Course studied: BA (Hons) Acting
Graduating year: 2017
“The course leader saw something in me that I didn’t.”
Bath Spa alumna Bel (BA (Hons) Acting, 2017) is a Cultural Producer and Theatre-Maker with a passion for identity and representation. Bel took the script she began at Bath Spa, Memories We Lost in the Fire, on tour. It won an Oscar Wilde Best New Writing Award at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival in 2018.
What’s life like for an acting graduate during lockdown?
I’ve been lucky enough to be a freelancer since I left Bath Spa. I’m freelancing at the moment for a couple of companies: Arch 468, where I’m a trainee producer looking at commissioning new writers for big bidded projects, and Fuel Theatre, where I’m a Programme Assistant working under an incredible Senior Producer who’s teaching me so much. I’m fundraising for Fuel Theatre too, as well as working on newly commissioned projects, which is really exciting.
Recently I founded my own production company, Bel Clarke Productions, and I’m looking at how I can blend that with being an Artistic Director of Leading Light Collective, which I co-founded at Bath Spa. Leading Light has recently been awarded the Emerging Company Award by the Bread and Roses Theatre London.
It’s obviously a very awkward time at the moment; we all feel so disconnected from each other because we’re meeting through a screen. I’m learning to make theatre with people who I haven’t even seen in the flesh before!
Due to the pandemic, emerging and established artists are currently competing for the same projects. This means there are fewer projects, and therefore mentoring opportunities, for emerging artists.
Because of this, through my work, I want to create mentoring opportunities for underrepresented artists. Opportunity to develop is the most important tool we can give to the emerging industry right now.
“Through my work, I want to create mentoring opportunities for underrepresented artists. Opportunity to develop is the most important tool we can give to the emerging industry right now.”
What does a Cultural Producer do?
Bel Clarke Productions is about creating more opportunities for them and for myself. It’s a way to combat the way we’ve been and are currently portrayed in the media. In society, Black is not seen as beautiful; Bel Clarke Productions will reject this notion and uplift the next generation to know that it is utilising multidisciplinary art forms. It’s lovely to have a company where I can see myself, especially my younger self, portrayed positively.
"My personal work is black-female-centric. In our industry, black females are one of the most underrepresented communities of artists."
How did the course support you?
The course is called BA Acting but it’s also about understanding the role of the theatre-maker.
"Bath Spa gave me the freedom to believe that acting is not the only role we can play as professionals in the industry."
In my second year I wrote a monologue and in my third year I was given the opportunity to put on my own work for Leading Light Collective. That’s when I wrote the monologue, and with mentoring and support from the lecturers, I was able to transform Memories We Lost in the Fire into a full-length script. After graduating, Leading Light Collective utilised the skills we’d been taught at Bath Spa. We were able to take it on a tour around London and win an award for it in Dublin.
I never saw myself as a playwright and no-one around me saw me as a writer. The course leader put me on that module – I guess she saw something in me that I didn’t. I thank her for it because being on tour with my play was incredible.
I think that’s why I picked Bath Spa in the first place; the freedom it provided in creating my own practice instead of sticking to one discipline. I knew that Drama School would be very strict and moulded to acting and finding an agent.
The Bath Spa modules gave me the opportunity to create my own work and realise that there’s a bigger team in the room than just the actor and the director.
What are your tips for thriving as a freelancer?
My individuality has been the most important part of my progression. Drawing inspiration from others is an important part of building your own identity. I read a lot so that I can develop mine.
I never shy away from my values. It’s easy to see a piece of theatre as something that you put up and then leave behind but at Leading Light we reevaluate what we do every year. I’m always considering whether all the members of the team are being represented on stage. Getting others’ opinions is very important to me, because someone else might see something that you didn’t see.
"Leading Light Collective was founded on the basis of not sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, but rather creating the work that an artist needs now. A lot of people believe that having an agent is the way to work but it’s about self-marketing, too."
People can put on the work but often they don’t know about funding bids, business practices, marketing and PR. I’ve run workshops for building, sustaining, and marketing your theatre company.
Freelancing can be a whirlwind and it helps to have a close friend alongside you who is also a freelancer so that you can bounce ideas off each other. It’s being able to think “I need the work – how am I going to create it?”
Photo credit: Xanthus Peters