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‘Spotlight: Female-Identifying and Non-Binary Voices in Theatre’

This is a new series of interviews, released monthly, to broadcast the emerging and established voices of female-identifying and non-binary creatives within theatre.

Introducing Belinda Clarke

Belinda is a cultural theatre maker, producer and facilitator specialising in theatre and events. She holds a Distinction for her MA in Creative Producing from Mountview Academy. Her career has been drawn into highlighting black identity, as well as supporting the growth of community theatre and its sustainable impact. As Artistic Director for Leading Light, her credits include; writer of Memories We Lost in the Fire (winner of Best New Writing at IDGTF 2018), Facilitator for Culture (ArcolaLab), Host and Co-Producer for Network&Chill (Katzpace Theatre) and Director of Dear Mother Nature.

What was your first experience watching theatre?

My first experience of watching theatre was maybe when I was around 8 years old. My parents would take me to the West End or a pantomime on special occasions. I fell in love with the interactive inclusion of it all.

What was the first play to make you want to work in theatre?

I was in year 10 and I’d finally plucked up the courage to audition for my secondary school’s production of The Wiz. It was the first time I understood the term ‘coming alive’ on stage, it was the adrenaline and excitement of being a part of something bigger than dreaming in my bedroom. Those emotions stay with me every time I produce a new project or search for new opportunities in the arts to grow my network.

Why theatre for you? Why is it the right form for you?

Audiences go to the theatre because they see and feel a sense of escapism. I love supporting and building that experience for them because that’s what gives me my feel of escapism. I’ve always believed that theatre is a form of finding a deeper connection with someone because they allow you to experience their thoughts through a different lens.

What influences your writing/work/collective?

My company, Leading Light Collective’s mission has always been to provide accessible opportunities to underrepresented communities, using art as a tool to support their personal and professional growth. It is vital for the collective to keep allowing the political and social changes within our current climate to feed what we make. Why wait for those opportunities, when we can create it ourselves?

Which playwrights/performers/creatives have influenced you the most?

Oh wow - so many! But at this current time, I am mostly inspired by the words of Yolanda Mercy, Inua Ellams and my good friend, Naomi Knox. All incredible poets that use art to express emotion and individualism.

How has the theatre industry changed over your time working?

For Leading Light Collective, I believe the need to evaluate and constantly reassess how we operate as an organisation, at this time it has never been more crucial. I can’t say how the industry has changed… but I could definitely spend a lot of time telling you what needs to be re-looked at.

What's the hardest play/extract/project you've ever written/created and why?

I wrote a play called Memories We Lost in the Fire, it was an extremely personal project because it was inspired by my experiences of being so close to many people within the LGBTQI+ community. But how do we find truth in our writing if we haven’t got any lived experience of that certain topic? It was my decision to support the representation of so many people I know and love, but it was also the hardest thing I’ve ever written because of the pressure of getting something ‘wrong’.

Are there ideas and themes that you keep coming back to?

The need for social and political change within our lives constantly recurs. We as a collective, believe that theatre has the power to elevate and educate. And the stories we tell resonate in what society doesn’t talk about.

What advice would you give to a woman wanting to work and write in theatre, but without obvious access streams?

I believe that wanting to write and work in theatre, starts with yourself, it’s the power of picking up the pen and paper or opening your laptop and telling yourself every day ‘I am worthy’. Try to create your theatre community of friends and mentors, who have the ability to be objective and motivate you to achieve success.

Do critics and other creatives presume that you are writing autobiographically, because you are a womxn?

I have never experienced this as a Writer or within the collective. But as a womxn I do know that our lens should never be shadowed by the opinion of a critic with no lived experience of our constant injustices.

Have you written in other forms?

With Leading Light Collective, I have always encouraged us as a collective to never stay within one art form. We have produced poetry, a digital series, theatre productions and our message has even surged through photography campaigns. I hope to continue to find new innovative ways to connect with our audiences.

What are your top tips for emerging female playwrights/creatives who have not had formal training?

Write your truth.

Trauma is not the only emotion we can write from, and if you are choosing to, find ways to detach yourself from the story… this could be as small as a name change.

Have regular check-ins with yourself.

If you could go back to the beginning of your interest in theatre, what would you tell yourself?

You are worthy.

Tell us more about the 'Dear Mother Nature' project; we would love to learn about the process/inspiration/purpose etc.

Dear Mother Nature is exploring the untalked about conversation of a period. Leading Light Collective have collaborated with a Hounslow period charity Ditch the Rag, and have created a digital series and workshops to contribute to the end of period poverty. It is shocking when looking, researching and remembering the lack of support within schools about an everyday experience - a period. Dear Mother Nature aims to normalise the conversation of a menstruators health and the battle of squishing the taboo.

What are you working on next?

For 2021, our main goal is to support as many underrepresented artists and companies as we can; whilst sustaining as many relationships as possible!

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