LIFE AND DEATH…and Arts Council applications

… and Arts Council applications

Catherine Boot, Director of theatre company Can’t Sit Still , shares her reflections on the often quite extraordinary experience of applying for and waiting to find out about a grant from Arts Council England.

Today I am waiting for the results of our application to the Arts Council for £37,000, that will enable us to create and tour Plink and Boo, an interactive circus theatre experience for 2-5 year olds and their grown ups that playfully explores gender stereotypes in children’s toys. ACE gave us £15,000 to research and develop this idea last year. It went well, and here we are.

Can’t Sit Still | Plink and Boo

We have 16 venues on the tour schedule –  a mixture of libraries, theatres, theatre festivals and an outdoor arts festival. We have 3 commissioning partners, sponsorship from a small local business and support in kind from 3 NPOs. We have £30,000 in earned income and £10,000 in support in kind.  Since we wrote the application 7 more theatres have got in touch to book the show.

The cast and creative team have cleared their diaries for summer rehearsals and autumn and spring touring. Theatres are starting to need details from me to draw up contracts. Everyone is waiting to hear this news.

Every time I think about this decision we are waiting for, I have a physical reaction – a rush of adrenaline that makes my heart race and my chest tighten. A couple of times when I thought the email had arrived, my hands started to shake. It feels like this decision is the be all and end all of EVERYTHING.

Today I am waiting to hear whether the two circus performers in Plink and Boo have had their baby. It was due today. The baby will be part of our creative process when we begin rehearsals and will come on tour with us. We are committed to supporting them as parents and as artists. This includes shorter working days, spreading rehearsals over a longer period of time and providing childcare.

They decided to start trying for a baby earlier than they had planned, because they wanted to be able to be in the tour of Plink and Boo.  They also decided not to find out the sex of their unborn child as a result of the research we have undertaken as a company into gender. They were also considering, when I last spoke to them, not telling people the gender of the child once it was born. This project has changed all of our lives, in different ways.

Today I am waiting to hear whether our producer will need chemotherapy following a mastectomy a few weeks ago to remove cancerous breast tissue. She was worried, when she found out, that I would want to work with another producer on Plink and Boo, because she doesn’t know how much she will be able to commit to the project, doesn’t know how much she can commit to anything, over the coming months. I told her not to be ridiculous. I can hold this uncertainty, it’s worth it for the woman she is and the way she supports the work and the process and me when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing (which is most of the time). Cancer is nothing to us.

It has felt, at times, over the past 12 weeks that the world will stop if we don’t get this funding. My producer and I have spent HOURS putting this tour and application together, that we will never be paid for, because we believe in what we are doing. Yet we are doing nothing. This isn’t life or death, it’s work. But I feel that I carry the responsibility for all of these wonderful human beings who have committed to this project, and to me, on my shoulders. I don’t want to let them down. And yes, it’s not life or death, but inviting life and death into the room is part of our methodology and informs our work. We pour every part of ourselves into the process because we believe it’s the best way to make art, and it’s the only way we know to deal with and respond to the injustice we see around us.

We wait.

By Catherine Boot
Can’t Sit Still
5th April 2018

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