I am thrilled to share with you that I have been awarded a “Developing your Creative Practice grant” from Arts Council England for my project “Devising down the Rabbit Hole”. I am over the moon as this grant will allow me to explore the skills that are needed to engage with both hearing and non-hearing audiences through the medium of opera and song. I plan to improve my understanding and awareness of the d/Deaf community, expand my acting skills, explore new methods for physical communication, and learn how to devise and produce an operatic show.
Arts Council England describes this fund as an opportunity to support creative practitioners, who wish to take their practise to the next stage through research, devising new work, travel, training, networking, and finding mentors.
I applied in February 2021, and I received an acceptance letter at the end of April. It felt like I had just found one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. I had to get George to re-read the letter out loud to check I hadn’t misread it.
The inspiration for this project has lived with me for several years now. I first devised “Down the Rabbit Hole” for my entry in the final of the Association of English Singers and Speakers competition in March 2016, a program of English art songs interwoven with extracts of spoken prose from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I continued to develop the idea and in 2017 I decided to record the program with George for our album of the same name “Down The Rabbit Hole”, but I still felt like there was room for this idea to GROW and shrink. To me, the world of Wonderland is a place where the absurd becomes logical and many answers can be found without the constraints of sensible thinking clouding up your imagination.
I have often wondered how to make opera accessible to audiences across the hearing spectrum. Many of you may not be aware that I have profound single-sided deafness from birth. This means that I listen mainly through my right ear, bone conductivity, and supplement this with lip-reading. I was lucky to have supportive parents and an audiologist who encouraged me to chase my dreams and find my own solutions to the problems that life presented me with. I never felt restricted by the assumed limitations that are stereotypically attached to hearing loss. It is a part of who I am, a genetic trait, just like the one that selected the colour of my eyes, which happen to be blue. I don’t often share this information because it can subconsciously impact what people think I am capable of.
I love to challenge myself and during the lockdown, I wanted to use the time to pursue this project and explore the possibilities it presented. Like Alice, I “had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.” Now with the help of this grant from the Arts Council England, I have the opportunity to further develop the skills needed to collaborate and produce entertainment that is enjoyable to watch by both the hearing and d/Deaf audiences.
In closing today I want to express how grateful I am to the Arts Council England for selecting my project and giving me this chance to bring a long-held dream of mine a little bit closer to reality.
Stay tuned over the next few months as I share this journey with you.