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08 August 2018

Posted by Dinos Aristidou

Mayflower Writer in Residence 2017-18 Archive

My final blog post.


My year as a writer in residence has ended. But not really. In September, when the theatre reopens after its refurbishment (I can’t wait to see the venue in its refurbished glory) I’m going back to read from the final writing, ‘From the Deck’. I’m excited about seeing how the writing is received. In addition, I’m going to be continuing my collaboration with Mayflower Theatre on a completely new project; as dramaturg on the Mayflower 2020 project (part of the Mayflower 400 city wide initiative to celebrate the sailing of the Mayflower Ship) working on the development of a new musical.


It’s been an extraordinary year. It’s been more fulfilling and inspiring and enriching than I could ever possibly have imagined. The organisation is a place that I feel has become part of me. It’s a place that I love, with people whom I respect and enjoy being with. It’s a place where I feel truly at home and a building whose majesty leaves me openmouthed. Though I’ve worked in the theatre in different capacities over many years, this opportunity offered me many new experiences and perspectives that I’d never encountered before.


The ‘Gift of Writing’ initiative gave me so much joy. I’m very proud of it. Its impact has been tangible. It kept me consistently writing and allowed me to engage and chat to audiences, to talk about writing and share some of my ways of working with strangers.


This blog has also given me the opportunity to track the year, think about my processes and my writing and reflect on the experiences I had. It also made me engage with a new form of writing.


Each workshop that I ran was enjoyable, uplifting and the participants engaged and creative. These experiences, reinforced my belief that this was something that I enjoy and find fulfilling. An area of my life where I feel I’m in my element.


ArtfulScribe, always there as support, has pushed me to experiment, play and develop as a writer.


The writing that has resulted from this residency has taken me by surprise. It’s unusual to be writing playing cards, cards with which you can play rather than writing a play. The fragmentary nature of the cards has allowed me to examine and write not only about the residency and its inspiration but also about parts of my life that I haven’t written about before or shared with the public.


Writing these fragments has felt both raw and liberating. In some respects, I’ve returned to some of my common preoccupations; to classical Greek myths, to family stories, to the themes of memory, identity and journeys. But I’ve encountered and considered them anew through my experience at Mayflower Theatre and as a result, encountered and considered both my identity and my work as a writer.


Thank you to those of you who have been reading, who’ve been following the route and journeying with me. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.


Until we meet again.

Impact

Tuesday 10th July 2019

A writer no long in residence continues to receive

Though I have already posted my final post something happened yesterday which has made such an impact on me that I couldn’t resist writing another post. I wrote about my workshop and wonderful experience at Wellows Primary in an earlier blog but I hadn’t anticipated that the impact of that would continue to reverberate. It’s one of the wonders of my work, that you have no idea how something you have done might have an effect or act as an inspiration or as an example to someone else.

Having written over 400 gifts of writing during my residency at Mayflower Theatre it was wonderful to then be the recipient of so many. The ‘Gift of writing’ was an initiative designed to develop my interest in art as kindness so to see this in action and to recognise the possibility of kindness as a chain reaction, especially from children, made my heart sing!

Here is the message I sent to the class- it kind of says it all.

MESSAGE TO THE CLASS

I came back from a week’s work in Wales yesterday to a card from the post office saying they had tried to deliver a package that was too large for the letterbox. I couldn’t imagine what this might be. Some papers for something I guessed. Today I went to the post office and was given an envelope. The corner had torn and inside I could glimpse what looked like colourful boats. I couldn’t believe it. I rushed home as fast as I could and tore open the envelope. Out fell an entire flotilla ( I think that’s the right word!!) of boats in greens and blues and reds. My heart filled. Fuller than the envelope. I’ve received many gifts in my life- gifts for birthdays, Christmas, special occasions – but this is truly one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever received. Honest. What can be more precious to a writer than gifts of words. Last year I gave out more than 490 gift of writing boats to people at  Mayflower theatre  who’d come to see the shows. These are the only boat gifts of writing I have ever received! You’ve been the first! That makes you truly original.

I had such an incredible day working with you (epic as some of you described in your boats. It was epic!) full of so much fun and such great ideas so to get this has made working with you one of the HIGHLIGHTS of my year and my residency at Mayflower theatre. You were such a joy to work with and I’m so happy that you were inspired to write. Keep writing, keep thinking of writing as a gift to a reader, whatever you write, and keep believing in the power of words. Your words  have given me great happiness and inspiration so that’s proof of how powerful they can be.


The writing

Friday 6th July 2018

FROM THE DECK

A collection of writings inspired by a residency at Mayflower Theatre 2017-18

When the yearlong residency as a writer at Mayflower Theatre started in March 2017,  I was initially inspired by the theatre’s connections to the sea and to seafaring.  Mayflower Theatre shares a name with a seminal ship and is located in Southampton, famous for its nautical past. The theatre’s foundation stone in 1928 was also seemingly laid on water, the shallow foundations being barely above water level. My intention was, therefore, to write a ship’s log that would somehow capture the activity of the theatre over a year.

Towards the end of the residency, I recognised that my experiences at the theatre didn’t, in fact, follow the sequential and chronological pattern of a logbook. Feeling completely at home and part of this incredible organisation with its rich heritage, also made me curious about the routes that had led me to this destination. What history had brought me to this point where both writing and being part of a theatre feel like home?

The very word, residency, is currently particularly prominent in the British psyche. We hear it in the news, in political rhetoric and in the heated debates that happen regarding immigration, Brexit, the refugee crisis, the USA. It isn’t, therefore, a complete surprise that I, as writer-in-residence, started thinking about my own residency, my family’s history and the journeys they had embarked on as immigrants to became resident in Britain in the early 60s. I decided, therefore, towards the end of my residency to make this the focus of my reflection and the subject of my writing.

Mayflower Theatre is a place of play, it seems to be consistently engaging with new ideas, new productions, new initiatives. I found this license to play to be a key part of my experience so I decided that it would also make sense to find a form for my writing that would also be playful, to signify the nature of the residency and the organisation. Much of my residency was also about engaging audiences, inspiring young writers, working in the community so I also wanted to create something that would inspire reflection, discussion or creative writing.

A deck of cards is the result.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fifty-two cards of writing for each week of my residency. A deck suggesting not only cards but also a ship and a theatre’s stage. The cards can be read in at least three ways though it’s the reader-player’s choice how these cards are read or played.

  1. They can be read horizontally as suits, from Ace to King. Each suit presents one individual but interconnected narrative:

CLUBS is a reimagining of the classic Greek epic story of Odysseus and his long journey to find home. The fragments of his story are linked to particular experiences and locations of Mayflower Theatre. A footnote indicates the source of the inspiration.

HEARTS is an imagining of my family story and their respective journeys. Based on fact, it examines the relationship they and I have to home.

SPADES is an account of my residency at Mayflower Theatre and the resulting inspiration that came from my experience of being at home in this organisation.

DIAMONDS is a series of fragments – stories, traditions, reflections – related to the Mayflower Ship and connecting aspects of the other suits.

  1. They can be read vertically by number/character. All the numbers and characters from each suit are connected sometimes through language, idea or narrative.
  2. They can be picked and read at random, as a fragmented collage of inspirations and experiences from my year’s residency exploring identity and history.
  3. They can be used as prompts either for reflection, discussion or for writing.

They are currently with a couple of trusted readers who will provide me with feedback. They’ve also gone to the designer/publisher so that we can start the process of producing them, ready for the reopening of Mayflower Theatre in September after its refurbishment.



Love Letters

Friday June 15 2018

A writer in residence…writes letters

Mayflower Theatre were thinking about creating a short film to publicise the unique position the theatre plays in the community, to showcase the beautiful building and also to share some of its incredible work. Sara spoke to me about this idea and I decided that this would be my parting gift of writing to Mayflower Theatre, after my year’s residency. A gift to go to everyone to thank them for what has been an extraordinary year. I called it ‘Love Letters’ and I look forward to the film.

LOVE LETTERS

By Dinos Aristidou

a Gift of Writing for 

Mayflower Theatre after a year’s residency

May 2018

 

You’ll find me here

in the M of magnificence

in the marbled majesty of this marvellous building

here among the magic of moments that dream us away

toe tapping to the M of the musical

 

here I am walking past the framed A of the art on the walls

before taking my seat among the A of the audience

in the A of the auditorium accessible and awe-inspiring

 

I’m in the Y of young children and in those young at heart

in the Y of young people and the yearly

summer productions they make

 

you might also spot me out front up high

straight backed in the F of the flag

that flutters a fabulous fanfare

and when I first greet you

I will be in the friendly F of front of house

helping you find your way to your seat

or up here high above the stage on the F of the fly floor

pulling the ropes flying in world after world

 

or I’ll surprise you illuminated in the L of the lanterns

that hang from theatrical skies lighting the scenes

or in the L of lasting

the forever collection of memories we make

 

you might catch sight of me over there

in the ornamental opulent ornate O of the boxes

or hear me in the O of the orchestra pit

or find me hard at work in the O of the offices

where visions originate

 

watch out here I glide through the sweep

of the wide welcome the W of the staircases

that climb like open arms from the grand foyer’s sides

I’m busy in the W of the workshop where productions are prepped

and in the W of workshops where we play and learn

 

I’m connected to the E of Engage

inviting you to take part

to grow out of the E of emerge

and have fun with the E of enjoy

 

I’m here facing the mirror

in the R of the rooms

dressing rooms and waiting rooms

blue rooms and green rooms

 

and I’m locked in the T of the trunks

of the touring productions we host

in cases packed full of the T of the trappings

that transport us to fantasy lands

 

and here I’m tumbling through the

H of our history taking us back

through the past

the remarkable past of the H of this house

 

Yes

I’m in the in the eye-catching E of the extraordinary

in the embracing E of everyone

that steps inside this palace of dreams

 

in the rapturous A of applause

behind the scenes in the T of the technical

in the R of revivals

 

and always in the final E

the final E at the end of the night

the inevitable end

where on the E of the empty stage

where established stars stride

and where new stars are born

 

I write in bold these love letters

that spell who I am

 

MAYFLOWER THEATRE

 

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The power of words

Wednesday 13 June  2018

A writer in residence…passes it on.

The residency ended officially at the end of March.  Since then I’ve been working on two pieces of writing; the final writing that has come out of the residency (see future post) and my parting gift of writing to Mayflower Theatre (see next post) which is going to be adapted and used as the basis for a short film explaining the wonders of this incredible organisation.

As well as focusing on the writing, I also ran my last workshop as Mayflower Theatre writer in residence in a primary school which had been scheduled for March but had to be postponed due to train issues!

The workshop was a wonderful experience, working with Wellows Primary School in Romsey. It’s a beautiful school in an idyllic setting with a diverse population of students who were absolutely delightful and great fun to work with. I was able to tell them about my writing and answer their questions. We then worked together on creating gifts of writing.

I’ve kept a copy of all 436 gifts of writing I had handed out to audiences. It was a great opportunity to be consistently writing and great to have these individual pieces inspired by the theatre’s programme at the end of the residency. So I shared some of these with the children at the school.

We then looked at the power of words and how words have impact on the reader, in the same way as actions do. We talked about how writing is a gift to a reader, often transporting us to different worlds. We then created a list of words that we thought would make great gifts and they wrote their very own gifts of writing for someone of their choosing. They wrote these on the same Mayflower Theatre paper that I had used for my gifts of writing to audiences and we then turned them into paper boats. It was a day of much joy, generosity and warmth. Here’s some of the feedback:

“Thank you for giving me an excuse to daydream!”

“Thank you for giving me so much advice. I went straight home and wrote a poem which my teacher loves!”

“I enjoyed doing the gift of writing because you had to really think about what the person would like.”

“I really enjoyed making the boats. It was challenging but really fun!”

The school are now thinking about running the ‘Gift of Writing’ as a whole school initiative. I’m so happy that this initiative has had such impact and that it will be used to demonstrate the power and impact of words to children and young people.

Writing has played such a major role in my life. As a child it became a retreat from the madness of life around me and as a young person it was what I ran when I felt lost, confused or afraid. It’s now where I find great joy and solace.

It’s a gift to be able to pass this on.

 

A public outing

18th April 2018

A writer in residence…reads

Last night the writing had its first outing.

As part of a live showcase event, organised by ArtfulScribe, at Mettricks Guildhall myself and the other writers- in-residence, Nazneen Ahmed (Southampton Libraries) and Iain Morrison (John Hansard Gallery) were sharing our writing.  The event included a reading from each of us, as well as an open Q&A session hosted by Carole Burns.

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It was great to spend time with the other two writers and there was such a lovely sense of collegiality. I do hope we keep in touch. So much time is spent ruminating that it’s great to connect and share ideas and perspectives and approaches with others.  I found the other writers’ work so engaging, inventive and so resonant and that we were together as three writers in residence felt like an honour.

I decided to share the early drafts of the writing that has resulted from the residency. I’ve ended up thinking a lot about my own story and my family history, inspired by the idea of motion, of restlessness and the journeys we take towards and away from home. At the moment we’re considering the writing being in the form of playing cards- fragments of story that you can play with and read in any sequence. I’m not sure what each suit will be but I’m hoping there will be 4 strands to the writing, one for each suit. It’s early days and I’m at the point of collating the inspirations of the year and the writings that I’ve been working on to discover the heart of it all. Matt is very clear that the result of the residency is writing and ideas that I want to explore and that this should be the focus. I’m still experimenting and trying ideas.

Last night was the writing’s first outing.

The pieces are not really fully formed so it was a sharing of ideas and revelations to strangers!

It was challenging to read to an audience. As a playwright I’m used to hearing my words read by others. It’s how I judge whether the writing is working. By hearing others speak it. With a play you’re focussing on action, on how words transform from page into action, into space, into character, into situation. In this instance I was reading text which essentially hasn’t been written to be performed. It’s designed to be read by an individual reader. The language, the ideas, the fragmented structure have all been employed to operate almost as strands of thoughts in the head of the reader. Furthermore, some of the writing is personal story so there’s something intimate about the sharing of it and the public space feels at odds with this.

It’s hard to judge the writing. All I know is that there is a compulsion to write these stories and these ideas and I’m going to continue with them, live with them, play with them and see where they take me.Back home and more top tips

Tuesday 23rd January 2018

A writer in residence…reflects and reflects again.

Happy new year to all!

I’m now in the final stages of the residency so forgive me if the writing becomes more reflective as I look back over the residency as well as start thinking about and working on the final writing. More of that in the next blog! Needless to say, it’s fascinating how the lived experience changes the direction you think you’re going to take.

This also seems like a good opportunity to provide you with the second instalment of the top tips.

I’ve been considering this very subject as last week I was part of a panel of 4 writers who have had experienced residencies. This was organised by New Writing South at the Writer’s Place in Brighton and was open to any writer interested in looking or applying for a residency. What was interesting was how different each residency was and also the range of residencies that there are- some advertised, some initiated by writers getting in touch with particular organisations or sites, some providing a space to write and others involving some sort of commission. Eight writers turned up on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon and for two hours we shared our experiences and answered questions about the benefits of residencies and also some of the challenges that some residencies (particularly unusual sites) can bring.

My first writing residency was in 2000 at the Chester Gateway where I was hired to write the city’s millennium production. It seems so long ago but it was absolutely instrumental in defining me as a writer and in setting me on a different path which has brought me to this moment and which has given me so much joy and artistic pleasure.

When I came into Mayflower Theatre today, after the winter break, it really did feel like coming home again. It’s been almost a year since I started and it’s clear that I’m now part of the organisation. I feel completely at home.

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I was doing a ‘Gift of Writing’ night for ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and It was also wonderful being out and talking to audiences again. People are so inquisitive about what it means to be a writer-in–residence and also what the process of writing involves.  ‘Sunset Boulevard’ is a beautiful story and it was easy to be inspired by its themes and ideas so I particularly enjoyed writing the gifts for this production. It’s a piece about nostalgia and the past so it seemed appropriate  to think back on all the previous productions I’ve seen here and been involved in.

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