We learnt a lot from Alan Mclean in the Black Country about how to make local connections and form a loose sort of ‘arts and mental health network’. His idea was to use my shows, and my personal experience of art being a lifeline to better times, as an example and sparking point for local people to set up new ambitious projects. The crucial thing though is the relationships, getting to know people, finding out how we work, they work – sharing ideas and picking up new tips.
So I went on a ‘reconnoitre’ trip – a ‘recce’ in the touring trade – to Newcastle in preparation for the tour. This was brilliantly organised by our local producers Wunderbar. I travelled by train, stayed in the best hotel in Newcastle ever, The Rosebery in Jesmond, and went out every night for excellent meals with Ilana Mitchell and Nicola Singh of Wunderbar. I met up with local groups like NAGAS, Streetwise Opera and North Tyneside Art Studio, North Shields. I demonstrated a tiny section of the show and tried to explain my ideas. It was all a bit glittery as the sun shone the whole time. I love Newcastle. My mother’s family come from there and I always feel I’m coming home when the train crosses the Tyne. Odd since I grew up in Sidcup. Jo Verrent of SYNCLEADERSHIP fame, and a crew from Watershed, Bristol joined me in Byker to shoot a mini film for their ACE/BBC venture PUSH ME. My grandfather grew up in the vicarage at Byker – I dream of doing a show in Byker one day. The sun shone harder still and it all positively dazzled up there at St Michaels. I met great people. In North Shields at a huge health centre I saw this trolley of strawberry milk shakes and flapjacks waiting to be delivered to a group for their break. An interesting and tasty choice for a health centre?