Jerwood Fellow 2021/22 - Ellen Renton

Ellen Renton performing with pink lighting credit Sarah Grant
Ellen Renton performing with pink lighting credit Sarah Grant
We have a societal habit of patronising children, especially disabled children, and I am keen to explore ways of making work that does not to do this, in order to make the arts and the theatre feel like a safe place for those children.

—Ellen Renton, poet and theatre maker

Ellen has been exploring the idea of making a performance for children that uses the senses in a way that means the audience do not need to see the show.  During a development week in November, Ellen worked with an exciting creative team:

Christine Ting-Huan Urquhart - Designer
Douglas Tyrrell Bunge - Videographer
Ellen Renton - Lead Artist
Emilie Conway - Singer/Performer
Emily Nicholl - Stage Manager and Access Officer
Marie-Gabrielle Koumenda - Musician/Performer
Rachel Drazek - Movement Director
Topher Dagg - Technical Stage Manager

As part of her Fellowship she has also seen performances for children at Bibu Festival (Sweden) and Edinburgh International Children's Festival in May 2022, and Showbox Festival (Norway) in December 2022.

"I believe in the importance of experiencing theatre at a young age, and the foundations that this builds in terms of removing barriers to the arts for life. 

Linguistically, I am inspired by the idea of encouraging in children a playfulness with words. We so often see text simplified for children, and I don’t believe that this has to be the case.  I think it’s important to make children aware of the power of language and what each of us can do when we harness it.

With the Jerwood Fellowship, I am interested in exploring ways of making non-visual performance work for older children and teens. At the heart of this will sit research into establishing non-vision centric spaces, as I think these can encourage our other senses to engage with art in exciting ways.

Ultimately, I would love this Fellowship to lead to the creation of work that prioritises the often-neglected blind and visually impaired audiences, and normalises the idea of non-vision centric live theatre. It’s hugely common for blind and visually impaired people to ‘mask’ while in public – to give up some of their own needs in order to make other sighted people feel comfortable. I want to create a performance space where this doesn’t feel necessary."

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