The publication of A Restless Art, long-delayed, is now almost a year in the past. Time has flown, and the book has taken flight. For better or worse, it is finding its way without me (I’ve just seen it listed as a ‘bestseller’ on Central Books, which is very exciting). Occasionally, I hear some feedback but mostly it’s quiet and I’ve been getting on with other things, some of them very different (and not yet ready for sharing). But I’ve also been able to make community art, in a creative writing project called I Remember Leicester, and the film I’ve been working on with the Lawnmowers. That is being premiered in Gateshead on 17 January 2020, and I’m unreasonably excited at the prospect. Called A Dead Good Life, it’s a 30-minute drama about how people with learning difficulties experience getting older. It is the foundation of a programme of workshops and resources that will be added to over the coming years. I’ll write about it properly after the launch.
And now there’s a big new project, exploring how digital technology might enable social inclusion through community opera – three huge fields I approach with very uneven knowledge and some apprehension. For the next three years, I’ll work with partners in Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the Netherlands, including the Gran Theatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Irish National Opera and my old friends at the Sociedade Artística Musical dos Pousos (SAMP). We’ll develop and test new approaches and technologies to open the art of opera-making to people without previous experience, especially those who are vulnerable and socially marginalised. I’ve no idea what it will produce or what difficulties we’ll be faced with, but that’s what makes it so worthwhile. I have so much to learn (from opera to VR) and I feel very thankful to be part of this adventure.
Yesterday, as if as a happy talisman, I was sent some photos from the latest stage of the community opera I helped get started in Šančiai, Kaunas, Lithuania (‘helped’ is a generous interpretation of my time working with the community association last year). The latest performance of the work in progress was presented on 27 December, on the former cabbage field that local people have been fighting to preserve. These pictures, by Darius Petrulis, show something of the wild beauty that community art can attain, though as yet without the wonderful music that’s been composed and sung. I hope I can share some of that in the months to come. I’ll certainly share progress on my other community opera work here.
In the meantime, thank you to everyone who reads this blog, and especially those who’ve made it through ‘A Restless Art’. I wish you all a happy, peaceful and creative new year.