Working with Babeworld on inaugral Digital Routes programme
6th October 2021
Welcome to Digital Routes – our brand new artist development programme for early-career artists from underrepresented backgrounds who are based in the north of England.
We’ve spent a lot of time, particularly the past couple of years, thinking about the best help we here at imitating the dog would have liked to have received at the start of our theatre-making careers, and subsequently what we could offer to others starting out in our complex industry. Developing new work has always excited us, as has collaborating with new artists and voices – so Digital Routes seemed like the perfect path to take!
2021 has been the project’s inaugural year, beginning in the summer and running right through until the end of December. And we’ve been delighted to mark the first steps of this project by partnering up with Babeworld, a performance company led by Ashleigh Williams and Ingrid Banerjee Marvin.
Digital Routes has seen the company work with imitating the dog artists and collaborators to develop a new piece of work using digital technology, as well as working on their organisational development. As part of the programme, Babeworld were supported with seed funding to develop the new piece of work, rehearsal space, mentoring sessions and producing support.
Head on further down the page for more about Babeworld, a link to an earlier blog about Babeworld’s involvement in DR and photos of the company’s R&D at The Dukes in Lancaster from November.
The Digital Routes programme has also included a series of masterclass sessions led by imitating the dog Associate Practitioners and visiting artists, including Keisha Thompson, Paula Varjack, and Andrew Crofts. These sessions have been attended by early career artists from across the North.
Digital Routes is generously funded by National Lottery Project Grants through Arts Council England, and supported by The Dukes Lancaster, Leeds Playhouse, and the New Adelphi Theatre at University of Salford.
It’s been such a tough time for everyone across our industry and society, so it feels like a hopeful and joyous thing to be able to run a project all about developing new work. It’s become harder than ever to be an emerging or early-career artist; many without the networks that come from experience, and sometimes privilege, have really been struggling to stay working in this sector. This has also been a time of addressing long overdue conversations, and coming to terms with how theatre sometimes fails those we profess to support. Simply put, those most at risk of leaving the sector are those that were already marginalised and least likely to participate. We know that right now has to be a time of action, so we hope that in running the Digital Routes programme we are helping to forge a better, more inclusive, more diverse, and ultimately happier and artistically excellent arts sector.
Babeworld is led by Ashleigh Williams (she/her) and Ingrid Banerjee Marvin (she/her) and seeks to create a more representative art world through the creation of art, fundraising and creating grants, and facilitation of events – for those who are marginalised in the arts. With an emphasis on collaboration and co-creation, Babeworld’s practice focuses on themes of political and societal identity, specifically disability/access, neurodivergence, sex work and race.
Babeworld run the lecture series ‘Don’t Worry I’m Sick and Poor’, and they have been commissioned by organisations including East Street Arts, PAF London, Montez Press, Huffpost, Gal-Dem, Shape Arts, Unlimited, Deptford X, Leeds 2023, White Cube, Grey Moth,nd Institute of Contemporary Art.
Halfway Between (CSSD and Home) is an autobiographical show which utilises the technology Babeworld use most (Instagram, Twitch, Signal, Video Games, the NHS prescription app), their favourite clips from popular culture (The Quintessential Quintuplets, Megan Thee Stallion music videos, etc.) and cardboard, handmade pieces of set to build a world where boundaries between physical home and digital homes blur.
The show will deep dive areas like mental health provisions and online sex work, using digital technology to create an accompanying neurodivergent world of sensory overload, masking and crip time. In this piece, Babeworld hopes to share with audience members the chaotically ordered life of a neurodivergent, disabled, POC sex worker and allow them to understand how these intersecting identities can seep into every corner of day to day life.
We know that right now has to be a time of action, so we hope that in running the Digital Routes programme we are helping to forge a better, more inclusive, more diverse, and ultimately happier and artistically excellent arts sector.