“I realise what an important process it was for me”, Heather speaks of her time at Cove Park Residential Weekend.
Written by – Heather Marshall, Creative Electric (working in association with Bird of Paradise Theatre) in Jan 2018
Looking back to the Cove Park residential with the Touring Network I realise what an important process it was for me.
As a disabled artist I often have a lot of anxiety about residencies- long days, new people, food I can’t eat, the exhaustion of small talk, losing concentration, am I good enough?
All those things were present during the residency and I think they always will be and that’s not a bad thing, it’s just part of living with anxiety.
But what I did discover was how good the environment of Cove Park was for my mental health. I find water calming and Cove Park is surrounded by it. I’d wake in the morning to look out at my own wee personal pond at the front of my pod. During group discussions when I began to feel anxious I could look out the window at the Loch and during breaks I could wander outside and drink in the view.
The work I had proposed to create for BOP and the Touring Network was exploring the impact of environment upon mental health. I had read that Orkney had the lowest rates of anxiety in the UK and had also been rated as the happiest place to live. I wanted a bit of that.
I’m a born and bred city girl. I like that I can get a bus at any hour of the day, pop to the shop at midnight and most importantly be anonymous when I want to be. So I was intrigued as to whether I could trade those things for country living and better mental health.
I had gone to Cove Park with the expectation of developing this work.
The residency threw several curve balls at me in terms of people and place. It wasn’t what I expected. My anxiety hit and I hid in the toilets and cried. I tried to text my friends to tell them how unhappy I was but there was no reception. Minus points for rural living.
It did however force me out of the toilet cubicle to talk to someone and explain my fears.
I’d like to say that what happened next cured my anxiety and I’m now living by the sea. That wouldn’t be realistic. But what I did discover was that my relationship with the Touring Network didn’t need to be linear. We worked together to find ways of creating that worked for both parties.
That often looked like me in a studio, firing through ideas on my own, writing and taking breaks to breath and contemplate and watch the water.
I dreamt up and developed and threw away hundreds of ideas inspired by discussions that weekend. Most were nonsense but elements of a few stuck. Ways to engage with communities. The importance of throwing away preconceived perceptions. The need to be fluid as an artist but also provide structure for the promoter and their community.
The residency allowed me to develop a relationship with my project peers. It provided the opportunity for formal learning and practice development but also a hugely important social element that allowed us to get to know the people who’d be introducing us to their communities.
Photo taken by Heather Marshall