Inspired by the Twitter account Humans of Theatre, Mind the Gap presents Humans of MTG – an online campaign celebrating the people we have worked with over the past few years and beyond.
Globally we are all experiencing difficulties and challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, which are shared within the arts community. So here’s to all the amazing freelancers and artists out there who deserve a shout out!
Faye Dawson is Mind the Gap’s PR Agent who first worked with the company when Mia appeared at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017. She has since worked on various projects including our giant co-production with Walk the Plank, ZARA in 2019, which received a huge amount of press and media attention due in no small part to Faye’s invaluable PR skills.
Working with Mind the Gap
There are so many wonderful memories of working with Team MtG because they are a joy; the first time I saw them perform was Mia at their home in Bradford’s Lister Mills and I was blown away – I laughed and cried throughout and remember thinking ‘I like this lot’.
But, of course, working with them on ZARA was incredible. Finally seeing that baby in position at The Piece Hall in Halifax was quite an emotional experience!
On the day of opening night, it was red hot. We were welcoming photographers and media for interviews, chatting with an inquisitive public and generally getting excited.
Opening night was magical. Thousands of people in a beautiful venue engaging with a story rarely told – as I say, a joy.
I’ve worked in the arts world in a host of guises; theatre bars, as an actor, a brief stint on crew (ended up in A&E), on box offices, and of course in PR & Communications.
My earliest memory of visiting the theatre was going to Panto at Leeds Grand in the 70s. My Grandparents took me and my cousin and we sat in a box – I was upset because I couldn’t catch any of the sweets that were traditionally thrown into the audience by the Dame. (I’ve never sat in a box since – but I still bloody love panto.)
Then I saw the film Grease, decided I wanted to be Rizzo, and figured I’d better work at being an actor so, on leaving school, I went to do a Performing Arts course in Wakefield which of course led me to a whole host of jobs; pulling pints, waitressing, cleaning, call centres, tax office…
It was when working as an entertainer in a hotel in Majorca in 1997 that I decided I no longer wanted to pursue a career in acting but I still enjoyed being in the theatre world so I got a job on box office. This is where I discovered the Marketing & PR team – I thought ‘I’d like me some of that; writing about and promoting theatre? Yes please.’
In 2000 I dropped pretty lucky and got a job as a marketing assistant in a visitor attraction – within 6 months they created a PR role for me, and the rest is a rather fabulous history!
Follow Faye Dawson on Twitter @fayedawsonpr
Katie Jones is part of Bradford based Cecil Green Arts and has over thirteen years experience in community and professional art. She worked with Mind the Gap Artists in early 2020 to explore large scale puppetry.
Working with Mind the Gap
It was fantastic to work with Mind the Gap. We ran a one day workshop earlier this year where we spent time exploring puppets and performance techniques. We had hoped that this work would develop into a collaboration for Cecil Green Arts’ autumn lantern parade and were very excited about the relationship. As Covid has hit we’re reevaluating how and what Cecil Green Arts and Mind the Gap can collaborate on together.
The Cecil Green Arts team all watched the performance of Zara at the Piece Hall in Halifax. We were blown away by the scale of the baby puppet, the huge scale of the production, and the thought provoking subject matter. It has left a big impression on us about working ambitiously and at a huge scale.
Mok has been a friend and collaborator with the company for almost two decades. Mok is a Hong Kong-based change maker producing festivals, performances and events. Over the years there has been numerous exchanges between Mind the Gap and Mok across Asia and Europe. Mok’s passion in People’s Theatre and community cultural development have a lot in common with what Mind the Gap advocates.
Working with Mind the Gap
I had known Tim Wheeler, Mind the Gap’s former Artistic Director, for sometime and I invited him to come to Hong Kong for a trainers’ training for the organisation that I worked with then, the Arts with the Disabled Association (ADA).Then I met Tim with Jez Colborne again, but years later, in Beijing and Shanghai at a gathering of artists/art administrators initiated by the British Council the purpose of which was to set up more British/Chinese artistic collaborations. Then Tim and Jez came to Hong Kong joining the 2007 IDEA Congress (IDEA is International Drama & Education Association, an international association of collaborators during which they presented a remarkable piece of music theatre, a kind of re-enactment of a remarkable motor bike travel of Tim and Jez along Highway 66 in the United States.
In 2007 I set up the organisation Centre for Community Cultural Development (CCCD) which became its full operation with myself as its full time Chief Executive. Through the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, CCCD was granted money to do projects partnering with British art groups – Mind the Gap was one of them. In 2008 I visit the Silk Mill that would house Mind the Gap and that was most unforgettable. The Silk Mill was under reconstruction/ renovation from an old vacated Silk Mill to become the Mind the Gap’s headquarters/studio/ training centre. I still remember that I was led by Tim into the reconstruction site wearing yellow helmets and I came out with amazement trying to visualise what the revitalisation of the building would be like. And should I go on? That trip to Bradford fixed the shape and the timing of CCCD – MTG collaboration in Hong Kong – and both Tim and Jez came again not long after my visit to Bradford and we staged the Moth Ball in the new Creative Arts Centre in Hong Kong which was originally a factory building! Tim and Jez worked with a cast of a couple of dozen Hong Kong young people, some of whom with special needs and also Joyce Nga Yu Lee! – It was about a decade ago…
Cry of Asia Tour
It was 1989 that the Cry of Asia tour led by Filipino people’s theatre artist, Al Santos arrived and performed in Hong Kong. It was a multinational collaborations with participants from different parts of Asia – Japan, Korea, Bangladesh, India, Philippines, Thailand, etc. They had toured Europe and I helped to organise their activities in Hong Kong , performances (the major one was Cry of Asia which was a cross cultural production as I understood it. The collaborators came up with a folklorish tale through which the participants talked about the Cry of Asia – how Asia had been exploited and governed by Western colonial or neocolonial rule. There in the performance was also a multiplicity of gestural vocabularies derived from the traditional dances and movements from the countries that the actors and actresses came from.) There were also other smaller solo performances and workshops etc. I took part in Al’s workshop – which used the methodology of BITAW – Basic Integrated Theatre Arts Workshop, which had been developed by the internationally known Filipino Theatre group, PETA, Philippine Education Theatre Association. BITAW is a very systematic approach utilising different art forms (including drama, music, dance, writing, visual arts) as well as group dynamics to help unleash the creativity of the participants – PETA members’ (of which Al Santos was one and after directing some big shows of PETA, he decided to focus on international collaborations) induction to the group and their training propel them into proficient BITAW facilitators. And BITAW is a methodology that truly promotes people’s theatre whereby the people (peasants, workers, women, students, elderly ….) themselves can make their own theatre to be expressing themselves. Soon after that I was invited by Al Santos under the name of Asian Council for People’s Culture to participate in a 3 week theatre workshop in a camp in South Korea facilitated by PETA member Ernie Cloma, Paula West (an Australian) and members of the Korea Nationalist Arts Association.
Asian People's Theatre Festival
I made friends with people’s theatre workers from different parts of Asia and soon I was to organise the first and the second Asian People’s Theatre Festival asking those theatre worker friends I got to know in Korea to come to Hong Kong – they were solo performance festivals; I managed to house them at friends’ and they performed each a solo followed by discussion while I also persuaded an equal number of Hong Kong actor friends to perform. We were during the first festival doing the performances at the CCT, City Contemporary Theatre, a small black box run by the modern dance company City Contemporary Dance Company.
The second festival was run on similar line as the first one except that we got the support of the Hong Kong Arts Centre which had a better equipped black box theatre.
The third festival was in 1994. I had come to know the San Francisco Mime Troupe (SFMT) of the US and they found some money to collaborate with Hong Kong and I counted the money they raised and proposed an international collaboration like Cry of Asia. WE raised more money in Hong Kong from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and Federation of Students and Heinrich Boll Foundation from Germany….etc. So in the end, we had playwrights coming together in Hong Kong, including Joan Holden, resident playwright of SFMT, playwrights from Hong Kong (Cheung Tat Ming and Louis Yu), Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal…They each wrote a scene about migrant workers in Hong Kong and the international movement of capital that created havoc all over the world. Then we had a working script and turned up in Kathmandu with actors and musicians from the participating countries to rehearse and change and finalise the script as we workshopped with one another learning the different gestural vocabulary that each participant uniquely has. We premiered in Bhubaneswar, India and we travelled to Kolkata, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Bangkok and Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hong Kong. It was called Big Wind – and apart from the main play, we had a Hong Kong – Nepal collaboration on the Story of the Gurkhas, Hong Kong – Bangladesh collaboration of A Tale of Two Cities – Beijing 1989/ Dhaka 1990 and a solo by the Thai actress. It was a tour that lasted for almost 4 months and Big Wind was well remembered. And my young colleagues in Hong Kong continued with the network that I helped established and got into multinational collaborations in 2010 (Who is in Control), 2013 (River, Blood and Ashes) and 2017 (Quiet on the Western Front – Story of the Chinese in the French/British Army)….and 2020 – the Spice Road with participation from Hong Kong artists, French, Uganda, Peru, Egypt, India, Nepal and Germany is supposed to tour Nepal, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau from March – June 2020 but because of the Coronavirus, it has been postponed to Jan – March 2021! The younger generation is determined to explore such intercultural collaborations in the people’s theatre fashion – that they through theatre will articulate their concerns and contribute to the making of a better world.
Emilie Flower is a filmmaker who has worked with Mind the Gap for many years. Her credits for the company include the I’m Me music video, Magna Carta on Trial, My Story project and most recently the pre show films and live editing for ZARA.
Jessica May Buxton
Jessica played various roles including Curley’s Wife, Curley and Suzie in the adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men by Mike Kenny in 2011.
Find out more about Jessica’s company The Bookworm Players here…
Katy Rubin is the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed NYC, a nonprofit organisation that partners with communities facing discrimination to spark transformative action through theatre. Katy spent some time working with Mind the Gap back in 2011.
Manuela (or Manu to us) worked with Mind the Gap in 2018 as the London Community Cast Director for our giant co-production with Walk the Plank and Emergency Exit Arts, ZARA.
Maria is one of Mind the Gap’s photographers. She has worked on various projects with the company including the promotional and production photography for Mia and Anna as well as community events such as Celebrate Manningham.
Nicola is a writer and was selected to run a series of Play Days with Mind the Gap Artists in early 2020 as part of our R&D year.
Find out about Nicola’s company Highlight Collective here…