BOP Artists was a residency opportunity in autumn 2017, in partnership with National Theatre of Scotland for disabled artists in Scotland to develop their skills and an idea for a new project that will impact on career and practice in the longer term.
The BOP Artists supported in 2017 were: Aminder Virdee, Jen McGregor and Stuart Pyper. Each of them brought strong creative ideas for development and you can find out about each other personal journeys with BOP Artists below. The project was tailored to their development needs and created unique opportunities to support the development of their ideas by providing access to expertise within the National Theatre of Scotland and other industry professionals.
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Aminder Virdee is a Visual Arts and Performance Artist, Arts Tutor and Lecturer, and Disability Activist. Aminder has exhibited and performed at numerous galleries and venues in London, across the UK. Most recently, Aminder was one of five lead artists participating at Rough Mix 2016 with Magnetic North Theatre, Edinburgh. Aminder’s practice is an ongoing investigation subverting the representation of disability and other classifications of the population that intersects disability, such as sexuality, race and gender. Aminder uses the exploration of the Self and identity to penetrate the social, political, physical, personal and philosophical notions attached to the term ‘disability’.
Aminder’s project developed during BOP Artists was ‘The Staff Infection’, it examined the Doctor – Patient relationship and self-interrogation relating to physical disabilities and mental health. ‘The Staff Infection’ is an exploration into the effects of medication usage upon one’s identity; a probe into the conflicts and harmonies between human-health, pharmaceuticals, the imposed responsibility entrusted to give or take medication, and to assume all liability for risks and side effects.
Jen is a playwright who was born in Dundee and raised in Edinburgh by Glaswegians. She specialises in creating intelligent work with an emotional punch. Jen currently works with Scots-Italian company Charioteer Theatre, transcultural specialists Fronteiras Theatre Lab and with Previously…Scotland’s History Festival. In 2016 she was mentored by Rob Drummond through Playwrights’ Studio Scotland. Jen sometimes writes about arts politics and mental health.
Jen’s project for development during BOP Artists was a piece of theatre concerning grief, memory and open world video game design. It explored whether theatre can capture the experience of a video game and how to create the sense of an open world within an auditorium. She also looked at the additional difficulties grief creates when your relationship to reality is skewed by psychotic symptoms, questioning the perils and possibilities of escaping into a virtual world in those circumstances.
Stuart lives and writes in Edinburgh. He attended Edinburgh Napier University, where he obtained a Master of Arts with Distinction in Creative Writing, and has received mentoring for his theatre work from playwright Jane Livingstone. Stuart is also a member of Bella Freak, an organisation led by disabled people, dedicated to staging multi-platform arts projects for disabled artists and performers. With Sasha Callaghan and David Nicol, Stuart has scripted Unwritten, an autobiographical show collecting the poignant, but often comical, true-life stories of three disabled individuals with wide-ranging impairments, as part of a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Stuart’s project for development during BOP Artists was inspired by a real incident. In March 2013, then-Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, visited Edinburgh to give a speech on welfare cuts. He was accosted for his policies by disability activists and later (as urban legend has it) smuggled out of the George Hotel in the back of a laundry van to escape further protests. What if the van never arrived at its destination? The Man in the Laundry Van is a play following IDS on his inevitable journey to the gates of Hades, where he is confronted by a Greek chorus of disabled individuals impacted by his policies, and forced to answer for his crimes. The work explores the moral austerity behind the cuts, and challenges the universal hypocrisy that ‘it’s always someone else’s fault.’
BOP knows that a career in the arts is not straightforward for anyone and recognises that disabled artists face increased barriers; from starting out to working professionally. To mitigate these barriers we worked in various ways across the sector to offer development opportunities to artists. This opportunity was created to support artists with an exciting and strong idea that would benefit from some time, resources and expertise to flourish.
Working in partnership with National Theatre of Scotland, Birds of Paradise Theatre Company supported three artists to develop their skills, networks and ideas through the following phases:
Introductory phase – June to August 2017
Skills Development phase – September to October 2017
Ideas Development phase – November to December 2017
The aim of this residency was to benefit the careers of 3 disabled artists in Scotland both in terms of skills and ideas development. The residency outcomes were:
- More and better work created and shared by disabled artists
- Three disabled artists have increased skills and confidence to take careers forward
To maximise our outcomes and to support unsuccessful applicants who showed strong potential and/or specific skills development needs we opened up workshops within the skills development phase.
Artists of all mediums (e.g. writers, painters, dancers) were invited to apply but project ideas were required to be performance based. Shortlisting and selection focused on the following criteria.
- How exciting the panels find the idea the artist has proposed
- How beneficial being involved in the residency will be to the artist’s career