[Here’s something from James of Action Hero about Residence, an artist-led collective of companies and individuals based in Bristol who make theatre, performance and live art. Members include both Action Hero themselves and Ed Rapley, who will also be at Forest Fringe with some of his solo work.]
A few weeks ago Residence were forced to move. The council had decided they needed the old police station we were in and so we found a new space (coincidentally another police station) and moved in. The day we moved was an uncharacteristically hot day in May and at the end of the day as we all stood in our new space overwhelmed by the work that needed doing and bickering about where things should go someone suggested we needed to go for a swim to cool off. So we jumped in our hired van and drove to a river near Bath picking up a bottle of champagne on the way and jumped in. As I swam on my back I listened to the others who only a year ago I had never met and started to realise the essential brilliance of what, as a group, we had achieved.
As artists when you’re all sitting on your own in your bedrooms competing for the same limited pots of arts council money and the same limited opportunities its easy to see other companies as a threat. Its easy to be overly judgemental of other peoples work or jealous of those who are getting attention. In the short time we’d all been part of one organisation that competitive edge has gone, we can see more clearly how collectively we are stronger and the support we give each other is more important than anything else because it is what drives us to continue making work and its what pushes the quality of the work higher. Instead of moaning over a pint in the pub or sulking at home we were swimming in a river drinking Bollinger.
Now before you shoot me for my disgusting smugness let me defend myself. Setting up Residence has not been easy and as an organisation we are far from perfect. There have been many obstacles on the way and there have been conflicts and tears and we’re still facing new issues everyday that often seem insurmountable. But I guess its these challenges that stop most people beginning such a venture and I wanted to paint the (sickeningly) idyllic picture above because I really want to encourage those who are maybe tentatively putting their toes in the water at the moment to jump right in. What I didn’t tell you about that day was that we got lost trying to find the river and spent 2 hours walking through fields treading in cow shit and grumbling before we got there but that’s the thing about idyllic rivers. You have to walk through cow poo to get there.
Residence came about because a few like minded artists wanted somewhere to rehearse, office space and to feel more connected with each other. We’d all been making work at home in our bedrooms, and felt isolated doing that. So Residence was really a response to the problems we all faced making performance work as young companies in Bristol: can we support each other, can a dialogue between artists help us all make better work, can we pool our resources for the collective good?
We had no plan, and we still have no mission statement. We’re a loosely bound group who are united by similar needs. We have just tried not to limit ourselves by using what has gone before as a model, we’re trying to focus on the specific opportunities that exist in today’s environment and how we can benefit from that. Once a few of us started, more people joined us, more opportunities arose and soon we had something resembling an organisation. I’m really excited to be part of the Forest Fringe this year because its been set up in a really similar way and is showing how artist led initiatives can make all the difference. To be able to create a like-minded supportive, creative community in the middle of the pot noodle musical meat market that is Edinburgh is no mean feat and I can’t wait to see what fun it brings. See you there!
You can find out more about Residence on their website or simply by finding James and Gemma of Action Hero or Ed while they’re at Forest Fringe.
Action Hero will be showing a work in progress of their new show Watch Me Fall from Tue 5 – Thu 7 at 5pm