Hi there friends, Baz HQ here - apologies for the lack of Bloggage but we’ve been mighty busy with plans afoot that should come into place very soon. Watch this space, it’s all very exciting. *rubs hands together*. As ever, we at Baz are always in the pursuit of knowledge, and always keen to learn and experience where possible where accessible theatre could take us in the 21st Century: what it could look, feel and sound like.
That’s why we were thrilled to be invited to Felix Peckitt’s exciting, relevant and groundbreaking workshop. He titled it, very succinctly, the ‘Goldilocks Mixer’ - thankfully not a weird booze/fairytale mashup - but a mixer of the equalizer kind, like you’d have in a soundbooth. But let’s go back to the beginnings of this project, back in 2017 when the Globe hosted a ‘Remix the Globe’ event, as explained in a fab write-up on the Tourettes Hero Blog, a wonderful read we recommend you read post-haste.
The day was primarily aimed at young people with Tourettes and was a slice of what true Sonic Inclusivity could look and sound like with frank discussions on language around tics and Tourettes, a sonic map of the Globe, a succinct report on the sounds its unique shape promotes and muffles and a chat with the team at the Globe on how to be more inclusive. By all reports, a complete success.
Fast forward to August 2019, and Felix’s tour with his sonic workshop of sounds has been touring spaces and theatres alike, at the ‘I’m Here, Where Are You?’ disability festival and many more unique venues with a pledge to inclusivity. The Goldilock Mixer finally made its way back, after its maiden voyage to the scene of it’s beginnings and to the Sam Wanamaker. We were kindly invited to the workshop- something truly appreciated as the workshop is not for our needs - as adults without Tourettes ourselves it was very generous of Felix and the crew to allow us to be part of the conversation and take part.
What becomes apparent immediately, is that everyone, regardless of the industry in which they work should have a go on Felix’s see-saw, addictive exercise in the two and fro, the give and take of curating shared sound - not only between ourselves, but everyone else in the space: what made us all wince, what we took no notice of. It posed great questions regarding how used one can be to the culture of silence in an artistic space: the fact a gallery is a silent appraisal of silent works, the fact that the seconds before curtain up - whether it’s the Palladium, or the Royal Opera House, the audience, every time, fall eerily quiet. It seems that in our Westernised Culture silence = respect. For Felix, and the other participants that is clearly not their truth - and they are far from being disrespectful. The census to our shared sense of disappointment and anger from the discussions at the workshop was that many adults with Tourettes in the group refrained from visiting the theatre, worried of consequences.
That is an abhorrent truth, and worth getting impotently angry about on behalf of the Tourretes community - but Felix and the team that supported him to create this Mixer are intent instead on educating everyone on the experience of a true sonic map that is distinct to every venue. With this data Felix and his team can site evidence that backs up the fact it is the common opinion that needs to change, not the cultural habits of those with Tourettes, and offering to help in the solution. Through tech and samples of sounds, two people seek to find equilibrium in sonic harmony. First, on synched tablets, you both choose one location - these can range from a beach to a cafe - and then you are presented with a selection of sounds you can turn up or down with a swipe of your finger. Some of these sounds are background, like indistinct chatter, the sound of a coffee machine whirring into life, or the soft swell of the sea. Others are foreground, such as a baby crying, someone telling a story around a campfire, the train pulling into a station. It is up to your twosome to find a balance, something that is not too overbearing, and yet remains an honest depiction of how noisy life can be. The baby, Felix pointed out, often gets muted, but as a group, across the board, nobody chose to drown out the sound of someone’s tics.
Onstage at the Sam Wanamaker, with the sonic patterns bouncing off the columns and the shapes these curated soundtracks ensured the space felt more alive, more relevant and more real. The frank discussion held afterwards with the participants was at times humbling and sad, on behalf of such ostracism of the Tourettes community and at other times inspiring. There is something, always, about hearing the truths told by affected parties, and it's something everyone must hear.
What Felix manages with his talent for tech and his excellent hosting skills is something that is, on the surface, presented as a fun task - it soon became desirous to be one of the two ‘mixing’ - and the easy familiarity of tablets and swiping contribute to make it feel quite game-like - but you never lose the drift of the thing; and that is sound is its own animal - it will crash and whisper, attack and caress - and it is unstoppable. The sounds of tics should be accepted and normalised in our theatre spaces. The fact that we uphold silence in the pursuit of art is a practice that actively hurts accessibility and inclusion. It certainly gave us here at Baz a lot to think about in terms of inclusivity and what kind of atmosphere we’d like to promote in the spaces we put on work. The sway of attitudes today would dictate that theatre goers in particular may be ‘put off’ or even annoyed by the tics of a person with Tourettes. Well for every one of those people - attend the Goldilocks Mixer - you might find yourself across from a Tourettes Hero as you work together to make something not so quiet, not so staid, but something real, a true reflection of the sonic intricacies we are taught to block out, to reject even. Together, you’ll equalize until you find something just right.
Check out Felix’s Goldilocks Mixer website on what they do and how they do it here: https://weareunlimited.org.uk/commission/felix-peckitt-the-goldilocks-mixer/
Many thanks to