Holborn, Toynbee & getting excited about SB road trip North of the border!

I am totally hyper. I can’t write blog posts any more. I don’t have a shrink any more and the drafts folder is piling up. Chaos.

We Are Going To Scotland!! Soon!!

Groovy All The Young Nudes have invited us to Glasgow. Well we emailed them. They asked if we have a setlist, as in music, because they always do. Lucy who has only just recovered from some sort of plague and wants to get in touch with Scottish press, find more East London artists, learn how to make crowdfunding videos properly, cajol us into completing more funding applications, set up an etsy page for selling postcards, create a proper website so my free-reigning babble is not our most prominent web presence, would like to compile our playlist. To be fair she does have an impressive music collection, and she may be driving us for 7 hours or whatever it is each way in a very crowded car. Good music might save us, we will need several hours of it.

Lat Sunday I modelled at Toynbee Arts Club in Aldgate
Last Sunday I modelled at Toynbee Arts Club in Aldgate
These are pics of the venue where our next big event will be
These are pics of the venue where our next big event will be
on sunday 21st July. I have booked most of the models; there is plenty space for artists
on Sunday 21st July. I have booked most of the models; there is plenty space for artists

On Wednesday this week I discovered there is a role for an MC in life drawing events. It was the audience that swung it, though David Plank who runs Holborn Life Drawing thought I was just being neurotic. Artists have pointed out before how manic I am in the thick of directing; it’s an art I am working on. Clearly so different to being the incredibly calm person doing the poses.

Very nice atmosphere that evening, good location, lovely models. One asian male model with cerebral palsy made a noted entry. Richard (a long time supporter and friend of ours, also a professional model) was stirring things up with the dramatic content. I supplied themes, and he whipped the new models into an exerted response, I mean he puts so much energy into crafting a tension filled pose, the whole space is filled with a peaking vibe. There was a natural complementary shape making going on – what drama students know as balancing the space, and work very hard to achieve in Viewpoints exercises.

a whodunnit
a whodunnit
in fear of a bear
in fear of a bear

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fractious relationships
fractious relationships

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These are a few of the pictures from Wednesday, for more take a look here. Thanks Santosh

That’s about all I can manage this Friday night just in time for the weekend blog post. Except to say I need to make it more clear that models do pay to pose at workshops and I know that upsets the sensibilities of some professional models. But we are creating an environment for an experience. We remove the pressure of life modelling as a job. We are reassuring. People love it, people who have proper jobs, don’t want to become life models because it would never pay the mortgage, but love having a go, and what we do is different too. It’s a naked drama class with a very special pause button. And there’s so much more I could say, but it’s all on the About page.

Having said that, while we are in Scotland, no one needs pay to pose. Artists will pay at most of our gigs but at Arts Complex it is free unless people want to make a donation (to the venue). That’s because we have been invited by Ragged University in the first place, and from that beginning have set up our own other arrangements. Ragged have a policy of free events, free education for all in the community – in pubs, arts centres, cafes and more. They are continuing the tradition of the Ragged Schools in our time. They are awesome and that’s why we are going to Scotland first (and my boyfriend introduced me to Alex of Ragged when we first met). For all the latest on our Scotland itinerary, see here

Silence is Golden; & Edinburgh Calling

Towards the end of July Spirited Bodies will be visiting Edinburgh to spread our message of nude liberation! We will be sowing seeds; giving workshops and presentations, networking and leafleting. In September when we return there will be a ripe harvest, sprouted and succulent, poised for artful appreciation.

A big event is scheduled for Saturday September 21st in The Arts Complex – a former office block taken over as artists’ studios and hub where substantial gallery space will afford a perfect venue for one of our larger events. As well as locating artists of the figure drawing variety, we will be scouting for models, of all shapes and sizes, colours and persuasions. This is not paid modelling work, but will be a chance to see if life modelling may be for you, and perhaps to free yourself of body image issues or be a step on that path. It is an opportunity to be part of a unique work of art that is as much about energetic connections made between models (and artists) in the space as it is the drawings created. Participants (and there have been over 150 in 2 and a half years) frequently report a natural high lasting several days following the event, and for some the timing is instrumental to their life changing direction for the best. See our Feedback page for a variety of testimonies.

We want to offer our usual workshops in advance of the big event, including women only if there is demand. If you want to host a workshop (usually for up to 15 people including about 10 people modelling and 5 drawing) please get in touch; we aim to be in Edinburgh from 22nd – 26th July or perhaps a bit longer and again from 17th – 22nd September. In any case we should have some workshops at The Arts Complex and another artist has already shown interest in holding one at her studio. We will also do a presentation hosted by The Ragged University in July where we will explain ourselves with visuals including ourselves modelling; expect to be entertained! If you want to host a presentation or talk, do get in touch.

During our Edinburgh trips we intend to bring life drawing to older people by offering free life drawing sessions in old people’s homes. If you are associated with a home and would like to introduce us we would be honoured, otherwise we will be cold calling. To be clear; we will not be asking older people to undress, but to draw if they want. Alternatively we can give them a dynamic interactive talk if that’s more appealing. We’ve done presentations in some fancy places so do ask for references! We are about spreading the word to as many people as we can; unfortunately some people are unlikely to make it to us, so we’re going to them.

To make all this happen we are on the brink of applying for some funding but would likely appreciate any available help. We are still consolidating which resources are available to us, and if you have anything to offer, be it time, a car, a spare couch, theatre lights, good photographing skills or inside knowledge on where to find our models… Please get in touch. In Edinburgh we largely start from scratch so this whole episode will mark a big milestone in our development. It’s an exciting time to join us and we will have lots of fun.

At the same time that Spirited Bodies is preparing for its first venture out of London, we are welcoming two new co-conspirators! They have been Spirited Bodies themselves of course, and bring with them a wealth of experience and expertise which we are only too ready to absorb. They will be introduced properly in the next blog post, but let’s just say if up until now Spirited Bodies has been run by one younger skinny woman and one plus-size middle-aged woman – both white and well spoken, that configuration is about to change substantially. Our average age is getting older, our dress size is increased, our skin tone darkened and our origin begins to feel more global. We are however still all female, and driven to find more women to join us as Spirited Bodies. Men we are not short of, but for women we continue to show that what we do is powerful and inspiring, and it can be for them too.

I had the pleasure of modelling with another model this week and what a confident young woman. Lydia is a burlesque performer whom I hope to see on stage sometime soon.

Lydia and I were painted gold and decked in bling
Lydia and I were painted gold and decked in bling

On Tuesday we modelled for London Drawing at The Goldsmiths’ Centre in Clerkenwell where they have an exhibition called ‘Rocks’ – ‘Exploring the natural world through jewellery and silversmithing’. The image on the poster is of gold surrounding some rock and from there we took our inspiration to be gold. My new blue hair looked silver next to the shiny gold! Artists were encouraged to draw us in charcoal or pencil and add sequins, glitter and sparkly cut up paper to create part drawings and part collages.

Posing while the artists got ready
Posing while the artists got ready

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The following photographs were taken by Anne Noble-Partridge of London Drawing.

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Mother love and a tutor called Karn – Lucy Saunders asked me some questions about creating the show ‘Girl In Suitcase’

The show is very autobiographical, and while it is not especially about my Mother being from a different time with different expectations, I guess it also is. It is about a cross-generational clash, and the mending of this. It is about a character with little or negative outlook in life, made worse by her disability. It is about the parallels in the daughter’s life, and how through the Mother’s need, their relationship is softened and made closer. The Mother is approaching death, and this throws a bold new light on their lives.

Another inspiration is life modelling, and a particular tutor I worked with at Heatherleys back at the beginning of ’09. She walked with a stick and was totally eccentric. Visually she was striking, and her character had presence. She slightly resembled my Mother as she was over 10 years ago walking with a stick. As I modelled and listened to her meanderings to the class, I conjured up a fictional character of her, an evil version who continually shifts between trying to be sinisterly kind to the model (who may also be a trafficked woman) and being downright nasty and torturing. I was playing with the idea of being a model and feeling trapped in one’s role, particularly as a woman. Unable to move and when you might have an issue with your predicament, often you silence it under the guise of thinking it through more thoroughly just to be sure you really do have a problem before you tell anyone about it.

There was a link with women in the sex industry where I also used to work, and how many of them feel trapped. The play only touches on that aspect, but for me it’s a big link with making a living out of my body’s natural propensity to be attractive to men. I may be a good model also, but being honest and what I’ve learnt from doing SB, many artists are not very kind, they want slim, pretty women, not too old, and if not someone more unusual. I sent an older friend who has done SB to cover me at the Mall one week, and a female artist said after she’d modelled, that she may not be good looking, but at least she could hold the pose. I suppose that was meant to be an honest compliment.

A specific inspiration was having to take over caring for my Mum when Dad was incapacitated for a while. It shocked the hell out of me, what was involved and how much of the carer’s life it takes up, and how little I felt I could give, given that my Mum had never shown me love when I was young. It wasn’t until she nearly died under a year before this time of caring for her, that she started to tell us, her family, that she loves us and is sorry about not being kinder before. Now she tells me every time I see her, it’s the first thing she says.

Another inspiration was modelling for London Drawing at Battersea Arts Centre when I had to be Emmeline Pankhurst hacking her own clothes off in a minor hysterical fit! It was so performative and an interesting way to hi-light the significance of clothes to us as humans. Nudity is foregrounded by the removal of clothes.

I would have used more physical theatre if working with Szilvi, but with Jaki, the possibility of performing the script about Mum became obvious and she is a trained actress, not so much physical theatre performer. There are still elements of physical work in the more surreal/dream scene sequence, as in a few movements and gestures we are hinting at the emotional and psychological development of a character over the course of 20 years of her life say. It becomes symbolic and is a visual metaphor. I don’t want to spoon feed the audience!

The show could indeed be performed by someone else if they so wanted, and it is mostly quite straight forward and text-based. The part where I life model and instigate the audience to draw could be made individual to whoever was doing it, as I intend to partly adlib that part according to the audience response.

The themes are personal and female emancipation, also caring for the sick and elderly, mother/daughter relationships, and our relationship with our bodies. Also as you say how the onset of impending death may alter our fundamental view of life and throw everything into a sharp focus.

Caring for the elderly is poignant with our aging population.

Embracing our nudity is quite a popular theme at least in the West currently, and continues to shake dominant cultural beliefs. Talking to Anita the other day who was brought up Muslim in Malaysia illuminated that cross-cultural realm of women – from places where showing much skin is punishable or at least frowned upon – who then lead a Western life and may move between worlds. The world is changing fast and even her friends in Malaysia who cannot express themselves fully in their life in public, do so more and more online.

The show is particularly about my experience of feeling disenchanted with a conventional way of doing things/growing up, so rebelling; and then coming out the other end a bit more grown up. So in that sense it speaks to possibly people like me, who could just be anyone who’s ever been disillusioned (ok let’s keep this broad!) It’s about finding a salvation through some sort of patience and endurance. It’s about a positive outcome of a once negative situation so it’s quite optimistic. It’s about facing death so it’s realistic too, i.e. not just idealistic.

How does my experience translated through art help others connect? Not sure. Mum likes it because she feels represented on stage, but that’s a bit specific; more generally a main character is heavily disabled and faces the possibility of assisted suicide. Just showing some hard stuff, can be a relief to people who live that and could do with not feeling alone. Having said that there’s a lot of humour there, even if dark.

By being naked on stage and juxtaposing that with a clothed character and their interactions, that points up our awkwardness as a society or humanity, with facing ourselves as we nakedly are as humans. Also I start talking directly to the audience (whilst nude), so that’s a bit weird!

As for the place, well the burlesque bar in Stoke Newington is meaningful because it’s through an old contact of my drugged-up sex industry past as she works there. And it’s in an area where lots of that old group of friends live and I once lived. Many of the girls in that group work in burlesque, domination, stripping… So I am revisiting my past with a new edge. The nice thing is this bar is run by women and they are right into promoting female-led performance.

As for Edinburgh, the origin of the contact is through the same group of friends, and the guy I have been introduced to there runs a programme to promote free education. He is quite inspirational, though far too academic for me, but he likes Spirited Bodies as it sort of covers a feminist/evolutionary development angle that he digs but cannot encompass in his own projects… or who knows, maybe he will! So the gig has come about through a desire to promote Spirited Bodies, and the enthusiasm that generates with like-minded, socially conscious (if that’s the word) people.

I sorted out a London show so I could practise on friends and anyone else who comes along.

Not working on any other projects currently. Would like to develop this show after I’ve seen how it works and doesn’t. Show could evolve dramatically according to cast, funding, will…

There will be charcoal, pencils, paper etc and boards for people to draw with at the show.