Performer, theatre-maker, facilitator and fool

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The Whitworth has three emerging artists who are paid members of the core group; Whitworth Young Contemporaries. There will be a series of posts from Sophie, Bella and Jamil as they talk about this unique model, the challenges as well as skills and opportunities they have gained from it.

Bonjour, wagwan, hola, hello.  My name’s Jamil Keating.

I’m currently coming close to the end of what’s been a challenging, bizarre and overwhelmingly rewarding artistic-residency at the Whitworth.

For the past 6 months, I’ve been working with the Whitworth Young Contemporaries (WYC), a group based…all over the place really. We’re eagerly counting down the days till Valentine’s Day, not because of any sickly, commercial sentimentality. No. But because the 14th Feb is when the Whitworth finally opens its doors again and the WYC can stop hopping around Manchester in search of venues brave enough to house us.

Our main aim as a group is to make the Whitworth a space for young people through workshops and events that offer a collective skinny-dip into the deep, dark, mysterious pool that is ART. From projection mapping to screen printing, from hip-hop to performance art, we’ve played around with so many different art forms I almost forgot painting actually existed! This is why it’ll be so nice to be back in the building. Once the scaffolds are out and the sculptures are in, the fun really begins!

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As for me, I’m a performer, theatre-maker, facilitator and fool. I spend the majority of my time being the last one, despite my best intentions. I didn’t always want to be a fool however. I had noble aspirations of being a famous actor. A famous actor with a tiny, naked, golden-man holding a sword nestled in-between a picture of his mum and some pretentious jazz records. I got a decent head-start when I was accepted to drama school straight after college (a bad idea actor-people, get some life experience before drama school wrings it all out of ya) and spent the next 6-months drinking far too much and wasting my student loan on fancy cake and coffee (another bad idea, being a poor snob is not easy). Anyway, fast forward to February 2013 and I’m in hospital, pretending I’m the Queen with her gastroenteritis. Hop to March 2013 and I’m back in Manchester working as an assistant-drama teacher at my old college, humbled, slightly lost and slightly fatter.

Cut a long-story-short, the god of foolishness (Koalemos, check him out, I ain’t just chattin) had my back and I was invited to a group discussion for young performers, artists and creative kin alike to discuss contemporary theatre, live art and diversity, or the lack of. A big meaty discussion in which I ended up sharing this itch of an idea I had for an art piece, (a retrospective exhibition by a fictional 33 year old, female artist I called Tracy Lumpkin, with 6 real pieces made by 6 women of different ages, aged between 18-33) and was lucky enough to be asked to do the piece for a “biennial micro-festival of incidental intervention and sited performance” called HAZARD.

So after nearly a decade of seriously calling myself an actor I find myself in the middle of Manchester on the day of the festival, surrounded by people admiring the work of this young artist, Tracy Lumpkin, during her debut exhibition, pretending to be a festival volunteer, so technically I was still acting, but it was far from the classical idea of treading the boards. And that was it, I was hooked. The idea of just standing on a stage reading someone else’s lines (not to be too reductive) suddenly didn’t appeal as much as the whole creative process behind coming up with a crazy idea and slowly, painfully realising it. I wanted to be a thingy-maker, a happening-enabler, a fool who could make a living having fun and spreading subversive silliness.

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And so it was I applied for the job at the Whitworth.  I didn’t think I’d get it to be honest, as I was quite open about the fact I didn’t have a visual arts background, not even an arts GCSE, I had lots of experience facilitating but always in the theatre mountains, I never had the confidence to summit visual  arts peak. But the Whitworth saw the opportunity for a fresh pair of eyes and took a risk, one that has, to put it bluntly, changed my life. Having the opportunity to just play and learn all these amazing creative skills has expanded my technical base from non-existent to being an amateur projection mapping artist, wannabe screen-printer and still a desperately bad rapper. But seriously, having the luxury of time and space, to re-focus my energies and really reflect on where I am and where I want to go, has enabled me to really pull myself together and start the ball rolling in what should be a fulfilling career in the arts. I know for absolute certain, that hadn’t I been offered the residency, it would have taken twice as long to find the confidence and the stability necessary to make work I could be proud of. With that said, come April, I’ll be back, treading the boards again having been given the opportunity to develop a solo-show for one of Manchester’s most amazing theatres, can’t say too much yet but I can say, 100%, I wouldn’t be on that stage without the Whitworth’s support over the past 6-months.

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