developed so far.
Meeting Pravesh and Holly at Rifco was an enjoyable and nurturing experience. I am thrilled to have been given this opportunity. I have worked with RIFCO as an actor but am not taking our history for granted. If anything it will me compel me to push myself harder. I was made to feel that I could clearly state my needs without feeling it would be an inconvenience. I was open and honest about where I feel I am as a writer and what my aims are. I feel I work best when I have deadlines looming over me; a structured and methodical approach. I like lists and timeframes. I value honest and brutal feedback. Pravesh and Holly instinctively knew I needed. They could see that I want to make a big mark as a writer and sought to put things in place; dramaturges, help with finding an agent, funding applications, etc. They shared their ethos that this project is about setting up long term collaborations and paving the way for new work. This aligned perfectly with my vision as a writer.
Workshop 2: Held at The Woodville on Thursday, 15th October 2015 We had nine participants for this workshop, including two women in their 20's and a male participant. The majority of attendees were in the 40s and early 50s, including the two women from the previous workshop. Because of the larger group Abdul and I went back to the original planned workshop structure. We started off with a name game in order to ease into the workshop. Most people knew each other or at least of each other as it's a fairly small community. In order to get the discussion going Abdul and I presented the group with some statements and asked them to move to opposite sides of the room depending on whether they agreed or disagreed with them. We used a mix of light hearted statements and some more controversial ones i.e "Interracial marriages are more likely to end in divorce." This exercise led to a lot of lively discussion between the group. It was very useful that the group was made up of outspoken and confident people who were not afraid to voice their opinions. Again, we heard a lot of conservative views but what was interesting was the number of women who spoke of unhappy marriages, alcoholism within the Indian community and the difference between how men and women are treated within the home. These were recurring themes along with the recent election of the President of local Gurdwara (Sikh temple). We ended the session with two questions: "If there is a story to be told about Gravesend what would it be?" "Which story wouldn't you like told about Gravesend?" The participants unanimously agreed that the success of this close knit community should be shown. They all felt proud of the achievements of the first Indian people to come to Gravesend from India. They were all adamant that they didn't want the negative aspects of Gravesend shown. Towards the end of the session one of the participants felt that she wanted to speak about some of the subjects that came up in depth, such as mental health issues within the community and I have arranged to meet with her next week. More about this project: Sukh Ojla - Gravesend Project
Workshop 1: Held at The Woodville on Wednesday, 14th October 2015
Prior to this workshop Abdul Shayek, the workshop facilitator, and I had met to discuss the themes I wanted to explore in the workshops and the format I wanted them to take. The dilemma I had was that I didn't want the subject matter to be too specific or too general. I wanted to be open to hearing from the participants and this can be difficult if there is a strict workshop structure.
My aim for these workshops was to create a safe and positive environment for the participants to share their stories. Having facilitated workshops in the past I knew that there is an element of uncertainty involved. It's not always a definite as to who will attend or which way the workshop will go.
Having spent the best part of the last decade living away from Gravesend one of my aims was to see what has changed within the community. Are family structures still the same? Is divorce more widely accepted and are young British Asians still expected to marry within their religion?
There were two participants for this workshop, two women in their 40s and 50s. It was clear from the outset that they both felt a pressing desire to speak to us about their personal lives and their histories. Abdul and I felt it would be more beneficial if instead of a running through a set of workshop exercises we let them share their stories and then have more of an informal discussion about the themes that cropped up.
It was interesting to hear from this demographic as I'd never had the experience of speaking with British Asian women of this age. I discovered that although I was familiar with the stories of their parents, people who migrated to the UK in the 1960s and 70s I didn't necessarily have much of an idea what difficulties and issues their children faced once they'd reached middle age.
After they shared some of their stories it was easier to pick out the recurring themes and to expand on them. Alcoholism, the recent and ongoing influx of Punjabi migrants to the area and their own marriages seemed to crop up a lot.
This workshop was hugely useful and I feel got a great deal from it not only from listening to these women's stories but also they were interesting from a character study point of view.