Developing Partnerships and Collaborations.

As the summer is approaching there are various future projects with We Are Epic that are coming together, and this has meant a lot of meetings with potential partner organisations and artists.

Buffalo Boy, our international collaboration with Epic Arts, will hopefully be in the UK this summer for R&D, and this looks to be a very exciting project with potential collaborators such as Dan Daw, Attenborough Arts Centre, Dance4 and City Arts.

Trip to Nottingham!

Most recently myself, Ant and Lou took a trip to Nottingham and met with Tim Chesney, a digital artist working with City Arts and Paul Russ, Chief Executive/artistic Director of Dance4.

Having the experience of attending these meetings and being part of the discussions, has been really interesting and invaluable. One of the things that stood out to me the most, which I didn’t feel as much when working as a performer, is just how small the arts sector is and how many connections there are between different organisations.

The Meetings…

The meeting with Tim Chesney went very well, I’ve known Tim for a couple of years and introduced him to the We Are Epic team when we were looking at developing the visuals and projections for Buffalo Boy. Tim understands the importance of working inclusively and embedding access into everything that he produces and works on, this along with his talent for digital arts makes for an exciting collaboration. City Arts have also expressed an interest in hosting workshops and scratch performances for Buffalo Boy, working with some of the participants in their community projects. So watch this space!

Following this meeting we took a speedy walk around the corner to Dance4 to meet with Paul. Ant knows Paul well, and it also became clear that Lou and Paul knew a lot of the same artists and organisations. Paul was very interested in the international element of our work, and had some great contacts and suggestions, as well as offering support from Dance4, the details of which will be confirmed shortly! Paul suggested that we make contact with Serendipity, a dance company also based in Leicester, which we are following up on.

Final Few Thoughts

Something I have taken from these recent meetings is that making partnerships and alliances with the right people, is probably one of the most important parts of working in this sector. It opens up doors, connects you to other artists and helps strengthen the work that you produce. These partnerships also allow us to bring our expertise and values to other organisations, to help develop a more diverse, accessible and robust arts sector.

Celebrating Diversity in Indonesia with the British Council

Antony Evans Director In Jakarta for Inclusive Arts
In March as part of our work to share, collaborate and raise awareness of inclusive practise throughout the world, Epic Arts and We Are Epic Director, Anthony spent four days in Jakarta, Indonesia.
 
Working with the British Council in Jakarta and over 30 Inclusive Arts organisations, Anthony delivered facilitated a series of workshops and discussions to engage and inspire collaborations between the sector leads. Here is a short blog about his adventure.

 Making Some Noise in Indonesia!

Arriving in Indonesia, I was quite prepared for the sights, smells and crazy driving. After spending 3 years living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia I’m used to the usual things associated with big Asian cities. However, I did find Jakarta took the traffic jams to a whole new level!

After weeks of planning with the team at the British Council I was clear about the aim of the next four days. I was very excited to hear from Indonesias next generation of artists and organisations about their feelings and attitudes towards inclusive arts. I was particularly interested in hearing the differences and similarities between the sector in Indonesia and what I was used to experiencing in Cambodia. From reading the recent research it seemed that there was lots of cross over, especially with regards to some of the political and religious barriers.

Day 1 – Meet the Inclusive Artists of Indonesia

What struck me more than anything during my whole trip to Jakarta was the realisation of how big Indonesia as a country actually is. I knew Indonesia was made up of different islands, but wow! Over 16000!

Bringing together the artists, leaders and arts organisations from all over the archipelago is kind of a big deal, and I felt very honoured to have been able to participate in an event that brought together this group of people for the first time.

As I listened to each of the participants introduce themselves I knew that the trip had already been worth it. It was evident that this meeting of great minds was going to have a legacy far longer than the next four days.

I was invited to the lead the workshop to talk about and celebrate diversity to a group who I could see already had a richness and understanding of diversity! Admittedly, perhaps not with regards to disability but the room was full of different faiths, cultures and languages all discussing their successes and challenges.

Our local facilitator, Masslamet explained to me about one delegate This man speaks my local language, I mean, we all mostly speak Bahanese but this guy, he speaks my local tongue.I have to admit I thought to myself, “what can I teach to these people? they already have fantastic inclusive attitudes.”

The participants did go onto explain to me that they needed to see more role models, examples of best practise and as I was able to refer them to many, I did end the day feeling pretty useful!.

Day 2 – I love it when a plan comes together!

By Day 2 we hit the tough stuff! Jakarta has a huge event approaching in October in the form of the Asian Para games. Ruth Gould from Dadafast and I were trying to act as Catalysts, encouraging and nurturing the raw enthusiasm of the participants and trying to channel their ideas into the barebones of a cultural offer that could stand alongside this huge sporting event. With many references to the UK cultural Olympiad and the impact that offer had as part of the London 2012 Olympics. What do you need in order to develop this?was the main question of the day and we were urging some of the talented leaders step forward and take on the responsibility of working with the British Council to sharpen this offer.

We decided together that it was important to Make some noise! and so a working group was formed to take ideas forward. I got a real buzz from thinking Id played a small part in putting together this crack team of doerstogether. I cannot wait to see what they put forward for October.

Day 3 – Changing Perceptions in the Mainstream 

The British Council team provided an open forum for the 

working group assembled the day previously to lobby to the media, ministers and officials of the Para Games.

Together we pitched that, the upcoming games was an opportunity to come together, to celebrate the diversity of the country. That with their help a platform could be created to demonstrate the richness and diversity of Indonesias arts sector in a way that is not tragic, patronising or second rate but that is thriving, alive, interesting, innovative and distinctly Indonesian.

Day 4 – Out and About

On my final day in Indonesia we went to visit two participants who were busy putting up artwork for their weekend exhibition. One artist, Hanna Madness was exhibiting as part of a fundraiser for a charity supporting people with learning disabilities. Hanna, who describes herself as an Arts and Disability Activist with random personality – Manic Depressive – Schizophrenic, explained to me how she was looking forward to her upcoming residency with UK Artist Vacuum Cleaner as she would use it to diversify the style of her work. A perfect example of how some of the partnerships created as part of the UK/IN season were really paying off!

My Thoughts

After spending four days in the company of some very talented and driven people, I have no doubt that the future of Inclusive/Disability Arts in Indonesia is an exciting one. I left feeling proud to have been apart of the first baby steps of a movement that I think with more exposure to international artists, increased access to role models and high quality practitioners will snowball an Inclusive Arts sector to be very proud. I do hope I can continue to support the working group and I will follow their journey to the Para Games with great interest. The natural diverse make up of island cultures could see Indonesia leading the way and teaching the other members of ASEAN a thing or two.

Space Between the Boxes: Identity & Belonging: D/disabled or D/deaf and LGBTQ+

Intersectional Inclusive Arts - Identity & Belonging LGBTQ+ & D/disabled

In my last blog post I mentioned that I’ve been given opportunity to lead on my own creative project whilst here at We Are Epic, so I will give you a bit of a more detailed overview of this and an update on where it currently is!

The Spark

When Ant spoke to me about running my own project one of the first things that came to mind was an article I had read the day before, written by a young man who identified as disabled and bisexual. In this article he discussed dating/relationships and the discrimination he has faced because of his disability and sexual orientation.

He discussed the kind of everyday discrimination he faced, and how being a part of two diverse groups meant that he was forced to identify as one or the other on many occasions, rather than being seen as a complete person.

‘The Space Between The Boxes’

This led to discussions around identifying in more than one diverse group, and the ‘space between the boxes’ that people want to tick when discussing identity, and questions such as what happens when you don’t fit into one ‘box’?

Why is this such a problem? Why can’t we see the whole person, why is there such a need to allocate people into boxes?

I realized that issues around identifying as D/disabled and LGBTQ+ had been something I had heard a lot about in the media, in discussion with people I know, and whilst working as a support worker at Outburst, an LGBTQ+ youth service in Nottingham. However, when researching this didn’t seem to be something that was being discussed at a level to affect change, and I wondered what was being done to tackle this sort of discrimination.

The Project Begins To Take Shape

Ant and Lou thought this was an interesting subject to focus on, and we had in depth discussions around what this might look like, they also gave me a lot of guidance on engaging participants in initial discussions and the best way to move forward with the project.

Having established artists to mentor the participants throughout the project is something that I also want to organize.

At the minute the focus of the project is meeting and having conversations around identity, belonging and the lived experiences of people that identify as D/disabled and LGBTQ+.

These conversations will inform where the project goes and the kind of output that will be produced, this will also be directly influenced by the creative practices of the participants.

The call out for people to engage in these initial conversations has now gone out and I am excited to start meeting and chatting about the project!

If this has answered a few more questions you had and you are interested then please get in touch, take a look at the callout below.

 

Meet Michael, our new Arts Admin Trainee

Hi there!

I’m Michael and I am the Arts Administration Trainee here at We Are Epic. I am writing this blog towards the end of my first month here at We Are Epic, and I am currently staring at a page full of excitedly scribbled down notes about my experiences here so far. So bear with me as I try to get everything down.

My background in the arts is as a performer/practitioner, so this role is providing me with an insight into a different side of the arts. I have previously worked with young people with SEND in school settings, and continue to work with young people at a youth organisation in Nottingham, with a big focus on the LGBTQ+ service.

My first couple of days

My first couple of days were a whirlwind of coffee, lots of discussions and a plethora of new faces. As soon as you arrive at the Attenborough Arts Centre there is a buzz about the building, and a sense of excitement as artists and participants flit in and out of spaces. Ant and Lou were very clear and concise when discussing my role and the kind of guidance and mentoring I would receive, but they were also very clear that they wanted me to have responsibility for setting up specific systems and allowing me a sense of ownership with the administration in the office.

During my first couple of days we spent a lot of time discussing artists and companies that work in partnership with We Are Epic, and the ways in which We Are Epic are helping to support them, such as the Pinpoint Powwow’s.

Slowly but surely I was building a bigger picture of what We Are Epic encompass and the work they are doing.

In my second week

I attended the Devoted and Disgruntled event for We Are Epic,

which was a brilliant opportunity to network, get a snapshot of the needs of artists and contribute to important discussions around inclusion, diversity and the future of performing arts.

My own creative project

Ant and Lou also discussed the importance of me having my own creative project to work on, supported by We Are Epic, which is an amazing opportunity, more details to follow in the next blog!

Right, that is probably enough for now! I will be writing and posting updates regularly, so keep a look out!

Come along to a PinPoint Powwow in LEI

Our event in January was a small success and now you’re invited to join us for our next one.  People who came had opportunities to network and ended up with support for hot desking, a meeting to swap skills and ways of working with children with challenging behaviours and there were in-depth dicussions around what it is to be a freelance artist while teaching and building a business. People went away feeling more connected and with little tangible things they could do to develop their practices. 
From our side, we collected feedback on our mission statement and listen to how we can be clearer with how we present ourselves. We started conversations and listened to opinions of how We Are Epic could support the local artistic scene, begin to fill the gaps and things to consider for future ventures. After all we’re more interested in supporting what’s already going on and collaborating, than reinventing the wheel!
If you’re new to We Are Epic, the event is a few hours designed for local Leicester based performing arts artists, practitioners & facilitators to network, exchange ideas & experiences, & for us to find ways to support the local landscape. 
Our background is in arts, in the UK and in Cambodia. We’ve worked across the mainstream and disabled-led performing art sectors with disabled and non-disabled artists, practitioners and facilitators. We understand the importance of access and inclusion at many levels. If you want to come and would like to chat about access requirements contact Lou Coleman, Diversity Officer.
 
The event will be at The Attenborough Arts Centre, 10-15 minutes from Leicester train station. 
 
See our invite for more details.
 
Bring friends, colleagues and collaborators and feel free to pass this opportunity around your networks, remembering if you’re coming to RSVP.
 
See you on Monday 5 March 2018!
Lou Coleman, Diversity Officer.

The First PinPoint Powwow!

We Are Epic is up and moving! You’re invited to join us for an evening to find out who we are, what we’re doing and where we’ve come from! There’ll be food and drink, a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and a chance to dig a around, ask us questions and find out some of our plans for the coming months!
We are Ant Evans and Lou Coleman. Our background is in arts, in the UK (Lou) and in Cambodia (Ant). We’ve worked across the mainstream and disabled-led performing art sectors with disabled and non-disabled artists, practitioners and facilitators. We understand the importance of access and inclusion at many levels. If you want to come and would like to chat about access requirements contact Lou Coleman, Diversity Officer.
The event will be at The Attenborough Arts Centre, 10-15 minutes from Leicester train station.
Booking is essential, see our invite for more details.
Bring friends, colleagues and collaborators – see you on Monday 2 October!
Lou Coleman, Diversity Officer.