Have we gone quiet? Have we heck...!
Anybody else wondering how we're already over a third of the way through the year? We're absolutely baffled! They say time flies when you're having fun, and that's totally valid; sometimes the opposite can also be true. From frightening international relations situations, to the ongoing cost of living crisis, to an incredibly tumultuous time for the arts and the care sectors, we're definitely finding that while time is going very fast, progress is very slow. Kind of get what we mean? If it helps - you're not alone.
We have every right to rail against the slowness when it's prolonging preventable emergencies and exacerbated trauma, of course. But as just about every trauma survivor knows, sometimes progress has to be slow for the result to be as fruitful as it can be. And then sometimes, after long silences, everything happens all at once. In that spirit, 2023-4 is a great year of learning for us with not one, not two, but THREE strands of development work, and we're so excited to share our journey with you.
First up, our founder is thrilled finally to be finding some formal structure to her understanding of what it is to be "trauma-informed" by training with Canadian company Moving the Human Spirit in trauma-informed coaching. Wait - you mean RAT has been running without that backing for all this time? Nell has guest lectured at two universities and several panels about this stuff without any real training? The cheek! The presumption! The gall and the gumption!
Stop! We can explain!
Truth is, she's tried. She's looked into several programs, and found them so reductive, prescriptive, and often downright offensive, that she's known that she was better off with her own intuition as a survivor. (Anyone else ever been told in "trauma-informed" training that survivors can't be creative, or feel empathy? As a creative organisation built by and for survivors on foundations of empathy, that surrounds itself with other survivor activists, artists and organisations because they're the ones who really GET us, that definitely didn't sit right. How about being told you couldn't join a mental health awareness training course because your own symptoms would be too distracting for the other learners? How's that for a litmus test…)
But this one has been road tested by our friends and allies at the Museum of Homelessness (whom Nell would happily trust with her life), and it is under their watch that Nell is doing this work, to contribute to the design of a coaching offer for their community. The crucial thing here is that there will some things there that transform our understanding of trauma in creative and vital ways, and other with which we passionately disagree - but that's OK. No two survivors are the same, and actually part of this training is about being able to embrace NOT knowing - which we've long believed is the perfect breeding ground for the creative curiosity, indefinable clarity and cathartic intuition that we strive to elicit in all our work. So don't worry, we're not letting go of the chaos - but hopefully deepening what we can do with it in the artistic space.
Next up, Nell will be continuing her friendship with the legends at Arts and Homelessness International as a member of this year's Associate Leadership cohort. AHI not only produces and supports some of the best and most innovative arts by people with experience of homelessness both locally and internationally, and brings these creatives together regularly to compare notes in online meetings, but they strive tirelessly for policy change towards equity for survivors in the arts and beyond. There are no better people to guide us as we go into a crucial stage of further defining the mark we want to make on the artistic and cultural landscape: how we will uphold non-negotiable values while being malleable in response to changes in need and opportunity. They'll be darn good company along the way, too.
Finally, we are starting a new creative collaboration with CRIPtic Arts as a supported company on their INCUBATE program for developing disabled-led arts organisations. Alongside extraordinary innovators, we will get to grips with some of those scarier practical sides of being an organisation that, while they can be every bit as creative as the art itself, are things we don't always anticipate having to be good at as artists! Crucially, we'll be discovering the additional innovations we can and must bring to our structures as disabled path-finders and path-makers, to contribute to a shift in practices and norms that will see more of us sharing our perspectives and artistry across various artistic platforms.
Does all of this mean you won't be seeing us in action this year? Absolutely not - in fact, we have a couple of projects coming up later in the year that we can’t wait to share with you. But for now, we’re living in eager anticipation, knowing that when the iron is finally hot, we will be ready to strike.
Take care of yourselves and stay tuned!