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iF Platform, Brighton Fringe / 11 May 2016

The iF Platform is back, this time taking on Brighton Fringe and a fresh audience of curious, critical and creative disabled artists and allies. Hosted by Stopgap Dance and the Sallis Benney Theatre on Monday May 9th 2016.

Bookended by daft flatulent cabaret from Moxie Brawl and ‘The Awakening Process’ film from Stopgap, the first session was on Funding, always a tricky subject and a conversation frequently filled with high emotions, wether it be down to cuts, broader social injustice or personal frustrations. In particular I was impressed by the succinct, practical advice from Alice Regent from The Art Fund, her focus being on humanizing organizations to make them more approachable, and by the passionate rally from Jenny Williams of Take the Space to reach higher, ask more and to value your own strategy.

Lily Davies from the Wellcome Trust hinted at some interesting developments to make their funding easier to access coming later in the year but was unable to give details beyond an interest and intention; one that I know to be genuine as I was invited by Wellcome last year to advise on the same initiative.

Producing followed, panelled by Elizabeth Mischler of South East dance, Clara Giraud of Unlimited and Sarah Perryman of Brighton Fringe, the latter taking a little flak from the audience as her relative lack of experience in working with disabled artists showed, but it was pleasing to see a keen representative from the Fringe attending to learn and share with the community; Brightonians, get in touch after May to get your work shown and catered for.

Producing, and the artist-producer relationship are often difficult to describe, and I remember my own frustrations trying to see into this dynamic when I first became curious about the work; it seemed to me that saying ‘it just takes a conversation’, ‘it’s a dynamic specific to each relationship’ or ‘you’ll know when they’re the right person to work with’ were being deliberately non-specific to keep other hungry upstarts like me from poaching their gigs, but now that I’ve cut my teeth a little I know that it really is that simple. Exactly like making friends or choosing a lover, the artists I work with have to click with me, and I with them, and it’s an invisible and subtle thing.

I was lucky enough to be approached by two potential new collaborators at the iF Platform; Nigerian live art practitioner Vivian Chinasa Ezugha and I had MUCH to say to each other on the topic of exploited bodies and locked in to each other right away, and Friction Ropes took the all important step of interrogating me about my background in pornography as a way to starting a conversation about disability and sexuality, re-lighting my fire to produce a piece of theatre on this topic, their particular skillset being a possible key to the method of story-telling…… watch this space!

I was especially excited to see a performance from Yolanda Mercy, having followed her development for a while (which leads me to suspect I actually like spoken word but am probably not ready to admit that to myself). Utterly likeable, funny, frank, and brilliantly evoking the horrors of unemployed graduate life, Mercy is absolutely one to watch.

Speaking on the Personal Journeys panel alongside choreographer Tim Casson and dancer, artist and holder-of-all-the-hot-gigs Dan Daw was a really lovely experience, and I was pleased to share my learnings from my first year working in Disability Arts, advocating for learning things the weird way and staying outside of the system until you are ready to subvert it to your own dastardly ends.. We were (I think) the youngest panel of the day and it was so nice to meet some of my contemporaries who were also kicking ass, taking names and tearing up the rulebooks presented to us.

Housni Hassan aka DJ of Corali presented an artful, engaging dance piece with modernist projections which I found to be uplifting and elegant, and so skillfully delivered that I was temporarily rendered a contemporary dance enthusiast, much to my surprise. Energetic, charming and affable, DJ delivered an insightful glimpse into the creative process behind the piece and provided the ideal opener for the last panel of the day, Leading Change.

Jeff Rowlings of Shape, Laura Jones of Stopgap Dance and DAO super-chum Bella Todd took the last panel of the day from ‘stagnant pools’ of lazy critique causing harm to creative process to radical revisions of policy and provision. To close the day was a set from Lost Voice Guy, a very likeable performer who I look forward to seeing develop more sophisticated material as his career progresses; the man can structure a joke and time it beautifully, I would like to see the amount of self-deprecation come down and an increase in observational matieral to give longevity and broader appeal to his act.

Finally, it was a great thrill to see Silent Faces, the winners of the iF Bursary, give an energetic, Dario Fo-inspired financial farce with fantastic comic timing. They are a young company with great potential, and whilst their themes and stylistic choices were ones I have seen done extensively, their skill and focus is palpable as was the audience’s enjoyment of the piece. I look forward to seeing them develop as a company as quality farce and social satire is so desperately needed in these choppy times. Hurrah the youth!