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This is what I do

I had a conversation with a teacher the other day. She teaches in Pontypridd High School. She used to be a lawyer. She put the bad guys in jail. She became a lawyer because she wanted to do something good and help make the world a better place and help people. She said after several years of putting people in jail and their parents and grandparents she wasn’t really at the end of the food chain where she could make a difference. So she gave up a very well paid job and started again. She retrained as a teacher. A primary school teacher. Remember I said where she works? She has just finished her first year of teaching as an NQT. (Newly Qualified Teacher.) She got a job in secondary because this enlightened school is trying to do things differently and trying to change the way they teach. This teacher has just been part of the creative schools project and her year 8 science group who have spent since January creating their own creative classroom and working out how they want to learn and how they can learn differently using their creativity just got better test results than they have ever got. The best bit though was when one of the boys said to me when I asked what difference it had made said ‘well I just used to get sent out of all my lessons and now I don’t. Now I want to stay in and learn.’ Another told me how it had made a difference to him outside of school too ‘I used to get into fights all the time and now I don’t’. Another said how he used to feel like learning was just been ‘put inside him’ and now he was actively learning and finding stuff out.

That is why I do what I do. What I do, I now realise, is political arts activism. I do it all, from the making of theatre which tries to do stuff differently to allow more people in and to create conversations, to the school workshops, to being a Creative Agent for the Arts Council, to the What Next? movement to try, in some small way to help, to make a difference because I know in my bones, because I have seen it time and time again that allowing people to access their creativity allows them to start to become the people they have the potential to be, makes them happier and the world happier and safer and just better.

I sat in a room in the House of Commons in 2014 with some Conservative Ministers and I referenced Ken Robinson’s book ‘Out of Our Minds – learning to be creative’. Before I could finish an extremely high profile Conservative Minister jabbed  his finger at aggressively at me and said “He is the enemy”. A man who believes education should nurture every child’s creativity is the Conservative Party’s enemy I was shocked into silence. That my friend is the nub.

I was told by another Conservative minister at another meeting that art and culture was a private luxury. So basically if you cant pay for it you don’t get access to it. That is what he meant. That is a slippery road.

In the few years I have seen I have seen my library close its doors early. One of the only public accesses to culture enshrined in our law. I have also seen food banks appear on my High Street. How is it in Britain in 2017 people cannot afford to feed their children? And if you cant afford bread then you sure as hell cant afford the roses. So as the rich get richer and pay for private music tuition (whilst music teachers have been cut from primary schools) and private dance classes ( while there are hardly any specialist dance teachers in schools anymore) and drama classes and art and photography, the poor get poorer and get fed an all right wing super rich media diet of strong and stable leadership bedtime stories. Have you heard the one about the frog in the billy can?

Thank you to all those involved in Romeo and Juliet. You are loved and thanked.Thank you to each and every one of you who bought a ticket, booked a workshop and hosted a rehearsal in your school. All your feedback has been invaluable and food for thought. I’m going to have a week off and think those thoughts and  imagine and dream my next mountain range to scale

 

 

A love story

Let’s face it I am not in it for the money. Working from 9am til midnight most days and the guilt that accompanies being a working mum, absent wife, friend, daughter and sister is not assuaged by a lovely bank balance.

It is by the mother’s day letter that tells you that you are a role model. It is by the size of the hug that you think may wonderfully never end when you return from 3 days tech. And it most definitely is when there is that moment in the rehearsal room when something clicks, a penny drops, an ‘aha’ moment happens and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

It is when the lighting, sound, set and costume design begin to translate from page, screen, computer and model box into the space and the insides of yours and your creative teams collective heads are realised in real space and time and send shivers down your spine.

And then you watch aerial circus performers doing a routine AND speaking complex difficult verse and making it all sound and look so easy and natural and right and you smile and forget how tired you are and how guilty you feel.

It is also when you get an email from a workshop leader telling you the kids and teachers loved it and when you get emails of thanks from schools and students or a reviewer meets you and says thank you for the last show you made.

I fell in love with theatre. With live performance. I have tried to do other things over the years but I keep coming back. The power of it to bring people together and allow them to share in, respond to and reflect on stories collectively is a seductive force which frustrates, exhausts and inspires me like any great love affair.

In it I see, feel and experience the potential to change the world. My ambition is great. Often too great and to the detriment of myself and those around me. There may be many things etched on my gravestone but ‘she lacked ambition’ will not be one of them.

That ambition is made possible by those around me and so I just want to say thank you really to the Omidaze partners Emma Evans & Dick Johns, the ensemble, the crew, the creative team, the producers, the education team, the photographers, filmmakers, work experience people, print designers,the schools, the investors, the partners, the venues, the WMC, my family and friends and anyone I have missed who has supported, collaborated, enabled, provided, assisted, listened, responded, followed, shared, retweeted, booked and well just been there on the journey. Thank you.

Yvonne Murphy (Theatre Director,Producer & Associate Artist of Wales Millennium Centre)

Omidaze (Oh My days!) Productions A small theatre company with BIG ideas www.omidaze.co.uk

Romeo & Juliet An Omidaze Productions & Wales Millennium Centre Co-Production.

TOUR DATES 2017

Mold Theatr Clwyd 5 – 8 April 10.15am / 2.15pm / 7.30pm

Llanelli The Ffwrnes 12 April 2pm / 7.30pm
Brecon Theatr Brycheiniog 23 April 2pm / 7.30pm
Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre 27 April – 14 May 11am / 2pm / 7pm

WORKSHOPS
School workshops for primary & secondary available to accompany this production.
Omidaze will come to your school & deliver a 2.5 hour workshop on power, politics & Shakespeare. An empowering whirlwind interactive tour of our UK and Welsh parliamentary and electoral systems AND introduction to Shakespeare & Romeo & Juliet – all in 2.5 hours! For years 5-11. Email us at y.murphy1@ntlworld.com
to book. Workshops available from March 2017.

BBC/British Council Shakespeare Lives. Documentary behind All-Female Henry VI

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3Tf1h4rlM2qlQsnSSfm11sm/equality-access-power

Omidaze is project funded by Arts Council Wales. 

Seeking to engage everyone in valuing and celebrating arts and culture and in shaping a future where these are fundamental to our society.

Changing the world one young person at a time

Six schools in the last two days. It is starting to take its toll. I would blame the person who scheduled this ridiculous week except it was me. Overly ambitious as always. And yet the tiredness is ok because I think we are doing a good thing

Today a teacher congratulated her students for taking part in our workshop. She explained we had unknowingly chosen the quietest and least confident students in her class to take on the some of the roles and they had excelled. She was moved and so proud of them.

In another school a teacher took me to one side and thanked me for explaining Iambic Pentameter , telling me no one had ever, in school or University explained it to her and she could suddenly hear the words and understand Shakespeare.

In the afternoon we worked with a small number of students in a Re-Integration Centre. They were amazing. At the end we were told the student we had cast as Lady Capulet to help us rehearse was on a reduced timetable and normally could only handle half a day in school and yet they had stayed with us for the full workshop and rehearsal until the end of the day. Their teacher expressed the enormity of such an achievement for them.

These are common stories. Anyone who works with young people and uses theatre, drama and the arts generally will know stories just like these. I have heard a story like this every single time I have delivered a workshop for 25 years. And yet we must still explain and defend the power and value of the arts? Why? I do not understand. Because it doesn’t make money? Oh but it saves money. How do you quantify the money saved on health, policing, courts, rehabilitation, education, welfare every time a young person takes part in a drama workshop, walks into a library, visits a gallery or museum, watches live performance, dances, hears or plays music, creates or experiences art? Can we measure that?

I want a UK government minister in the room with me every time I take a workshop or rehearsal into a school. particularly the schools in the most deprived areas and get them to explain to those young people why they think arts and culture should not receive more state funding or investment,. call it what you will. To explain to those young curious minds why they spend so much on defence  and so little on culture. I would particularly like the Tory MP who told me that art and culture was a private luxury and the one who told me that Ken Robinson was the enemy to come and sit in the school halls with us (and all the practitioners like us) as we lead a workshop and open rehearsal and tell those kids that really unless they can personally afford to pay for it then access to the arts and culture is not their birthright.

I am directing and producing a play. What has that got to do with social justice? Everything. Will my play change the world and make it a fairer and more equal place? No, not the world, but maybe my excellent team of actors, workshop leaders and Omidaze team may just change one child’s level of expectation, ambition, self-esteem, confidence, self-belief, access to the arts and their own potential and make the world a fairer and more equal place just for that one child. And that one child is success enough for me.

Romeo & Juliet An Omidaze Productions & Wales Millennium Centre Co-Production.

TOUR DATES 2017

Mold Theatr Clwyd 5 – 8 April 10.15am / 2.15pm / 7.30pm

Llanelli The Ffwrnes 12 April 2pm / 7.30pm
Brecon Theatr Brycheiniog 23 April 2pm / 7.30pm
Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre 27 April – 14 May 11am / 2pm / 7pm

WORKSHOPS
School workshops for primary & secondary available to accompany this production.
Omidaze will come to your school & deliver a 2.5 hour workshop on power, politics & Shakespeare. An empowering whirlwind interactive tour of our UK and Welsh parliamentary and electoral systems AND introduction to Shakespeare & Romeo & Juliet – all in 2.5 hours! For years 5-11. Email us at y.murphy1@ntlworld.com
to book. Workshops available from March 2017.

BBC/British Council Shakespeare Lives. Documentary behind All-Female Henry VI

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3Tf1h4rlM2qlQsnSSfm11sm/equality-access-power

Omidaze is project funded by Arts Council Wales. Arts Council of Wales Clore Fellow  2013/14Seeking to engage everyone in valuing and celebrating arts and culture and in shaping a future where these are fundamental to our society.

Silent No More…Dear Britain, you have spoken apparently?

I love Britain AND the British people. I have travelled the world and never found anywhere I would rather live. On the 24th June last year that changed for the first time. I was told then maybe I s…

Source: Silent No More…Dear Britain, you have spoken apparently?

Silent No More…Dear Britain, you have spoken apparently?

I love Britain AND the British people. I have travelled the world and never found anywhere I would rather live. On the 24th June last year that changed for the first time. I was told then maybe I should leave. I am not leaving. I am staying put and I am speaking out.

Because? Because then my work can make sense and my grandchildren will be clear that I did not want what I am being told Britain has asked for.

I have this theory that because we are now a full generation away from the last world war we are at a crucial tipping point, The end of WWII allowed us, as a nation to discuss and debate what our society should look like. After such devastation and loss our values and priorities were sharpened and clear. The Welfare State was born. Central to that was our NHS which remains a beacon of light within Britain and indeed the world. So much so we did indeed put it in lights as we opened our London Olympics and shared with the world our pride and joy in our state healthcare system, our state education system, our culture and our multi-cultural heritage. That opening ceremony was a perfect platform to discuss, as a nation, our successes and our future.

We missed that opportunity.

We missed another when Scotland voted on Independence.

Finally Scotland got everyone’s attention just before the vote and I so wanted them to seize the day. To have the courage to pause, to wait, to turn and say ‘right now we have your attention let’s really discuss the state of the UK. We will postpone the referendum so that as a nation we can discuss what Britain has been, what it is now and what it can be. Let’s imagine it together. Let’s have conversations up and down the land.’

That would have been something wouldn’t it? But the conversations had just got started and were then closed back down. It takes real leadership to do something like that. To stop, hold the moment. Allow an entire nation to reflect. There is a shocking absence of that . Reflection. AND great leadership.

Great leadership ensures a nation feels respected, listened to and understood even if they disagree. People will tolerate most things if they feel respected. If their fears, worries and concerns are given due weight and consideration. If they are allowed to maintain their dignity. Did we feel those things? Or was a scream building, slowly and steadily?

It is not a complete list but it is a start what people were screaming about….inequality of money, jobs, lack of access, ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, food banks an accepted norm in every town, welfare cuts, sanctions, bedroom tax, MPs expenses scandal (don’t be fooled if you think people don’t still care), immigration, jobs, security, austerity measures, fear of change (& things are changing fast) terrorist activity &  threats, working harder than ever before and for less and, fear of the future, fear for our  own, fear that you won’t make it round the supermarket and get enough food for the week for all the family with the £40 left in your wallet and then how do afford the kids school trip, trainers, uniform, books…or just the essentials, gas, electricity and water. Parents dreading the summer holidays because that means no free school meals which means something else has to go. This is Britain.

 

Today our parliament votes whether or not to trigger Article 50. I am interested in how we got here. To this place where I am a Remoaner. Where families and friends are divided. Where it is apparently now a ‘done deal’ and I am a sore loser if I still want to discuss it. You know just that tiny thing of leaving the European Union.

I am a storyteller by trade. Peddling my stories through the medium of theatre. My work is political because I fundamentally believe the personal is the political. I create work which I hope allows the audience to think about the world around them and their place and actions in it. Narrative is a powerful force and the EU referendum, the lead up, the result and the aftermath is compelling stuff. Narrative is constantly rewritten.The story of how we decided to leave the EU is now owned and shaped in a way I believe to be distorted and untrue and so on the historic day I write my narrative.

Democracy is something I hold dear. I do not believe last year’s referendum was democratically organised, campaigned for, called for or responded to. We get to vote on who leads the country every four years. There is a tried and tested system. Political parties must put forward manifestos for scrutiny. They can be held to account on these promises if they gain power. Clarity on what we are being asked to vote on is key.

Where was the clarity for the referendum? Where were the manifestos? How do we hold people to account? Why are broken promises not being discussed and accepted? Perhaps because it was not a General or Local Government Election? These are legally binding. Referendums are not. However 4 years after a General Election we get to vote again. We get to change our minds. We do not get to vote again in four years time to rejoin the EU.

Another thing created out of the destruction of WWII – the European Union. Created to ensure that such horrors of war never again swept across Europe. I didn’t hear that explained and discussed much in the run up to the Referendum. Did you?.

Referendums are advisory not legally binding. They are a sounding out. A temperature gauge. They are a process for government to assess the popular mood and appetite.

David Cameron promised in his party’s manifesto that if elected he would hold a referendum on our country’s membership of the EU. Because he didn’t for one second believe the country would vote to leave he pushed it further by promising he would honour whatever the majority of the public decided. Was that for him to decide?  As a supreme court has ruled a decision of such magnitude can only ever be decided by our elected parliament. False & Empty promise number one. And non–democratic.

And so the Remain & Leave Campaigns began. The Leave Campaign mainly promised that all the money currently spent on the EU would be given to our NHS instead. False & Empty promise number two. And non-democratic.

No other clarity, plan or thought was given to what leaving the EU would actually look like, how it would be done, how much it would cost. No impact analysis was done. No debate around single markets, customs, trade, borders, current EU citizenship, the list is endless and simply non-democratic.

Rather we were simply asked to vote on whether we liked what we already had or whether we wanted to leave what we had with absolutely no idea whatsoever what that would entail. Jump ship into the unknown.. What an exciting adventure! And how non democratic

And so Britain spoke. Or rather Britain screamed from the top of its lungs. On a binary choice it screamed on a multitude of issues. Rage was unleashed. Fear was given a pen. Uncertainty, disgruntled, frustrated irritation was given voice. And good. In many ways I loved it. Because the scream has been coming now for a while.

And then the man who had promised the country a referendum jumped ship too and left us all afloat and wondering what to do. A big aching chasm was left where an opposition should have been because the newly appointed leader is a long-term Euro sceptic and had created a radio silence and confusion where a Remain Campaign should have been.

So then his party self-imploded which allowed the Right to re-write the narrative once again. No analysis please of what our party has done to this country. No debate. Close the conversation down. Adopt a stance. Look like the grown-ups whilst the children on the left argue amongst themselves. Let nanny sort it out. The people of Britain have spoken and they want Brexit. What is that? No discussion around the fact that absolutely no one knows what this invented term Brexit actually means so therefore how could we know we want it. It is clear we all want something. So we will be told what we want. It is to become known as a ‘hard Brexit’. I don’t remember that being on the voting slip? The choice between soft and hard? That is what we want though. We have spoken. Haven’t we?

52% shouted Leave because …because…we don’t trust any politicians, they don’t represent us, it is meaningless, because I am angry, because I have never worked outside of the UK, because I don’t really get it, because I think we should have sovereignty, because I fear change and want Britain to look like Britain that I remember, imagine, crave, understand. Because I feel frightened, patronised, not listened to, forgotten, misunderstood, silenced, frustrated and bored…because money is wasted on bureaucracy, because I hate bureaucracy because because because….because……

We were given a binary choice, very little guidance and absolutely no actual information on what one of the choices actually entailed and very little explanation that this would be an irreversible decision and how much it would cost in any sense of the word. And we definitely weren’t told how much bureaucracy it would entail.

And now…. Well now we have a PM running around the world desperately trying to broker trade deals with any Tom, Dick or Harry, whatever their values, to make up for the ones we are disconnecting from and to make ‘Hard Brexit’ look a bit shinier and exciting and like the adventure we were promised and then we won’t need to put all that money we have saved into the NHS because chunks of that will have been sold off as part of the deal.

Ok got a bit carried away there but can we please just stop and discuss the fact that we have some very good free open markets already and maybe this all needs to be in that manifesto we never got before we voted?

We elect our MPs to act on our behalf. In our best interests and the best interests of the whole of Britain. That is key. Is it actually in our best interests to leave the EU? Not because we screamed about a multitude of things which all need listening to. Will leaving the EU fix them? If it will and if it really honestly is in our best interests then ok. But not because we told you to. Because we had no idea what it meant. And if that means you don’t get re-elected then that is what you are paid to do. Put us first. Not yourselves. Which is why Mr Corbyn this should be an individual’s conscience vote. Sometimes as you have to force people to be free. Sometimes you have to go against the popular vote because you know it to be right.

Great Leaders know that. They know they have to stand against a tide sometimes and hold, say pause, wait, let’s reflect. It may not make them popular but I would vote for authenticity, values, integrity and truth every time. That is true democracy.

Dedicated to Jo Cox & Jo Stevens.

 

A new day. A new play.

Where to begin? Where have I been? It has been too hard to write a blog. So much has been said. So much has been written. First the referendum. And then the States. I have felt silenced for the fir…

Source: A new day. A new play.

A new day. A new play.

Where to begin? Where have I been? It has been too hard to write a blog. So much has been said. So much has been written. First the referendum. And then the States. I have felt silenced for the first time in my life. Silenced and fearful. For my children and all our children. I have felt a deep sense of loss as our country and the world fractures. And as that fracturing resonates within our families and communities I fear we may not have learnt or remembered enough from two World Wars.

I have been on a long journey where I have questioned the arts and myself as an artist and practitioner. Questioned what difference I can make and what the hell Shakespeare has to do with anything, especially right now.

It has, of course, much to do with everything and is more relevant than ever.

I knew I was planning a tour where I and Omidaze will come into contact with hundreds of young people across Wales. I thought  if that is going to happen then I want to empower them and not just with access to Shakespeare. Which play was right? Which of the 37 could help us now?

Citizenship. Conflict. Abuse and ugly scenes on the streets. Questioning of authority and experts. Binary choices and a complete lack of choice. Lack of leadership.Division.Dissent.Tragic consequences.

Romeo & Juliet is not just a love story. It is a moral tale of great magnitude. If Romeo & Juliet had lived during peaceful times of understanding, generosity and  and trust where negotiation, compromise, honesty and kindness were valued would they be dead?

I know that young people will understand why I have chosen this text. I also know that unless they have the knowledge (and therefore power) of our electoral system nothing will ever change. And so our workshops which will go into schools all over Wales will do two things. We will teach young people the story of Romeo & Juliet and allow them to understand and own verse and Shakespeare’s language. Then we will ask them who holds the power in the story, in Verona and how the outcome could have been different. And then…

Then we ask them who holds the power in their country? In Wales and the UK and we will take them on a whirlwind interactive tour of our parliamentary system in Wales and the UK. They will understand the House of Commons, House of Lords AND the Welsh assembly and how they all fit together and which powers are devolved and which aren’t and why they should vote.

So this is what I have been doing. This week I am finding the workshop facilitators who will do this really important work. Before that I was finding the investment and creative partners, the creative and production team and then the actors who will be the new Omidaze ensemble and help us push the equality debate into new territory as we continue to ask who is Shakespeare for anyway and where and how can it be staged and by whom?

Romeo & Juliet – An Omidaze Productions & Wales Millennium Centre Co-Production is supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Theatr Iolo, NoFitState Circus and ArtsActive. Tour opens at Theatr Clwyd April 4 2017. More info at http://www.omidaze.co.uk