I was nominated for an Arts Foundation Fellowship in the summer of 2016 and I can honestly say that it has been one of the most rewarding opportunities that I have been afforded as an artist in my career. Right throughout the fellowship period Shelley Warren, the director of the Foundation was supportive, approachable, positive and calm. All necessary ingredients from a director when you are undertaking a large scale project and entering a new artistic space. It took some time for my performance to be confirmed and this was quite stressful as I was eager to start the rehearsals and also to complete it let alone book the flights, finish the composition, sort out accommodation, embassy letters etc.
Shelley put my mind at ease and said there was no impending deadline and that this was all part of the process of the fellowship itself. I really appreciated this as so often we work within very short deadlines for projects and if we can wait just a little longer, things fall into place.
Time was a key aspect which I tackled in the narrative of my composition and performance. The nature of time having two areas for concern that of chronological time and that of deep time and there relevance in creating both a musical, physical and text-based narrative from which to create a piece from. The fellowship helped me open up new areas in my work firstly, movement and the mapping of movement and its correlation with the human voice in performance based on both composition and improvisation. I attended several workshops at the Siobhan Davies
Dance Studios in Lambeth, an invaluable experience for me and it is here I was introduced to the work of K.J Holmes who became an important part of the project. She acted as artistic director and movement co-ordinator. She was incredible to work with and I hope I find more ways to work with her again.
In May, I spent three weeks in New York. For the first week, I worked exclusively with pianist Elias Stemeseder. I had originally allocated three to four days but when we started to work together, we realised a lot more hours were needed if we were to go into so much detail in the piece. In the second week, K.J joined us and we were able to work in the venue itself which was a beautiful space at The Austrian Cultural Forum in Manhattan. This was very fortunate as the piece involves me engaging with movement, singing, theatre practice and manipulating the space to create the physical narrative as heard through the music.
For me the fellowship gave me the time to research relevant texts, podcasts, dance classes, dance performances, literature on space, silence, time, nature, reflection and of course other music. And then I was able to go a new city in which I had never performed, I was able to rehearse for over two weeks (a luxury!) and I was able to premiere new work to a full and appreciative audience.
Another positive outcome is that when I perform Press Play Backwards again, it will be in a new environment and physical space and therefore the mapping is going to change. This is exciting and it means each time the piece is played it will involve yet again working within in a new way. I hadn’t anticipated this. However I know I want to perform it again, not just because Elias is an incredible musician but also the amount of work that has already gone into the piece and how it can be improved with future performances.
At a crucial point in my artistic path, I was awarded the fellowship which afforded me time, support, financial assistance, recognition for my work and importantly encouragement to explore new areas of work that I was very keen to explore. Aspects of the work would have been rushed in terms of the logistics of organising the performance to the actual piece itself had I not been given this time to really sit with the work.
Over the course of the fellowship I actually improved as a singer, a writer, a communicator, a collaborator and for me this was one of the most satisfying elements! It gave me the time to do this. I felt after spending over two weeks rehearsing the piece of music in New York that I actually got better at communicating – it’s hard to feel that a lot of the time when usually you only have a couple of rehearsals before a performance. I was also given the time to really explore what I wanted to write about and to spend a large time editing and proofing the text prior to it being rehearsed or sung. I feel that this fellowship has made a positive impact on my outlook on performance and composition and what areas I wish to develop further. I still feel there is so much to do!