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Bobbi Byrne: Going Places

By | Published on Sunday 21 October 2018

Coming up at Battersea Arts Centre is the second Going Places festival – a week of events related to, and created by, care experienced people, staged to coincide with National Care Leavers Week 2018.

To find out more about the festival and its creator, I spoke to Bobbi Byrne, founder and artistic director.

CM: Can you start by explaining the focus of Going Places?
BB: Its focus is to celebrate the talent and work of care experienced artists, speakers and creatives that’s happening across the country. It’s about the coming together of care experienced persons, social care professionals and theatre audiences to showcase and stage incredible stories of care experience. It explores the care system’s historic roots, and looks forward to what people’s aspirations are for it in the future.

CM: How did the festival come about, and how did you come to be programming?
BB: I have been working in participatory programmes at Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) for almost 4 years. The building is all about community, so talking with my colleagues and the senior producers about the idea took very little persuasion. It’s risky for them in some ways, as I have very little experience producing theatre, so they have wrapped support around the idea to make it happen and advocated that at the core of the festival are those who have lived care experience.

BAC are constantly questioning what their civic duty is as a theatre space and how art can be a vehicle for social change, it’s in their brickwork! The theatre was the very ground where pioneering social activist Jeanie Nassau Senior formed the foundations of foster care in the 19th century, so BAC is the perfect place for this festival. Perhaps it was fated I would be working here at this time, who knows!

CM: What would you say are the aims of ‘Going Places’?
BB: Our aspiration is to build a community of care experienced persons, social care professionals and theatre audiences to both showcase and stage the incredible stories of care experience and to reimagine and strive for a society that champions its children in care, and the adults who live with care experience.

CM: How did you go about programming the event? How did you decide what to stage as part of it?
BB: I have tried to programme a festival I would have wanted to go to as a care leaver. And one I desperately need as an adult.

We have had a lot of conversations in the last 6 months, building on our first iteration of the festival in 2017. We’ve chatted to social care and sector professionals about best practice and the leaving care service currently. We’ve had meetings, attended events, conferences and talks to meet folks who are wanting to be a part of this conversation and who are celebrating the work of care experienced persons. I have utilised personal and informal networks of care experienced friends, artists, creatives and speakers to stage the great work they are doing and to include stories of adoption, kinship care, foster care, resettlement from prison and even stories of falling through the gaps.

We have also shared an open call out for care experienced artists through BAC’s network, and care experienced networks online. We have importantly included discussions surrounding forgiveness and the part that may or could play within this discussion, exploring both the possibilities and limits of forgiveness within the context of both experiencing trauma and building services that respond to supporting trauma survivors. We couldn’t include everyone, so I am already excited for next year!

CM: Can you tell us about what events to expect?
BB: The week features shows from award winning poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay MBE (with special guest Stewart Lee) and Beatboxer and theatre maker Conrad Murray. Workshops facilitated by pioneering Social enterprises Element and Settle, talks from prominent voices across the social care sector and book readings from authors Allan Jenkins and Sally Bayley and much more – it guarantees to be beautiful and dynamic week!

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your own show..? What’s it all about?
BB: It’s a new show that explores living with historic care experience. I examine my records of the time, and journey to understand who I was and where I came from, while working to create new records in my present, to capture who I am becoming today. The show explores the fragility surrounding memories and where they are stored, how previous incarnations of the self don’t always remain previous, and the struggles involved in moving on. I’ve been working with artist and theatre maker Peter McMaster as my director

CM: It’s a scratch performance, isn’t it? What hopes do you have for it in the future?
BB: Sure thing, it’s brand new, so we are testing ideas and themes that have arisen in the process of rehearsal. I do hope to work further with Peter to develop the piece into a show i can tour.

CM: Did you always want a career in the arts? How did you end up where you are?
BB: I have always been a storyteller. You can be a storyteller in any walk of life, it just so happens I am working right now in the arts. I ended up where I am because I have been looking for connection I think. To others, but importantly to myself. I think art gives you that, it cracks you wide open!

CM: What plans or ambitions do you have for the future?
BB: I’d love to see Going Places Festival in every city in the country! And i really just want to keep storytelling.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
BB: Well, I work part time as the Head of Philanthropy at a digital marketing agency in the city, and the day after the festival ends I am taking a group of 20+ employees to climb Mount Toubkal in Morocco to raise funds awesome London-based social enterprise, Year Here. After that, I’ll head home and probably have a cup of tea and a long bath!


Going Places is on at Battersea Arts Centre from 24 Oct-3 Nov, see this page here for more info and the full line up of events.