SWIM follows a woman, at the heart of the show, and her journey with grief and being at one with life again, through the outdoors and community: something that we all have somewhere, for free. This one woman represents thousands. By supporting the development of this show, both its premiere at HOME (Manchester) and its journey to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, you are supporting the message that we all deserve good health and well-being and can have a better life.
My Childhood swimming
When I was young, all my best birthdays were spent in the valley- picnic on the banks and swimming in the rivers with my favourite people. I was lucky enough to grow up in the Lake District in England, where there's no shortage of green grass, sheep and cows peppering the landscape. Jumping off bridges into deep pools of water on weekends and running through fields as part of our P.E lessons at school, were the norm.
My return to taking the plunge
Over the years as I grew up, career, illness, location all got in the way a bit from me being able to really submerge myself in my wild swimming and the outdoors. When I finally left London and moved to the Peak District, my swimming world opened up to me again. I was invited for an outdoor swim and it was so much fun! I went with a group of friends who did this most mornings before they went to work. They were seeing wonderful sunrises and having these magical experiences together before they had even had a bowl of cereal. I was intrigued. My love for swimming outdoors had been quite a solitary experience up until now (apart from when I was a kid). I was fascinated by this pull to the water these, mainly, women had. I admired their friendship from a distance and wanted to know more about the levels of support they were offering each other in a more conversational-way whilst in the water.
What is Open Water Swimming?
It doesn't have to be 'wild' to be free. The term incorporates all swimming in the outdoors whether it be in the sea, in lakes or large pools of water near cities- it's about swimming outside the restrictions of a manmade pool and enjoying water at no cost.
I recently was featured in a Guardian article talking about this.
The idea for SWIM
I was particularly struck by how many people were using the swimming in cold or outdoor water as a way to aid or help 'de-fuzz' the problems and struggles they were faced with in their day-to-day life. As I talked more to the community of swimmers I found these struggles included grief, long-term illness, depression, anxiety, stress, IVF treatment, post-natal depression, menopause...the list goes on. What they all had in common was that this swimming in open water, the freedom in it, the healing power, the coming together in shared experience, was helping a lot more than anything else in their lives.
The people's stories
I wanted to explore these stories and create something that would follow a journey and highlight this ever-growing number of people coming back to nature. When I talked in depth with people I came across stories of heartbreak, determination and healing: a father's loss of his child takes him to the water everyday whereby he swims the length and back of a reservoir- head in, no stopping, letting the water guide his path. A woman's loss of her young niece and nephew and her ability to be able to cope with it all and support her loved ones, found in the renewing power of outdoor swimming and community in the water.
I set about pulling together a team to help me devise a show which would incorporate the gift of story telling in live art and intrigue an industry such as the outdoor world to experience theatre in a way that felt familiar to them because of the nature of the topic. I can be so excited and inspired by adventure films, for example, but what I knew was that in theatre you can excite and inspire but also tell the story of that inspirational person and delve into their thoughts and feelings more than a film can. I wanted to cross over my two passions- the outdoors and theatre and I brought in two amazing young award-winning theatre makers to help me do this! Josie Dale-Jones (Nominated for an Offie Award 2019; Fringe First Award 2018; New Diorama Theatre & Underbelly’s UNTAPPED award 2018; Nominated for Emerging Company Total Theatre Award 2018; Les Enfants Terribles Stepladder AWARD 2017) & Sam Ward (Total Theatre Award for Best Emerging Company; one of the Guardian's 5 top UK theatre companies) .
HOME and beyond
I have already been on a year's journey with SWIM. From the first pitch to the theatre, to finding the team to make it with, to working with Adventure film Festivals, Outdoor swimming communities, running workshops with outdoor swimming enthusiasts and those who use the outdoors to aid them in their bereavement. I have met incredible people, inspiring people, passionate people, kind people, talented people, generous people. It has been so encouraging. I have LEARNT SO MUCH!
I am so fortunate to be able to create and premiere SWIM at HOME theatre this July. They have supported and encouraged me throughout my career thus far as a theatre maker. I never thought I could do such a project, and so far (!) I'm still going. I'm learning how to work with spreadsheets without getting palpitations, I'm learning how to produce my work, to liaise with theatres, companies, charities and more.
I am SO excited to have had SWIM selected as a regional partner with the Pleasance Theatre and I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to take my show to the Pleasance in Edinburgh this August. As part of my initial interview for the award, I told the Pleasance that I wanted SWIM to not only be an exiting new piece of theatre, but by being present at the Fringe, represent the bigger picture of what I believe all artists who create such things- live art and entertainment deserve- well-being. This can be found in accommodation which is comfortable and affordable (having a bed to yourself and not having to share a room with 6 others); a wage- be acknowledged for the work that you are doing, your job; time-out. Edinburgh Fringe Festival is THE biggest art festival in the world. It gives artists the exciting opportunity to get their work seen by UK industry and international bookers. It is a world showcase.
Swim at the Fringe
Whilst we are up at the Fringe for the month, I will be encouraging people to get outdoors, take a swim in the sea, look after your mind and your body whilst pushing at an incredibly demanding feat to promote your art. There will be a weekly swim happening at Portobello Beach for all those who are working at the Fringe. Details to find out where and when: www.swimatthefringe.co.uk
The only way that we can take SWIM to Edinburgh and get the message of the show out there is by raising the money to take us there. I have worked long hours (!) to ensure that I raise the funds in order to take SWIM to the masses and cover the costs in order to do this. Your support is integral to this being achieved. Through the reward scheme of Kickstarter, I can share a personal interaction of the show's journey so far by offering one-off experiences and memorabilia in return for funds which will create the next chapter. The money raised through Kickstarter will pay for our accommodation which is one of the huge chunks of money that I have to pay upfront for. This is shy of a third of what I need to raise in total to take us to Edinburgh.
13 years after being diagnosed with an illness which brought my career to a standstill and stopped me being able to to be outdoors as much, here I am wanting to take my second piece of theatre I've created and happens to be all about overcoming struggles and getting outside more! I have my health, fitness and verve for theatre back- help me do my best for this project.
Risks and challenges
The risk in taking a show to Edinburgh is that you don't make enough funds to physically get you there: this comprises of travel, accommodation and food for a team of 4.
I am working very hard at ensuring all measures are in place to make sure we raise enough money and therefore can deliver all rewards that require this show to be at Edinburgh.
- (33 days)