On Tuesday, we start production week for the 2017 tour of I am Joan, my solo show which you can read more about here www.vivgordon.com/i-am-joan.html. I'm excited! In amongst the flurry of rather mundane activities like booking last minute accommodation, paying invoices for marketing and getting everything properly insured, I can feel a bubbling up of the passion which made me want to make this piece in the first place.
Wrapped up in a fun package of inspiring Joans, french accents, ridiculous tap dancing and punk rock - the subject of the piece is me, my mental health and the childhood abuse and trauma which I am still learning to live with. The point of making a show about it is that performing is the best way I know of speaking up, of shaping the chaos of my inner world into something that communicates, of starting conversations about the things we all find it too easy to stay silent about. In that respect the show is transgressive and transformative - not just for me personally but for the millions of us in the UK that share these all too common experiences.
Since our first tour last year - I have heard so many humbling stories, met so many brave people who have felt empowered to break the silence, connected with a number of courageous artists who want to make work about their own mental health stories and worked with a handful of arts organisations who are thinking differently about mental health access and inclusion and are willing to take real steps to do things differently to commit to nurturing new voices and audiences.
Its no exaggeration to say that while it is all very exciting and there is much to feel good about and look forward to - it is also seriously challenging. A lot of the process of making and sharing this work has been about working out how to do it without negatively impacting on my wellbeing. I'm happy to say we are doing a good job at that. I've got a lot of support in place - regular supervision, a personal assistant, a well thought through pre- and post-show schedule and an excellent team who are up for being in this difficult territory with me as allies. I know for sure that without all of this it simply would not be possible to do the show.
One artist I spoke to after last year's tour said “I'm very, very grateful that you have done this. The world needs more of this, I needed this. I long to make all the shit that has happened to me mean something. You have given me hope that I might be able to….”
Alchemy is the process of turning a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value. And that says it all really....
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I'll be posting my personal reflections on creating work as an artist with mental health needs, my work with the wider sector and interesting developments in arts and mental health.