Following the success of their online workshop programme launched during the first lockdown, theatre company, Squint, led by Andrew Whyment, with facilitators Lee Anderson and Sid Sagar are returning with a further series of writing and devising workshops to equip and empower participants with tools and practice that can be applied to their own projects.
Since launching the programme last year, Squint have hosted 25 workshops to hundreds of participants from across the UK and internationally from countries including Norway, Spain, Brazil and the USA. The latest series of workshops comprises three strands: Get Writing, Keep Writing and Get Devising, led by facilitators from a variety of disciplines including directing, acting and writing: Lee Anderson, Kane Husbands, Louise Roberts, Sid Sagar and Andrew Whyment.
Participants can book for one-off sessions or for a series, running 3 February to 9 June 2021, with further dates to be announced. Squint in partnership with the Compass Collective, Open Door and the National Youth Theatre are also offering 25 participants from low-income backgrounds free places.
You’ve just announced Squint’s latest round of workshops, what can you tell us about them?
AW: Our online workshops are all about empowering participants with writing and devising tools that can be applied to their own projects.
LA: We have three types of workshop: Get Writing, Keep Writing and Get Devising. Each session is two hours in length and focuses on a different aspect of playwriting or devising; you can book for one-off sessions or for a series.
SS: The workshops are geared towards giving people of any age and experience the space to find new ideas, nurture current ones and continue to thrive.
AW: Our Get Writing and Get Devising workshops are for anyone whilst our Keep Writing workshops are for people who are already rolling with a playwriting project.
LA: We kick off in February with Get Writing: Action which is all about using character intentions as a starting point and making scenes active. Coming up we have sessions on areas including subtext, collaboration, dialogue and writing beyond your experience.
SS: No matter what stage you’re at in your playwriting or theatre making journey, we want you to get involved.
AW: We’re big believers in learning through doing so the sessions are super practical; they’re like creative workouts. We normally begin with funk music playing and end with participants having bagged loads of new games and exercises from the Squint toolbox.
SS: This is the first time I’ve been involved with Squint’s workshops. I’m buzzing to be able to co-facilitate sessions that celebrate and empower an artist’s individuality.
The programme initially launched during the first lockdown, what inspired you to start running them?
LA: They were born of necessity. When the first lockdown took effect, we had to adapt the education strand of our work to an online environment. We didn’t know if it would pan out but we found there was a real appetite out there for connection and creativity. Although it seems counterintuitive, the limitations have allowed us to connect and share our practice with more people than ever before.
What would you consider to be the biggest success from the first round of workshops?
LA: The relationships we have built with artists internationally. It’s something we couldn’t have predicted. We had participants joining us from the likes of Oslo, Barcelona, San Francisco, Amsterdam. We’ve learnt so much about how to share ideas and practice across borders.
AW: We really miss being in physical spaces but the advantage of Zoom is that it allows everyone to dial in from the comfort of their own desks. What better setting is there for a writing class than the desk you’re writing your play at?
SS: I’ve been in a range of online workshops as both a participant and a facilitator and each one seems to offer up innovative ways of working and collaborating. We know that meeting new people and sharing our work can be intimidating, but the ability to engage with smaller groups in breakout rooms or simply turn off our cameras, has made online workshops strangely inclusive.
What learnings have you taken from last year’s workshops to improve the latest round?
AW: So much of theatre making is about giving yourself restrictions; limitations breed creativity. We’ve learnt how to embrace the online space and make a merit of teaching whilst physically apart. We’re having fun with it.
How have you managed to engage facilitators, and why did they want to take part?
AW: As a company, we’re blessed to have a group of really experienced educators and facilitators on the Associate team, with Sid joining us this year.
SS: I’ve known of Squint’s work for some time, and worked with Andrew at the National Youth Theatre many years ago, so it’s a joy to collaborate again. I love the value the company places on innovative, investigative storytelling, and the spotlight it shines on new and emerging artists. As an early career artist myself, it’s lovely to be able to contribute to Squint’s new series of workshops.
You’re supporting those from low income backgrounds, what can you tell us about that?
LA: We’ve teamed up with the brilliant people at Open Door, Compass Collective and the National Youth Theatre to offer bursaries to low-income participants. There’s still loads more work to be done when it comes to making theatre fully-inclusive and affordable. It isn’t helped by the fact that those obstacles have been exacerbated by the pandemic. As someone from a working-class background myself, it can sometimes feel that there are too many barriers getting in the way. Cost is one of them. So, this is our way of addressing that.
AW: We aren’t just offering bursary places via partner organisations, if the cost of our workshops is a barrier for you, drop us an email at email@example.com.
What would you say to anyone thinking about booking a place?
LA: Our workshops are friendly, safe and practical. Maybe you have an idea for something and need help starting, or a finished script you need help re-drafting, or maybe you’re new to it all and just fancy giving it a go? Our workshops are designed to scratch all of these itches.
AW: We love having new people along to give a session a go; so why not book now at squinttheatre.com/book.