As part of our A Different Way #ADiffWay programme, we have just completed the first stages of research and development (R&D) for Look Mum, No Hands!
Look Mum, No Hands! is a show for 8-12 year olds that explores ‘risk’ and ‘independence’. It’s a story of two friends discovering how each other’s boundaries as they grow up and those moments of independence when you finally don’t have to rely on others for support.
So what did we get up to during our Look Mum, No Hands!’ R&D?
This R&D is co-directed by Daryl and Lina Johansson from Mimbre. For both, this is a new relationship and way of working – each have their own area of expertise and each wanted to work together to expand on their own practise and approaches to making work.
In September, we started by working in Leicester with Spark Arts who supported the participatory activity with young people aged 8-12. Over the course of a weekend we used drama and acrobatics to explore what ‘Risk’ and ‘Independence’ meant to this group of young people.
During the weekend, we explored risk through acrobatics, acrobalance and drama activities such as creative writing. Here are extracts from their poems about risk and independence:
“My Names is Risk… I am vicious, I can lead to certain death, I am exciting, I am an adventure that can lead to danger, I am life breaking & thrilling.”
“My name is independence I am trust, I am doing things on my own. I am brave, I am wanted and I am a little bit scary.”
Following the workshop, we locked ourselves in a room at the Attenborough Arts Centre for three days with the full creative team and began to explore the themes and the ideas of the young people we had just been working with.
An important part of this initial process was also to explore what new physical language is possible when working with a disabled and a non-disabled performer. We have been fortunate enough to engage two playful, open and creative performers in this project – Rosy Roberts and Maiya Leeke. The focus was not on how the performers fit into acrobatic movement, but how acrobatic movement can evolve and take creative advantage of the fact that one of them uses a wheelchair.
It was a full on and tiring few days (plus most of the team came down with the dreaded winter cold… for which we still blame Rosy for spreading!).
After a couple of weeks’ break, we then came back together in London for more participatory workshops with members of Mimbre Youth Circus and young people from Graeae’s young company. We continued our exploration around ‘Risk’ and ‘Independence’ and focused our approach to build on our R&D process to date. Previously we had mainly focused on the impact “grown ups” have on our independence and understanding of risk, but now we focused on how our friends can influence this and how we react when our close friends prevent us from doing our own thing.
We then went straight back into the R&D process to feed these new thoughts and ideas into the creative mix. We finished with an outline of a story about two friends who are each discovering their own boundaries, taking risks and becoming independent, and how together they navigate these differences between them
It can seem a cliché to say that we achieved so much, but without a shared responsibility from all involved, based on a vision and ethos to ensure that the disabled artists and the voices of disabled and non-disabled young people led the process, then this wouldn’t have been possible.
Look Mum, No Hands! R&D forms part of the our A Different Way programme.
The vision for Look Mum, No Hands! is that it is disabled-led and that the voices of young people, disabled and non-disabled, are the critical creative driving forces of the process. Each partner has shared the responsibility of making that happen – from Spark Arts involving young people from the local community in Leicester, to Graeae opening their space for creation and the involvement of their young company, and Mimbre in being fully open and honest within the creative process. All partners involved have taken responsibility to learn, lead and ensure that disabled artists and young people are at the centre of the creative journey.
Changing the model of how theatre for young audiences is more open, accessible and inclusive to disabled-led work takes a sector wide shared responsibility, and the model of Look Mum, No Hands! R&D seems a great starting point.