Blog From Aisha Mohammed (actress) – The Crows Plucked Your Sinews

The Crows Plucked Your Sinews has allowed me to re-connect with something I’ve longed to re-connect with – the Somali language.

It is so important for me, as a Somali diaspora, to have that route into which I can access my history and language. What better way than through poetry and performance? This is one reason why I am very happy to be a part of this play.

It has been very educational and has provided me with a lot of context conflicts in Somalia.

In terms of performance, I’ve begun to enjoy taking on these characters. I’m continuously blown away by the script – in terms of the performative aspects that went from being really abstract and me being fearful about how these characters would come about. But that definitely changed when I was in front of the audience for the first time. It’s a continually evolving cycle of states of being.

I really enjoy being in front of an audience and the energy exchange that takes place. I feel a sense of responsibility as I know that it’s an important story I’m delivering – becoming the vessel for that and by the end I’ve handed it over to the audience. And I feel a sense of lightness afterwards.

I’ve definitely begun reflecting on time more because of this play and the measurement of it during the performance.

It’s a strange, but beautiful thing.

Aisha

 

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NINE NPOs

We were relieved and delighted to have our 2018 – 2022 NPO funding confirmed yesterday. While that’s worthy of celebration, we’ve been reflecting on how remarkable it is that our building is now host to a total of nine NPOs. We’ve also been loving seeing brilliant organisations around England expressing their delight and relief on social media!

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The Nine

The Family Arts Campaign has become a brand new NPO as a Sector Support Organisation. It’s a consortium of ten organisations, led by the Albany since April 2016, and one of only a small number of new Sector Support Organisations announced within ACE’s NPO structure.

The Family Arts Campaign’s role as an NPO is to work to help deliver ACE’s national priorities under Goal 2: giving everyone the opportunity to experience and be inspired by the arts, museums and libraries.

Leading the campaign feels like a perfect fit for us, especially having launched A Theatre Trip For Every Child, Lewisham last week – a campaign to provide a free theatre trip for every 5 year old in the borough.

The Albany are also now home to seven remarkable National Portfolio Organisations who are resident organisations, based in our Deptford building. They are Heart n Soul, Entelechy Arts, Spread The Word, Spare Tyre, Apples and Snakes, Kali Theatre and brand new NPO, Yellow Earth.

They’re a diverse bunch, each with a distinct mission and contribution to make across art forms, audiences, participant groups and artist development. They all share one thing – brilliant, dedicated and passionate people working at all sector levels to champion accessible arts.

We feel so privileged to share our building with them, have partnerships with many and get to witness their superb work on a daily basis.

Oh, and we’re the ninth – the Albany.

Thank you Arts Council England for helping this corner of south east London to make waves locally, nationally and beyond.

By Kate Farrell

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Oerol: A Sense of Place by Zaylie-Dawn Wilson

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I have just returned from Oerol, a theatre festival on the Frisian island of Terschelling in the north of the Netherlands. For 35 years Oerol has been a haven for theatre producers, landscape artists and multidisciplinary artists who use the versatile island landscape as a stage. The setting makes it unique in Europe. The exclusiveness of nature and culture are the main focus points of the festival; the beaches, dunes, heather, woodlands, dikes and villages are sources of inspiration, and are used as platforms for site-specific performance and art.

As a location theatre festival, Oerol is on the line that separates culture and nature, using nature as a layer of imagination over the landscape.

Marcel Proust said, ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.’ Oerol really does take the environment seriously as a stage with the location emphasising spatial identity even more. The festival directors feel this has to act as  a response to social changes and globalisation more broadly, as whilst everyone is trying to find their place in the world, our environment has to play a part in it.

My work with LikeMinds, an Amsterdam based theatre organisation that provides a platform to develop young talent on a professional stage, is what has led me to Terschelling for the festival. They work very organically with artists to offer them opportunities to develop new work in response to the landscape at Oerol. As well as taking a professional show to the island, they took a group of emerging artists to experience the island as a theatrical space and to respond to it artistically over a weekend.

As a result of the environment everyone could be seen to be asking questions rather than finding answers. No one seemed to know where they were but they knew where they were heading. This enables beautiful stories and inspirational art to be born through the landscape. The festival director describes this as ‘art putting the intervention into perspective, at the same time as the art being the intervention’.

I spent some time thinking about the environment and how this differs from the work of the Albany’s emerging artists. Their work tells its own story in terms of landscape; they feel they have less and less ownership over their identity with place, as artists and as young people, navigating London. They feel boxed in by an educational system that lacks the sort of exploration that could be seen at Oerol, and by the beauracratic boxes they are required to ticket as artists. This in many ways removes the imagination required for incredible art to happen. Oerol looks to free the mind to be able to be able to convey a feeling of freedom, communicated through the landscape. A sense of place to think from within the landscape to be able to see outside it.

I spent my time there thinking about what would happen if I took them to this island and set them free on the landscape? What would they discover and create as a result?

As STEM subjects are pushed and arts subjects cut, giving young people in London a way to explore, discover and create feels more important than ever, especially to those who would normally experience the arts in school but who may now not have that opportunity. Whether or not they want to be professional artists is irrelevant. The question here is how we continue to enable our young people to see the beauty in exploration and discovery and enable them to be creative free spirits?

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Deptford Cabaret Night wins Arts Council England funding to grow!

Following six seasons sharing ground-breaking works-in-progress in the Albany studio, the pioneering curators of Cabaret Playroom have been awarded an Arts Council grant to invest in a scaled up version of the event.  Cabaret Playroom: The Big One will take place in the Albany’s main space on Saturday 10 June.

Tricity Vogue and Matthew Floyd Jones. Photography: James Millar

“The night plays an invaluable role in supporting artists’ development and nurturing emerging talent, giving them the chance to experiment and try out new ideas and material in front of an audience.” said the Albany’s Artistic Director, Gavin Barlow. “We’re delighted that the work of co-curators Tricity Vogue and Lisa Lee has been recognised by the Arts Council England, who have awarded the project funding as part of their Grants for the Arts scheme.”

“The grant enables us to present the very best work from performers who’ve been involved with the night, on a grander scale, to a larger audience,” said Tricity Vogue, Cabaret Playroom’s host and co-curator. Cabaret Playroom: The Big One will showcase eight of the artists who have developed new acts at the night; established performers with an international profile, and emerging artists who took their first steps into cabaret on the Albany’s studio stage.

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Andrew Pepper and Tricity Vogue. Photography: James Millar

The line-up includes: musical comedy star Matthew Floyd Jones of Frisky and Mannish, “opera reggae” musician and poet Ennè – featured on BBC Introducing, “the naked stand up” Miss Glory Pearl, and Pride’s Got Talent finalist, Lord Hicks.

Top left: Lord Hicks, top right: Miss Glory Pearl, bottom left: Matthew Floyd Jones, bottom right: Ennè. Photography: James Millar

“The Arts Council grant means we can offer mentoring time to more artists and their acts,” said producer and co-curator Lisa Lee. “We’ll be able to give directing and dramaturgical support to selected artists, to grow their acts into powerful and engaging pieces of cabaret.”

Arts Council England have awarded Cabaret Playroom a grant of up to £5,867 through their Grants For The Arts programme.

“You never know what to expect at a Cabaret Playroom night,” said cabaret blogger and queer arts activist Ben Walters. “It could be anything – from drag to divas to tap dancing clowns.”

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Tricity Vogue. Photography: James Millar

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Let’s Spread This Like an Oil: Giving a Voice to Young Producers and Makers

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11 countries, 12 arts organisations, 1 mission… to facilitate the voice of a generation!

I have just returned from two days in Brussels networking and planning an international platform project. This will involve arts organisations across Europe who are creating and producing theatre for, and by, young people. It will be a partnership with the aim of exchanging ideas and work, collaborating with young people and mentors, and commissioning new work.

As part of this process I have taken time to reflect on the work that we are doing with our Young Creatives (a collective of young interdisciplinary artists and producers who create original work and platforms for young artists) at the Albany. We have ambitions to support them to develop as creative individuals, active global citizens and well-rounded human beings.

The Young Creatives describe themselves as ‘millennials’ – a term they both associate with, but also find problematic as they aim to overcome the perception of millennials being an apathetic and uncaring generation who are only interested in themselves. In fact, their upcoming event Move, Shake, Mango aims to flip that on its head to prove that as millennials they are driven, successful young people and to further explore the negative stereotype.

I’ve been inspired by the partners commitment to young people internationally, by their fighting spirit, their ambition and determination. I have found myself returning to England with questions about why I think international partnership, exchange and collaboration is so important to young artists and more broadly speaking young people.

For me it is about connection, real connection, real communication… reality! My experience tells me that young people are becoming less and less engaged with reality and are seeking authenticity as a result of the digital age we live in. Not to say that technology is a negative thing, in fact the very opposite, but to accept that it disengages us from the world we live in. International conversations, partnerships and collaborations for me are about the basic principle of removing people from their everyday habitat, connecting them with possibilities, and mentoring them to flourish in a different environment- in this instance using art as a universal lubricant.

As the European political climate becomes more unsteady and uncertain this week as Article 50 is triggered, as borders are being created, and as there is less money in social services and the public sector as head teachers are speaking out about major cuts, how do we put internationalism back on the agenda? How do we ensure that our young people continue feel ‘European’, exchanging dialogue and collaborating with other young people across the world? Do we not owe it to the ‘millennials’ to break down the borders that others are creating?

The last few days have reminded me that individuals on a mission, with a purpose and ambition really can change the world! I have reignited my passion for this work and reminded myself why I do, and always will, fight for these opportunities for young people. As the slippery changes in the EU start to happen this week, to me it feels more important than ever to spread this work like an oil.

By Zaylie-Dawn Wilson

Youth & Community Programme Manager, the Albany

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The Albany Café – why you can’t please all of the people all of the time

Early this year we began work on updating and refurbishing the Albany café because, well, it really needs it. Our hard-working staff team are struggling to keep it clean and presentable and our lovely customers aren’t always getting the speed or quality of service we’d like due to some quite specific practical issues. We’re also very aware of all the changes locally – with great new independent bars and cafes popping up (and some slightly less independent ones) and lots of new people moving in next door to and all around the Albany – we wanted to make sure the Albany café could continue offer something unique and competitive within the local ecology. That’s about more than the décor of course and the team have done quite a lot of work over the last year to refine the menu, focus even more on local suppliers and use more fresh produce grown in our garden.

We chose Studio Raw to do the work in the café because they understand some of this pretty well – they worked with us on designing our current logo and brand identity several years ago and they’re now also our newest ‘resident company’, that’s what we call the other organisations who are based in our building, having asked if they could move in at the bottom of our garden in their very own cabin late last year! (A great example of how we do things a little bit differently to most arts venues!

 

 

The brief was to suggest a new name and a new look for the menu as well as physical changes to the layout, décor and space, all for a bijou budget! We asked them to consult with our staff and other resident organisations to design the changes as well as our regular café users. They’ve done just that and the process has been eye opening.

It’s always been a hard balancing act to get the things right in our café because we need it to make money in order to justify keeping it but it sits at the heart of the building, so we also need it to be welcoming to such a massive range of people. It is taken over every Tuesday by older people doing everything from choir to crafts when we have Meet Me at the Albany, packed full of families when we have Sunday theatre shows, a regular theatre bar when we have shows on and a haven and regular haunt for loads of people who are all looking for different things, from students using the WiFi to do academic work to homeless and vulnerable people who just want somewhere safe, warm and welcoming to hangout.

This has been so apparent in the feedback we’ve gathered from people who use the café. Lots of people saying it’s great value and great quality, others the opposite – that they feel it’s too expensive, some people saying they love relaxing there with kids or that they like it because it’s quiet and relaxing and others saying the kids are noisy or disruptive or the music is too loud – you get the picture… you can never please everyone and you certainly can’t when the range of needs and wants is so broad.

But overall it has surprised us just how much people like and appreciate the space for the very same things that make it a challenge – they feel it fits with what we hope the organisation is and does – they described it as ‘vibrant’, ‘chilled out and warm’, ‘friendly’. They really get that it is a space for everyone – including the green and outdoor space in the garden – and they value that. Over and over, the atmosphere was praised and it’s defining characteristic of openness to all referenced.

 

We’ll be doing most of the work in late April and really hope it will be well received… by most people at least!

 

Stavros Chirdaris

Head of Food and Beverage, the Albany

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Move, Shake, Mango – A Creative Journey

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Since mid-January we have embarked on a unique journey, a wonderful opportunity to create and produce a show from scratch to be featured as part of the Lewisham Live Festival. Did you say from scratch? Yes… that’s scary! Well, it’s ambitious, because although some of us have experience with events, and we all have the awesome support from industry experts, it’s incredibly complex to coordinate the passion and ideas of fourteen Young Creatives into one holistic experience.

We meet two or three times a week at the Albany, for planning sessions, rehearsals, seminars, and also pure creation. The only premise we had to start was the title ‘Move Shake Mango’ (created by the previous group of Young Creatives), which could become a theatre show, an event, a fair, or anything we wanted…  So how do you trim the infinite jungle of possibilities into one beautiful bonsai? Well, we are discovering that along the way.

We are lucky to have fantastic people supporting us and our project, from start to end, our workshop leader Andy and our Programme Manager Zaylie always giving their best to create a substantial programme full of educational and professional content. But no matter what level of support we get, the responsibility of creating a memorable and valuable experience lies completely on us, the Albany Young Creatives, and that is a challenge that will build character in whoever takes it.

With a series of group exercises and brainstorming sessions we decided on a theme that felt important to all of us and relevant to the community. We followed the guidelines of our guest speakers to divide the roles and responsibilities among the members of the group and set up teams of performers, marketers, producers and so on. Then, with a strong optimistic attitude, we set up a timeline for the project indicating the dates when tasks should be finished and content ready to go. And after doing all this… we actually started creating the content. Funny how it works right?

Now we are less than a month away from opening night, we are getting there, we have created original dance, music, poetry and an inspiring storyline to bring our theme to life, and more importantly, to awaken it inside the audiences hearts. We have grown from a group of young people into a team, a professional working team that sometimes struggles with communication and grow together with understanding, patience and an eye on the horizon. A team of passionate millennials striving to step out of their cocoons to create something bigger, which can only happen if we work together.

By Ciro Reynoso

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