Our first ever residency wrapped up with a flurry of frenzied Hawaiian photo shoots with Eoin Carey. Eoin never fails to inspire and energise me. There is something infectious about his seemingly endless supplies of positivity and ambition. I learned tonnes from his residency – not least the work that goes into organising shoots of this nature. I wish I had been able to be more available to him as a producer and assistant, allowing him to focus on the minutiae of setting up the shots and taking brilliant photos. I think he learned lots too. He was working with a new (old) camera technique and difficult film. Eoin is used to being able to take 700 shots with a digital camera and then select the best, so it was fascinating to watch him have just one chance at getting a shot, then shifting his expectations and rejigging his ideas about the success and failure of those shots when they were developed. This may not have been the perfect result for him, but for me, and Team Effort!, it felt totally appropriate. If Eoin had come in and taken 10 flawless, digital photos in exactly the same way that he is comfortable doing, it wouldn’t have felt so courageous or have pushed his practice as an artist in the way that it did. That, in a nutshell, is what Team Effort! is for. I have nothing but admiration for him for being so brave.
After that, it was straight into our Rip It Up week at Tramway. The full team had its first day together in the the enormous, sprawling space that is T1 on Wednesday morning. We spent the day consolidating the thoughts that had been flying around over email during the preceding weeks and hashed out a running order for the sold-out public sharing that would happen three days later, on the Saturday.
Thursday and Friday were spent running through ideas, writing new material and making sure that all of the different scraps of this collage sat together comfortably in the space.
It was an exhausting, arduous and enormously rewarding week for everyone. I’m delighted that Team Effort! had the opportunity to create a piece together on such a massive scale and I’m fiercely proud of the artists for stepping out of their comfort zones together. It was never my intention to throw these six different artists together and force them to “make a show”. When I suggested the idea of Rip It Up to the artists back in December, they were thrilled and jumped at the chance, but it was never something I expected this project to create as an output. The trajectory of this Team Effort! year is constantly evolving as new opportunities arise and different collaborations begin to materialise, but none of it would be possible without the energy and flexibility of the six Team Effort! artists.
For me, the week was spent running between each of the different artists and making sure that ideas were communicated properly within the very tiny time-frame that we had. If Rose and Stef were having a conversation in the dressing room about something that would impact Fergus, I would run to backstage and talk to him about it. If his feedback changed something that Kim was thinking about for the sound, I would go and share it with her, Gaz and John on the main stage. If they felt that might change the way Martin or Eilidh were making their work, I would nip through to them in the cafe and talk it over. At times I felt like a spider, spinning a web across all of Tramway’s various spaces, and making sure that it was robust enough to catch us all if we fell.
The thing I found most tricky during the week was finding the balance between producer (in this context, someone who is dealing with logistics: money, space, agreements, press and press) and creative (in this context, someone who is having artistic input on the overall arc of the show, feeding back about the content of individual pieces and the performances of each of the artists).
There were definitely times when I overstepped this line during the Rip It Up week and gave opinions that were either not fully informed (because I spent most of the day sorting out insurance instead of involved in artistic conversations) or misjudged (because I am not a director, and lack the sensitivity and rigourous training that it takes to understand when to step in and when to step back.)
But I know the following things to be true…I am a creative person. I’m definitely not an artist. I have a reasonably experienced eye for narrative. I often have strong feelings about how a show could be tighter, clearer or more cohesive. I love being involved in a creative process, asking questions and giving feedback when it’s appropriate. I see no difference between the term “producer” and the term “creative producer” and think that the latter is tautological. I’ll keep trying to get better at the former.
I’ve found my feet on the tightrope.