A Year of Imagining

Over the last couple of weeks, the Touretteshero Team has been resting and relaxing, the Christmas holidays being the only time each year that we all stop together. This has given me a chance to think about everything we’ve done together this year.

When reflecting on 2022 I’ve realised it’s been a year in which we did a lot of imagining: imagining the type of organisation we want to be, imagining the team we need, imagining new creative projects, and imagining the ways we could act in solidarity with our communities and with the planet.

I’ve created an image that sums up some of the things all this imagining has made possible.

A digital drawing by Jess Thom illustrating the highlights of 2022 for Touretteshero. The image is split into a grid with 12 sections – one for each month of the year. January is top left and December is bottom right. Alongside the name of the month is a colourful drawing of something significant from the year. The top row of images include: A drawing of a set of shelves with the word Activity Plan underneath – on the shelves are all the things the Touretteshero team plan to do. There’s also a drawing of Mountview the building Touretteshero’s new office is in. There’s a logo for Feeling Our Way a collaboration with Wellcome Collection and a sonic story diagram which is a soundwave showing the noisy and quiet parts of a performance. The Middle row illustrations include two wheelchair users playing together, a biscuity space scene, the Practical Intervention Fund logo and a drawing of an outdoor music festival. The bottom row drawings are: Touretteshero wearing a mask. A colourful trojan horse and the text NPO OMG, a lamppost standing tall in a jumble of biscuits and the logos for three organisations who have come together to provide micro commissions for disabled artists. You can read more about what each of these illustrations relate too in Touretteshero’s round of the year blog post.

In January we started work on our application to join Art Council England’s (ACE) National Portfolio. The portfolio is made up of the organisations (NPOs) they give regular funding to. I like the idea of having a national collection of organisations that are making creative things happen in their communities, but only if it reflects the breadth and diversity of those communities. Historically, disability culture and disabled-led organisations have been under-represented in the National Portfolio, something we talked about a lot when we were deciding whether we should apply. The application process is very demanding so working on it took up a big chunk of the year. It also meant we had lots of big conversations both within the team and with our partners, and we’ve made some exciting plans for the years ahead.

By February we had at last moved into our office space at Mountview. We were due to be there from April 2020, but the pandemic has meant that it was only safe for us to start working there together this year.

The first of three events we co-curated with Wellcome Collection happened in March. The series was called Feeling Our Way and it explored touch from disabled and neurodivergent perspectives. The first event, Reaching Out, explored social touch. The second event, Personal Touch, explored our individual relationships with touch, and the final event, Invisible Touch, provided space to think and talk about touch and care. Each event had a mix of in-person experiences and non-physical participation activities for those unable to participate in person. These included, video, audio pieces, booklets and an online touch trail, made up of photos, diaries and interviews.

From April our Director of Research and Consultancy Dr Will Renel led on the roll-out of Sonic Stories. These share the sonic landscape of performances in a visual way so that audiences can understand what to expect from how the piece sounds. These sonic stories are now regularly being provided at places like The Globe and The Royal Shakespeare Company.

In May we worked with our friends at Oasis Play to plan an event and a zine to celebrate inclusive play in Lambeth. A Time To Play took place in early June and was a glorious day of making, playing and being together.

Also in June, a project we’d been imagining for many months became real as we landed our spaceship, the Starship Biscuit, in Braunschweig, Germany as part of Festival Theaterformen. Journey To A Better World invited disabled and non-disabled astronauts of all ages to travel with us through time and space. Together we imagined what the world could and should look like.

A photo of a black person pulling a giant bubble over a standing child so that the bubble encloses them and looks like a teleporter. The words Teleport are behind them.Photo By : Andreas Greiner-Napp

In July the Touretteshero Practical Intervention Fund (PIF) supported 55 disabled children and adults across the UK to access new equipment to support their wellbeing. Excitingly we also heard that we’d been successful in some funding applications to support our Solidarity Programme over the next few years, which means we’ll be able to run the PIF again in 2023.

Shambala Festival in August each year has been a big part of my journey as a performer – it was there in 2012 that I first got on a stage. I was keen to return to Shambala a decade on, but at the same time, as someone Clinically Extremely Vulnerable to COVID, this was nerve-wracking. We planned this trip and weighed up the risks carefully, and then had an amazing weekend. It felt powerful to be able to participate in this outdoor festival after years of shielding.

In September we worked with Southbank Centre on The Masked Ball, an in-person event that centred the access requirements of those of us at higher risk from COVID. This was a creative experiment, and you can read more about the event and what we learned here.

In October we were told that our NPO application had been successful. This was incredibly exciting if slightly daunting news. It means that lots of the things we’ve been planning and imagining can now happen in the coming years.

In November we returned to Biscuitland in two ways. Firstly we completed the second phase of research and development for our new piece Burnt Out In Biscuit Land which we’ll be touring in 2023. Secondly, our TV pilot Biscuitland landed on Channel 4 and YouTube.

And December saw the announcement of a series of micro commissions for disabled artists based in or near each of the locations we’ll be touring to in 2023. This partnership with Unlimited and the Collaborative Touring Network (CTN) will see new works developed on the broad themes of invisibility, isolation, joy, and resistance. You can find out more about these creative opportunities here.

We’ve been working on plenty of other things that are still being imagined that we can’t share yet, but we’ve got some big plans including developing this website so it can be a proper digital home for our work and our communities.

Right now, though, I’m going to get back to relaxing and resting so I’m ready for the New Year. Love and solidarity from everyone at Touretteshero.

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