Sore Thumbs ACW R&D, 15th-26th January 2018

I am embarking on an Arts Council of  Wales and Elysium Gallery supported research and development project this January. It’s a project that I’ve been chipping away at for the last few years and I’ve been able to, with the help and support from my friends, take two weeks out to concentrate on researching and developing my practice with the mentor-ship of Leeds-based performance maker and artist Ellie Harrison

Sore Thumbs, is my attempt to experience, remap and encourage a use of public space which is full of life, colour, unpredictability and play,  providing an alternative to what can be expected from everyday-life. It is a project about routeing performance in place to unlock and encourage conversations and pockets of experience linked to the human experience of death, grief and remembrance.

I begin the Sore Thumbs R&D in Swansea next week and will be collating my thoughts and feelings in a series of blogs posts between the 15th and 26th of January. The posts will be a mixture of working notebook and diary with images, sounds, video, questions and thoughts about how the project is developing. It would be great if you could find the time to read, listen, watch, get in touch or get involved. I hope you enjoy the posts and that they offer a little insight into the process.
sorethumbs logo WITH ARTS B&W
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THE END IS BY YUR ( ShellShock Theatre / Elysium Gallery, Swansea) March ’17

THE END IS BY YUR was an exhibition curated by ShellShock Theatre* and the Elysium as part of the gallery’s 10th anniversary celebrations exploring notions, images and ideas of the afterlife.

The exhibition opened with an evening of site-responsive and immersive performances throughout Swansea City Centre, ranging from a mini-rave outside a dilapidated nightclub, a preacher converting the audience to the cult of Tescos, and smoke grenades engulfing the high street. We continued to host an exhibition which included photography, instillation, music, sculpture and culminated with a Saturday of the DEAD, a day of walking, performances and interactions in the gallery and around Swansea City Centre during the month of March 2017.

The ShellShock Theatre team  regularly ponder notions of reality and religion, so it seemed about time that we launched a creative expedition into the afterlife. For many of us, death is a taboo topic that has the power to summon our fears and lead us to the darker places in our minds. But after running several smaller projects on grief and remembrance we realised that people are very willing to discuss the ins and outs of how they view the universe and their place in it. Essentially, the conversation always leads back to how one chooses to live.

We’re at a point in human history where our attentions are being drawn to sustainability and how we can reach it with our environment, our institutions and our own lives – we could learn a lot from one another by how we react when a heart stops beating. Death can provide a shortcut to a conversation about what we, collectively as people, are going to do to make things better while we’re still here.



*ShellShock is a creative partnership between Stephen Donnelly and Sian Stuttard.

We regularly use site-responsive performance in urban environments, direct address, autobiography, games and audience participation, encouraging audiences to perform, explore and co-author experiences in unexpected ways.

There’s usually alcohol and lots of shouting involved.

Our work has been shown in the cities of Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester and has been hosted at Elysium Gallery, Tactile Bosch, Chapter, Bristol Old Vic, Forest Fringe Edinburgh, London’s Southbank Centre and Somerset House.

A massive thank you to all THE END IS BY YUR Exhibitors;

Connor Allen | Jade Blood | Bourdon Brindille | Hex Ceramic | Kerry Challis-Thomas & Khaya Rees | Sam Chapman | Davies, Monaghan and Klein (DMK) Ben Faircloth | Anna Flemming Mark Folds | Slaven Gabric Konstantinos Grigoriadis | Olga Guse Penny Hallas | Ilona Kiss | Mandy Lane | Susu LaRoche | Simon LeBoggit | Michelle MacRae | Victoria Malcolm Enzo Marra | Bobby Nixon | Duncan Poulton | Lucy Purrington | S.R. Jimmy Hannah Scoular Eifion Sven-Myer & Laura Simmons | David Theobald Laurence Walker-Tonks | Manon Williams | Lewis Wright


Claire Avanell | Joanna Bond | Justin Cliffe | John Jones & David Hunter | Cinzia Mutigli Sarah Padbury Cerys Thomas-Ford Functionally Dysfunctional | Alison Hancock | Jessica Lerner | ShellShock | Simeon Smith | Marina Sossie | Sarah Younan | Howl Yuan

and those who put together opening night studio Installations;

Philip Cheater Kieron Da-Silva Beckerton | Scott Mackenzie | Euros Rowlands



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Levitate The Palace (TroubleMaker’s Festival, ’17)

Friends of The Palace Theatre – Swansea  teamed up with Troublemakers’ Festival to put together an event to raise awareness of the plight of Swansea’s Palace Theatre, one of the only purpose built musical halls left standing in the UK, and one of The Theatre Trusts most at risk buildings, by using it as avenue once again.

Inspired by Abbie Hoffman’s attempt to levitate the pentagon in the 60’s in a bid to stop the Vietnam War, Levitate The Palace was participatory event, part agit-prop theatre, part silent disco and part protest, designed to draw attention to the continuing dilapidated state of the iconic 123yr old building.


The Palace Theatre survived Swansea’s Three Nights’ Blitz during the Second World War and was the first venue in Wales to screen a silent movie. Swansea Council gave its Kent-based owners £75,000 to tidy and secure the building two years ago, but it still remains part fenced-off, after fears of falling masonry caused a fire-crew to be called out three years ago. It became a gay nightclub in the early 1980s and a dance venue in the 1990s, but has fallen into disrepair since, and has appeared on The Theatre Trust’s list of most at-risk venues in Wales and England.

As with all Friends of the Palace Theatre’s actions, Levitate The Palace was a chance to remind the owners of their responsibilities by a community who revere the building, and who live in an area which, through the owners inaction has been left in neglect.
The event was featured in national and regional press and we all got to have some surreal fun in the process.


Levitate The Palace was commisioned as part of TROUBLEMAKERS Festival in association with Elysium Gallery


Friends of The Palace Theatre Swansea is a constituted voluntary group with these stated aims;

To explore the restoration opportunities and protect The Palace Theatre (Swansea) from further decay and help to ensure the building’s survival for future generations.

To engage with Swansea Council and Landlords / Owners of The Palace Theatre, working in partnership with them and other organisations to ensure the building’s survival and its restoral to a safe usable condition; our aspiration is that renewed public uses and facilities can be re-established in the building.

To network and skill share with similar organisations focused on building and community regeneration Swansea, in Wales and the UK.



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getting lost in #dublin @thisisliveart @StephenHodgeX @CreateIreland

It’s DIY time again! I’m very excited at the chance of spending the next few days wandering/wondering the streets of Dublin with a cohort of architects and artist. Looking forward to getting lost, found, de-cluttered, re-connected, experiencing others practice and reflecting on my own. I’ve made the decision to go with bare minimum (notebook, pen, what I’m wearing, spare pants), allow myself zero tech for the duration and to walk from Dublin Airport to the city centre on arrival. I’ve brought my most comfortable shoes too.

See you on the other side x

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#Boozecrusadebath | Sat June 4, 8pm @FringeArtsBath #performance #games #play #transgression #byob


(Bring Your Own Booze, fancy dress encouraged)

***follow the carnage on twitter***


– a game to play whilst on (or disguised)
as a hen do

#selfieannihilation – RULES

AIM  OF THE GAME? To get as many interesting and original selfies as you can before you pass out / get arrested.

  • You will be awarded points for each of the selfies your group captures and tweets with the hastag #boozecrusdebath – no upload = no points.
  • You get one extra point for every additional non-player (i.e member of the public who is not part of the hen do) who agrees to be in the image with the group.
  • Every Group member must be in agreement about the photo you take. If a member of the group has a strong objection (e.g taking a group selfie, nude, in a church) the selfie must not be taken.

     *** extra points for originality and the
social media feedback that your selfies generate***

Here are some initial ideas to start you off;
A selfie with persons in Uniform (the more authoritative the better).
A selfie with a group of Football/Rugby/Sport Fans.
The group wearing traffic cones on their heads.
A staged argument / break up in the street.
A selfie with a discarded kabab container.
A selfie with a celebrity / celebrity look-a-like
A picture of your group acting like savages.
A picture of the custody officer releasing you from your cell.
An image of vomit on the floor / Someone being sick.
Staged / actual fornication in the street.
A picture of the group from the service side of the bar.
Mimicing street performers



The Politics and Poetics of Transgression – Peter Stallybrass and Allon white (Methuen, London, 1986) pg 144

Re-framing ‘Binge Drinking’ as Calculated Hedonism- empirical evidence from the UK Published in International Journal of Drugs Policy, special issue on ‘Pleasure and Drugs’, (eds.), M. Holt and C. Treanor, (2008), 19(5), 359-366


Part of TRANSGRESSION 2.0, an exhibition talking place as part of Fringe Arts Bath. Responding to the question; Is there any credible site of ‘transgression’ today? , artists and audiences are invited to explore modes of transgression and its failures in modern culture.

Curated by Karolina Szpyrko


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A Forum on the Art of Participation: What are the Aesthetics of Taking Part?

Looking forward to spending this weekend in Canterbury taking part in A Forum on the Art of Participation – you can keep up with all the doin’ and discussin’ here

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How Do The Dead Live? (Molecule R&D, TinShed Theatre Co., Project Space Newport)

In October 2015 I undertook an R&D residency in Newport’s Project Space where I posed the city the question “How Do The Dead Live?”.


My first aim for the project was to begin discussions about the rituals and routines we have for remembering the ones we’ve lost, and how we address these rituals when we feel they’re broken and how we go about renewing them. The idea had sprung from my own experience of my family’s annual pilgrimage to the beach to lay flowers in memory of my brother Paul. He’d never liked flowers as far as I remember (he’d always preferred steak and chips) so I doubted if he’d hanging around on a freezing beach in October waiting for some daffodils. I also wanted to find out what a South Wales style Day of the Dead event might look, feel, taste and sound like, taking cues from the stories people told me, their varied lives and cultures and the way they remembered those they had lost, instead of solely borrowing the imagery associated with the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Over ten days Newport surprised me with it’s openness and honesty. We remapped the city through memories and senses, scrawled our answers to the question over Project Spaces’ windows, led each other on memory walks through the streets and drank countless cups of tea. Every conversation I had in the Newport seemed like a collaborative sculpture, carefully chipping out a space of acknowledgement, mutual respect and understanding between sometimes opposing viewpoints, picking away at the red tapes which bound us up in social and cultural expectations on how, when and where to grieve ‘correctly’.  Learning how Newport dealt with loss opened up possibilities and avenues for collaborating on new ways of remembering. Each conversation, although beginning with the question ‘How do the Dead Live?’ came around to how the living cope with life and choose to embrace it, how we could learn a lot from one another by how we react when a heart stops beating.

The residency culminated in a party styled showing which attempted to bring these conversations together and included; stand-up with  audience participation, jive lessons, treasure hunts and dances in the street, sharing drinks and stories of our loved ones in parks, Marina Sossie dancing through the streets for the length of a cigarette in memory of her father, auditioning the audience for a new sibling and delivering a surf’n’turf to the River Usk.

My blog post on the process…

Molecule: How Do The Dead Live R&D

How do the Dead Live? (1) There’s nothing the dead like more than a nice cold beer

How do the Dead Live? (2) gallons of tea & tuning in

How do the Dead Live (3) gone but not forgetting / NEWPORT MATTERS

Have a gander on twitter via #deadlivenewport to see Newport’s answers to “How Do The Dead Live?”


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