It’s not hard to find. A small door in from the main street. I was greeted with a smile. And the chance for a cup of tea. I've been to Flourish House a few times; the staff seem to be friendly and they know me. I sat down at a table with Emma Jayne Park, who curated 5 Ways to Begin…, the event I am here to see. I asked her a few questions:
When did you know what you wanted to do? At what point?
I suppose I knew I wanted to dance when a friend dragged me along to a theatre group. I got interested then and went to train in physiotherapy first. It took me a good five years after I graduated to just try lots of things. I wanted to help other artists with their ideas first.
What is it like working with other artists who are in the same frame of mind as you?
Amazing. Like with anything, finding someone like-minded is brilliant and that’s where an event like tonight’s event is really important. I’ve met some of the artists before, and others I haven’t met at all. And so, it’s been really nice today to see what their approach is and see why they make their work and how they do it and why.
So, was it your main idea to get the folk together?
Yeah. Whenever you’re making performance work, it’s really hard to know how an audience will react. Because you’re so close to it yourself, you can’t judge it objectively. I’ve performed in a lot of scratch nights where I share the work while it’s being made. I find it really useful and it’s something the festival doesn’t do a lot of – artist development – and it’s a way to create opportunities.
How do you find taking part in the festival?
I love it. I absolutely love it. It’s one of the few festivals where you get such a broad range of people. You get people with lived experience with mental health issues. You get people who work in medical centres and people who just know people. Also, people who are interested in the performance. It’s such a broad range of work. My only complaint is that there is so much stuff going on. Sometimes it’s hard you want to see things you want to see. Though that’s a good thing.
What are you going to do now? Will you work with the other artists again?
Hopefully, I’ll keep finding ways to support them. That would be ideal. It’s the plan that if these events work, then they would be doing them regularly as part of the festival. Because it’s great for artists. The thing about knowing people is you can ask them for favours. Whether it’s getting in the studio with them and looking at the work, or when they have made the work, you are able to promote it for them. But I do hope there are ways as the festival keeps growing [it will continue to support] artists and build an audience, and hopefully these events will run again next year.
What do you think of Flourish House as a venue?
We’ve had an amazing day. As a venue, it’s brilliant. Particularly this kind of work because it’s work-in-progress. It’s a comfortable, supportive environment. There is something about being able to come in and do things at a relaxed pace and being able to do things and try things. We came across a box of badges, so we said to Charlotte, one of the workers: “Can we put these out, because they look brilliant?” And she was really happy that we were putting them on show.
I think the work Flourish House do anyway, in being a member’s network, is massively important because it doesn’t feel formal. Like a family. Structured and being safe, where it’s really fluid, and it’s been reflected today in the way we have been able to work.
The big thing for me running this event as well is that, from the beginning to the end, it was about the artists’ mental health as well. Quite often, as an artist, you are thrown into some not very realistic situations, and it is quite high stress. Whereas, today, it’s about the whole thing and about being calm and supportive and encouraging. I would say Flourish House has really supported that…We felt that we’ve had good energy and the freedom to do what we need to do and make sure the work looks good. So far, we’ve had a great day and now we’re just hoping that tonight we can have an audience.
by Stuart Low