When Lockdown hit earlier this year, our workshops, performances and exhibitions came to an abrupt stop.  A key purpose of Collage Arts is to give the platform and resources to those who need it most in Haringey and surrounding areas. Coronavirus held our community in a tight grip and we soon realised that Black and ethnic minority women were struggling. Either fighting on the frontline as key workers and caregivers, or waning in isolation. With the help of Arts Council England funding, ‘Creative Futures: Picking Up the Threads’ took shape. Working with 75 women from ethnic minority backgrounds, we created five sub-projects for written, performative and digital exploration. We paired up our budding artists with professional actors, directors, visual artists, writers and other creative practitioners. As always, it has been our intention to facilitate these local women to chronicle their own experiences. The result of this project is a rich and authentic constellation of stories and artworks of life during the pandemic.

Six months on, what have been  the fruits  of ‘Creative Futures: Picking Up The Threads’?

The Lockdown Monologues are eight captivating tales written, directed and performed by Black women and women of colour of all ages. Local writers and actors responded to our call out for their stories.The participants received mentorship from an actor or director from a similar ethnic or cultural background. With this support, the  participants’ ideas were developed into filmed monologues and montages.

Some wistful, others humorous, all eight works are the product of deep reflection enabled by 2020: the year of imposed solitude. Behind the scenes, some of our writers were processing and analysing the events surrounding Black Lives Matter and the painful unravelling of systematic racism and resultant police brutality. Many of the monologues tell of powerlessness in the face of grand injustice. They grapple with themes of domestic violence, police brutality, immigration status, randomness and luck. Boldly and honestly, these works confront the external forces which threaten to derail the security, sanity and joy of Black women


Dawn Walton OBE, a mentor on the programme, writes: “The stories are varied but specific and urgent.  A story of missing the local swimming pool during lockdown becomes a fight for women’s health; birthday celebrations end in a life changing encounter with the police, a comic monologue on a bus has an unwelcome destination. The specificity of each piece gives them their universality. "
All the women have discovered new skills— writing/ storytelling/ acting/ dramaturgy and they have grown in confidence… All of them sat taller in their seats when they were done.”

 You can WATCH The Lockdown Monologues playlist

Runway of Life by Maxine Griffiths

The Lockdown Diaries are twelve written accounts of life during the pandemic. The opening entry, Lola Clinton’s ‘The Blue Sky Makes Me Hopeful’  feels oddly familiar. Makeshift hospitals, mass grave diggings, toilet rolls, overpriced garden manure and dirty pans all chatter happily amongst themselves. This playful, bouncing but lucid prose, extract narrated by Lati Saka, sounds like a loudspeaker projection of one’s own thinking mind.  Over Lockdown, weeks rolled into months and our moods vacillated— understandably but often unpredictably. Clinton deftly captures these shifts of mild panic to paranoid obsession, all the way through to avoidant, incompetent and despairing.

Most notable is Clinton’s address of our usage of social media during Lockdown and the alienating hyper-reality it places over us. Lati Saka wryly narrates that “Boris Johnson, Prince Charles, Tom Hanks and Marie’s neighbours got COVID-19”. Talking heads and family members alike appear to us on screen and are equally real. Clinton’s timeline soon reaches the end of May, and her entries fixate on George Floyd’s “live-streamed public execution”. His brutal suffocation is described with alarming precision. Clinton chews over the sterile and unmediated format in which this footage was passed around. Each of us hold and rewatch the eight minutes on repeat, but never really understand the violence we’ve seen. 

We are reminded, then, of the beauty and necessity of the diary entry.  Traditionally regarded as the casual pastime of women, its apparent lack of purpose other than to privately express one’s own thoughts means the diary is usually derided as a less serious artform. We now live in an age where information is not only abundantly available but usually finds its way to us before we can ask for it. Consequently, we are absorbing and reacting to endless streams of new information. Clinton’s diary beautifully showcases an alert, conscientious, flowing mind as it strives to wrangle a moment of global turmoil into order. 

Listen to the full reading of Lockdown Diary 1: The Blue Sky Makes My Hopeful

The 12 Lockdown Diaries have been weaved together into an anthology and in separate extracts, you can read them all here:

Twenty eight young women of colour gathered online to share their thoughts and conversations on the transition of life before lockdown to during, and express hopes for life after the pandemic.  This workshopping and mentoring was provided by Tottenham-based charity KORI, in response to a brief set by Collage Arts. KORI provide one-to-one support, training and advocacy for young people. 

Thoughtfulfrank and caring, these discussions were transformed into an ebook as well as an audio-visual piece. Three vibrant and evocative pieces of art were also created by Laurie Fitzgerald, Sheila Maurie-Grey and Lydia Newman for the occasion and now displayed in the windows of Karamel (Coburg Road N22 6UJ), alongside commissioned piece of art, 'Pains of 2020' by Damel Carayol (pictured above).

The women talked about wake-up calls – both personal and for society. Whilst the women acknowledge this had been a difficult year, there was a great sense of optimism and hope that change was coming. As one of the women said: “I feel like a lot of us are shedding skin, really acknowledging some of the issues in the world and in our lives, I feel like we are moving towards a collective healing.”

E-book link and audio visual below. 
We had the privilege of working in collaboration with Tomorrow’s Warriors, the youth charity promoting accessibility, inclusivity and diversity in the Jazz community. Together we supported five women of colour to create new original compositions based on their experiences of Lockdown. The young composers gained expert mentoring from Cassie Kinoshi (SEED ensemble) to develop their ideas into full compositions.

Amazingly, two of the young women, Mia Runham and Amy Gadiaga, put their bands together with young musicians from Tomorrow’s Warriors in time to premiere their music online on 19th November at the EFG London Jazz Festival 2020 filmed in our venue, Karamel. 

Extracts of the Lockdown Compositions from the show: 

Mia Runham septet – Lockdown composition by Mia Runham

Amy Gadiaga quartet – Lockdown composition by Amy Gadiaga  

Watch the full show below.  

EFG London jazz Festival 2020
Creative Futures Lockdown online events and workshops have been led by Sarah Buller at Collage Works. A series of events and workshops working with young women of colour primarily 18 to 30, transforming their experiences into poems, films,  creative writingillustrations. (online showcase below). 

The most recent event was a conversation between Almass Badat (creative director and DJ), Olivia Lifungula (journalist and presenter) and Jackie Adedeji (photographer and filmmaker). Through the discussion of racism in the creative industries, our audience members gained invaluable insight into overcoming barriers to their own career goals

A showcase of the work arising from this strand is on display in the windows of Collage Artspace 4 in Wood Green's Library Mall, High Road and a digital Creative Futures Online Showcase is available below

Online Showcase
Copyright © 2020 Collage Arts, All rights reserved.

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