Everyone loves a good chinwag right?! HOME Digital Reporter Lucy Tomlinson joined Might Heart Theatre to chew the fat and chat about the realities of working in the arts…
What do Tom Jones’ birthplace, call centres, jigsaws, mental health and singing to a prawn ring have in common? Not much, apart from the fact they all came up as topics in Mighty Heart’s Cheerleading Chinwag, a panel group/natter with a cast of female-identifying artists and facilitators with experience in the Northern theatre scene.
Mighty Heart are Sam and Lisa, who describe themselves as ‘socially engaged theatre makers’ and are associate artists here at HOME. As well as hosting the Cheerleading Chinwag as part of Push 2019, they are staging BINGE!, a full-bodied show about the strengths of women and hosting a Propel scratch night celebrating female theatre talent in the North West.
If you totted up all the hats worn by the panel members you’d come up with more millinery than a royal wedding. Suffice to say between all eight members there were several actors, theatre makers, directors, writers, course leaders, mentors, activists, technicians, community workers, trainee therapists and the odd ex barista in there too – a veritable feast of experience and collective wisdom for the audience to take advantage of.
Without delving too far into their hefty CVs, the panel was made up of Jane Claire Bradley, writer & founder of For Books Sake and Write Like A Grrrl; Ella Dix, creative learning and engagement at Royal Exchange and HOME; Hannah Ellis Ryan, actor and producer; Etta Fusi, actor, Emma Geraghty, theatre-maker and Nickie Miles-Wildin, assistant director and disability campaigner, as well as Mighty Heart themselves – plus stellar support work from a heap of cake.
Proceedings kicked off with each panel member describing what lead them to a career in the arts and some career high and lowlights, which range from the sublime (working with Ian McKellan) to the ridiculous (that infamous prawn ring, all part of an audition for an Iceland advert). Hearing that the panel had struggled and sometimes failed and sometimes triumphed was a really relatable moment – and had the audience in stitches.
An important message for many of the audience members was the idea that starting out in the theatre can make you feel at the mercy of invisible forces – from casting agents to unvoiced and even internalised expectations. As Sam put it, “I felt like a chess piece in someone else’s game”. All the panellists advocated breaking free from the toxic messaging aimed at young actors and theatre makers that anything less than 100% dedication wasn’t enough. Instead the panel encouraged a more holistic approach that focused on self-development as an artist and taking the odd afternoon off to eat chocolate and Netflix binge as and when needed.
The pitfalls of being a woman in the arts were also discussed, with one panel member acknowledging that, “women in the arts feel like they have to be grateful for every crumb they get”. Celebrating success, valuing one’s work and connecting with your peers to start making things happen were recurring themes, along with masses of laughter and, of course, cake. What an honest and inspiring way to spend an afternoon.
Want to see more from Mighty Heart Theatre? BINGE! runs from Thu 17 – Sat 19 here at HOME as part of Push 2019. Find out more and book tickets here.