With the idea for a full touring show somewhere in the back of my mind it seemed only natural that I would take the community engagement part into my work with Secret City Arts.  We secured funding for this through Birmingham City Council (Culture On Our Doorstep Fund)  and Active Arts Erdington. The plan was to work with Everyone Erdington, Erdington Arts Forum, Spitfire Services in Castle Vale and of course Active Arts we were going to run sessions for John Taylor Hospice and in The Secret Arts Space. I was so very excited. But before that all got off the ground two things happened

1) I was lucky enough to be one of the artists chosen to take part in Pilot Night at Birmingham REP and

2) Well I think you might be able to work the second one out …

But next stop Pilot Night and thinking about where  it might all lead to

Tell It To The Bees at Pilot Night

What is Pilot Night? It’s a scratch night were selected artists are given a small amount of development money and in our case rehearsal space at the REP for  a day.

It gave me the opportunity to explore taking my performance work into a bigger theatre Space, collaborate with musician Kate Luxmoore – think of a story in the context of “Telling The Bees” and bring in the excellent Titania Krimpas to offer some directorial advice. I also (thanks Pilot Team and co pilots Ali Belbin and Tyrone Huggins for being so blooming accommodating) to look at how the “engagement bit” of Story-Tea and the teas might sit in a theatre space – the learning is perhaps a longer conversation!

It was the most splendid process and experience. We had great feedback on the work and Kate’s music was sublime. It was also exceptionally useful and a luxury to have an outside eye as part of the process.

And it made me very clear about what I wanted to do after that Community Engagement phase (hopefully with Arts Council Funding)

But next stop was a bout of horrible illness that started a couple of days before Pilot Night performance 

Everything went on hold – the Arts Council Application, starting a range of exciting projects (including the community engagement side of Tell It To The Bees) and all my lovely bookings.

I had just got back on my feet, I had just submitted my Arts Council Application and I had just returned to work when

COVID-19 and Lock Down. The ACE application was made void. The community engagement side of the work was on hold. And then I decided to I had to do something for this years Dying Matters Week – it was too important to me not to. Next Stop Dying Matters Week 2020

The event also included the brilliant Joanne Tremarco with an extract from her show: The Birth of Death – see it when you can. I learnt about Crematoriums, ate delicious food and was served drinks bedecked with pommegranate seeds.

The space was a feast of colour and coffins, there was a DJ (funeral director by day) spinning the best in tunes played at funeral services.

I fell in love with my stories and I met all these marvellous woman, behind BrumYODO, many of them  work full time in End of  Life Care or  are  funeral professionals.

The experience, the ideas and a deep interest in wanting to use storytelling to open up conversations around death and dying had been found. It kept bubbling away and in the intervening year other ideas and interests began to brew! And Story-Tea was born!