Early this year I visited Australia for the first time. During my season in Melbourne with Theatre Works I received lots of good reviews. My Ozzie producer (the wonderful Daniel Clarke) and I thought we should build on this success and develop more of my work here.
As soon as I got back I applied for a grant called Arts Council International Development Fund (AIDF) run by Arts Council England (ACE) and British Council. AIDF's aim is to support English artists in getting their work further afield, developing new territories, encouraging us to meet other show offs, producers and venues that could support work in the future - isn't it brilliant they do this?!
I was successful in my application to ACE so over the next three weeks I am in Australia making work, meeting artists, showing work and starting conversations with venues and makers ...but everyone I meet can't seem to grasp why I don't have a run in the towns I'm visiting - my answer is as useful as Facebook relationship status 'it's complicated'.
People imagine booking a show is as easy as just asking. Unfortunately it's a lot of coffee, ground work, red tape and visas not to mention the fact you need to find those willing to take a punt on you. Getting your work to new audiences means you're effectively starting over with a new crowd of people you need to impress before they write you off as foreign muck. Then being able to fund it is the next hurdle.
Over the next four days I'm in Sydney working towards getting projects like Camp, The Worst of Scottee and new work, specifically for Australian audiences off the ground. Today I started my mammoth adventure to see if any of it's possible.
I'm excited to be here and want to make work here - why? OK the obvious stuff about the weather, food and beaches helps but during my last trip I really did find a queer family / identity in Oz not to mention to keen-ness for my work to exist here.
While I'm here I'm meeting some key makers who I think are the best thing since sliced bread. I want them to be a mini cultural exchange so I've aptly titled them 'Tim Tam and Tea'.
Today I met my first art crush - Kelli Jean Drinkwater. Those of you who are old enough to remember my club night Anti-Social will know Kelli Jean as our infamous 'Fat Grace' poster girl.
Kelli Jean is a brilliant artist, film maker and director. She's fat and makes work about it... can't see why we get along?!
Over looking the harbour we spoke about where both of our countries are at - we painted a bleak picture of less public funding but that creating more excuses to make work. We also chatted about our love for the Sydney queer family (namely the Glitter Militia) and the need to make something together.
Through osmosis Kelli Jean and I are making shows, at the same time, on opposite sides of the world with similar themes without realising it. We're exploring the world of fat politics through contemporary dance! Kelli Jean's production debuts at the Sydney Festival in 2015 (info here), mine opens in the UK in September 2016 (you can see R&D here).
Our government subsidised tea session was a success, we're going to collaborate on a project in late 2015 and I'll be performing alongside her collective during Mardi Gras in Sydney - this AIDF malarky is really working!
Tonight I'm off to do a few small turns of the dance floor at Voguey Bear - a weekly performance art piss up. On paper we're calling it audience development, in real life it's a chance spread some love and sew some seeds.
Things I've noticed today:
1. Working class people are easily identified in Australia as everyone who works in service industry or construction has to wear a yellow and navy polo top - I'm intrigued by this idea of 'working class uniform' and what it means. Perhaps I will have a sequin version made to make the middle classes aspire to dressing like us, the working class thus creating a statement about cultural appropriation - DEEP!
2. There are a lot of VIP bars in Sydney - does this mean there are lots of very important people or does it mean everyone is equally important therefor making the VIP redundant?
What next? Sort out new work. Great ready for tomorrow. Be excited for the year ahead.