Saturday, 18 October 2014

Fun Palaces and Feminism

The tent is down, the rest of the set has been packed away, and the Agent 160 Fun Palace is complete. Over the weekend, we estimate around 400 people saw our work and the community play and discussion were both really well attended. What was truly inspiring about the weekend was that it showed an appetite for new writing and also for work by female playwrights. The discussion in particular made that clear and was incredibly motivating and inspiring. Agent 160 is hoping to publish pictures and a soundcloud recording of the discussion very soon. In the meantime though, here's an interview with me talking about the project, feminism and Agent 160 over on Quench. Click here to read.

A few days after Fun Palaces, I led a discussion at the Dirty Protest and National Theatre Wales' annual event Dirty, Gifted and Welsh on gender balance in Welsh theatre. Again the discussion was incredibly well attended; again it was well attended by men as well as women. There seems to be a real appetite for action on this issue now which is brilliant and hopefully good things will soon come from that hour.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Articles Online and Poetry

It's a busy week. The Agent 160 Fun Palace is taking place this weekend. Myself, Samantha Ellis, Katie McCullough and Kaite O'Reilly have written about Delaney and Littlewood (our inspirations) for Exeunt here. My article regarding the national Fun Palaces project is now available to read online in Bare Fiction magazine here.

Also - in non-Fun Palace news - my poem Welsh is out in the current edition of Dream Catcher, available here.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Fun Palaces Update

There's less than 24 hours to go on the Agent 160 Theatre Kickstarter campaign and the good news is - we're funded! We've now engaged directors, casting is starting and the scripts are coming in. There's still time to pledge however if you'd like to do so - we could still really use the cash. The campaign raised the minimum to successfully stage the weekend and we're now adding extra bits, notably a free discussion on the Sunday called Women: Do You Know What You Are Angry About? (I'm excited about that one.)


A lot of information is on the updates on our Kickstarter page - click here to take a look. One of our patrons, Kaite O'Reilly, has also discussed what we're up to in her latest blog post. Click here to read.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Angry Women, Theatre, Society - And Why We Want You To Donate

Last week writer Samantha Ellis and theatre designer Anna Bliss Scully came to Cardiff to chat to some staff at Wales Millennium Centre and explore the site. Anna's currently dreaming up designs for the Agent 160 Fun Palace in October. I was chatting to Sam when she mentioned Joan Littlewood's famous quote in relation to Shelagh Delaney. Littlewood said Delaney was "the antithesis of London's Angry Young Men. She knows what she is angry about."

It started me thinking. What am I angry about - as a woman and as a writer? Can I separate the two out? Driving home, I created a brief list.
  • The pay gap - its short-term impact on the way we structure family life and its long-term impact on female financial security.
  • The complete lack of real family-friendly policies from political parties looking at the work-life balance of both genders.
  • Gendered toys which encourage boys to be violent and girls to value themselves primarily on appearance.
  • The fact that, no matter how much tax I pay to fund the police and courts, if I'm in an abusive relationship, I probably won't get the protection I need. On average two women are killed each week by a violent or abusive partner or ex-partner.
And then I thought about things happening globally: female genetic mutilation, rape used as a tool of war and even genocide, refugees struggling to access basic sanitary protection. By the time I was home, I was livid.
And the more I thought about it, the more I felt this anger isn't divorced from what Agent 160 is trying to achieve - to do something to level up the number of male and female playwrights produced on our stages. Because theatre isn't separate from any of this. Theatre operates in this society and the fact Agent 160 exists suggests theatre is failing women. Gender isn't an arts council funding priority despite the Sphinx data that just 17 per cent of performed plays are written by women and Equity screaming from the rooftops about the lack of decent female roles. This morning, I switched on the Agent 160 twitter feed to find a retweet of a casting call which wanted women aged between 18 and 50 prepared to wear tape across their mouths, be pulled along by string and to be engaged in coitus. I wondered how many of the women applying will be desperate for a decent role, a Medea or a Beatrice.

The sixteen plays we're planning to stage will make a difference to this landscape. And theatre is, as Littlewood believed, active in its world, in its community. It reflects it, but it can also lead it. It can be a trailblazer for equality. It can say to girls growing up they shouldn't have to live in this sort of world.

So when we beg, bother and badger you to pledge a few quid, it really isn't because we want to put on our work for the sake of our own egos. That isn't what Agent 160 is about. We're trying to do something to change things, admittedly in a relatively small way, but we're trying anyway. Kickstarter donations will make a real difference to our ability to do that. If you'd like to pledge, the link is here.



Sunday, 24 August 2014

Fun Palaces and Bare Fiction

As I posted before, Agent 160 Theatre Company is creating a Fun Palace at Wales Millennium Centre in October as part of a nationwide event commemorating the centenary of Joan Littlewood. There's heaps and heaps on this on our twitter feed (@agent160theatre). Our plans are really taking shape in Cardiff now and it's ridiculously exciting. For lots more on this, including pictures from a recent site visit, take a look at the Agent 160 blog.



Meanwhile, if you're interested in finding out about how Fun Palaces came to be, who is behind it, and the influence of Littlewood on theatre makers today, the latest edition of Bare Fiction magazine is now out. It includes an article I wrote on just that and heaps of really exciting creative work. It can be ordered here.

The magazine is also having a London launch, with contributors reading their work as well as open mic slots. It looks like it's going to be fantastic. It's on September 24 at Dogstar in Brixton, between 7pm and 10pm. Tickets can be booked in advance here.