There are Entelechy artists who have worked with us for over 20 years (or more) and grown with the company.
In collaboration with our communities, they have helped nurture the organisation we have today. Our long-term artists have experienced the unique perspective of witnessing Entelechy Arts evolve through different eras; how one idea leads to another (often returning); how many different voices contribute to the work we now stand on.
In March, this year Entelechy Arts held a series of artist network meetings on zoom, which brought together associate artists across all programmes in conversation about new ways to develop work. Artist Weiyee Cheung wrote this stream of consciousness blog initially as a spontaneous email relaying her feedback about her experience of the meeting, and how it catalysed her reminisce of Entelechy’s past work. She found herself reconsidering her sense of place in the organisation as we move into a new era.
Her writing is in note form, as thoughts arose. She riffs on her Entelechy Arts memories from when she started with us as a volunteer, progressing to lead artist 20 years ago. Her writing mixes past with the present, reflecting on how this throws light on our creative values today:
I never know where to place myself in this (the artist’s meeting).
It takes me a while to digest.
I will find myself reminiscing.
Everything that was said in the meeting resonated.
Although there is an organic and process-led method to creating the work, it is also the kind of people who can work in this way too.
There is a sense of freedom, but it is a language that we also learned.
I came into Entelechy as a volunteer in 1999 from a fine art time-based arts practice background. I was at a point in my life thinking, what could I do to make a change, and saw a leaflet to volunteer at Entelechy. So, I applied.
It was a long time ago and there were very few volunteers back then.
I did some movement and dance in the Deptford Albany red room aka Ambient Jam, with Rebecca, Peri, and Carol who was deaf and blind. Anyway, there were big plastic water bottles being thrown about and we were rolling on cushions and silks. That was the moment I felt I wanted to be more involved.
The first project was with a London Bubble production of Gilgamesh in Oxleas woods in 2000. Entelechy had worked with the cast of London Bubble and members of Ambient Jam exploring Gilgamesh’s themes in multi-sensory ways.
Somehow, I got to make flatbread in the woods on a camp stove with David and invented and designed bread lanterns as part of a sensory journey during the theatre show.
I was also an Entelechy Arts trustee for a short while. There wasn’t much diversity on the board at the time. It was an experience, I got to see a fuller spectrum of Entelechy Arts at the time. The Tea Dance event was just beginning to happen in different spaces when I started.
I always felt a sense of belonging in the Entelechy Arts world. A feeling of being needed and needing Entelechy in my life. Or just being a part of the family, making and building friendships with this community.
It would be useful to have some smaller creative informal meetings as Malcolm (Buchannan-Dick) was suggesting, where we made things whilst chatting, just to get connected again.
It has been a year since the first lockdown.
In a pandemic, we had to change the way we behaved.
Social distancing, isolating, hands, face, space, PPE, testing etc
At the same time, I continued working as a support worker to keep people surviving, as one of the ‘essential workers.
In a world pandemic, essential workers were categorised.
I had to carry on whatever potential danger was there.
What Entelechy do is essential to wellbeing and mental health.
So, for all the members it would be about the connections.
Not feeling so isolated.
Being a part of something.
A collective, which provides friendship, artistic product, creativity, therapy, activism, inclusion, rebellion, movement, socialising, a voice, a supported network, identity, empowerment.
It feels subtle and loud.
My artistic skill is one aspect that I speak through. I am not that good with words.
It is always a collaboration.
I am not promoting myself as much as I am supporting someone else to promote them.
Music, dance, singing, arts and craft, design, movement, socialising, a cup of tea, expression, mindfulness, health, exercise, personal care, empathy, diversity, respite, poetry.
We have to adapt to a situation, that is uncertain and changing.
Projects that I really enjoyed in the past before the manifestation of MMA:
We had a group of women who created a dance group called RampAge. Rebecca led this group with Julia Honess and Barbara Kane. It was a lot of fun and we had quite a few headstrong older women in the group – most have passed away since. It felt quite innovative at the time. I made a lasting friendship with Kirin Saeed, an Asian visually impaired lady actress-writer extraordinaire.
Rampage, a dance group including women of different ages and cultures with different backgrounds and experiences. Photo by Julia Honess.
Another project I really loved was with the Downham library teenagers and students from Greenvale school with PMLD. Malcolm worked on this one too. I got to know Malcolm’s work a bit better in the video editing process with the teenagers.
These projects were short but had a profound effect on me at the time.
It is great when there is an intergenerational approach in the work.
The 21st Century Tea Dance sort of fulfils that.
The Tea Dance just melded all the various strands of Entelechy together.
as a celebration and party for all.
The Jive Five band, Ida Barr, choir, Elder’s theatre, Ambient Jam.
Other communities joining in, Deptford mission, Brazilian theatre company, Tea trolley dancing, care homes, poets, Southbank centre, Spitz musicians, schools, nursery, Heart and Soul artists like Tilly volunteering etc.
Weiyee with the Tea Trolly Dancers at Captial Age 21st Century Tea Dance, Deptford Albany, 2014. Photo by Roswitha Chesher
All the artists that work for Entelechy Arts also the Elder actors like Kurban, Rosie, Lillian, Gwen, Theresa, Sybil, Sylvia etc I can’t remember all their names, but they have been there grafting away, if not more for years.
For example, I met Rosemary Davies at MMA. I discovered she really loves crafts such as card making, knitting, doll-making etc. One of my main roles was to design the theatre space for the tea dance events. And I found myself working with Rosemary and getting her input in this process too. I discovered she had a beautifully organised studio at home with every implement for cutting paper shapes to make cards you could possibly think of. But also, a real community worker with the Scouts and the Bellingham club for older people in Downham. A real stalwart of the local community but quietly hard-working, bubbling, with aches and pains and illness too.
There is a responsibility for all these people including staff, support workers, volunteers, drivers etc. I think that we need to recognise everyone’s contributions. I often feel this a lot in all the processes we work in.
We are creating a space, a safe space, a free space just as much to give them time to shine and grow and be cultivated.
I often listen to radio London and have heard Kurban Haji speak on there about all sorts of things. He is one of Entelechy’s activists.
Past and present members are given a bit of a platform too.
Artist family tree.
Plus, the theatre of elders maybe.
I enjoyed Ambient Jam when it has also ventured to different locations like the Tavistock Institutes festival at the Swiss church, and the Garden museum, even at Harry and Megan’s wedding live stream at Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank.
Ambient Jam Collective at the Garden Museum, commissioned by SDDS Human Nature 2014. Photo by Roswitha Chesher
Anyway, I am meandering all over the place. I wanted to give some feedback. But have made it into a bit of a memory lane of Entelechy Arts. There are so many. This is only a small aspect.
Hopefully, you get a little bit of a sense of my experience with Entelechy Arts.
The main top image is from Entelechy Arts Blackheath Spiegel tent 21st Century Tea Dance. July 2021.