By Charlotte Arnold
Picture this, 2020, height of summer, the pandemic and general corona frustration, Anna and I were sat in the front garden of my old house throwing ideas around. We’d made a few small sketches in the first six months or so of our collaboration, but we were trying to land on the one big idea that we could flesh a whole project around. A performance project that felt adventurous, and complex and an excuse to dive deep into research and creating.
During this time, it felt like an increasingly frustrating time to be an artist. We had had performances cancelled, teaching had migrated online and future projects were delayed, postponed and then abandoned. It felt, to me, that the world was telling me to stop being creative, yet the world was picking up crochet, painting and yoga as creative outlets to process isolation. The irony was not lost on me – at a time of peak creativity for the general population, the opposite was true for me.
It was in fact this very situation that sprung the idea of Cautivas. We conceived a world where being creative was illegal and perpetuated by a fierce dictatorial political regime. We would pit good against evil, artist against politician, a power struggle told through dance theatre.
We spent the rest of summer reading, and watching and listening, immersing ourselves in preliminary research to find real world examples of artists being marginalised, and politicians who had advocated anti-art regimes. We started fleshing out characters, a basic storyline and improvising scenes, that to be honest I doubt were any good, but felt great at the time.
Now that we had landed on the idea and felt that it had feet, we pondered how to make it happen. To date we had done a lot of projects off our own backs. Self-funding studio space and giving time for free. This wasn’t sustainable long term, not only because it made meeting living costs difficult, but also because it played into this idea of artists working for free, and devoting their lives to the sake of art. Art is essential to life, as proved by everyone’s reliance on it during the pandemic, and therefore artists who facilitate this art, also need to be valued. We needed to value ourselves, and so this project was only going to happen with funding and support from partners.
Our path to funding took about half a year. Half a year of meetings and application writing, budgets and timelines. It was the first time we had written a large bid, so there was a large amount of figuring it out on the way. And so, slowly Cautivas moved from thought, to concept, to proposal to a project. Now we just had to get the funding.