MY STORY Sophie Stone - light in the Green Room

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A new 12-part accessible podcast dedicated to the work of deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists is being launched tomorrow, February 11, devised and produced by a new collective called STRIVE. The TV, film and stage actor SOPHIE STONE, who was born deaf, is part of the team.

What is STRIVE, what are the companies involved and how do you, personally, fit in?

STRIVE is a collective made up of two "next generation" performing arts organisations, The DH Ensemble and Hot Coals Productions. I'm a proud founding member of The DH Ensemble which launched in 2013. Both our companies are led by deaf, neurodiverse, disabled and non-disabled artists so we share an ethos of always placing access at the very heart of the award winning work we make - it's just an essential part of our artistic process. We decided to join forces and create STRIVE to build our resilience and capacity in a rapidly changing cultural landscape; we know there are many challenges ahead. Each company is going to keep making the unique work we are known for, of course, but we're teaming up for special projects like The Green Room

Tell us about the Green Room.

With theatres closed there are hundreds of green rooms around the country lying empty. For those that have always wondered what a green room is, it's generally where actors, technical staff and theatre workers come after rehearsals or between shows - it's a relaxed place to hang out, eat food and gossip, essentially. As creatives, we're all missing our green rooms, so we decided to set up a digital one. Now we're inviting special guests (and you too!) to join us for a chat to celebrate best practice in the arts world, spotlight the journeys of unsung heroes and inspire action where we can. And we've made a conscious decision to talk with people who might not be on everyone's radars, but who we felt the world could do with knowing a little more about. We're speaking to designers, casting directors and stage managers as well as on stage/screen talent. This unique series showcases the depth access can add to a project when it's considered right from the very beginning of the creative process.

Who is the podcast aimed at?

We are expecting all our friends and colleagues working in the field of arts access to tune in. And they are most welcome - we have a very supportive community, it has to be said. But we're also hoping to invite people who are deaf, hard of hearing and people with a disability to tune in and see and/or hear for themselves what's going on in the arts. You might never have even been to the theatre or thought about a career in the arts, but that might change once you've had a watch. We're also keen to engage with non-disabled allies and want to reach a broad audience - so if you know people who might find our conversations interesting, we think this series could be a great starting point for conversations around access. There really is something for everyone across the 12 interviews we'll be publishing.

How will it work?

We'll be releasing a brand new interview each and every Thursday at 7.30pm for 12 weeks from February 11th. We'll be premiering them on our dedicated project website and you'll be able to get them on "catch up" or as an audio podcast too. We're going to be leaving the interviews up so everyone can share and enjoy them. And of course, you can carry on the conversation with us by using #thegreenroom_uk across all your social media platforms! We'd love to hear your comments 

What was the inspiration for the project?

We've been inspired to launch The Green Room by all the incredible talent each one of us at STRIVE collective has come across over the years. When the pandemic hit and we all got cut off from each other, we knew we'd use it in a positive way to finally sit down with people we've worked with, or admired from afar, and dig a little deeper into their practice and life stories. And with this space being digital, we're using the opportunity to speak with international colleagues about how access works in other parts of the world. We've gone global!

How are you funded?

'The Green Room' is funded by a generous grant from Arts Council England.

What has been missing that the Green Room will provide?

The Green Room is the celebration we're all needing right now. When we talk about access in the arts it's easy to focus on the barriers, and of course that's absolutely necessary. But as artists and creatives we're adept at dusting ourselves down, overcoming obstacles and putting on a bloody good show. So we're advocating for access by showing what's possible when access is part of a creative process as opposed to merely an add-on or an afterthought. This is an overt celebration of what's already out there in the world, and a call to all of us to come together to build on it.

What will be in the first podcast?

Joining us in our first episode is Alim Jayda, a hard of hearing, mixed Indian-English, LGBT, child of deaf adults (CODA). He's a super talented actor, presenter and sign language interpreter and a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion. He's got more than ten years industry experience and has worked on projects like Eastenders, Mamma Mia 2!, Here We Go Again, Kismet Diner (the Ridley Scott film), The Boy in the Dress (for The Royal Shakespeare Company) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Globe Theatre and Deafinitely Theatre). So he's got bags of experience to talk through as well as a beautiful story about how he overcame multiple barriers as a kid to secure a place at one of the best drama schools in the country.


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