INTERVIEW: Writing The Missing | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Rob Irish

Did you know that 25% of people in the North East are disabled? This statistic led Darlington-based writer and creative practitioner Lisette Auton to question why this 25% are not represented within creative culture and ponder the question how has everyone gone missing? Commissioned by Durham Book Festival, Lisette Auton and filmmaker and producer Rob Irish collaborated to create the third in their series of films entitled Writing The Missing: Folding Water, which is premiered at the festival on Saturday 15th October.

Lisette spoke about defining the Missing and taking care of the Missings gifted to her: “It started with people telling me their Missings. It can be anything…what’s missing in your life, a loss. Something that you once had that you don’t any more. Some are funny, some are heartbreaking, some are so intimate and personal…It’s just grown and expanded from there.

Collecting people’s Missings, it feels like an absolute privilege and an honour, sometimes a weight…maybe they’ve never told anyone before and I’ve made beautiful handmade books [to keep their Missings] and they live in there. Every single one of those Missings has also been written on to origami paper and folded into stars.”

As a disabled artist creating work that tackles cultural access, Lisette discussed the recent back-and-forth shifts in accessibility. “It was marvellous how the world adapted when it needed to [in the pandemic]. Suddenly, all the things that we’ve been asking for so long really could happen and then when everyone doesn’t need them as much any more they disappear.

Accessibility is not a kindness, it’s a right. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, there’s loads of amazing stuff out there to use

I think that’s why I love working with New Writing North and Durham Book Festival. They have been brilliant making the festival online, in person and using venues where stage text can be used…It’s often the smaller organisations or the ones that have less money who are making the big changes and being bold. Accessibility is not a kindness, it’s a right. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, there’s loads of amazing stuff out there to use.”

Lisette explains how her and Rob worked together to create a rounded experience with this film. “I don’t believe everybody with different impairments and access needs can come to the same piece the same way without risking spoiling it…But I do want anybody who is visually impaired to have similar journeys. The music is really clever [to match and translate the visuals]. Rob and I had loads of discussions about this and he’s a genius in turning discussions into reality. The depth of sound can cause vibrations, anybody could access that, if you are deaf or hearing impaired, you feel that vibration just the same way… Sue Lee was incredible with BSL, directing her was a dream because we talk about the meaning. BSL is a different language with different grammar and ways of expressing things.”

Writing The Missing represents 25%, but it helps everyone learn, grow and understand with kindness, so that people don’t feel the need to apologise for who they are.

[In the previous films] I tried showing ‘we are who we are, roar!’ and then I realised that maybe I was lying a bit, and although I believe that, the truth is that sometimes it’s really hard to not apologise…I don’t want to be one of those pretty kind of films. I’d rather say maybe it is hard but I want to try and maybe we can try together.”

Writing The Missing: Folding Water by Lisette Auton and Rob Irish is premiered at Gala Theatre Studio, Durham on Saturday 15th October. Lisette also leads a disabled artists’ networking event on the Saturday morning.

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