Blog:
Alicia Womersley

The young artist on making the move into being a producer

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For the past six months, I’ve been part of Emergency Exit Arts’ national Young Producer Programme. The scheme grew out of the commemorations of the centenary of World War One, looking towards the future that young people across the country want to see.

Along with our group in Dewsbury, young people in Stoke, Sheerness and Peterbough have all been producing their own section of Blink, which will have its premiere in Dewsbury on Saturday 9 November.

Here in Dewsbury, Iqra, Hamish, Jonny, Corrie, Chris, Josh, Shazia and I have been training with Creative Scene. We’ve been taking time out from work, school and college to work with the team there to uncover the history of peace-building, activism and community in West Yorkshire.

I first heard about the Paper Peace Young Producers Programme through Donna Munday, the original producer of the Batley and Spen Youth Theatre Company, who worked on the production of Les Misérables in honour of our late MP Jo Cox that I performed in back in August 2017. I didn’t have any experience (and very little knowledge!) of what producing actually was, but I was keen to find out more and improve my own skills as an artist.

I joined the group in March 2019 and we began researching the history of our local area, and the influential people and peacemakers who have lived here. We ended up focusing on the life of Arthur Gardner, a conscientious objector from Huddersfield, who directly inspired our theme of acts of resistance within our section of Blink.

We visited Huddersfield Heritage Quay to look at artifacts that related to him and find out why he was so influential at the time. One particularly important part for me was reading Arthur’s defence and how eloquent he still was when defending his beliefs. The fact that he stood by his beliefs to not fight felt relatable to myself also, as I would always oppose violence where possible.

After we’d researched and discussed as a team, we put together a brief for an artist to transform our research into an installation. We commissioned David Boultbee from Bread Collective, because we thought he most effectively captured our local heritage and aims while envisioning an idea that would be simple yet thought-provoking. We can’t wait for audiences to come down to Blink on Saturday 9 November to see how David has transformed Arthur Gardner’s acts of resistance into an installation for the whole family to try out.

I’ve learnt how vital it is to not create my own artistic vision of a project as a producer but to leave that part to our artist

Everyone always asks me what I’ve learned being part of the Young Producers Scheme, and the honest answer is: so much. Primarily, I’ve learned what a producer’s job actually is and what it entails. Being a producer means making our work inclusive and accessible for everyone, keeping an eye on the budget, production management and planning for the actual day, which includes everything from talking to the council about road closures to making sure we’ve got first aid on site. We’ve also learned how to think about marketing the event through the basics like posters, flyers and social media and using more creative ideas like running workshops with schools and giving assemblies about our time as young producers.

I’ve also made a close group of friends in Iqra, Hamish, Jonny, Corrie, Chris, Josh and Shazia. I already knew Jonny from the Batley and Spen Youth Theatre, but it’s great to have a bigger team of colleagues, who are all on exciting paths in our burgeoning careers. I can’t wait to see what they all do in the future (and I hope we all get to work together again).

Personally, and as an artist myself, I’ve learnt how vital it is to not create my own artistic vision of a project as a producer but to leave that part to our artist. I’ve learned to let go of what has drifted from involvement in the piece, even if it has taken a lot of time and effort, and how to be OK with that. It’s such a creative and fast moving process to be a producer; you can’t risk thinking of anything but the present and preparing for the future.

Alicia Womersley is pictured sitting on the floor, underneath the P in Peace

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