My name’s Donald – I make and tell stories. I was a theatre technician for a few years before training as an actor and theatre maker between Rose Bruford College in London and ESAD de Murcia in Spain where I encountered experimental, collaborative, exciting approaches to theatre making. Since then I’ve been building on a series of roles in creative projects up to a point where I felt like I wanted to take a lead on something that was my own.
Hello I’m Grace! I’m originally from Reading and I first moved to Exeter to study English Literature at uni. I then moved to London to study acting at drama school, graduating just before the pandemic – great timing! At the start of 2021, I moved back to Exeter and joined the Futures Programme. Before then, my experience was mostly music based – producing gigs and community music projects for the choir I was in, as well as several acting projects during my time at drama school.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO APPLY TO THE PROGRAMME?
Donald: The Futures programme came into play, offering a network of support and creative development sessions that might be the guiding hand I needed to reach that point in my career where I could be confident leading an artistic project. It came at a similar time as when I was looking back at a note in one of my notebooks from when I was living in London – an idea for a story that simply said “2021: 60 years since Yuri Gagarin orbits Earth”. The Artists’ Programme seemed to be offering the time and support that might enable me to launch into that story.
Grace: The Producers Course offered me the perfect opportunity to connect with other South West based Creatives, as well as learning about a side of the Arts that was pretty new to me. I’ve always been really interested in business, and so Producing gave me the chance to combine that commercial aspect with my love of the Arts.
If I came with a spark, the Futures programme was the kindling. So if you have your own spark, maybe it’s worth giving the Futures programme a go.
What did it mean to you to be selected for the programme?
It meant the world! When I was at drama school, I was often discouraged from pursuing the things I was interested in, such as comedy. Then graduating straight into the pandemic – I felt a bit lost about what the right next step was. The Futures Programme gave me the opportunity to take control of my career, pursue the areas I was interested in and build connections with the people who would be able to help me do that.
What’s the number one thing you learned through the programme?
My favourite sessions are always the creative ones, but perhaps the most useful were sessions on the nuts and bolts of production development. Building a supportive team and devising an inventive story is a slightly different skillset to, for example, securing a funding application and I’ve discovered that I’m not the only artist who has been frustrated by the process.
The programme taught me so much, from how to apply for Arts Council funding to different leadership techniques. However, I think the most important thing I took from the programme was the confidence to trust myself and my instincts.
HOW DID YOU GO FROM PARTICIPATING IN FUTURES TO TAKING PART IN EXETER FRINGE FESTIVAL?
Donald: The Futures Programme is a rare scheme that allows you to discover what it is you’re making at the same time as the people supporting you to make it. And by the time I was coming to the end of the programme I felt like I was in a position where I could articulate what I was doing and what I wanted to do with it next. This opened up the possibility for me to apply to a scheme like the Exeter Fringe R&D programme with Enos… the ideas behind the project were more concrete in my mind than they were a few months earlier.
Grace: During my final year at drama school, I had written a one woman show, Graceless, based on my relationship with my mum. I had always wanted to develop it and see how it would stand up at a fringe festival, but I’d kept putting it off. When I heard about the Exeter Fringe Housewarming event, I knew I couldn’t delay it any longer – this was the perfect opportunity to get the show up on its feet, and I’m so glad I applied! The fringe was such an incredible experience – everyone was so supportive, and it helped me rediscover my love of performing and making people laugh!
If you are considering applying – then go for it, you will have an incredible experience. The course has helped me find confidence, a sense of direction and some brilliant friends! Oh, and make sure you take lots of notes!
HOW ARE YOU LOOKING AT THE FUTURE NOW?
Donald: For me, it’s really useful to have people with their own perspective of how the project has grown and share a curiosity for seeing it continue… With the collaboration of these people I am putting in place a framework for the next phase of Enos’s development, working towards a première for the show. It’s round three of presenting a creative proposal for people to interrogate but I feel much more at ease and prepared for that process after the understanding I’ve gained through the Futures programme about how artists can make things happen. Like Enos’s real journey two-and-a-bit times around the Earth, I hope the story can land somewhere near where it began – in the South West.
Grace: Since being involved with both the Futures Programme and Exeter Fringe, I’m excited about my future career in the Arts. Firstly, I’m planning to develop Graceless further – my mum is offering me more content all the time! So, I’d like to include some more stories and then tour it to fringe festivals around the UK including Edinburgh. I’m also co-producing a fantastic new show ‘Period Dramas’ which is making its debut at Vaults Festival this February and finally, I’m hoping to continue the work that I’ve been doing with the community (young people especially), through the participation team at the Northcott.