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Blog One - Fostering a Culture of Reflection

Blog post one
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Before I begin, I would like to express our gratitude to ACW and WMC for the continued support of this project. Particularly at a time when funding resources are low and there is a grey cloud of unpredictability over not just our industry, but many others. The current political, economical, environmental and social environment at present is uneasy, at times untenable and leaves us all in a state of uncertainty and discomfort.



I want to acknowledge the art makers of Wales, and ask that in these difficult and challenging times we seek to support and uphold one another, share our experiences and work together to find a brighter, rich & cultured tomorrow. I know there are many very worthwhile projects, companies and individuals who are struggling to secure funding and resources and to get their projects off the ground. I have had many conversations with friends, colleagues, industry leaders, artist/makers, highly skilled and talented people, all of whom share this huge sense of unease. It is in these conversations I have come to realise that some comfort can be taken in that we are all in this together, and we can all get through this together. Our doors are always open to anyone who wants to chat and the kettle (albeit largely metaphorical) is always on.


Afterall, it is only through thinking about where we have been and where we are now that we can see and consider the future. In this first in a series of (at least) 12 monthly blogs by myself, the House of Deviant Kings and Queens and other members of the project, we will do just that, a brief history, followed by some musings on where we go next.


Ffyrnig/Ffierce (2023)

Without giving away any spoilers (our impact report will be made public shortly), 2023 was a year of huge growth for the House of Deviant. The funding we received from ACW, and the continued support from Wales Millennium Centre, Innovate Trust, Mencap Cymru and Gig Buddies enabled our kings & Queens to grow professionally, personally and as a community.


Being able to share their journey and witness their growth was (and is) a huge privilege. To see the difference this project makes not just to our members, but their families and support networks, our audience and to the wider learning disabled community is just beautiful. To be able to share it with people is a joy and we are humbled by the love and support we get from our communities, audiences, supporters and followers. It genuinely means a lot, to myself, to our team and most importantly to our kings & Queens.


Ffablas 2024

We have been extremely lucky to have been awarded funding to continue our professional development training and to also increase our outreach work beyond the Draglettes group and forming connections with groups outside of South Wales. We will be working with Mencap Cymru to deliver peer led workshops with disability groups across Wales, offering a taste of drag performance to groups and individuals who cannot usually attend our events.


On top of this we will also be able to continue working with professional artists, learning and growing together to expand and nurture the skills of our Kings, Queens and Draglettes. We have opportunities to work with professional arts practitioners who have skills they want to share with us, and who will benefit and gain experience working in an inclusive arts practice. If you haven't already, check out our opportunities page to find out how you could apply to be part of the project.


We are also excited to be performing in a range of events and performances over the next 12 months. Our first show of the season is on the 11ᵗʰ May at WMC - Eurovision Watch Party (tickets here) and our Kings & Queens are especially excited to be performing their first ever unsupported performance at Hijinx’s Unity festival in July (tickets here). We also have performances booked in the Riverfront theatre, Pride Cymru Parade and other events across Wales. If you haven't yet seen our performances and shows, hopefully we'll see you at one this year? Come and say hey!


Each month we will be creating a blog post on our website and sharing across social media channels. You can expect to hear about updates, news, reflections, and anything and everything the Kings and Queens wish. We would love you to engage with us, leave comments, share thoughts and ideas, share, like, the usual! it all helps to know we aren't just shouting into an abyss and that our supporters believe enough in our work to continue championing us!



Reflective thinking and coproduction


I have been working with the Kings, Queens and Draglettes to think reflectively. In my experience as a teacher, support worker, artist, director and just about anything I've ever done, reflective thinking skills have been vital to the growth, development and understanding of the world around me and the position of myself/my work within it.


These skills are vital for any artist/creative practice, and so in the kings & Queen's missions to be the professional artists they aspire to be, reflective thinking has (and continues to be) something that we develop and nurture. Much of our successes as a project comes from the reflections of our members.


Through weekly one to one reflection sessions with myself, alongside their own thinking journals and regular reflexive sessions with The Body Hotel, our Kings and Queens have developed the skills to think about thinking, think about their learning, and how to use it to become better performers. It has been a key tool for them to understand themselves better, and their place in the world. As a result they have grown in confidence and independence, both as artists, and as individuals.


We have built in supported reflective thinking time within the whole organisation. Every staff member (including freelance staff) have paid time to reflect and share their thoughts and offer insights and observations. As an additional layer I have fortnightly reflective supervisions with a member of my board - a term we have coined as 'process supervision'. These sessions allow me to feed up ideas, issues, changes from the ground up in real time and enables the project to be proactive and dynamic, making changes as and when they are needed instead of taking a reactive approach only when problems arise.


As we run the project (and to a larger extent, the organisation) coproductively, this rich culture we have fostered ensures that our members, staff and other stakeholders are active voices in the management and direction of the company. Our people are not passive participants of a service or actors ordered around by an artistic director with a rigid script. They are strong voices equipped with the skills and confidence to make real decisions, in real time, and they are a vital voice in the work we do, not just creatively, but organisationally too.


The agreement I made with the Queens when they first asked me to teach them to be drag queens was that they must do it themselves. They must make their own decisions and have the control over the project. Whilst I can guide them and advise them, the decisions need to be theirs. It has taken years of crafting this culturally in the project, and it continues to be refined, redefined and grown as an organisational culture, but it is well worth it, and the results are something that organisationally, and personally

I am very proud of.

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