Two years ago I embarked on a journey from London to be interviewed for the role of Creative Associate at NTW. I returned to the big smoke thinking that I had failed miserably as my interview went quite bad. The 'Wales' section in my future autobiography was to remain a figment of my imagination. However surprisingly I was given a reprieve, which I grabbed with both hands. I arrived at the second interview prepped and ready to give an account of myself which was a proper reflection of me. Finding out that I had been successful sent me over the moon. Couple of firsts for me, joining NTW would be my first full time role within the arts- scary, this was the first time I was living away from East London- kinda scary (home since I was 3) and first time I was more then 3 miles away from daughter for longer then a few weeks- really scary!
My first weekend at work was the 'Passion' in Port Talbot, and what a weekend it was. From sitting in on the rehearsals to making fish finger sandwiches - it was at this point that I realised this wasn't a normal set of people I was going to be working with. So once the dust had settled and I started to get my feet under the table many questions were posed and I needed to get my thinking cap on. Developing what had already been a very successful strand of the company in its inaugural year, 'Assembly' needed some changes but what were these changes? What was the social landscape of Wales? What was NTW’s reach outside of the communities it directly worked within? Clearly one way to find out - a bike ride across Wales to get to know the landscape and indulge in some much needed research. What started as a bit of joke quite rapidly became a reality. The day drew nearer, my nerves started to frail a bit, could I pull out? I thought of excuses and reasons why this wasn’t a good idea. However the adventurer in me knew this would be an amazing experience and I would cycle away better for it. So I went for it! Two weeks of peddle power in order to understand the geography, people and really get a sense of Wales.
So after an amazing two weeks of learning, meeting and cycling - my brain was full to the rafters with ideas and possibilities of what Assembly could become and how the current model could be developed further, more importantly I realised what it shouldn't become. So with further research and thoughts, the decision was taken to launch the new look 'Assembly'. An 'Assembly' event, which would be democratically elected, suggested by individuals, companies or groups, from four regions across Wales and picked by you the general public and delivered by a team of trained practitioners. I now needed a team - the 'A-Team' (Assembly Team).
After this the job of getting the message out for proposals got underway:
We received a great deal of interest and the voting certainly caught the public imagination and after quite a hectic last few hours, a proposal from Splott & Adamsdown emerged victors for the first democratically elected NTW Assembly.
The second in West Wales took place in Carmarthen-
The third in Mid Wales in Machynlleth -
The fourth in North Wales in Glynllifon -
Each Assembly dealt with issues ranging from young people and their role within their community to NHS provisions and planned cuts, multi-national companies moving into town to access of local parks and public spaces. We worked with a range of people from across Wales and empowered communities to speak up about pertinent local issues.
After the first four we evaluated and thought about what the next stage might be:
Out of this evaluation came a sense that we needed to spend longer and provide more resources and really take the debate to the next level - a decision was made to launch the first NTW Super Assembly.
Ideas and proposals came in from all corners of Wales, the public voted their preferred proposals and the winners came in the form of Bangor Youth Group (BYGS) and their proposal to engage in 'why there was such a lack of opportunities for young people in Bangor'. The final event utilised local politicians, social experiments and young people to create the premise of our 'Super Assembly'.
So after all that excitement one might wonder what could possibly be next. Well fear not, we have an idea, let's take Assembly on to the international stage - test it out somewhere different, why not Japan?
So here I am feeling ready but quite nervous and extremely excited to export this model, which has been developed through various stages to a point where we are quietly confident that it will cause a stir in the 'land of the rising sun'.
What’s it going to be? Well a performance debate event of course! We want it to take place during our residency in Tokyo at the New National Theatre. Using some of the themes from the play 'Opportunity of Efficiency' - Energy, Efficiency, Economy and Environment, we are aiming to create an event, which creates debate and discourse. We will involve the Welsh public and their views and opinions through short videos created in Wales and have their Japanese counterparts share views also through videos. So keep you eyes and ears locked in and listening as ‘Assembly’ goes global.
Finally that brings me to the fact that this is my final ‘Assembly’ project as Creative Associate and boy has it been 2 years to remember. From a train from Paddington to biking over the 'mountains' in Wales to the streets of Tokyo - can't complain but can certainly say that there is a twinge of sadness. As I pass this on to my successor there is certainly a sense of passing on a project, which has caught the imagination, enabled and empowered all those involved. What will the next stage be? Where will it go next? Watch this space!
But before that keep watching to find out how I get on in Japan - feed me your thoughts about the themes of Energy, Efficiency, Environment and Economy or just see how I get on.
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