Magnetic North Blog
For the whole of this week, we're holding our paid online residency for experienced artists which we call Space/Time. Presented in partnership with Sanctuary Queer Arts, Space/Time is for artists working in any art form, and poses the question “How can you continue to thrive as an artist?”. The artists gathering remotely to discover the answers will be:
Drew Taylor-Wilson is a neurodivergent, queer creative working in TV, film, and theatre. They are an award-winning theatre director, playwright, facilitator, and theatre artist development specialist, trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Drew writes to advocate for seldom heard voices, creating bold contemporary queer stories that de-stigmatise mental health difficulties. Their plays have been seen across the UK, they are a former performance poet and frequently bend genre and form in both screen and stage writing.
They are one half of multi-art-form performance engine house COMPANY MANY, co-director of Sanctuary Queer Arts and Drew works freelance as a Director and Dramaturg, often with spoken word artists.
Nelly Kelly is a disabled theatre maker, playwright, dramaturg, drag artist, producer, and consultant. Their work resists traditional theatre structures - to encourage the centring of excluded audiences and improved access.
They are currently collaborating on the development of a new piece of work with fellow trans and non-binary theatre maker Afton Moran, a satirical, comedic piece about ‘the trans cult’, supported by Sanctuary Queer Arts.
Annabel Cooper is an art worker and drag artist based in Leith, Edinburgh.
Co-founder and co-director of Sanctuary Queer Arts; Annabel is also co-founder and co-director of Queen Jesus Productions; and co-founded and ran queer arts collective Dive Queer Party in the 2010s.
Annabel started performing in their 30s when running Dive cabarets, and carries the ethos and antics of that special collective with them in their work.
One half of drag king rock-n-roll tribute clowns Oasissy, Annabel rocks up to cabarets and festivals from New York to Newhaven causing mischief and mayhem.
Fraser MacLeod is a freelance theatre artist, director, facilitator, and project manager based in Glasgow.
He delivers and directs professional participatory experiences for children, families, and communities - ranging from one-off workshops to large scale events and projects. Frasers work often utilises drama and theatre to creatively explore socio-political themes. He strives to create supportive environments where everyone involved can discover, develop, and share their creativity skills and talents.
Fraser is currently Co-Director of Sanctuary Queer Arts; Founding Partner with Culture Junction; Education and Communities Associate with National Theatre of Scotland; and Associate Artist with Tron Theatre Participation.
Harry (they/she) is a queer, mixed-heritage writer, artist, wellbeing facilitator, and EDI consultant, specialising in intersectional access, inclusion and advocacy. Last year, they wrote their first play, The Brenda Line, which was commissioned by Pitlochry Festival Theatre. The Houdini Detectives, their first script for television, was recently optioned, and their debut novel is currently shortlisted for the Merky New Writers Book Prize.
Harry has worked in theatre for over a decade, most recently as Federation of Scottish Theatre’s first Policy and Public Affairs Lead. They are one of the team working in response to Edinburgh Council’s Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review, and was a member of the working group who created two Harassment in the Performing Arts guides for freelancers and organisations for the performing arts sector in Scotland. Harry is a founding board member of Summerhall Arts, and is on the board of directors for Wonder Fools.
We asked the artists who have taken part in our artist development programme if they are involved with a show during the Edinburgh Festivals.
Here are their suggestions of performances running in August which have a Magnetic North connection.
Voices from the South
Voices from the South is an international online showcase of performance work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, co-curated and delivered with partner organisations from Brazil, India, Mexico, Scotland and South Africa.
The project involves 15 artists and companies from these countries who have engaged in an 18-month period of exchange and conversation while preparing to present their work online at Fringe 2023.
Black is the Colour of my Voice
Fringe First and Spirit of the Fringe award winner Apphia Campbell's stunning solo show, inspired by the life of Nina Simone. Back at the Fringe to celebrate its 10th birthday! Strictly limited run of five performances only. 'Campbell may wear Simone's trademark head wrap but her performance goes beyond impersonation' **** (Times). 'Apphia Campbell is nothing short of sensational... she will make you cheer for her, smile with her and then sting your eyes with tears' ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). 'A compelling and heartbreaking story, punctuated with bursts of song.' **** (Edinburgh Festivals Magazine).
Apphia took part in Rough Mix 2020 and performed in We WIll Hear The Angels.
Pentland Theatre, Pleasance at EICC
Aug 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 3pm
Experts Radio Lab
Kids are experts. Some are experts on jumping, some on dinosaur fossils, some on making mud pies. Whatever it is, our mics are on, the interview chair is ready and we’re about to go live. Experts Radio Lab and the accompanying Listening Station is a free, drop-in experience, set within our pop-up radio studio at the National Museum of Scotland. Interviews are shared live to an audience of fellow interviewees, their families and anyone who’s curious. Share your expertise with us, or come along and learn from the masters! You never know what you’ll learn.
Alice Mary Cooper is our Artist Employee at Magnetic North.
National Museum of Scotland
Aug 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24
Drop in between 11am-1pm, 2pm-4pm
Magnetic North is a partner on Voices from the South, an international online showcase which will premiere 15 new performance works from Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The showcase features specially-commissioned work from a range of genres, including theatre, dance, music and multi-disciplinary performance. It has been co-curated and delivered by:
MITsp – São Paulo International Theatre Festival (Brazil)
Pickle Factory (India)
La Teatrería and Teatrix (Mexico)
Baxter Theatre Centre (South Africa)
in partnership with Magnetic North and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.
The work presented explores a wide range of themes, including identity, community, tradition and history, sustainability and nature, immigration, relationships, femininity and womanhood, and much more. Each work exists within a unique context in the midst of complex histories and contemporary circumstances, yet similarities and shared concerns emerge throughout the programme.
Although conceived initially as digital projects, much of the work will also have a future life as live performances. In a unique low carbon process, all the contributing artists met regularly online to talk about their work and share their progress with each other as the individual projects were developed over the last 16 months.
Voices from the South was inspired by conversations between the partner organisations in 2021 that explored the idea of a purely online showcase at the Fringe. The project aims to break down some of the significant barriers faced by artists from the Global South regions – such as geographical, financial, language and access barriers – when it comes to participating in the Edinburgh Fringe and accessing international networks.
Magnetic North has brought to the project its long-standing experience of partnership-building, international artist development and producing new work, as well as its more recent experience of creating digital work.
You can read about the 15 projects and the artists who made them on the showcase's website here.
We're looking for flexible, open performers with theatre, dance, or contemporary performance backgrounds to join us at Rough Mix 2023. Deadline midday (BST) on Monday 29th May 2023.
On 4th July 1845, shortly before his 27th birthday, Henry David Thoreau began to live in a hut he had built next to a lake in Walden Woods, on the outskirts of Concord, Massachusetts. For the next two years and two months he attempted to live entirely by his own resources. Walden, his account of his ‘experiment in simple living’, is one of the most extraordinary and unclassifiable - as well as one of the most well-known but least-read - books ever written.
I first came across it in 2006 when I was browsing at a charity book sale in Edinburgh. I came across a Penguin edition of the book from the 1940s with a lovely woodcut design on the front. The man selling it apologised that it was £2, explaining that this was because it was old. When I read it, I began to develop the idea of adapting it for performance. I asked Tristan Surtees and Charles Blanc (who work collectively as Sans façon) to work with me - we had met at Cove Park, a residency centre in Argyll and Bute, and were looking for a project to collaborate on. Over the next two years we developed the ideas for the production, always trying to reflect Thoreau’s quest to “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”
The production premiered in 2008 as a site-responsive performance at Stills in Edinburgh. The following year, we adapted it to tour by creating a specially-made oval bench made from American pine. This both created a performance space and seated a 40-strong audience.
(above: the bench in Gilmorehill Theatre, Glasgow in 2009)
I started thinking about the production again in 2022 when I saw Fruitmarket’s new space, the Warehouse, and felt it was an ideal place for the production. In preparation for reviving it 7 years since it was last performed, I began to think again about the background to the book. I knew about Thoreau’s relatively privileged background - his family had made money from its pencil-manufacturing business - and degree from Harvard. This privilege allowed him to spend two years living in the woods without having to worry too much about making ends meet. He was aware of this and knew that less-advantaged people generally went unnoticed by others from his background and class. Elise Lemire, in her book Black Walden - published since our original production - suggests that, because of the history of Walden Woods as a home to the disadvantaged, he was consciously siding with those less fortunate than he. His thinking was deeply influenced by Hinduism – he refers to the Bhagavad Gita in Walden - and Buddhism, and by Chinese philosophy. This was unusual for someone of his background in the 1840s, but Thoreau was quietly radical, and his writing on Civil Disobedience (a phrase he coined) was hugely influential on many activists, including Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, throughout the 20th century.
In coming back to Walden, we want both to celebrate Thoreau’s legacy - his radicalism and influence – but also to explore his paradoxes. He acknowledges the history of the land he occupied in the book, writing of “disturbing the ashes of unchronicled nations who lived under these heavens long before we did” when he digs the soil, but, despite being an active abolitionist, he barely mentions the community of around 15 formerly-enslaved people who had lived in the same woods within living memory.
After reading Black Walden, I felt it was important to amplify the voices that are less present in Walden. The result of this was an open-call for artists who identified as being from the Global Majority to propose a response to Walden. The resulting project by Harvey Dimond takes its title from Thoreau’s description of slavery as having “so many keen and subtle masters”. In his installation, Harvey will explore the subject of Black Ecologies in relation to Walden, and it will be exhibited alongside my adaptation at the Fruitmarket.
I also decided to take a broader view of who the performer might be. When we developed the play, we always felt that the actor was not "playing Thoreau", but was someone speaking his words. The most important thing to me was that the actor was of a similar age to Thoreau (27-29 during his stay), but that otherwise what they really needed was a connection to the text and its themes. After an open call, I met a wonderful group of actors who all brought something unique to the text when they read it. I am delighted to be working with Shakara Rose Carter on the play, and am looking forward to starting work with her next week. We have already fascinating conversations about the book and about Thoreau and talked about the strong connections we both feel to the work.