Assitej, for those not in the know, is an international collaborative body aimed at bringing together artists and organisations involved in the creation of work for young people from all over the globe. Formed 50 years ago, in part as a way of challenging the tensions and restrictions of the cold war, this past week has seen the network take up residence in Birmingham via the On the Edge festival. A global programme of work has been paired with a whole score of symposia and work in progress presentations, to form a celebration of all things theatre-and-dance-for-young-audiences.
It’s a rare chance for artists in the UK to have an event of this scale right on our doorstep and thanks to some amazing support from Imaginate here in Scotland, all three of Tortoise in a Nutshell’s core team managed to make it down for a look around.
It’s been a really interesting week, a real chance to scratch heads and have a think, something which often feels like a real luxury in the hectic daily pace of running an organisation.
With our co-production Fisk underway and a new creative team coming on board, our heads have been crammed full of big questions. What are we trying to say with Fisk? Who is it for? What should it feel like and how do we want people to interact with it?
Inspiration is an odd thing, the more our days fill up the more I find myself trying to find ‘time to get inspired’… which is such a massive contradiction clanger I’m not really even sure where to begin. I feel like I hear a lot of people talking about ‘a eureka’ moment in the wider world. But that isn’t really an experience I’ve ever had, it’s struck me that most, if not all, of the useful ideas I’ve ever had have started out as tiny thoughts. Sometimes they hang around in my head like little echoes for days, they almost always grow with the help of other people.
Spending a few days at a festival which wears its dedication to collaboration on its sleeve therefore, has been a great experience. It’s been fascinating to get glimpses into other people’s practice via work in progress sessions and performance presentations, as well as hear more from delegates from international organisations via symposia and panel discussions.
Discussion of the UK’s vote to leave the EU inevitably featured heavily and in the context of an international festival about building bridges, it was hard to escape the sense of challenge that’s facing us. On a personal level all three of us here at Tortoise have very strong feelings on the vote, the whole process has felt like a punch to the gut.
In some ways it’s made launching our first ever international co-production feel like a very personal declaration of pride in internationalism. If there’s one thing I’ll take away from this week it’s that, for all its faults, struggles and problems, collaboration can be a truly marvelous thing. It will always trump going it alone for me.