25th May 2018
I haven’t blogged for a long while and its 16.38pm and the office is shutting down in at 17.00, so I need to send this by 16.45pm so I have 7 mins to write something.
I’ve just returned home from seeing Rattle Snake performed at Benfield School, a brilliant forward thinking learning environment. 90 young people (years 10/11/12) sat mostly in silence and watched the play. I was at the back and I was very aware that some of these young people will know the story, have witnessed their parents walking one eggshells, felt fear and anxiety at the behaviours of perpetrators, been on the receiving end of threats and violence. I felt for them, but I know its empowering to see, to know it’s not just you, or your family, empowering to learn what coercive control looks like, that it’s not normal, to know that the perpetrator is committing a crime, the crime of taking someone’s liberty away.
I’m so proud of Rattle Snake. This play came about because of the commitment and passion of Professors Nicole Westmarland and Maggie O’Neil, and Kate Butterworth. The funding came from PCC Ron Hogg and the AHRC. We worked together, academics and creatives, to ensure the play was right and the workshop would make change happen, improve response. And in 2015 we trained just under 400 frontline officers in the County Durham area.
Open Clasp decided to tour Rattle Snake to reach a wider audience. We went into a co-production with Live Theatre and in association with York Theatre Royal in 2017, developing the script and production. Now, in 2018, we are retouring.
I was nominated for Writer of the Year (Journal Awards) for Rattle Snake, and last night, much to my surprise I won. There is the ‘I’ word. I used it recently in a video to camera about the project, I as the writer, talking about the part I played in the project. It’s strange to pull away from the collective ‘we’ of Open Clasp and that of partners, but I was caught in a moment. You see there are a lot of people involved in the making of Rattle Snake, from the original project with the academics named above; first there is the brilliant Charlotte Bennett, the director with Rattle Snake, OMG I think she is so talented, and I have the upmost respect for her. Charlotte brought together a creative team, women at the top of the game, designing sound (Roma Yagnik), set (Anna Reid) and lights (Ali Hunter), all a game changer. Then, Southpaw Dance Company – Robby Graham joined us, another amazing person, together they all worked with breath, emotion and connection with audience.
The cast have been highly celebrated in the press, five stars and amazing praise from Lynn Gardner. These two actors are incredible, they don’t just perform a show they hold the voices of those they met in rehearsals, deliver words spoken, holding each with respect and value. The show is out on tour, Soho and then now up North, touring community venues and mainstream theatres.
I need to thank the crew, a team of three that create magic; you walk in take a seat, watch the show, feel, think and leave, breath in air and debrief. The crew come back in and take it down and drive it to the next venue. They are also incredible.
Then there is the staff at the office, those in Open Clasp who work hard to raise the funds to make sure we exist, create and tour, along with the hard work of the day to day management of running a small charity. Our Producers, PR and marketing, work under extreme pressure. Our aim is to change the world one play at a time, but in order to do that you have to market and sell the tour, balance budgets and ensure it’s accessed to those without funds. We all work too hard, worry lots but when you have a win like last night it’s a huge reward, recognition and it helps, raising the profile of the play, project and company, and with this recognition we can reach more people.
Rattle Snake is a co-production with Live Theatre, they have invested in the project, they are our partner, and working with us to ensure Rattle Snake’s tour is a success. We have worked with Live for the past 20yrs, they were the first venue to put our shows on, they gave the first night free. We were students, it was a final year project, but we packed out both nights. That was 20yrs ago and now we work in partnership.
I’m not going to make the deadline, as there are too many people to thank, but I’ll keep going, ask if I can have ten more mins.
If I’m not finished it this blog will be posted on Tuesday but I’ll keep pushing forward.
Other people to thank, to mention, ensure are included and credited. Our board of trustees, they give their time, skill and patience to support and govern the company. They own the company, drive the mission and vision, take time out of their busy worlds to meet, support and empower the team to manage the company. Then there’s our Patrons, Charlie Hardwick, Erica Whyman OBE and Carol Tambor. Three women who stand in solidarity with Open Clasp to ensure we are heard.
All the funders who invest in Open Clasp…too many to name and I’m up against the clock, but I must thank the Arts Council, Newcastle City Council and Community Foundation, as they have always supported us.
Kathryn Beaumont was one of the original actors with Rattle Snake, before it was developed into the production you see today. I want to thank Kathryn for all she gave when back in 2015, which was everything and then some.
The West End Women & Girls Centre, Safe4Life Project, their peer educators, who are just class and thank the workers who sat with me and took me through the family court, what happens and how a victim experiences it.
The many panels of experts that have joined us during this tour and those yet to join us, their wisdom, knowledge and generosity, all of which adds so much value to the discussion and debate that follows the show.
To all those who send lovely messages, who feel the win like it’s theirs, it is, it’s all of ours, especially the women in the North East, we should all feel proud.
Getting back to writing the script, the award and ‘I’. Before I talk about those who shared their stories, I want to acknowledge all those who I spoke to (outside the project), met with, when battling with the script and story, colleagues, family and friends, those that work with survivors or those who are, both in 2015 and again when developing the script for touring in 2017. I want to also acknowledge all those women I know and grew with, those who have experienced domestic violence, and acknowledge that ‘we’ don’t other with Rattle Snake. Domestic violence is something Open Clasp knows.
To those that shared their stories back in 2015. They lie at the heart of the success of Rattle Snake, as with all the other productions, without their trust and courage there would be no award and no Open Clasp.
Someone asked me recently what drives me, and I think its injustice, I witnessed it growing up, experienced it out in the street, have had the impact of loved ones being hurt (had my heart broken because of it) and also hear the injustice in every workshop and interview with the women I have worked with over the past 20yrs.
I want change; theatre is my way to make it happen. But I don’t do it alone, Open Clasp belongs to the North East, to all those women we have collaborated with, the partners who have secured funds to enable shows to happen in communities. To those like Nicole, Maggie and Kate, Dilly Arts and others who have had the ideas, raised the funds and bought Open Clasp in. We are proud to work in partnership with all to make change happen.
I’ve so missed the deadline
My last thank you is to my wife and son, they hold me up and I them.
29th May 2018
It’s Carly here, the Creative Producer and it’s Tuesday afternoon. Catrina missed Friday’s 5pm deadline but she a did have a lot of people to thank!