Episode 5

 

Heather McKayIt was my great pleasure to talk to Heather McKay for Episode 5 of the podcast. Heather has been my good friend for a long, long time. She was charged with looking after me at the after show party of a notorious school musical back in the day and we’ve been firm friends ever since. I’ve seen her flourish as an artist, grow a sustainable business as an illustrator while living out her spiritual path with authenticity and integrity.

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Having graduated from Newpark Comprehensive School in 1991, she attended Stillorgan College of Further Education where she completed a one year Art Foundation course. She went on to study Graphic Design at Dún Laoghaire College of Art & Design (now DLIADT) between 1992 and 1995. She spent a year in Australia before returning to complete her HDip at NCAD in 1997. Heather was asked to return to Stillorgan College of Further Education, where she has been teaching Design ever since. You can find our more about Heather and her work at Head in the Clouds Ireland and on Facebook.

In our conversation, we talked about the tricky business of finding a balance between art and business, how motherhood can enhance creativity and expressing spirituality in art.

Jesus' Death(Heather’s painting, which she talks about in the podcast, for an Easter exhibition of the Stations of the Cross.)ß

Don’t forget, you can follow Strut and Bellow on Facebook and Twitter and we’d love to hear your feedback at strutandbellow@gmail.com. If you liked the podcast, why not consider writing a review in iTunes? Feel free to share the love far and wide.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more inspiring conversations with women makers but in the meantime, keep struttin’ and bellowin’.

Zwischen Time

P1070984.JPGWhen I was pregnant with my third child, my yoga teacher talked a lot about those agonising last few weeks as you near your due date. You’re heavily pregnant, you’re sick of being heavily pregnant, you can’t wait to meet your baby but you’re also aware that life’s going to get crazy when your baby finally comes. She called it the ‘zwischen time’, from the German word for ‘in between’. She counselled me  to try and enjoy it, when I still only had two children, to be present to all the emotions that were surfacing and to get as much rest as I could. I wish I could say I listened. Instead, I anxiously counted down the days, analysing every ache and pain, thinking I was going into labour. I drove myself crazy and exhausted myself and cried hot tears of frustration when I passed the 40 week mark and Baby was in no hurry to make an appearance. Even when I finally did go into labour, Third Child was not going to be persuaded by a pushy midwife and took his own merry time to be born.

And of course, miraculously now he’s two years old. Where did the time go?

I feel myself in another ‘zwischen time’, a waiting time, an in between time, in my creative life. My first novel is currently being read by a literary agent, I’ve just auditioned for a lovely theatre role and I’m waiting for news. It’s tempting to check the email every five minutes and thankfully, I know better than to call up and ask for an update. It’s kind of nail biting, but I’m learning, slowly, to breathe into the discomfort. Sometimes I fall into old patterns of behaviour that are not helpful, old addictions and habits that only make the agony worse. But there are moments when I manage to stay present and wait patiently

I’m reading Mary Oliver’s poetry a lot these days. Her recent collection, Felicity, is like a prayerbook of sorts. She speaks Soul fluently and when I find myself climbing the walls, her grounded beautiful words are a real balm.

Here’s one that I keep returning to. I hope you might find it comforting, if you find yourself in a zwischen time and need a little perspective.

“Things take the time they take.
Don’t worry.
How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?”

Mary Oliver

 

Episode Four

Today I’m very excited to share my conversation with a truly inspiring woman, Lian BellLian Bell. Photo credit Roise Goan.jpg

Lian is a set designer, arts manager and the instigator of the Waking the Feminists movement. It was Lian who publicly voiced her anger and frustration at the Abbey Theatre’s lack of gender diversity in their programme for 2016, and who became the leader of a team of women who have challenged the Irish arts scene to reflect the fact that women make up half the population and need to have their voices heard and experiences shared. Lian was recently honoured by the Irish theatre community with a Judges’ special award, for leading the Waking the Feminists movement with courage and conviction, highlighting the inequalities in Irish theatre and advocating sustainable change.

We met up in Project Arts Centre a few weeks ago and discussed the clarion call that got so many women on board as well as her own work in the theatre scene in Dublin.

You can find out more about the Waking the Feminists movement and how to support their goal to achieve gender parity in the theatre five years at their website. Lian has her own site as well which details her collaborations over the years.

Hope you enjoy the podcast. Don’t forget to follow on Facebook and Twitter @strutandbellow and please do share the love.

And if there’s an inspiring woman maker you’d like to hear interviewed, why not drop me an email at strutandbellow@gmail.com

Next time, I’ll be sharing my conversation with illustrator and artist Heather McKay.

In the meantime, keep struttin’ and bellowin’

 

 

Oops….

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So I was supposed to post another podcast this week, apologies if you were anxiously waiting for the next instalment of inspiration and encouragement. I was however called away to an audition in London so, as a maker myself, I had to give my focus and attention to getting prepared.

I’ll be honest, the auditions haven’t exactly been coming in thick and fast in recent years, so when you get the call there’s a tendency for the head to take the staggers. So there was a concerted effort on my part to keep calm and stay focussed and do the work to prepare. As my agent kindly reminded me, ‘Be excited, but don’t take the excitement in to the room with you.’

So I was super zen and chilled on the flight going over early yesterday morning, and then as we disembarked, I slipped on some water and went down hard. Nothing like taking a tumble to bring you slap bang into the present moment. After I’d sobbed down the phone to my husband and limped to the train into London, I had to start the emotional preparation for the meeting all over again.

It’s easy as an actor to let the stakes get so high. That’s what drama is after all, characters in situation where transformation happens because of high stakes. But it’s always best to keep the drama on the stage. The bump and tumble gave me the jolt I need to remind me that no matter the outcome of my meeting, nothing actually changes. I am the same person, and I am enough. It would be wonderful to get the gig, of course it would, but it won’t change anything fundamental about who I am. And with every bump and tumble, you just get up, take some arnica, brush yourself off and carry on.

So I did my meeting and enjoyed every minute and then treated myself to a nice class of Malbec before catching the flight home.

All that to say, sorry I haven’t uploaded my latest illuminating conversation with another incredible woman maker. However, I’m sharing a link to a great podcast I listened to while I was away with Mexican filmmaker Patricia Riggen. Rob Bell is someone I listen to a lot and he’s interviewing people at the moment who have taken risks and overcome obstacles to see their dreams come to fruition. You can listen to his chat with Patricia here.

I’ll have the latest episode of Strut and Bellow up next Tuesday. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and if you have anyone you’d like to hear interviewed, why not drop me an email at strutandbellow@gmail.com.

Keep struttin’ and bellowin’

Melanie

 

 

 

Episode Three

Episode Three is a conversation between myself and Charlotte Darbyshire and I. Charlotte is also my sister in law, so I feel quite lucky to see the life of a dance artist close up.

charlotte headshots.jpgCharlotte is a British independent dance artist.

She works as a choreographer and director of live performance and dance for camera. She is also an experienced performer, educator, facilitator and movement therapist.
Charlotte was a founder member of CandoCo Dance Company, performing and teaching internationally with them for 10 years. This inspired her on-going practice and research into inclusive and creative approaches to dance practice for disabled and non-disabled people, trained and untrained dancers. Independently, Charlotte has led integrated projects in UK, Colombia, Croatia, Bangladesh, Sweden and France.

She now lives in Northern France where she co-runs La Traversee an initiative for interdisciplinary arts practice, research and performance, with composer Jules Maxwell, painter Pippa Darbyshire, actor and film maker Tony Wadham and choreographer Henrietta Hale (co-director of Dog Kennel Hill Project). Together they run regular performance events, artist residencies and movement workshops. Charlotte also runs a private practice involving Integrated Bodywork and Movement Therapy.

About her films: Her first short film ‘Taut’ was commissioned by Channel 4 and won the New Filmmaker Award at The Place in 2001.

‘the lily the rose’ is Charlotte’s most recent film, shot in France this year by Tony Wadham, with sound score by Jules Maxwell. It is a poetic portrait of dance artists Kate Marsh and Welly O’Brien – a world of sisterhood, show business and song, inspired by the friendship and work of the artists themselves but also by Violet and Daisy Hilton, Baroque performers and conjoined twins from the 1930’s. The film captures their performance, shared stories, anatomy and their fascinatingly frank attitudes to disability.

Enjoy the podcast and don’t forget to share the love on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Episode Two

featuring ROFToday’s episode is a conversation between myself and the artist Róisín O’Farrell. Róisín is one of Ireland’s most successful and best loved contemporary artists. Her use of colour and texture in her interior scenes give a sense of luxury and comfort but what she’s really interested in is the beauty of imperfection.

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Róisín is a terrific communicator and her workshops and classes are often oversubscribed. She’s also great at sharing about her work and process and has just recently launched her own v-log over on her website.

One of these days, when I get that big break, I’m going to blow my earnings on a Róisín O’Farrell original! Or I might just save up for one of her limited edition prints. The tricky part will be choosing which of her beautiful paintings I love most.

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Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @strutandbellow and the Facebook page. I’ve also just set up a page on Pinterest – Strut and Bellow.

Feel free to leave a comment here or on the Facebook page with any feedback or ideas. And if there is a woman maker who you would love to hear interviewed why not email me at strutandbellow@gmail.com t0 nominate them.

 

 

Waking the Feminists

So on Tuesday, my amazing Father-in-Law, looked after my three children so I could make it in to Liberty Hall in Dublin to attend the Waking the Feminists – Spring Forward public meeting. It was good to hear from many leading theatre practitioners how the November Rising was impacting on their policy and practise. We heard from representatives of women working in the technical side of theatre and it was actually sickening to hear of the casual and blatant sexism some women have faced. I was encouraged that there were some men comfortable enough in their own masculinity to affirm their own feminism. (Though one man didn’t seem to quite get the whole thing at all and looked distinctly uncomfortable and irritated to be there at all. I’ll let you guess who I mean!)

It was a great opportunity to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a good while and also to make new acquaintances. It was good to hear what people are up to, making their own work, forging new paths for themselves. And I was reminded again how much damn energy it takes to make theatre at all in the current climate.

It was also good to connect with other mothers who had not been able to make it to the last meeting. Mother makers struggle to be seen and heard and it’s one thing I’m pleased with that on the podcast I have managed to interview many women with children. I’m also interested in hearing from makers who have other caring responsibilities and hear how they manage the balance of making and caring. It’s a tricky old see saw.

Anyone you think you’d like to hear in conversation, please leave a comment here or on the Facebook page. I’m excited about the upcoming conversations. Hope you enjoyed my chat with Noni Stapleton. The next podcast will be released on Tuesday.

Until then, keep struttin’ and bellowin’.

 

Episode One

 

It’s here. International Women’s day is HERE and to celebrate I’m launching the Strut and Bellow podcast. Each episode will be a conversation with a woman who makes something be it theatre, film, fiction, art, food, crafty things and for whom the making is a big part of her life.

I’m honoured and delighted that Episode One is with my dear friend Noni Stapleton, an actress and writer whose award winning play Charolais is currently touring Ireland. I couldn’t be more excited that my launch conversation is with her; we had more than a little fun chatting together. (Note to self: ease off on the cackling for the next one!)

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Perfectly marbled and bashed about ‘til tender: Charolais is a surreal comedy of love, longing and one woman’s intense rivalry with a Charolais heifer. This is a muddy place of simmering desire minced with a loneliness that cuts to the bone.

“A fast-paced, witty, and intensely emotional tale filled with laughter, loss and despair” ★★★★ Irish Times

“Stapleton is a joy to watch and she knows her audience. Love, family and loss all combine at the finish to create a charming piece of theatre. Well worth the venture. A truly enjoyable show” ★★★★ The Public Reviews

She’s just back from London where she was at the Susan Smith Blackburn awards ceremony Charolais having been nominated as one of 16 finalists.

You might also recognise Noni from Showtime USA’s Penny Dreadful where she thrilled and terrified audiences as Gladys Murray the wife of Sir Malcolm Murray played by Timothy Dalton.photo 4.jpeg

In Episode One, we talk about what the nomination meant to her as well as discussing bravery, vulnerability, creativity and the importance of community to see you through the highs and lows of the making life.

Charolais can be seen at the following venues

Mar 16 – St. John’s Theatre, Listowel
Mar 18 – Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray
Mar 31 – The Dock, Carrick on Shannon
Apr 1 – Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda
Apr 2 – The Mill Theatre, Dundrum
Apr 8 – Áras Inis Gluaire, Belmullet

It was also adapted as a radio play and can be heard here.

To find out more about this lovely woman check out her website.

 

 

 

Top tips for a bad work day

The artist Róisín O’Farrell did a great post today on how she handles bad days in the studio. She’s a prolific artist and her paintings are snapped up. It’s one of my secret ambitions to own one of her paintings some day ( and have the requisite lovely home to put it in!)

I especially appreciated her comment that sometimes you need to have a bit of compassion for yourself, don’t bully yourself when it’s just not happening.

Today I’m taking her advice. The past two weeks have been tough dealing with my 4 year old’s storms and I’m very, very tired. When the baby went for his nap, I made some coffee and sat and did my morning pages, a writing/spiritual practise that is becoming indispensible once again. Then I called my sister and then I just sat in the silence for a bit. Sometimes, the body just needs that.

And there’s the baby calling so off I go again….

Scribbling in nooks and crannies

A small practise I have developed thanks to Donald Miller and his Creating Your Own Lifeplan project, is to write, at the start of every day ‘If I had this day over I’d…’ It orients the day beautifully, helps you see where your heart is for the day, what your soul needs to. It’s like setting an intention for the day and I’ve found it really helpful as we slog on into the maelstrom of the autumn term.

This morning, I wrote,

If I had today over, I’d write in every nook and cranny

So that’s what I’m doing. The baby is playing on the floor and the two big kids are trashing the living room building a fort. The floors need hoovered, the kitchen needs cleaned, I could probably do with putting a wash on but I’m discovering that when it comes to combating the stress I feel being at home, writing helps.

This morning the baby slept for an hour and a half and I chipped away at Chapter 5. I’m into new territory with my story having decided to make a major change and so I feel like I’m back in Shitty First Draft land when I should be confidently striding forth. Last night I called in to a Writer Friend’s house – we meet once a week to write in the same room together, a way of keeping accountable and keeping up the word count. The lap top didn’t get opened but I sat with my first three chapters, my notes and graphs and figured out the structure of the next section of the story.

At times it feels like the most daunting, impossible thing to be attempting but actually, I am so committed now that every attempt to put my arse in the chair is a small victory. Even writing a blog post like this feels like a healthy dose of self care if nothing else.

So grab those nooks and crannies, scribble, paint, dance, sing. It all adds up to strengthen your gift and loosen the tension at the base of the skull.