ACES Artists: Anna Newell

The ACES participant talks about working with Young at Art, attending the World Congress of Children's Theatre and dancing with two year olds

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland launched the Artists Career Enhancement Programme (ACES) in early 2011. The programme was developed in response to a reducing arts budget and the need to support professional artists to develop successful careers. 

Each of the 15 artists have been partnered with a professional arts organisation to receive mentoring and development support to help them deliver new creative work. CultureNorthernIreland catches up with these artistic ACES as they embark on their partnerships.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your art form?

I used to say theatre, but it's a bit broader now and incorporates elements of different art forms - installation, music, dance theatre. I've been making work professionally since 1989.

How did you feel when you found out you had been accepted onto the ACES programme?

I was really delighted. Although I've always made participatory work and work for children and young people, the latter has really been a growing passion over the last few years. To have the opportunity to really focus on making work for children and young people is very exciting, particularly as literally just a few weeks after having been accepted onto the ACE scheme, I was appointed Replay's new Artistic Director. So it all started coming together.

What was the application process like?

After the five years I spent at Queen's University as Artistic Director of CETL(NI): The Centre For Excellence In The Creative and Performing Arts, it was an interesting opportunity to take an eclectic and diverse body of experience and present it as something focussed.

Do you know any of the other people on the scheme

I'm aware of Jimmy McAleevy's work and am so delighted both for him and for Tinderbox that he won the Stewart Parker Award - an amazing double whammy for Tinderbox, with David Ireland picking up the other award for Everything Between Us.

What organization are you paired with?

Young at Art. It was being part of their fabulous annual festival with How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen a couple of years ago and going to see all the exceptional international children's work that they put together that really fired me up.

What do you hope to get from the peer mentoring relationship?

Ali Fitzgibbon [Director, Young At Art] has such a comprehensive knowledge of theatre for children and can fill in the gaps for me. I hope that she can point me in the direct of inspirational practice on the international scene.

What are you going to be working on? Anything specific?

As well as visiting a couple of children's theatre festivals - including ASSITEJ, the World Congress of Children's Theatre (which I am so excited about I think I might burst!) - the ACE funding is allowing me to begin to develop WOBBLE - a dance theatre piece for two to four-year olds.

And, as a great example of joined-up thinking, once I was appointed to Replay they agreed to produce the show after the R&D that ACE enables - so we're doing it as a co-production with Sandie Fisher, the choreographer from Assault Events.

What began with ACE as a collaborative experiment between two artists will flower into a co-production between two companies due to serendipity and good (if accidental!) timing.

Do you think projects such as ACEs are valuable for arts professionals?

I think they're invaluable. It's such a unique opportunity for someone at my stage in a career to take a moment to re-evaluate, re-invigorate and re-position. I'm very grateful. And hopefully it's the necessary kickstart to a project that will tour internationally.

If you could have been paired with any organization in the world - no matter where, no matter when - who would be your dream partnership?

I'm pretty delighted with Young At Art. But otherwise.... Catherine Wheels, one of Scotland's leading children' s theatre companies, are pretty special. Also, Peter Rinderknecht, whose tiny one-man show Minor Matters left a permanent handprint on my heart at last Belfast Children's Festival.

Working with site-specific theatre company Talking Birds whilst at Queen's was amazing. And I'd love to make a DV8 show for kids - Sandie and I have more than once jokingly called WOBBLE DV2andahalf as we're looking for that energy, integrity and innovation that DV8 does so well. And, left field, Teatr Biuro Podrozy, whose Carmen Funebre is still the very best show I've ever seen.

For more pictures from How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen go to Curious Doings at the Children's Festival.