This year has been full of new challenges and experiences. It has been fun looking back over the blog posts from 2022 and remind myself of the work I have achieved and the fantastic colleagues I have worked with.
In February, I produced my first ever “Research and Development Week”, where I worked with several artists to explore how to make music accessible to children across the hearing spectrum. It was thrilling to lead an activity like this as I had always loved participating as a singer in R&D sessions. Ahead of the week, I reflected on how previous R&D sessions were run. What I thought went well and what could be improved. I worked with Kathryn Bilyard at Improbable (a theatre company) to explore Open Space Technology, a method they use in their rehearsals and their “Devoted & Disgruntled” sessions, where they invite creatives to openly discuss theatre and the performing arts, with the hope to change the industry for the better. To Prepare for my R&D Week, I prepared songs and script drafts to provide artists a jumping off point. I visited primary schools to observe music lessons both in hearing and deaf schools. These observations and reflections helped me to create activities which we tested as a group to see if they were accessible and reached particular learning aims. I felt that my R&D week was successful as I explored many different ideas and concepts, which enabled me to review and adapt my thoughts around deafness, listening and music. It also fed my desire to follow through and really try to produce my first opera.
Thanks to my Develop Your Creative Practise grant from Arts Council England, I undertook a playwriting course that taught me new writing skills and gave me the confidence to complete my first libretto. I interviewed Dame Evelyn Glennie, a world-renowned deaf percussionist, who reminded me that listening isn’t so black and white. I collaborated with WOOJER, a company specialising in Haptic Technology. I undertook lessons from Internationally renowned singers such as Sally Matthews, Nicky Spence, Kathryn Lewek and Karen Cargill. I also interviewed Educational Specialists at the Royal College of Music to ensure that my activities met the current School’s Curriculum.
In 2022, I also created many memorable moments with my family and found time to rest and recharge. I celebrated three Weddings, one in Glasgow, when my little brother Thomas married his wonderful wife, Anna. Another in Northumberland to celebrate my Uncle Craig’s wedding to Nisa. Finally, in Romania to attend our wedding blessing in Iasi. My older Brother Matt and his husband Alex also brought some puppy love into the year with the addition of Kevin.
In the summer, I embarked on a tour of Scotland with Scottish Opera in the role of Uccellina in their production of BambinO. Whilst in Scotland, I discussed my project with the fabulous Education and Outreach team at Scottish Opera. It was fantastic to pick their brains and discuss our shared experiences working in Schools. Their guidance was so helpful that I started asking previous tour managers, stage managers, and producers for tips to get a more accurate picture of surprises that can crop up.
In the autumn, I transitioned to a more ghostly atmosphere when I worked with Gothic Opera on their production of Le Loup-Garou and Le Dernier Sorcier. I am a huge fan of Halloween, so I loved participating in a spooky double bill.
Later in the year, I was awarded a National Lottery Project Grant from Arts Council England. This award will help me to produce “Down the Rabbit Hole”, an interactive opera for children across the hearing spectrum. I was proud of this achievement as the grant application process took months to complete as I had to learn how to navigate and write the funding application. I was writing most of the application around my Scottish Opera Tour commitments, meaning I had to burn some midnight oil. It has been a hard slog, but Arts Council England provided fantastic help along the way, which I tapped into. I also attended training days with YCAT and Manchester Collective, who helped to teach me and the cohort producing and fundraising skills.
In November, I collaborated with Newstead Abbey and Nottingham Trent University Costume and Film Departments in their Alice re-imagined project. I loved working with the students and wearing their designs as I acted in their short film, which was exhibited as part of Newstead Abbey’s Christmas Event.
It has certainly been a year to remember and I can’t wait to see what 2023 has in store.