Blue Teapot Theatre Company and Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture are pleased to present a digital mini-series ‘The Festival that never was, the celebration that is’, as part of the programme for Galway’s European Capital of Culture 2020.
The digital mini-series highlights a nine year span of work for the theatre company. That encapsulates the many highlights of Crossing the Line, a network of leading European arts organisations for intellectually disabled artists and their Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture journey from inception of the bid book to present day.
Along with six partner organisations from Sweden, Poland, Netherlands, England, Wales & France, Blue Teapot worked towards their most ambitious project yet – Crossing The Line Festival with over 100 Irish and European artists, and theatre makers due to participate in a first for a European Capital of Culture. Programmed for May 2020, the festival was cancelled as a result of the pandemic and Blue Teapot’s flagship theatre show ‘Into the Dark Woods’ by Charlene Kelly was reimagined.
Speaking about Into the Dark Woods, Petal Pilley, Artistic Director & CEO of Blue Teapot said, “To have such a beautiful piece of work, Into the Dark Woods written by Charlene Kelly, to focus on has literally been a lifeline to our creative community throughout the pandemic. Being a Galway ECOC2020 commission has allowed for real development of the work and employment of our artists and wider arts professionals involved in our production”.
Episode 1: How It All Began
In order to contextualize Blue Teapot ‘s Galway European Capital of Culture journey, we need to go back to 2012 when Artistic Director Petal Pilley was invited by Betty Siegel to The Kennedy Centre, Washington to ‘Assessing the Future of the Field: An International Convening of Thought Leaders in Theater, Dance, Disability, Education, and Inclusion’.
It was there that Petal met Artistic Directors and representatives of artistically led, international professional theatres committed to meeting the challenges of producing and touring theatre performed by artists with & without disabilities. From there, seeds were sown for what was to come. Serendipitously, the Galway 2020 bid team had been working to identify key players in the Galway arts scene, having visited Blue Teapot to identify projects & partnerships with a European dimension.
Episode 2: Preparations Begin
With the go-ahead from Crossing the Line partners & Galway 2020 for ‘Crossing the Line – A Pan-European Theatre Festival’ preparations and planning were fully underway.
In January 2017, Blue Teapot were invited to the first incarnation of Crossing The Line Festival, by French hosts Compagnie de l’Oiseau-Mouche in Roubaix. With funding support from Culture Ireland and Galway 2020, they travelled a team of 9 actors and 5 staff to see theatre by Mind the Gap, Moomsteatern and hosts over three days, participating in workshops and to screen the European premiere of Irish feature film‘ Sanctuary’.
From this productive visit, the prospect of bringing a large-scale festival to Galway became apparent and the idea of a ‘Festival Hub’ was born; a casual place to meet friends, chat & stop by before a performance and always, always, good coffee!
Episode 3: Crossing The Line Festival Programme
Over 100 European Artists & Company members * 11 venues across Galway City * 32 Events * 6 European Partners * 4 knowledge Talks * 8 Post-Show talks * Audiences of 4,500 * 1 Green Field Site * 1 International Networking Event * 135 Festival Team Freelancers * 112 Irish Artists & Arts Workers * 120 Volunteers * 32 Festival Ambassadors
With 2020 just around the corner, Blue Teapot unveiled their biggest, boldest and most ambitious project to date – Crossing The Line – a Pan-European Theatre Festival of outstanding work made by European artists with intellectual disabilities as part of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had begun to affect Ireland in early March with lockdowns put in place by mid-March, two months out from the festival opening. At a time of much uncertainty and to the utter disappointment of everyone involved, the decision was made to cancel Crossing the Line Festival.
Episode 4: Into the Dark Woods Reimagined
Blue Teapot have worked towards an ambition to stage a theatre production written by an artist from within the company. In 2017, a pilot project ‘The Blank Page’, a series of creative writing workshops, was initiated to meet this creative desire facilitated by dramaturg Eileen Gibbons. From 2018, this driving objective continued to progress, with Charlene Kelly amongst the participants being the artist displaying a definite talent.
From 2019, ‘Into the Dark Woods’ began to emerge with The Abbey Theatre seed funding script development. With a first draft completed, the script was explored in workshops with Director Petal Pilley and the theatre ensemble.
Through the familiar archetypes of fairy-tale, Charlene’s debut play uses the living realm of the woods as an invitation to experience a world through the eyes of intellectual disability.
Episode 5: Our European Partnerships Continue to Thrive
Although the Crossing the Line Festival was cancelled due to Covid-19, the European Partnerships continue to thrive. A Crossing the Line Digital Festival will take place online across October/November 2021.
There are exciting upcoming projects to look forward to in the Autumn. Blue Teapot has been chosen by French company Zone Poeme to engage in a collaborative project that places Aran Islands at the heart of a 28 European country project. L’Oiseau-Mouche is commissioning Zone-Poème for the project.
The inspirational subject matter is Antoinin Artaud in Ireland – an exploration of the historical journey of a renowned French dramatist to the Aran Islands and west of Ireland in 1937. Blue Teapot will join French (Zone Poeme, L’Oiseau Mouche), Polish (Teatr 21, Warsaw) and Dutch (Theater Babel, Rotterdam) artists in workshops on the Island of Inis Oírr at Aras Eanna, 4 – 8 October 2021.