Nick Quantrill talks to Hull-based playwright, Dave Windass ...
Nick : Turning to the city's new arts space, 'Fruit', you're involved in leading their 'scratch theatre' project. What's that all about? Is art, in whatever field, really something that can be taught and learnt?
Dave : Yes, this scratch theatre night starts at Fruit on November 28. I'm doing it in conjunction with Andrew Pearson and his theatre company Ensemble 52. I've given myself the grand title of 'curator' which makes me feel a little bit like Charles Saatchi.
I suggested doing this to Andy a while back because I'd put in a bid to run a one-off night anyway when Hull Forward and the council were looking at ways of using the old buildings down at the Fruit Market. But that came to nowt and Andy was setting up base at Fruit, I'd known him for a while and every now and then I like to take on stuff that I'm in no way qualified to do!
It's basically about giving writers the chance to see their work performed on stage, script in hand initially, and inviting audience feedback. Then, during the course of the nights, we'll bring some of the pieces back and the audience can see what the writers have done with that feedback. I'm hoping it will be an ego-free incubation space for new work but anything goes, really.
The space at Fruit is great - it feels very exciting down there and I'm happy to be involved in any way I can be. Maybe further down the line I'll run some writing workshops down there.
As for art and whether it can be taught. Hmmm. You can teach people the rules - because there are rules about writing - and what they do with those rules is then up to them. The mere use of the word 'art' just brings to mind elitism. There's no difference, in my book, between high and low culture. Just let people throw stuff up and out there and other people can decide whether it's good or otherwise.
Writers can have any background, come from any walk of life, but please don't let's create a set of circumstances where only the wealthy can 'create'.
Nick : You're involved with film-making, too, working with Single Span Productions. What's going on there at the moment? How does film-making differ from play-writing? Is it different influences for different mediums?
Dave : Making short films is an irritating, very expensive and highly time-consuming hobby. I'm writing all of the time and some of these things are more about visual storytelling and suit short film.
A handful of us have got this loose co-operative thing going and we're developing a few different ideas and have two shorts in post-production but I find filmmaking such a frustrating process. You have an idea one morning and two years later it's six pages and no closer to being made.
Originally we were going to subsidise shorts with corporate work but I'm such an anti-capitalist that I can't bring myself to do any of that. Bill Hicks is always in the back of my mind telling me I'm off the artistic payroll for ever. None of which sounds very positive.
I like to have my fingers in lots of pies but, for me, the playwriting is the serious game and the filmmaking is just something silly I do on the side. Theatre, for me, is the most exciting medium that has ever existed.
Nick : It seems that having been a brickie and a journalist in former lives, you've worked hard for your artistic success. Do you feel there's a lot of support for artists in the area when they need it most? How much of a struggle has it been for you to reach this level?
Dave : It would be easy to give up, right now. That thought crops up in my mind at least three times a day. It's a struggle because writing anything takes time and time is the great luxury. Life itself is a struggle enough without harbouring any fancy ideas about writing 'a great play'.
My bank balance is laughable so not only has it been a struggle to reach this level - not that I'm anywhere, really - but it continues to be a struggle. But this is what I do. When I was on a building site all I did was dream of the day when I wouldn't be but maybe sticking with that would have been more financially lucrative.
All of my heroes have fucked it up and lived a penniless existence; this seems to be the one true way. I'm artistically free but there's a price to pay for such freedom - the warning would read 'don't do this at home'. There's support if it's needed.
Funding has got quite a few of my projects off the ground. And there's a growing support network of other writers although they're mostly peculiar people who live alone and won't get a round in. All of which lends me to believe I need a sugar daddy.
Nick : Lastly, what have you got in the pipeline as we approach 2011?
Dave : What, is the scratch night at Fruit not enough for you? There's a lot of stuff that I can't talk about but I'm currently beavering away on a new piece that is based on something of a local horror story but does, I feel, have very wide-ranging appeal.
When I start thinking about something I'm a bit like someone pushing food around a plate but never eating any of it - so that's the stage I'm at with that one but I've got high hopes it will be performed next summer. I'm also exploring some ideas around a site-specific promenade performance piece that I'll be co-writing some stuff for and finally finishing off a one-man show about J Arthur Rank.
That last one's been kicking about for a while and originally it was written as a multi-role extravaganza with a large cast - performance style over substance really. Desperate to sort that one out but other ideas and stories have taken over in recent years. His is a fascinating story and it's time that particular Hull legend returned to prominence.
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