Ruth has been in residence at The Witham this week as one of the nine artists selected for support from the North East Artist Development Network (NEADN) which is designed to support artists and companies at the earliest stages of developing their work, providing an opportunity to work up an idea, with the support of a venue, to the point where it is commission ready so that they are in a position to seek funding or other support to realise the work.
The NEADN is led by a steering group made up of influencers from regional theatres, arts centres and festivals, and is supported by a number of North East venues, including The Witham.
Ruth writes about her experiences at The Witham this week:
To be surrounded by beautiful scenery, historic buildings and lovely people is not a bad way to spend a week. On top of that, to be given space, time, support and encouragement to explore a risky idea, is truly a gift. And I have been the very happy recipient of that gift at The Witham this week.
As part of the NEADN residency programme, managed by Arc in Stockton and bringing a whole range of North East venues together to support artist development, I have been given the opportunity to explore my ideas and to interrogate my practice in the most beautiful of surroundings.
Having made work for a range of companies over the last 10 years and loved and learned from all of that experience, applying for this programme marked a new step for me to develop my own ideas and to interrogate my own practice. I predominantly make work for young audiences and their families and this is where my heart and passion is. I have also always been fascinated with the ways in which older narratives survive, rebirth and become new and resonate with the world today.
I started the week only knowing that the story of Chicken Licken was my starting point. And I then started to ask, What if? What if the audience are involved in a more active way? What if there is genuine collaboration that can happen between performers and audiences? And what if the audience can become authors and owners of their own artwork.
To help me ask some of these questions, I was lucky enough to have local and leading musical magicians Joe Johnston, Calum Howard and Jeremy Bradfield to come and play with me.
Without giving too much away, I am so excited to be developing a piece of work, that sits within a body of work for me, that truly wouldn’t have been possible to embark upon without the generous support of NEADN and The Witham and everyone who works there. I have been properly looked after; given advice, been served the best coffee I have tasted in a long time, access to printing, joined in wiggling and wobbling with a gang of very brilliant babies, been introduced to family chickens and been made to feel more than welcome by everyone I have met.
I have also been given the space and time to breathe, to reflect and to be ambitious, surrounded by beautiful scenery, historic buildings and lovely people.
Thanks for having me, The Witham!
Thanks for coming, Ruth! We have found it hugely rewarding to see your work develop in such an exciting, creative way over the week. We will look forward to welcoming you here again and seeing what happens to Chicken Licken. Read more about Ruth Mary Johnson here and click here to discover what is on at The Witham for families.