Introducing two arts professionals new to the city who talk about where they’ve come from and their impressions of Bristol
Events & Centre Manager Circomedia, October 2010+
A bit about me…
• Born in Copenhagen to British parents
• Moved to rural Yorkshire when I was 3yrs, very close community, miners strike
• Moved to near Stroud at 9 yrs
• Hit 1990’s ‘golden era’ of alternative, innovative and hippy Stroud during my teens
• Art college in Cheltenham to complete a Foundation course, (painting/ sculpture)
• University of Leeds – impact of arts in social and political development, specialising in feminist readings of image and text and the politics, psychology and aesthetics of trauma, representation and memorials to the Jewish holocaust and enforced social migration.
My background in arts events organising is rooted in my activist involvement between 1995 – 2000 activism in former Yugsoslavia, particularly Bosnia Herzegovina. This began with organising electronic music events promoting campaign issues and raising money in UK to buy a lorry to deliver educational aid to students in Tuzla (a near terrifying experience not to be repeated!). I joined the network of political activists and artists organising festivals and arts/ music events through voluntary organisations, youth groups and autonomous zones celebrating the survival of multi-culturalism and development of peace and tolerance within Bosnia Herzegovina. This culminated in my role as Coordinator of ‘Young Bridge’, a cross community youth project using arts workshops and seminars to promote reconciliation in Mostar, a town devastated by the war and still divided. Funding and resources were scarce, conflict still simmering, the youth population extremely disaffected and general community oppressed and traumatised – a very real context to apply my organisational skills, strategic thinking, conflict resolution and staff development skills.
I have never been so convinced of the power of art to engage communities, offer a voice and a channel to express the inexpressible.
I moved to Edinburgh to work for Firefly Youth International working between Scotland and Bosnia and probably spent the next 10 years recovering from working in Bosnia and honing my skills to better deliver community based arts activities and projects. I trained in Art Therapy, developed my business management skills working freelance and delivered arts based events, workshops and activities promoting employable skills, ambition, access to education and improved self esteem in deprived communities in Edinburgh, Fife, West and East Lothian and the Borders. At the same time I was working on my own artwork in a studio (most recently painting feminist images of large circus ladies, www.judehutchen.blogspot.com) developing it as a business and organising site specific arts events including the first Edinburgh Raft Race and outdoor exhibitions as well as working for the infamous Knockengorroch World Ceilidh Music Festival (not to be missed!) in Dumfries.
I suddenly realised that I had been in Scotland for 10 years – kind of by accident too – and began to feel a longing not only to be back in the tropics of the SW but also to be in amongst the amazing creative and socially conscious energy here. While beautiful Edinburgh has two world renown festivals every year my interests were being drawn again to the role of arts organisations within communities. Through over 20 years of teaching and support of ex students Circomedia has grown a community of circus and physical theatre performers across the globe as well as within UK and Bristol. St Paul’s Church also occupies a unique place in Bristol as the landmark pointing towards St. Paul’s (now in coloured lights), highlighting the growth of the area and adding to the local groundswell challenging negative perceptions of the community. The restoration of the church by Churches Conservation Trust and partnership with Circomedia transformed what had been another dark corner of Portland Square into a venue – an inspirational training and performance space, increasing the wider population’s contact with St. Paul’s area; for community equipment to be stored and to support events such as the St Paul’s Carnival, Bristol Do, Inbetween Time Festival as well as local groups and arts organisations putting on concerts, festivals, shows, events, open space meetings, film presentations etc etc etc. The church is a busy place with an already bursting timetable – but I am particularly excited about future developments to increase its use as a venue for performance based art in all its forms: physical theatre and circus, theatre, dance and live art… not only because I enjoy the visual feast of these events but also to continue to develop Bristol’s strength as an enviably animated arts centre which never loses sight of its ethics and freedom… On moving here I am so pleased that all the mythology around Bristol is true….
Creative Producer – Kompany Malakhi
Early years in Cornwall – love the sea
University in Wales – love rugby, speak welsh
Fell in love – fabulous husband
Ran a National Dance Company – worked with amazing artists
Chaired a National Dance Network – trying to make a difference
Found out about Leadership – total inspiration
Joined Arts Council Wales – difficult decisions
Short sojourn in London – hanging out with Boris
Arrived Kompany Malakhi – new challenge
After 10 years of sorting out things dance related in Wales, Emma Evans has crossed the Severn and is the new Creative Producer at Kompany Malakhi….
The Creative Producer role at Kompany Malakhi appealed, as it was an opportunity to do something different but connected to my experience so far. Having spent my career working in dance I was looking for a new challenge but didn’t want to lose a connection to the art form so the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of the work that Kompany Malakhi does rooted in movement and dance was ideal.
Bristol also seems like an interesting place to be. What’s great about Bristol is that the city has a confidence about itself; it believes that it is a creative hub and a city where culture is important and celebrates that. There is a lot going on and this is because people work hard to make things happen. It allows me to keep my connection to Wales but also to develop my links with the South West, growing up in Cornwall it’s a region I have an affinity with and am excited to be able to make a contribution here.
After 4 months of trying to work my way round this city I have realised that there is a huge array of activity, theatre, circus and music seem to be thriving alongside a great outdoor festival scene. But dance it feels has been a poor cousin. There are great dancers and choreographers working in the city, I’ve seen some fantastic work by emerging and established talent but the resources available, physical, human and financial seem in the past to have struggled to provide the right support. I’m pleased that the steering group in the city have been making progress to address this and that there will soon be a new Creative Producer for dance in the city and I’m keen that Kompany Malakhi does more to work in collaboration with artists and organisations across the city to support dance.
We’ve got a new professional class starting at Hamilton House on October 27th and an open creative space every Friday in November at Tobacco Factory. We hope both of these initiatives will provide opportunities to train, develop ideas and discover new things as well as meet, talk and find time to create projects.
And finally a plea for conversation, as well as the resources at Kompany Malakhi I’ve got skills, experience and knowledge that I’m happy to share and I’m happy to help.
Images by Jude Hutchen