“An Interview with Chris Grady for the Aspiring Artist”, by Robert Mooney
Posted on Tuesday 31 March
Chris Grady at the festival in Darlington. Photo by Rich Kenworthy
Having previously mentioned Chris Grady, who will be holding surgeries for up-and-coming actors and actresses in the Jabberwocky Market festival, this will be the first one he has held in Darlington, making it an interesting experience for both himself and anyone who comes to see him. I interviewed him to find out a bit more about the surgeries and why he does them.
Having had a career in acting before starting the surgeries, Chris has lots of experience to draw from but his interview gives you an idea of what he did to get to where he is now.
So Chris, how did you get the idea for surgeries?
‘Back in 2007 I was returning to freelance after five years working for the producer Cameron Mackintosh internationally. My associate, Tom Atkins, and I were planning a possible project at Edinburgh Festival Fringe running a venue, and we were then on the lookout for new companies and new projects who might need our help. The Surgery idea flowed from this – offer a personalized conversation around someone’s project. We get to learn more about emerging talent, and offer our ideas into the mix. One or two people then engaged us to work with them. After a year of doing these surgeries I realised we were offering something relatively unusual. As far as I know there are no other opportunities for any artist of any discipline just to book a slot without needing to be part of a network or part of an organisation. Seven years on, I have had a little help from the Arts Council to do more surgeries outside London – and so I come to Darlington for the first time … can’t wait to see who I will meet’.
How does this help young artists get their projects off the ground?
‘Having a new idea for a project is exciting but also daunting. There may be so many things you don’t know how to tackle, and you may doubt whether anyone will be interested enough to help make stuff happen. Our Surgery programme seeks to help in both these areas – we offer some practical advice, but most importantly we offer a safe space in which to discuss the idea and see what each person needs to move forward. Sometimes an artist (young or old) can arrive with too many ideas, or no ideas, or overwhelmed, in each case we seek to listen and ask questions which will help them find their own inspiring way forward. And the surgeries are not just for young artists. I often have sessions with artists who have been in the business for 20-30 years and are tackling a new challenge, or some burnout’.
What are you looking forward to about doing sessions in Darlington?
‘I’m looking forward to being surprised. I always enjoy meeting artists in surgeries, and then being part of a scratch audience, which I will have time to do on Friday night. It’s a great chance to see the germ of an idea in development, and maybe spot something which will grow into a full scale show in the future’.
How are you going to manage these sessions?
‘Each session is a conversation – and like all conversations they go in unexpected directions. I ask questions which hopefully help the artists to awaken ideas in their head. We will talk about the challenges, and the people and resources they might need to help make a project happen, and we’ll explore a range of options. By the end of the conversation I hope they will go away determined to make their project happen, or take their life and creativity forward in new directions’.
What role has your previous experience in creating theatre and festivals played in doing these surgeries?
‘I have had wonderful people in the past who have given me the time of day to share an idea. People have believed in me and supported me in my dreams and ambitions. I’ve had family and close friends who have supported me in the darker moments. I have learned loads from being encouraged. And now I have two people who work as coaches for me in my current work asking the kind of questions which make me think, and unlock new options. All these things go into the mix of a Surgery’.
While this is a first time in Darlington for Chris, I wish him good luck in his surgeries and hopefully he will get some interesting customers. If you would like to find out more, please visit www.chrisgrady.org and for more on the Jabberwocky Market festival, stay tuned.