DivergencyMcr: Rounding off 2016

As we torpedo into the end of the year, and wave goodbye to 2016 (And I’m definitely glad to see the back end of this one), it only feels right to re-cap on what Divergency has achieved since it’s successful bid to run for another 12 months. It’s been a while since we’ve been active online, but we’ve been busy making live art and contemporary performance since we last posted!

On October 6th Word of Warning, STUN + Black Gold Arts Festival presented Divergency’s first open platformed event. Myself and the 6 other current Divergency artists plus guest Yvonne Shelton, took over small but wonderful sections of the Z-Arts building and STUN studio to present a medley of work-in-progress showings that we had been exploring throughout the year previously.

From interactive digital installations and promenade performances accompanied by live violinists, stretching through homelessness to quantum physics - each piece of work took a lens to something different and it was wonderful to see some of our less practiced artists explore new ideas, and as always, great to see our more seasoned artists try out their new work too. Alongside some lovely reviews and feedback from our audience, some of the work has been picked up by some really interesting programmers – so 2017 sets to be a busy one for our current Divergency artist.

We are however seeking new participants for the new year, so if you think you would be interested in taking part of the meeting, talking, eating and making that ensues amongst Divergency, you can emails us at divergency@habmcr.org (or me toni@habmcr.org)

photo credit: Garry Cook

Divergency recruiting: Trainee Project Manager

Trainee Project Manager Internship at hÅb

Exciting and varied opportunity to work in a unique contemporary art organisation. This internship is 3 days a week, based in Manchester. 

hÅb is a producer, developer and strategic advocate of contemporary performance, live art and sited work in the North of England and runs the Word of Warning programme 
We are looking for a Trainee Project Manager to assist with the day-to-day running of the Divergency project, working primarily on a programme of creative activity aimed at encouraging more diverse artists to engage with live art. 

Location:                        Manchester

Bursary:                         £15k (pro rata, 3 days per week)
Internship Period:          12 Months

Application Deadline:     25th August 2016
Start Date:                     September 2016
All roles advertised through Creative Access are only open to UK nationals from a black, Asian or non-white ethnic minority. 

Only applications via Creative Access will be considered – please DO NOT contact companies directly. 

Coming soon - Divergency at Black Gold Arts Festival

Thu 6 Oct, 6-10pm tickets tbc

From the earth beneath our feet to the stars in our skies, an evening of emerging works by a group of artists as diverse as their subject matter.  Quantum mechanics, homelessness, food and sex brought together in a series of tabletop performances, installations and sit-down shows.

Divergency is an ongoing project - contributing artists include Maya Chowdhry, Jamil Keating, Chanje Kunda, Afreena Islam, Cheryl Martin, Chelsea Morgan, Toni-Dee Paul plus guest Yvonne Shelton. 

Please note this is primarily an adult event and may contain content not suitable for the under 18s, details online from 19 Sep.

image: Chanje Kunda

DivergencyMcr: 'I Can't Breathe'

The dust has finally settled following Ria's beautiful and compelling sell-out show 'Matilda and me', closing Word of Warning’s Spring/Summer season on a real high! Before I go on, have a read of some of the comments left by our wonderfully generous audience:

“Ria was mesmerizing. A history lesson - personal, political and beautiful all in one.”

“Brilliant, thought-provoking message, well written and captivating.”

“Really grateful to have had this story shared with me. Elegant performance. Thank you.”

Planning to be up in Edinburgh to scout out who we should be keeping our eyes on next!! Watch space and all of that…

The day after the show Ria took 6 of us on an afternoon amble around Manchester city centre, where we explored our environment with a different lens, considering our bodies' impact on the space we inhabit…  Or in my words: all of us standing in the middle of Manchester Arndale and looking up at the ceiling or walking around the Arndale on our own and holding eye contact with random strangers… Unbeknownst to us, we’d garnered a small (and just as stealthy!) audience, who gave us a small knowing clap as we left… it’s the little things…

DivergencyMcr: Ria Hartley - Matilda and Me

We are really chuffed to welcome Bristol-based artist Ria Hartley into the STUN Studio on the 25th June, to present our FIRST EVER programmed show, Matilda and Me.

Ria describes herself as an interdisciplinary solo performance artist; blurring the boundaries of art form, Matilda and Me weaves together spoken word, live art and dub poetry to take us on the journey her grandma took from Jamaica to England in 1962. The show offers both Matilda and Ria's political viewpoint on their lived experiences of migration, colonialism and racism, as well as the current perception of British cultural identity.

We’re also really looking forward to THE CITY IS OUR PLAYGROUND - the site-based workshop Ria is bringing for us! 

See below for more details :-)

Word of Warning, Divergency and Sustained Theatre Up North present

Ria Hartley - Matilda and Me

Thursday 25 June 2015, 7.30pm 
STUN Studio at Z-Arts, 335 Stretford Road, Manchester, M15 5ZA 
Price: £5/3 
Book here or call 0161 232 6089 
More information: www.wordofwarning.org/current/2015-springsummer/hartley/

Matilda is my Grandma. 
She migrated from Jamaica to England in 1962. 
Now all of her memories have faded.
I need to remember for her, for me, for us…” 

Weaving together storytelling, spoken word, dubpoetry, live art, autobiography, and reggae music, this colourful and challenging performance offers a political viewpoint surrounding the lived experience of migration, colonialism, racism, and the current perception of British cultural identity. Performed solo, the piece is presented as a biographical mythology of Ria’s lived experiences, reflecting poetically on the story of her and her Grandma, and the 2 islands they are from. 

An interdisciplinary performance artist, Ria works within the mediums of devised theatre, performance, live art, video installation, photography, spoken word, site-specific + durational performance; often autobiographical, her work is concerned with memory, identity, communication and human relationships. She has been an associate lecturer at Falmouth University since 2010.

Age advisory: 14+, the show lasts approximately 1 hour with no interval. For specific age and access information please email afreena@habarts.org or call 0161 232 6086.


Friday 26 June 2015, 1 - 5pm 
Around Manchester city centre - starting point - The Yard 
(41 Old Birley Street, Manchester, M15 5RF) 
Free to professional artists with show ticket - limited capacity first come first served. 
Book here or call 0161 232 6086

"What does freedom mean to you? Walking in your own shoes, are there places you don't go? Have you found yourself in places you’re forced to feel you don't belong? Places you have no reason to go? Do you ever question why? Have you ever stood still in a busy shopping centre, just to experience the movement of others, like a shoal of fish? Have you ever occupied the invisible spaces, cut-offs and leftovers? What is the highest point in the city we can reach? Have you ever broken through the invisible boundaries dividing social class, gender, race, age and ability? Have you ever considered that your body, identity and voice are powerful revolutionary tools? That your body is always performing and making meaning in the world?"

This site-based workshop is an invitation to professional artists to explore the city with our senses; spend time to interrogate its functions and how that impacts upon our bodies, and how our bodies impact on it. Together we will explore the city in new ways, peeling back layers to reveal more about our bodies in relation to site. We will play with structures, break invisible rules and perform for accidental audiences.

This workshop invites artists to creatively and critically explore how their bodies relate to the wider context of the city, and how this knowledge can be applied to creative making processes for both site and studio-based practices.
N.B. Please wear Manchester-weatherproof clothing, and comfortable footwear as we will be outdoors for most of the workshop.

www.riahartley.com | @RiaJadeHartley

For more information please email afreena@habarts.org or call 0161 232 6086.

DivergencyMcr: at the halfway point!

We were very lucky to have (self-described) ‘Hawaiian transplant’ and performance maker Stacy Makishi kick off our 2015 with a workshop, where we each had a stab at making the worst performance we have ever made… meet the alternative seven dwarfs - Dull, Token, Meaningless, Unhinged, Self-Absorbed, Mainstream, and Unethical! The workshop inspired us to start thinking about making some sort of public performance, the how, the when, and the practicalities are all up in the air(!) but watch this space!

We’ve had subsequent 'in-house’ workshops, a Moroccan meal, a group ‘go-see’ visit to Sue Maclaine’s Can I Start Again Please, presented as part of SICK! Festival, and we’ve picked up a few new recruits along the way! We’ve put our own heads together to programme a show in the STUN studio - artist Ria Hartley will be performing her solo show, Matilda and Me, where she retraces her grandma’s footsteps from Jamaica to England, offering a political viewpoint surrounding the lived experience of migration, colonialism, racism and the current perception of British cultural identity.

Jamil received a commission from hÅb, performing his first solo show, Affected, as part of Works Ahead at Contact. Described by himself as a 45 minute long confession, this was Jamil’s first step in an artistic journey of trying to find the balance between being overwhelmed by perverse enthusiasm for the absurdity of life, and trying to say something of substance about it. (Pictured above).
Following our workshop in December, we made a short video piece with Chanje responding to the "Black Lives Matter" movement. (Pictured below).

Meanwhile, I have found myself in Bristol for the Live Art UK Associates Gathering, in Liverpool for the Creative Case North Gathering (looks like ‘gatherings’ are in at the moment!) and in London delivering a presentation about diversity for the Standing Conference of University Drama Departments. I’ll be back soon, and I’ll try not to leave it as late as last time!


DivergencyMcr: latest shenanigans!

Celebrating our successful Grants for the Arts application (hooray!) we kicked off the project with a workshop from our friend and Divergency 'regular', Selina Thompson. What may have looked like a huge food fight to the untrained eye, was actually a workshop about using food as a stimulus to create work! Following which, we went to see Selina's aptly named show, Chewing The Fat, at The Lowry.

After working with food and watching a show about food, we went and ate some food! We broke (naan) bread and discussed as artists: who we wanted to work with, what we wanted to get out of the project, and how we wanted to do it. Food being a focal point - we decided we would meet and eat one month, and workshop the next... which leads me on to our latest excursion to Artwork in Salford - a huge art space where Jamil hosted us and Chanje set the workshop exercises!  

Great minds and all, we all responded to the same brief, which was: 

No speech in the performance at all. Narrative and/or concept being explored must be communicated without speaking. The performer(s) are at the heart of the piece.

See below a selection of photos of what came out of the workshop.

Plans are afoot for Divergency in the new year, watch this space!

DivergencyMcr: Chewing The Fat (plus free workshop!) by Selina Thompson

STUN and hÅb are pleased to be hosting (once again!) Leeds-based artist and performer Selina Thompson, and she's bringing with her a delicious (!) workshop and show combo...

Over the past couple of years she’s been developing a body of works, Edible Women, exploring the fat body, dieting, and control around food (and just how much of a mess she can get away with creating with an audience!). So far, she's made a theatre show, built a dress out of cake, spent quite a lot of time listening to people confess their food sins and shared many of her own…

The Workshop: That's what you get for being food...

Monday 3 November 2014, 5.30 - 9pm 
STUN Studio at Z Arts, 335 Stretford Road, Manchester M15 5ZA 
Price: Free 
Booking: Click here

In her own words, this is what it’s all about:

"I’m a firm believer that a performance with food in it makes the brain and the heart salivate just as much as the mouth. So for this workshop, I want to spend a little time exploring how our physical and sensory responses to food can be used to transform food into a visceral, powerful way of connecting with a peckish audience.

We’ll be working with stolen words, our autobiographies and of course — food! — to create some positively delicious moments of performance.

This workshop is for artists, but more than anything, it’s for people that love food/cooking/eating/making a mess. Come armed with a strong anecdote — a story you love telling — and a food that you would like to use to tell it. Be as abstract or literal as you like, and bring as little or as much of that food as you need. See you soon!"

There are discounted show tickets (£5) available to workshop participants, for details on how to book them and any other workshop enquiries please email afreena@habarts.org

The Show: Chewing the Fat

Friday 7 November 2014, 8pm 
The Lowry Studio, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ 
Tickets: £12/10 (£5 for workshop participants, see above) 
Booking: Click here or call 0843 208 6000

"FAT! That’s what I’m making a show about. My fat. Your fat, maybe. Fat. I’ve been fat for a long time now, and I thought I was fat, even when I wasn’t, and as such, I’ve been thinking about fat for even longer. So I made a show about it. Our bodies and egos are fragile, our ways of talking about them inadequate, so I can understand that you might not be up for talking about fat for an hour."

Glitter, chicken legs and a rice pudding piñata: Selina invites you to her own version of a midnight feast, a cross between the confessions made over coffee at Weight Watchers, and sloppy drunken story-telling over a 3am kebab. Sitting somewhere between story-telling, stand-up, live art and theatre, Chewing The Fat is a powerful portrayal of how we live with our bodies.

Click here for a 5* review of the show in the Yorkshire Post. 


Chewing the Fat is presented by The Lowry and Word of Warning. 
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Originally developed with support from Theatre in the Mill (Bradford), ARC (Stockton) and West Yorkshire Playhouse (Leeds). 
Workshop also supported by hÅb and STUN as part of Divergency, supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

DivergencyMcr: Selina Thompson workshop new date: Mon 9 June #CreativeCase

Due to illness, we had to postpone the Selina Thompson workshop - and are delighted to announce the new date is:

Mon 9 June - 5.30 (for 6) - 9pm free at STUN Studio, Z-arts

New participants click here to book (if you booked previously, we will contact you!)  


Selina Thompson is an artist and performer based in Leeds. Her work is playful, participatory and intimate, focused on the politics of identity, and how this defines our bodies, lives and environments. Her recent work includes Dark and Lovely - storytelling from within a giant tumbleweave tent; It Burns It All Clean a commission for West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Transform Festival and Chewing The Fat, coming to Manchester in Autumn 2014.

Of this workshop she says:

I want to spend a couple of hours working with people on the importance of bringing their own authentic voice and stories, to the work they make. I feel that our lived experience, our thoughts, dreams and fears bring something truly unique and sincere to the work that we make: but that it can be quite scary doing that in a performance context, so it’s important to invest time and energy into nurturing our capacity to do that, and to keep things as ‘real’ – and in some cases unpolished – as we can. So we’re going to be doing exercises, (writing, performing, some where we’re just imagining and plotting things together), to help you feel more confident in bringing your voice, and your heart to your work: in a way that allows you to connect with your audience but doesn’t leave you feeling exposed. 

We’re also going to devote some time to the very serious business of being silly. 

It’s important 


Click here book your free Workshop place, deadline 10am Mon 9 June

(Direct URL: https://habarts.wufoo.eu/forms/divergencymcr-booking-form/) 

For info/queries contact: afreena@habarts.org