Gaby is one of Harrow Arts Centre’s Young Associate Artists for 2013-14. She is a theatre maker, working towards a new play, Fatherless Generation, to be performed at HAC.
I joined the Creative Directors of The Guestlist, because I wanted to know what it was like to work behind the scenes and also to be a part of my local arts centre.
While I was there, applications were being taken in for the Young Associate scheme for the next year. I felt comfortable at Harrow Arts Centre and I felt confident that HAC would help support me. It attracted me that I could do this here, where I live, and that I was familiar with the community. It was the challenge of developing as an artist and the support to help me through that process. I applied and got it; I was over the moon! Currently I am in the process of writing and directing my first play, and I have gained work experience in planning workshops through working in the HAC Youth Theatre. I am working on the Gold Arts Award, and I am supporting others with their creative process through mentoring them to complete the Silver Arts Award. It’s been a challenge, sometimes overwhelming, but well worth it! It’s the first time I’ve had so much responsibility.
A summer project also came up called Spin Cycle and the Street Arts Academy. That was really fun. I wasn’t actually going to do it, but then my younger sister asked me to come with her, so I thought I would come along. We did workshops creating characters that would eventually be in a final street performance in Harrow Town Centre with Emergency Exit Arts. I had an opportunity to lead some of the dance sections in it; it gave me an opportunity to exercise some of my skills. I really liked the process because it felt like we connected so well over a short period of time. On the day when we were performing, we rehearsed together in the car park of the hotel where our dressing rooms were. We’d grown so much as a company of performers; you could see the journey from when we first started to when we were about to go out and perform. The performance was different to how we had rehearsed it because there were so many unexpected things that happened when we were interacting with the public. That was my first street performance. The biggest thing I got out of it was working with people of different age groups first of all, because we were such a mixed age range, and just working with people who weren’t all performers; we all had different skills. I actually grew in confidence from doing the street performance. For the people who watched the show, I think it made them feel part of something and because it was in the shopping centre, well, it wasn’t your average shopping experience! It made Harrow come alive. Even my mum was saying, ‘We don’t have this very often!’ and she was engaged the whole time. We have a lot of buskers and music but we never have performances where the audiences can actively get involved.
Afterwards I was recommended to apply for the Creating Routes programme with Emergency Exit Arts, which is a training course for participatory arts practitioners. I’ve now been doing that since November 2013. I am applying my skills in theatre and learning how to use them in a community context. It finishes in June 2014 and by then I will have led workshops, completed a training course with EEA, Talawa and Goldsmiths University, and basically learnt how to be a freelance practitioner. It’s been invaluable. I feel a lot more prepared and confident in setting out in my career.
I also took part in the community pantomime in 2013. Now that was fun! Out of all the things I’ve done at HAC so far, panto was probably my favourite. I loved the people, I loved the performances. I saw how the show was put together; that’s the one show I’ve been involved in where I’ve seen almost every aspect of putting a performance together from start to finish. Fun, fun, fun! I met people who weren’t necessarily in the performance field, they were from all walks of life, but we shared the same passion to come together and be a part of something. I think it’s just nice for people from Harrow to sit down and watch a performance by other local people. Then they could feel like maybe they could do it too. It’s affected me as a professional too, in terms of learning as a director. I was thinking about why the director made certain choices, which helped me to look at the performance as a whole from a different perspective which will help me when I am directing.
Maybe because it’s so local, half my family are now involved in the activities that go on in this place. Two of my sisters have participated in some of the workshops and my youngest sister has done a project with HAC at her school. I literally think if I hadn’t got involved in the Creative Directors project in the first place, I wouldn’t be on the journey I am now. All the opportunities I have had have come about through the people I have met on the projects I have done here. I wasn’t even going to come here until my dad said, ‘why not try your local arts centre?’ I think people need to be more aware of what is so close to them; seek out what is available to you in your local area! I have found a support network that is willing to help up and coming creatives who wish to develop their skills as artists, further their career and achieve their goals.