Extraordinary Bodies at the Tall Ships.
This July Liberdade were part of a community cast that performed with Extraordinary Bodies at the Tall Ships event in Sunderland. We chatted to Artistic Director, Claire Hodgson to find out a bit more about the company and their show.
Claire - I’m Claire Hodgson and I am co-artistic director of extraordinary bodies and co-artistic director of Diverse City.
Rob - Can you tell us very briefly what those organisations are and what they do?
Claire - So, Diverse City is an organisation I founded twelve ago and I run it as a co-artistic director with Jamie Beddard who is a disabled artist and we Diverse City is an engine of artistic and social change and what we are committed to is making the performing arts fully representative of everyone in society and we do training, we have a very strong youth theatre, a performance company and we make shows. And Diverse City in partnership with Circus Bijou who are a circus company have created Extraordinary Bodies.
Extraordinary Bodies is the company and the show that we are doing is called ‘What am I worth?’
Rob - Why do you think its important to represent disabled artist in the wider performing arts?
Claire - Well, I think Im really committed to a company which I hope Extraordinary Bodies is, where disabled and non-disabled people are in equal roles together in a company and our company is at least 50% disabled and non-disabled people and think that disabled people should be fully represented both on the stage but also in terms of creative team and backstage and that’s the world we are working towards.
It’s very important that everyone see’s themselves represented in performance, because if you never see yourself represented it means you don’t have aspirations about what you might do and it’s very important to see people being creative, because everyone needs to have the opportunity to have full artistic expression, wether they earn a living from it or wether it’s something that they do as part of their life.
Rob - So, firstly thank you from enabling Liberdade to come down and be involved in the show.
Claire - Yeah, I really like Liberdade.
Rob - Good, we’re glad. We like you too.
Claire - They’re top favourites of mine. You are, as a gang, you’re great.
Rob - Watching the show, it’s hugely powerful, beautiful to watch and feels a bit like a call to action, not just for disabled artists but for everybody.
Can you tell us what the show means to you as co-artistic director and what you wanted to get across with it?
Claire - I suppose it comes out of what is actually happening to many of the disabled artists that I work with. John, who performs in the show.
Rob - Is he Kelly boy?
Claire - Yep, he’s Kelly boy. (He) has lost his independent Living allowance, and the independent living fund has come to an end and John has been involved a lot in the protests around the end of the independent living fund and you know interns of what’s happening, interns of the whole PIP’s assessment and access to work it affects all the people I work alongside and as a company it also make our life very difficult on a practical level. And we wanted to make something that is about, not only what is happening around disability in this country but also in terms of what’s happened to the Windrush elders and you know what’s happening to people in terms of immigration and asylum in a way in which some identities are not being valued and I suppose in a way what we wanted to say is not just to do with people who are being oppressed, it’s to do with all of us and about what we do about this because either we do something about it or we let it happen to people.
"... the world that I want to be living in is where we are able to have equal relationships wether we’re learning disabled, disabled, non-disabled men, women, whatever, that we are able to be, working together collaboratively and without power structures."
Rob - At liberdade we find ourselves in a really interesting position at this point in our history. We have just decided to open a theatre. It was the right time for us to find a building. And a couple of years ago we opened a theatre in the north of Newcastle. And we decided we didn’t want it to be a disability arts venue, because actually we thought that the most powerful thing that we could do and what ran inline with our interests and our ethos and mission as an organisation is, we wanted a group of people, a group of learning disabled artists to create a mainstream arts venue for everybody. And the reason that we wanted to do that because everything that we try and do as an organisation is aimed at raising peoples awareness, bringing people together because we always think that, and it’s the reason we came and took part in this actually, is that if you just enable people to spend time with people with learning disabilities actually a lot of those misconceptions about them dissipate very quickly.
What would you say is your core, you know what it at the very heart, the very core of you’re organisation?
Claire - I would say that we have three words that we think that we want to be which is radical bold and joyous, is that that is what we want the work to be. and I suppose that what we want to be more than anything is a circus company (which we are) but I suppose we are as committed to other things like 50/50 representation of men and women, 20% of our cast and crew are non-white, we’ve got a lot of other commitments that we’re working on as well, so what we are really trying to do is, disability is part of a bigger picture, is that just that we think that we try to make a company that’s like the world we want to be living in. And the world that I want to be living in is where we are able to have equal relationships wether we’re learning disabled, disabled, non-disabled men, women, whatever that we are able to be, working together collaboratively and without power structures.
Rob - Great.