Image description - three portraits of disabled women. From top clockwise is Bea Webster a woman of dual heritage, Thai and Scottishwho wears pantomine make up with rosy cheeks, heavy eyeshadow and bright lips. She wears a dressing gown with a towel on her hair and is holding a sign saying 'Best Panto Ever'. Then there is Lisette Auton, a white woman with long brown hair, smiling and wearing a green t-shirt with dungarees. Finally is Miss Jacqui, a black woman with shoulder length afro hair and thin rimmed glasses. She is wearing a light pink hoody against a background of green leaves.
As part of Staging Our Futures, a programme made possible by Arts Council England's Emergency Response Fund, Little Cog created three incredible commission opportunities for three incredibly talented disabled artists - Bea Webster, Lisette Auton and Miss Jacqui.
The time has come to share this new work in a live online premiere on 1 November at 5.00pm - who doesn't love a Sunday tea time treat?
Bea Webster shares Dame Bevvy Crusher's Most Extraordinary Guide to Writing the Best Pantomime Ever, tbh. Miss Jacqui shares MMXX, and Lisette Auton shares Writing/Righting The Missing - A Choose Your Own Erasure Story R&D
Little Cog's Artistic Director, Vici Wreford-Sinnott, dreamt up the Staging Our Futures programme as the company's response to completely unchartered territory. Vici says, "We knew the world had changed overnight, that everything was going to be different as we moved forward through the crisis for the arts and theatre. As disabled creatives we know how hard the fight has been over four decades to create an accessible and equitable arts envrionment. We didn't want to see the progress that had been made, also disappear overnight."
The company knew it was time to stabilise, to be visible and to create opportunities for other disabled artists. Little Cog has always been strategic in it's approach to equality in theatre and this programme needed to have a range of elements.
Vici continued, "As a company we knew we needed to create new work to challenge the narrative which had quickly developed around disabled people as a kind of blanket of vulnerability, as inactive and passive recipients of care. We're a vibrant group of individuals, living complex, interesting lives, and yes there are massive challenges in our society, many obstacles, barriers for, and appalling attitudes to disabled people. So we created a piece called Funny Peculiar featuring four dynamic disabled women to bust the myths of vulnerability whilst exploring the real risks we experience around inequality, for example in the loosening of lockdown, and in approaches to our healthcare and survival."
The company wanted other disabled artists to be able to make work, to have time and space to explore. It's part of future-proofing. So a series of masterclasses was developed with guest artists sharing their skills online with disabled practitioners, which also meant disabled artists could stay connected and continue developing and sharing skills. Vici delivered two very successful Disability Equality Masterclasses for the North East film and theatre sector, and the three commissions were created.
'Liveness' has been a much missed ingredient as we have all social distanced and so Little Cog has hosted a number of live and online interactive events which have been very successful. "We all still need to connect, and we all still need to invest and exchange in performance and the arts, so part of our new commitment to artists and audiences is to find new ways to make that happen - to create a sense of connectedness through the work, and opportunities to engage and respond. And we've been blown away by the appetite for this and how much people have embraced our work in this area".
Today someone told us "For me this is better than the real world in so many ways - I'm connecting with people I wouldn't otherwise, I probably wouldn't make the effort to go out in th cold and the rain, and it's all here, it's all safe and best of all it's all accessible in my own sitting room. I'm more connected to people now than I was before" - we think that's amazing. It won't be the case for everyone but is important to think about this for the inclusion and involvement of many disabled people in the cultural life of our nation.
This premiere is the next stage in that process - so please follow this link for further information and to book your free places. Numbers are limited to make sure we have a high quality experience so please don't delay!