Wishing you all a happy new year, sorry for my lateness. I had a crazy end of the year/start of 2020 - if you don't already know I got married on 27th December to the amazing Mel. Things are calming down and normality is kicking in a bit now so I've decided to do a little 2019 round-up to log the whirlwind of a year. Enjoy!
With support from Arts Council England I headed to Metal in Peterborough to spend a week with fellow members of Working Class Artists group, organised by the fabulous Katie Cooper. We vented our frustrations about the arts sector and discussed directions the group can work towards to fight back and break down barriers within the industry for working class artists.
In January I also spent a week working in St. Helens with Heart Of Glass and the Scottee & Friends team on a project in Parr. We spent our time collating thoughts, statistics and data on what residents feel is missing from the area. To do this we had one on one conversations at their local community centre, we put up missing posters to encourage people to text in their answers and we used gay hook-up apps such as Grindr to investigate what it is like being queer in a small town with no LGBTQIA+ bars. It was a difficult and hard hitting week in many ways but I felt like I was part of something important.
Me, my other half an a gang of queer artists from around the UK & Ireland were brought together by Scottee and Metal for Queer Summit. We discussed post Brexit queer identity and I learnt a hell of a lot! One of the best things about the weekend was meeting and making connections with new people. I left feeling revitalized and inspired is so many ways...
March & April
I spent the next two months booking venues & dates, calculating budgets, reserving hotel rooms and sorting out the logistics for a tour of HIP HIP I'M GAY! in the summer. This also included working on a mega Arts Council Bid to fund the whole thing.
**SPOILER ALERT** I got the funding woohoo!
The cast of HIP HIP I'M GAY! and I performed a 30 min extract of the show at the Being Proud Awards which was held at John Moores University this year. It felt amazing to get back into rehearsals and to perform the pieces in front of 100 brilliant and bright LGBTQIA+ youth. The really ~got~ the piece, there were lots of laughs and lots of eyerolls - which we want!
I performed in A Mid Summer Nights Dream at the Arts Centre at Edge Hill University with the wacky and wonderful Mooncup Theatre. It was a HOOT! I love performing with this gang.
Phil from Curious Festival invited me to Newcastle to speak to a group of aspiring makers about my work at Sage Gateshead - it was a gorgeous afternoon. In the evening I headed over to Northern Stage with Phil to perform at Northern Stage is Curious. I can't tell you how amazing the audience was, I've officially fell in love with the people of Newcastle.
June also marked the start of our first HIP HIP I'M GAY! tour. We headed to London for 2 nights at New Wimbledon's Studio Theatre. We had a special guest at the final performance, the one and only Jonathan Blake (as played by Dominic West in the film PRIDE). He came backstage after the show to meet us and tell us how much he liked the piece - it will be a memory I will treasure forever.
The following weekend we headed to Peterborough to perform HIP HIP I'M GAY! as part of Peterborough Pride at The Undercroft. We had a big, beautiful crowd come along which included the Metal Peterborough crew and there was lots of laughing/crying and it ended with a lovely standing ovation.
After searching for an agent for a little while I could finally announce that I was now represented by Alan Hamilton at Hamilton Management!
The cast of HIP HIP and I traveled to Lancaster to perform the show at Lancaster University as part of a Mental Health Symposium. We ended the evening signing autographs and going clubbing with audience members. That's showbiz, kid!
We headed down south again the following weekend to perform the show at Studio 3 Arts in Barking and then in South End as part of Village Green Festival on the Space In-Between stage curated by Metal. It was a hectic but super fun filled weekend.
I performed at my favourite Drag Artist, Filla Crack's first Cabaret night at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool. The place was bouncing and there was a lorra lorra love in the room! That girl knows how to throw a shindig, let me tell you.
The HIP HIP I'M GAY! tour ended with two sold out performances at Liverpool's Royal Court and we were given a 5 five star review from North West End, which I was super proud and chuffed about. Read here: http://northwestend.co.uk/index.php/professional-reviews/liverpool/4456-hip-hip-i-m-gay-royal-court?fbclid=IwAR3HvvzCBEMQr-0shS8WBYEvixN5rMRvK3fsiiOdGwbtHBE3wRkaFZf1dSg
I spent a week at Liverpool's Everyman and Playhouse Theatres to begin the research and development of a new project with my 78 year old nan-in-law Carole. We've set out to make a piece of theatre together to help tackle ageism and to defying the stereotypes of those over 70. It was a wonderful week and I have a whole blog post about it if you are interested: https://www.ashleighowen.co.uk/post/carole-s-turn-r-d
I was asked to create and perform a new cabaret piece for Metal Liverpool's showing of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. It was the first time I've written something for children so it was a nice change and a new challenge (mainly to write something and not use naughty words).
We performed a one off performance of HIP HIP I'M GAY! at the Arts Centre at Edge Hill University followed by a Q&A session with a lovely group of theatre students. We all had a little cry and a hug! Again, it was a fabulous night and attracted a great crowd!
As part of this years Homotopia I co-facilitated and co-directed a short piece of cabaret with an inspiring group of young LGBTQIA+ performers. The evening was curated and presented by Travis Alabanza at Blackburn House and the performance was a collaboration with Collective Encounters. I was so proud of this lot and it has given me a little pang to direct more in the future.
Fevered Sleep got in touch and asked me to be part of a top secret photo shoot in Manchester. I headed to Beehive Studios to meet the Artistic Directors and performers and we had a great morning of experimentation and play. The shots turned out amazing too...
2019 ended with another performance with my sidekick Filla Crack at her Christmas Cabaret, again at the Everyman Theatre. It was such a gorgeous night and a fabulous end to the year!
Well that's all, folks!
This year I want to work on a solo show, hopefully get another R&D with Carole in, a couple of new cabaret numbers dusted and organise another tour of HIP HIP I'M GAY! again in the Autumn.
Hope you all have a fabulous 2020!