Reflections from week one of R&D for Common Ground (Previous title Falling Together) – a new show that uses circus and comedy to address the difficulty we have talking about race.
A blog series by Nyasha Daley – Audience Engagement Associate for Common Ground, who spent time getting to know the places and people that our new show is being developed for.
Falling Together may only be a working title, but it’s working for me on levels. When I first read the motivations and themes behind this piece of work, it really touched my soul. The intersections and the tensions between “Who do you trust?”, “Who will you catch?”, “Who do you hold?” and “Who would you let fall?”, when played out against the backdrop of the last two years are both dynamic and emotive.
The themes speak to the challenges we have collectively shared as we sought new ways of working, playing and being, during and beyond the global pandemic; they also speak to the challenges Black people have specifically shared as we seek new ways to dismantle systems of structural racism during and beyond the global protests of Black Lives Matter.
The final performance will question the drive and complexity of defining who we are and where we belong. Drawing on current cultural contexts where gender, ethnicity and class tie into unspoken social power structures leaving us all on unstable ground, the work will be a humorous and challenging mix of films and live performance.
There are so many emotive touch-points within this short description for me. As a Black woman, cis-gendered and LGBT+, born British and raised in middle-class England… the yearning for belonging, within the precarity of structures and situations that left me feeling unbalanced, unsure and unstable, ring true. And loud. The working title resonates deeply. Falling, falling, falling… whether together or alone, whether into love, silence or madness… the sense of movement beyond my control, is palpable. And the real work isn’t even yet begun.
The team developing this piece have been infused and enthused with the passion that Upswing founder Vicki Dela Amedume has for this hard and necessary work. Through shared experience, they have shared vision… and this is beyond the walls of Upswing.
It has been powerful to hear and see that passion travel to partners at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre too. Meeting Bevali Mckenzie and Christine Pungong was a true highlight of the week; there was an unspoken understanding, a conversation of nods, smiles and hugs as we three Black beings explored the importance of the work being developed and the impacts for the community and centre itself. It echoed feelings experienced on meeting Frank Sweeney, albeit virtually; his excitement for the project meeting mine, across space and time and zoom.
Watching Vicki Dela work with artists within the R&D space at 101 Outdoor Arts centre has also been revealing. To observe Vicki on many levels, as an artist, a facilitator, a trainer, an agitator and a carer… was interesting, enlightening and gave me space to be present in the process.
I’ve been exploring Tottenham in real life and online too; starting to develop a map of community centres, youth spaces, education facilities, social media movements, media outlets and retailers. I’ve already realised that most locals don’t even know about the gem of a venue that they have at Bernie Grant, including possibly the world’s angriest bus driver, who advised me loudly that he had been driving his route for 25 years and that no such place existed! I’m already thinking about how we might use this work to invite him and others to be wrong, in the warmest of ways, in the safest of spaces.
And so… though I know the name will likely change, I must admit that I already find myself falling in love, with Falling Together.