Audiovisual Cultures episode 72 – Creative Recovery with Rachel Brook automated transcript

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hello and welcome to audio visual cultures i’m paula blair and today i’m catching up with rachel brook who i hope you remember organized a special international women’s day event that we recorded for the podcast back in march and she also appeared in the late shows episode back in 2019 rachel has been using creativity both as a means of working through trauma and in developing her career as a practicing artist and these are topics that she’s going to take talk us through today huge thanks to our members at forward slash iv cultures for your much valued support you might know that i’m managing persistent technical difficulties lately so memberships or donations to paypal dot me forward slash pei blair or buy me a coffee dot com forward slash pei blair are hugely appreciated we’ll connect now with rachel in her studio and just so you’re aware we are going to get into some tough issues as well as talking through rachel’s experience and developing body of work i hope you find this really fascinating

hello rachel how you doing

i’m good thank you and it’s lovely to see you uh i’m just um in my studio at the moment um i’ve been painting this morning or touching up some paintings should i say i’ve kind of been working on some stuff for a while that i’m kind of trying to just tweak and yeah i’m i’m setting myself a bit bonkers with a few things you know when you you’re trying to get something exactly how you want it and it’s not quite going the way you want it so i’m great but i’m also in this sort of little like oh [ __ ] space where i’m trying to achieve something and i’m not quite there we could just about see behind you you’re doing some very precise geometrical work at the moment yes i am um i’m uh yeah in fact i i obviously i’m gonna hold something up which will be on the video um obviously if you want to uh see anyone who’s listening to the podcast um you can uh check out the the youtube uh video but this is this is one example of some little bits and pieces that i’m working on so um for anyone who doesn’t know what this is it’s a tesseract um or a four-dimensional cube and so what what essentially this consists of is um there are eight different cubes that sit within this space and they share um multiple kind of dimensional space so for example there’s a cube here and a cube here but the end of that cube shares that same space um then you’ll also have a cube here and a cube here um and a cube here and here um and that yeah when the more that you look at it the more that you can sort of and this is all of the different cubes within it and what’s even more interesting and actually when i first started drawing these i um i was really obsessing over it because i couldn’t figure out how to draw one i knew what like what i wanted to draw and i understood the the kind of the the theoretical makeup of it um with with kind of access space i suppose um and it wasn’t until about a week or two ago that i realized that actually the entire thing is just squares so there’s a square here and then a square here but there’s also a square here and here and so actually what i now do originally i was drawing them in a different way but now i’d just draw square square square square square and because of the but once you get so far along it you actually the the the points that the the next squares sort of join up you you already have a reference point from the first few squares that you’ve drawn and so it’s just fascinating that the eight two-dimensional squares presented within an octagon creates this um this this tesseract shape

yeah a weird obsession that i’ve had during the lockdown period um and i think something i don’t know whether it’s something that’s come from it or it’s something that i was already obsessing over and maybe kind of resulted in me sort of learning how to to produce these shapes but being inside a flat um that’s quite small um and kind of being limited about how much time we can go out and do things um and sort of you know

feeling uh isolated or alienated by or both um and i guess maybe like somewhere in my subconscious this idea that you know like if i could actually um understand how four-dimensional space works then technically that would allow me to have more space because if if this cube here is my living room and this cube here which shares the same dimensional space as this cube is like extra space that i don’t currently have access to if i can access the fourth dimension then essentially i have more space inside the the area that i exist um so that’s kind of maybe where some of it comes from i i i’m still kind of making sense of it all and hoping that at some point i’ll have some sort of i mean i think maybe the you know the the sci-fi nerd in me is is um is hoping that you know i’ll eventually be able to understand um what four-dimensional space is but i think that’s highly unlikely um because this technically this only is a

it’s it’s a theoretical framework that helps you understand four-dimensional space but of course because we only live in three dimensions it’s impossible for us to ever really fully understand what it’s like to live outside of three dimensions because it’s all that we know and it’s all that we have the ability to experience so if i go completely bonkers at the end of this and at least we’ve documented it

it’s a i don’t know i it feels like i’ve been finding it very therapeutic actually watching your videos of you actually coloring them um it feels like you’re taking us a bit on your voyage of discovery of the these dimensions so it’s just kind of nice yeah and i mean that to a certain extent that kind of comes from i suppose from being at home and also learning a bit more about how i can use the the digital realm the age of information to my advantage in all of this um and but also to share you know it’s not just purely narcissistic but like the the you know that there’s so many platforms out there that you can share visually and and like i recognize that you have to be careful with your like artistic property your intellectual property when when you’re dealing with you know the digital realm because you know it it’s so easy to kind of um yeah put something out there and essentially lose it whether it’s you know whether you lose it emotionally or whether you lose it and it’s something i’m really fascinated about maybe it’s a conversation for another time but just kind of what it means to to kind of to be an artist within the the you know the age of information and not just a visual artist you know a musician or you know a performance artist or you know um and yes it’s definitely something i’m kind of thinking more on and would like to discuss more in a future day for sure yeah yeah yeah um so

so you’ve been you’ve been working a lot on this kind of work a lot in the past few months and um if it’s okay could you take us back to where do you think the kernels of those ideas are coming from and how that process of of the of the working uh of the creativity hi that’s uh you know what what’s the genesis of that so are you happy to take us through some of that sure yeah and i think that’s yeah really significant to what i’m doing now and and you know why i’m doing what i’m doing now um so if i’ll i’ll give you a bit of um a kind of introductory background to sort of i guess the last um the last eight months or so so up until january i was working in a part-time job and i’ve been in that for about a year and a half after being made redundant from full-time work um and basically um the um the first week of 2020 i saw out the last hearing um in a tribunal case and that had been ongoing since well since before my redundancy actually um and it was yeah really exhausting process um massively debilitating really impacted my mental health and my relationship and basically towards the end of 2019 my partner suggested that i leave the job that i was in um and essentially he said he would support me through the process um of transitioning to basically making my artwork a professional endeavor and so i’m using um this is something i’ve only come up with in the last sort of week or so but um which is influenced by a few other things as well i’m using a hashtag creative recovery um because i think that you know while what i’m doing isn’t primarily therapy i am finding this work therapeutic um or if not therapeutic at least you know i’m doing work that also feels like self-care yeah um which is very very important um but yeah like i mean i massively took a a leap of faith um and i genuinely thought that by this time i would be you know having to get a part-time job to pay bills um and that was that was kind of obviously something that’s that’s um you know been uh an issue because what i found when i when i was working my last part-time job i thought oh i’ll work part-time and that part-time work will allow me the time to focus on these you know creative practices that i’ve wanted to focus on for a while but actually um you know it’s that the job was you know it consumed a lot of my energy um it was it was a great job and and uh and i loved where i was working um and so i do want to talk today about um you know these sort of problematic work situations that i’ve been in um but i do actually i think it’s really important um to mention that the last job that i was doing i was working for um good space which sadly is is no longer um running um in the form that it was when i was there um due to covert 19 and it was a great job and i loved it very much and with that being my most recent job i want to make sure that when i’m talking about problematic work situations today that that doesn’t get um mistaken for for one of those environments because it absolutely was a wonderful place to work and i love my colleagues um and you know it’s uh it probably helped me uh transition from you know being in that kind of full-time work life that was you know quite problematic for me um to to actually come to you know to where i am now and you know i’ve been um i’ve been a visual artist my whole life like since i was a child i’ve always you know in involved myself in in in creative expression um you know and and maybe like hadn’t hadn’t ever as a child like had never thought that it was something that i could do as a you know as a job or you know and and like i think that i’ve really struggled to say the words that i am an artist essentially and like my brain has tried to sabotage this process and and like really struggle to say it out loud and then like i think oh it’s only been in the last few months where i feel comfortable just saying i’m in awe it’s like oh what do you do rachel oh i’m an artist like you know and some people it’s crazy that some people still sort of are like what do you do like you know my partner was trying to explain it to his nana the other day and and she was like so just just sell paintings and it’s like i mean sometimes i do but that’s absolutely not everything that i do and i guess there are two branches of of work that i’m focusing on the moment one being kind of community project work um and then this more personal journey um which uh you know that are crossovers um but yeah this this the painting um i do make artists film although i admit we haven’t made one for a while um photography sometimes um but yeah and creative facilitation as well i mean the last film-related project that i worked on i was facilitating a group of people to make a piece of film so um it was i definitely had some creative input into it but but it was very much about them and their work um it was with a group of people who were um living with grief um cross-generational the youngest person was 12 the oldest person was and essentially i i worked with them um and an ex-colleague of mine a girl called hannah mcpharlin who runs polaris film um and we uh yeah we spent six weeks with this group of people and essentially supported them through expressing their experiences of grief through a piece of artist film um it because of the nature of it all the film’s not available anywhere because it’s for them and it’s for their personal use and you know i think that unless they all were happy with it being exhibited um you know we won’t get to show that to anyone which is fine because you know at the end of the day when you’re facilitating or you’re facilitating creative processes it’s really hard to to kind of make sure that that process is not about you and it’s about the people that you’re working with um and so i’m trying to get i haven’t got anything else like that lined up at the moment but i’m i’m like looking for more opportunities to do that sort of thing as well um so so yeah that’s kind of where i am um was made redundant had this employment tribunal um that kind of came to an end and then i just made this decision to yeah to to transition um and you know that’s kind of brought me to where i am now um brilliant so i’m i’m really interested in that idea of transitioning in terms of life and career because it’s so similar when why i even started this podcast um

would you would you be okay with telling us a bit more about what spurred that need for change than you yeah yeah absolutely and i think the word the really important word that you use there is need um like it it wasn’t just something that i wanted it was something that i needed to do and like i think i spent i spent you know a large portion of 2019 um either conversing with my therapist or thinking about my conversations with my therapist about kind of how like i just knew that i wasn’t doing what i wanted to be doing um and that almost like i feel like in in many ways some of the jobs that i’ve worked over the years where i’ve been in like a structured working environment you know full-time hours uh you know large organizations that it can really sort of gaslight you out of thinking about you know what actually works for you and what’s best for you and what you know and and i recognize that like you know i’m in a a position of privilege in being able to do this um although i did take some big risks and you know like i didn’t know if if this was going to financially work um so you know i recognize that it’s not as straightforward as just being like oh yeah quit your job and you know do something fabulous because it’s not like that at all and it has taken a really long time to kind of you know decide what it is that i want to do and look at what i can do to make those changes and look at who’s around me who can support me to make those changes and like i mean i think one of the key things is empowerment um you know i’ve been empowered by some really excellent people yourself included paula like who who’ve you know talked to me about creativity and about all and about you know culture and and and made me kind of realize that there’s an incredible community of people in newcastle that allow me to be able to do the things that i do um and so you know i’m i’m i’m here and i’m doing it but i also recognize that like basically you know while i went through this tribunal case um which had a massive impact on me anyway it was actually like one factor in a much larger experience of work-related trauma that i’m sort of still recovering from and you know where i’ve experienced abusive management dysfunctional workplaces poor ethics outright bullying and discrimination and you know just just really toxic working environments um and i feel like i escaped my last full-time job um despite being damaged and exhausted and the irony being is that i was made redundant like it almost reminds me of you know that you i’ve been in an abusive relationship before where like i’m miserable and i hate the relationship but yet i’m devastated when it ends and that was kind of you know i used to describe this job as an abusive relationship all the time this sort of idea that like you know i was miserable every day and i hated it and and i saw things going you know i knew that i wasn’t the only person experiencing um these sort of negative things and like you know but you sort of when you’re in something like that you kind of you you you get lost in it i suppose um and like i think the thing that really shook me up was just sort of how how much my professional confidence was not you know like 10 years ago i was in london i was working in marketing um in television post-production industry and you know then moved on to uh some film festival work also in marketing and like to think that i was in a certain place 10 years ago and and then i’ve kind of found myself back in newcastle for various reasons you know first job that i got when i moved back to newcastle knocked my professional confidence so much that i just i like i still i still feel the effects of it now absolutely um and i found it really hard to talk to people about or really hard to find the sort of the right dialogues to to to discuss all the right kind of environments to discuss it because you know there’s a point where like you’re sitting in the pub or well not at the moment well or you know you’re sitting in you you’re with your friends and you’re like oh you’re whinging about your job again it’s like you kind of like i got sick of hearing myself talking about it um and so i had to change how how i talk about it and how i think about it and how how it is how that dialogue works in my life and and it kind of has to be for me it has to be a positive thing in some way there has to be something positive that’s coming out of it and it’s taken the absolutely incredible bravery of a few select people who are also ex-colleagues of mine um who are either previous or president well i think previous now uh employees of the tyneside cinema um who’ve spoken out um about how they’ve been abused and was treated and then silenced um and and that those kind of conversations that have been shared have allowed me to feel a lot more comfortable talking about these negative experiences and especially within a professional environment because i think there’s definitely you know there’s this whole i guess it’s a i suppose it’s an etiquette isn’t it that around you know you’re not supposed to talk about it you know the bad thing happens at work and everyone you know everybody knows but nobody talks about it it’s an elephant in the room and it’s always there um and actually no you know these things have to be discussed and they have to be made public they have to be brought out into the open um and so i’m really grateful to to the people involved in that campaign um for reminding me of uh collective strengths and the power of having a voice basically i’m just gonna um share with you some information if anyone’s not familiar with what’s been happening at the time side cinema and there is a website that’s been set up and it’s and that has a full overview of what’s been happening there it also has a petition that can be signed and i think some more things are going to be coming on there in the next couple of days as well so yeah um head over there to to read more about that

um yeah it’s been it’s been it has i’ve been following it closely and it’s been such a an angering very bitter disappointment um because i think especially because it’s a it’s a cultural organization that professes to uphold diversity and inclusivity and um it’s so frustrating that what should be the flagship cultural organization of the region really um has been just just to find out that not just that abuses have been taking place but they’re so intrinsic and endemic and devastating you know it’s been yeah it’s been really hurtful and you know this it’s an organization that personally and professionally i’ve tried really hard to support and you know you know so it’s yeah it’s been a it’s been a strange one and um you know it’s really frustrating that you know um even before a lot of this broke on social media um when people took to social media because they weren’t getting any answers um you know even before this you know when the closures happened with lockdown and there were the drives for funding and that sort of thing i just find it quite frustrating to see all these messages that look we welcome the gays we welcome all read we welcome all religions welcome all abilities and disabilities and all of this we welcome working-class people and and as somebody who’s sort of from a working-class background but sort of made good people i mean i’ve never felt that it’s a welcome space for working class or per people um and it’s an incredibly white clientele and you know so on and so forth you know so i i felt that there was hypocrisy there anyway that needed to be called up then just the absolute craft of stuff that’s come out um that’s so painful for people and again just the idea that it’s a cultural institution where we should be using ideas and moving forward and um you know it’s we we shouldn’t can be trying to do better but when there’s an organization that’s saying we do all these things and we’re brilliant there’s alarm bells so yeah yeah yeah and and i think that one of the one of the things that i’ve seen um within the the conversations is very much about this sort of so these things have come out in the open and and you know these people are you know putting themselves in in potentially vulnerable situations by sharing some really really um triggering information for themselves you know and other people but doing it because it’s all that they know what to do and and and doing it because they’ve been silenced and and that’s the thing that really scares me about these sorts of things happening and i know that that you know this happens everywhere or not everybody happens a lot and that you know people have these encounter these issues and they’re silenced they’re either paid to be quiet you know i mean i guess you know with my own tribunal situation like the thing about the tribunal process is that you know it’s public and you know you have a panel of experts who are there to listen to you and to listen to your voice um but but it’s also really like arduous long stressful process that you know you can do without legal representation and i entered into without legal representation and i did represent myself but that had a whole load of you know i mean i spent something like like 150 pound on like buying a printer and and sitting printing out all my tribunal documents like something like 700 pages and like sitting and putting them all together and you know putting the page numbers on them and making sure you know making little mistakes and you know i guess maybe uh you know i haven’t done anything like that since i was at university where you know when i was you know when i was uh studying um you know we still did everything on paper and you have to get everything perfect it’s just submit i’m i’m sure you you you know um in just that whole like yeah arduous awful process um but there’s so many people who have experiences where they literally just there isn’t any evidence and and i think that you know there’s something really problematic

societally when you know if somebody says like i have experienced this and just because there’s no evidence doesn’t mean that that it should be ignored um and this sort of idea that you know i i think as somebody highlighted a response in in the in that situation which was something along the lines of we’re sorry that you feel that you have been harassed or we’re sorry that you feel that you have been and that just not we are sorry that this has happened and not like you know

it’s it’s very much like we’re sorry that you feel that way but it’s not an acknowledgement of what these people are actually saying and in the use of use of words like claim didn’t claim this they you know they feel this it’s like you know does that mean that um you know that people put out uh sort of it during the the kind of the the surge of of coronavirus um from uh pretty patel the sorry that you feel you have died um you know and that that’s that that’s come to mind when seeing all of this like it’s yeah it’s it’s such a it’s such a really problematic way of apologizing and it essentially it’s not apologizing it’s a non-apology as they say you know um but it just it what that does is that puts the onus back on the person who is i don’t want to use i hate to use the word victim because you know there’s not everyone wants to be called a victim not everyone wants to be referred to as a victim but but the people who have experienced these negative things you know that lack of acknowledgement that silencing that that you know inability to make an apology what that does to people is it is it is it essentially says this is not our burden this is your burden you will hold this burden but i think you know what’s happening with this particular situation is that there’s so many people who’ve had so many negative experiences um within you know this these sort of past working environments that they’re actually all coming together and supporting each other in solidarity which is is is fantastic and and hope it empowers more people to to do the same i hope so too yes because i know in my own scenario of an abusive workplace it was very much a divide and conquer and it’s actually quite amazing to see people come together and say no we’re not going to let you divide us we are going to talk to each other we’re going to talk publicly about this and as you say it that in itself is empowering for other people to see especially if they’ve had have been through something you know um in a similar vein um yeah and i mean it’s yeah because it was all bad enough anyway and then just the the whole situation the whole the you know the pandemic happening the world going on fire everything having to shut down it’s another thing that’s used as an excuse to oh well no we can’t deal with that because there’s this whole other massive thing that we have to do um it just keeps your you just yeah growing up in a civil conflict that’s not in peace time that’s been the narrative always it’s like oh we have to deal with the legacy of this and we can’t you know deal with you know godly autonomy or or marriage rights or whatever um and it just feels a very similar kind of it’s a systemic the abusive narrative of no this is this other massive yeah and we can’t deal with that right now you know you’ll just have to yeah you know um so yeah but it’s just so wonderful it’s painful and it’s hard it’s really hard to read the stuff but i think it’s an important read with all of these different people and all of their different threads and daily they’re pushing it because they’re not letting it go and these are people who are trying to do phds they’re trying to get on the jobs they’re trying to raise their children yeah they’re trying to get on with their lives but it’s neither thing they have to do because what if there is a chance here of justice you know because it’s not not just an issue of acknowledgement it’s an issue of justice now it feels as well yeah absolutely um i’m just thinking maybe it’s important to mention that yeah that the anyone who hasn’t followed this and does go into like kind of um you know delves into it and actually you know there’s a lot of information on twitter and a lot of these people these incredible people have shared a lot of really really personal information and then yeah there is some quite um you know upsetting stuff to read um so you know anyone who does read it just be kind of aware of that because it is really really really upsetting um and and it’s yes it’s a strange feeling as you say like this it’s wonderful that these people are kind of coming together but at the same time you know that solidarity like you know it’s you you kind of wish that you didn’t have to have solidarity uh you know you you don’t want to be in that position in the first place but you know once you’re there that solidarity is so important you know um and yeah i mean i think the thing that that i worry and i recognize that different people have different resilience um but i also something that that i’ve you know researched um is the is is like the you know mental health statistics um both in the region but also within within cultural sectors and so the you know there’s a significantly higher percentage of people who um report mental health within the arts and within the cultural sector um and the northeast has the height is the highest you know the uh number of cases of mental health in the country like by region so the chances are that that you know there’s going to be people who you know who who are less resilient and who are going to really struggle and they’re going to find this really hard to to come through and you know this you know my own tribunal situation for example was something that um was a you know was triggering for my mental ill health but it was also about my mental ill health so i um i brought a a claim for disability discrimination um and failure to make reasonable adjustments um to my ex-employer because i was discriminated for my mental ill health and i was you know that wasn’t supported and so that the sort of that like spiral of um of kind of oh wow like i’m already really low like my you know my my mental health is already bad and now i’m having to you know put myself in a position where i know that it’s going to have a detrimental effect on my mental health when my mental health is already so low and so like across all of the different places of work and all the different people i’ve met over the years who’ve had you know negative experiences or had experiences where they probably could if they wanted to take their employer to try people don’t because the the process is so so difficult um and you know it’s not for everyone and you know just comes in different forms but i think that like one of the things that i’m only just so finding myself to start to feel differently about is not being angry all the time um and it’s very when you’ve when you’ve you know when you’ve been mistreated and when you’ve been who it’s you know that angus often there and it and it kind of affects everything for you knows any you know any and if you’ve been if you’ve experienced this um this type of uh like workplace abuse essentially every time you enter into a workplace your brain is being reminded oh work like oh so you know if you you know like you if you step on on you know sharp stones with bare feet it hurts and so the next time you you know the next time you see you’ve got bare feet and you just the pebbles are sharp you know oh that’s going to hurt like your body is naturally wired your brain is naturally wired to to like to learn from from both positive and negative experiences so if if your place of work is the thing that makes you you know sad or angry or exhausted or miserable or suicidal then every time you go to a place of work you’re going to be reminded of that and that’s always going to happen and and you know i really worry for the the people that i’m seeing at the moment who are who are going through these awful things because like there’s a long process ahead that they’re going to need to you know adapt how they feel about work again because that’s the site of trauma that’s a sight of you know of of um of negativity for them and and and you know i i really um i guess it’s something that i’m sort of i’ve been thinking about for a period of time and that’s something we’ve discussed as well i think is is this sort of um you know kind of how how do how do we support each other to be kind of stronger through these processes and and you know i mean maybe something that i’d like to do in the future when i’m ready is is you know set up some sort of network for people who have experienced these sorts of things to help them kind of you know rehabilitate back into into a positive working environment yeah yeah i i totally hear you and it’s something i’d certainly love to be involved with because um you know the more people i meet or reconnect with and we realize gosh we have this shared story of surviving an abusive workplace and edit and very often it’s usually somebody who is also a survivor of uh an abusive romantic relationship or an abusive partnership as well so yeah um uh it’s it’s unbelievable how many of us there are right there and yet it’s you know i’ve seen this on twitter as well recently there’s not a lot of it doesn’t seem like anybody’s the abuser or anybody’s the rapist but yet there’s all these people who’ve been hurt badly where where where is this coming from um yeah so actually you’ve hit on a really interesting point there sorry and if i interrupted you not at all um if you wanted to finish i can wait not at all you work away it’s because it’s something i hadn’t kind of prepared to talk about but it’s definitely been something that’s been going through my head and i think that you know as you say there’s lots of people talking about these experiences and yet not you know not people coming forward i mean you know i mean you know be really a breath of fresh air for someone to come vote and say wow like i was that person at work you know and and i think that you know when you actually break down like what the definition of bullying and harassment is in a workplace environment it’s not it’s defined by how the person experiences it not by necessarily exactly what someone does so someone can be doing something that they don’t necessarily even realize is a problem and that’s why you have you know companies have like basic policies and procedures at least they should anyway but many of them don’t to to have you know so that someone you know because someone does something once and then you you speak to your you know in theory that the ideal is that something horrible happens you speak to your manager your manager speaks to them and they go oh wow i didn’t even realize that i was making that person feel uncomfortable i didn’t even real and you know but what happens often is that you get people who are allowed to behave a certain way and nobody questions their behavior nobody questions how they treat people you know and they stay in companies they get promoted they become people’s managers and nobody’s gone hang on a minute like this you know all you know what as what appears to have happened in in some situations that we’ve discussed today is that you know people do try and highlight to their managers and of course nepotism has a huge um part to play in all of this and at the end of the day like if you know if you’re a manager and your you know friend is accused of doing something horrific like you would hope that you would do the right thing you would hope that you would you know but it appears that often that doesn’t happen um but i think the yeah the thing that i’ve really really thought about over the last few days is so so for example in in the in the stuff with the um hindsight cinema um the the i think they’ve actually set up a twitter account which is calling for the resignation of the chair of the board of trustees and the ceo and now the thing that’s occurred to me more than anything is like when all of this is over are they going to be okay as well you know and and the thing about um someone asked a question to a group chat that i was in the other day about like what what does it mean um to be an empowered woman and i think it’s this you know an empowered woman empowers other people um and doesn’t you know take all of the empowerment for themselves and not share it amongst everyone you know or whatever and i think that like i i like there are in my own cases and in my own experiences there are people who i am angry at individual people that i’m angry at and there is absolutely um a need for accountability when it comes to these situations but i do wonder like you know what you know are these people also going to need their own you know trauma um uh kind of process after this as well um and and then i recognize how problematic that is because you know you think well there are people whose actions have inflicted you know trauma on other people but then you know they’re also part of that same toxic entity and you know if i can say oh i’ve been in places of work where i haven’t been able to see the woods for the trees um i you know haven’t been able to see outside of it then you know it’s possible that that the people you know the the people who are um you know coined the perpetrators in these situations may also it’s not as black and white as that’s a good person and that’s a bad person and that person’s experienced something horrible and this person is evil you know i don’t believe in that kind of binary um you know i believe in rehabilitation and you know i i really dislike the way that you know we um prosecute people in the way that we punish people through through our you know and the prison system and things like that i mean that’s a whole other conversation to have another day but like you know there is you know there’s always room for people to change and there’s always room for people to to recognize the things that they’ve done wrong and i think one of them like the the most defining moments for me like as a as a um i guess as a as like a person who values intersectional feminism um is that you know i have i’ve not i’ve not been kind to people in the past yeah and i’ve i’ve you know i i can look back to like times in in my early 20s where you know i could have been that person at work i could have easily been that person um and or recognizing that like i was bullied at school really badly but that doesn’t change the fact that i know that there were times when i was at school that i didn’t make people feel very good either and you know the i have this this really vivid memory of um having a conversation with someone at school and i said to them that they said like oh i said something like you know you know why don’t you talk to me in this class or something like that and i said oh because you bully me in in design technology and she’s like do i and i’m like yeah um and she had no idea that she made me you know she did her actions were bullying towards me um and then what i realized like much later on in adulthood that actually i probably you know was that person at times too where i didn’t think about my actions and i mean i think the difference is that that you know that when someone highlights to you what you are doing is wrong and you have the opportunity to change and you don’t then there’s a problem there and that that’s something that you know is is damaging definitely yeah because it’s you need that moment of reflection of humility to go oh that’s not okay what i’ve been doing um yeah whereas i think the knee jerk reaction is to go it was just messing about you know or it was just joking or you know or you’re taking it too thick or you know things like that and i completely i’m completely with you you know certainly maybe it’s a use thing maybe it’s an arrogance of use type thing but yeah i don’t remember being very high in my day when i was younger at times and then learning more humility as it got older and especially you think about well look that action really hurt me and it’s just developing empathy isn’t it it’s that’s why yes you can care about the people who directly or indirectly have done harm to you or have allowed harm to happen to you and not stood up for you you can still be worried about how it affects our lives eventually because you know because you have a capacity for for empathy and that that is it it’s just how much of a capacity for empathy do any of us ever develop and then you can look at yourself and go okay the way i spoke to that person was uncalled for do you know i need to get better and future yeah you know it’s it’s things it’s checking yourself it’s because we all have hardwired prejudices we all make mistakes but it’s are you gonna own that mistake and absolutely become a better person from it you know that’s the difference whereas i think a lot of abusive behavior is perpetrated by people who believe themselves to be victims they believe themselves why is everybody ganging up for me all of a sudden i have no doubt that there are certain people who are asking those questions right now at the middle of all of the time side stuff you you mentioned empathy uh just now and that made me think about kind of um how workplaces you know rely on these hr manuals or hr policies or hr consultants who come in and say this is how you do things um i know and i recognize that you know these policies and procedures are meant to protect a company primarily you know but like you’re dealing with human beings at the end of the day and you can’t you can’t like i don’t believe that a person can pick and choose when to use embassy like empathy should exist whether you’re in your personal life or whether you’re at work um and you know putting like a basic hr process in front of you know how somebody thinks feels is terrifying and i know that companies do it um and and i know that you know big corporate companies do it especially and they and like they make it work um but when you’re dealing with arts organizations i don’t think that that’s it’s just not the same environment and you know i like there’s all these sort of dialogues around oh it’s so you know there’s no money in the arts but actually like these you know these arts organizations like a lot you know for example the times cinema is a national portfolio organization receiving like you know money every year from the arts council from the bfi from all of these different funding bodies um and like you know the the i respect that the arts are massively underfunded in many areas but i think that often that you know the people who are struggling in the arts or people who are down at my level like trying left right and certainly trying to get funding to be able to do things like a big a big company that employs 100 members of staff should should not be in a position like that if they are being given money to run they should be running properly and they should be you know if things are dysfunctional if things aren’t working there should be you know you know they should be going well why why isn’t this working and what can we do to change it um and i think that that you know one of the biggest issues in all of this is is kind of how you essentially you get these dysfunctional workplaces that are micromanaged from the top down and they’re not people focused and so they they impact everyone you know who works there’s and unfortunately the people who have experienced trauma or have mental ill health or you know have additional support needs for example you know they come out of these environments like needing respite they need recovery and you know often they end up backing work too soon because i don’t have a choice you know you know not everyone is in a position to to to you know like you know be as lucky as where i’m at the moment where you know i’ve got a partner who can help me um kind of transition into what i’m doing like you know if you’ve got bills playing you’ve got bills to pay and you have to figure out how that’s going to happen and so you know and i’ve definitely found myself like coming out of a traumatic work experience and then going into another job and just feeling um completely like lost and and miserable and i mean my biggest workplace trauma is led me to have extreme feelings of disassociation you know finding myself like getting up going to work coming home from work having my tea going about getting up going to work and just being in this like this routine of just feeling completely trapped and miserable and when i mentioned earlier like feeling like i’m in an abusive relationship and that’s just sort of that’s that’s bonkers to me that so many people find themselves in these situations um and i think this leads to something that we’ve discussed previously um which is imposter syndrome um you know this idea where you’re in a professional environment and you’re employed it will position within that professional environment and yet you feel like literally like an imposter like maybe you’re not it’s it is experienced as the people around you or you know like everyone else seems to know what they’re doing and you don’t like you know and that that sort of has to say that that’s led to me definitely feeling like you know things like disassociation like just feeling really and really struggling to do you know participate in like you know work social events and you know feeling really and almost like even like having a almost like use like self-deprecation to you know to get through it and and like actually put myself down or not believe in myself or convince everyone else that i’m you know not good enough or you know not capable of doing what i’m doing and um i mean i guess the thing is that that actually the the you know i can there’s one particular incident in in a you know in a past job where you know that there was something that made me so angry that like i went home and i painted and i painted and i painted and i painted it and i spent the whole weekend painting and and like actually that that feeling of anger towards that situation almost um fueled the resurgence of the painting that i’ve been doing and so it’s a it’s a very i mean a kind of complicated emotional space about it because um like i actually um you know started waving my hand in the camera there and i’ll start that sentence again so you read it there but yeah like actually um you know

feeling like these experiences of anger and and persecution and you know and like it’s like going back to what we’re saying before like you can’t really be angry at a company you know there are at the end of the day there are people who make these things happen and you know um like you know they there are people who have power and they have the power of silence people they have the power to use nepotism they have the power to use elitism and and you know like this affects your like your identity and it affects your you know who you are as a person and then in some weird complicated messed up way if i hadn’t gone through some of these things i might like potentially found myself now like in a in a job that i don’t really like that much but it’s fine and you know it pays the bills and you know i live for the weekend or whatever um but actually having these traumatic experiences made me have this such an extreme like visceral like defined response that no i’m going to do something that makes me feel better and i’m going to do something that works for me and i’m going to completely adjust how work like what work means for me how i approach work and what i do to to to pay my bills essentially and and i feel like it’s such a it’s such a complicated emotional situation of being because i i sort of almost in a way like needed that push um to to you know needed that kind of anger to go no this is not this can’t keep happening you know yeah i completely understand yeah because i’ve there are times when even nights um about three and a half years since i left academia and even now there are times when i first i suppose that the lockdown it was this period of enforced contemplation um because it’s made me feel like i’m still really angry i’m still really really angry at all of those years and years and years of really hard graft just taken away from me you know yeah because it was a push and it was um it was one of those where i jumped before i was pushed yeah you know where i i was the one who resigned but they were going to fire me anyway and i just wanted to get through it with some dignity yeah and um you know but i still now you know i still see who i could have been and him and what i probably still could be capable of being in that career path but it’s it’s maybe a bit like the arts it feels like a very parallel conversation because academia is a very similar industry in a way where there’s just so much systemic abuse there’s so much nepotism there’s so much elitism there’s you know very likely arts there’s very little space for people from working class regional backgrounds to make a space for themselves um and to be taken seriously and all sorts of things you know and so much of it’s very meal driven even though you know i think you know it’s it’s the working structures are in place that keep women out of it more so than men and that sort of thing um you know so we really really i’m on board with you you know i really get what you’re saying you know totally in those areas

um but yeah it’s it’s really fascinating as well just that idea of the the artwork yeah having a difficult relationship with it because yeah i think with certainly with academic study and studying culture studying filmmaking art that was always for me my my escape my release and horrible things going on in my life and then work where i did those things primarily became the horrible thing in my life and so it’s a really strange association but i still love all these things i’m still a total nerd for cinema and for art and i love learning new stuff and you know making this podcast means that i get to speak to people like you and explore things and learn stuff um and find all this common ground and yeah it’s um but it’s it’s trying to reconcile with so you’re doing this thing because i i have found certainly during the lockdown period doing anything creative it feels necessary and yet frivolous and i think that’s just such a societal thing that yeah it just feels quite silly to and i i’ve heard of so many other people who who’ve started painting or have picked something up again who have been learning musical instruments or learning languages and all sorts of stuff you know i’ve been doing a lot of crafts a lot of sewing and and things like that these are fine things i find really restorative and they’re so important for your health and there’s you know like you were saying when we began you know you’re always a maker creator an artist as a child and where in our lives do we stop being those things where do we decide or we’re too old for that now or yeah you know yeah i mean i think that that you know everybody has the capacity to be creative you know some people just don’t you know some people don’t find it therapeutic or some people don’t find it enjoyable or some people you know or some people kind of you know i recognize that there’s many different ways of approaching how you do your job and i think that’s really something actually just very in eject that like there’s a big difference between how you do your job and how you engage with the people that you work with and i mean maybe part of the you know me doing things the way that i’m doing them now comes from the fact that like you know i i’ve definitely had had people working with people in the past where i’ve been able to say oh wow they’re so good at their job but like i can’t interact with them i can’t have a meeting with them i can’t you know if they have to give me work to do or if i have to interact with them or i have to work with them i know that it’s going to be a nightmare and actually you can’t just say oh well you know they’re good at their job so you know and i wonder whether maybe in a way this is just an extension of my gas lighting where i’ve just like i’m like you know i struggle so much with like the way that people have interacted with me in working environments that i just it’s easier to just you know write my own rules and do my own thing and do it my way um but like inevitably i’m going to be working with other people and i’m going to be doing collaborations and i’m going to be doing you know commissioned work that requires me to work with other people so i have to like kind of figure out a way of dealing with that um you know kind of but i think people

i think that that you know how people perceive the way that they should interact in at work i think that a lot of that comes down to a sort of um you know a recollection of how people interact at school or at university um or in other learning because the thing is that like you know those learning environments exist to prepare for work and for so many people work is this sort of environment that you can’t just go in and sit down and do your job you have to talk to people you have to interact with people you have to work with other people and i think that some people just don’t ever learn how to do that properly and you get people who work their way up to like management positions people who end up running companies who like don’t even know how to interact with people properly or treat people or you know communicate and and that’s just you know i think i think there’s like there needs to be a massive massive overhaul of of like understanding about what these things mean and kind of you know understanding what it means to be creative understanding what it means to be you know and and also like respecting um the fact that creativity is you know is it is is something that you know allows people to do the jobs that they do and you can’t like there’s something about like if you if you undermine people or people feel disempowered then how are they supposed to be creative how do you you know express and you know express yourself and and and do the things that you need to do and it you know i hope that the you know the the lockdown period is is something that’s kind of allowed for a wider reflection

um and that you know people are going to go back into busy working environments again whenever that may be whenever that’s i mean i recognize that some people are already in those um like you know if you work in a hospital or if you work in a school then then you’re already in that right now um or you’ve never left it you know during lockdown um but sort of yeah the the the hopefully i’m the pessimist in me is going yeah whatever you know but i hope to i hope that some sort of positive change with regards to you know how we appreciate creativity how we appreciate people um comes out of of of the lockdown experience um and i mean i i myself have had my own kind of right like i i’m just trying to think of a way to put this because essentially i’ve done really well during lockdown like i had a few weeks of not doing very well and i still have had a few wobbles of not doing very well but generally like it’s allowed me to really focus um and you know really kind of um turn my attention to certain things and and and get to a certain place with with the work that i’m doing and and i’m again i’m conflicted about that because i’m like this is great i’m i’m i feel like i’m in a really great place i’m really happy i’ve experienced all this horrible stuff in working environments and i’ve come through it and i’m here but then i still have this sort of feeling of like you know i must check my privilege and check myself and remind myself that there are people who have been through awful things over the last few months and we’ll continue to go through really really hard times um and you know when we haven’t seen the end of this yet and i just need to keep reminding myself that i’ve you know i’ve been lucky enough to be able to get myself to a place that works for me um after everything i’ve experienced but also really appreciate the incredible efforts of the people who haven’t you know haven’t had a chance to you know

make it do paint a picture or make a piece of art because they’re you know they’re flat out working um and it’s yeah it’s sort of finding that that space between the being happy and you know being content i mean you can never be fully content but you know you can have moments of it or small experiences of it um and you know uh i guess i just have to appreciate this for me to be able to be here doing what i’m doing and creating the work that i’m creating there’s also people in the society that are in really dire straits at the moment i just want to you know i i i i need to constantly remind myself that i don’t want to ever get arrogant or get you know kind of uh yeah like high on my own on my own uh uh sort of um i don’t want to use the word success because i’m definitely i wouldn’t say i’m you know in a position of success right now but i’m you know i’m doing okay is what i’m trying to say yeah it’s a very subjective term because i think that like you were saying earlier about how to recalibrate what you think of as work it’s good to recalibrate what you think of as success as well that’s true yeah that is true yeah um i mean i think just to to try and tie up some of that a bit um because i think with what we’ve been talking about i mean you’ve been involved in quite a lot of community projects or you know moving into more of those areas as well and it’s a really tricky area when you’ve been someone who’s faced bullying and survived really toxic work environments it’s about you’re building up trust and it’s not something yeah you feel like doing community work but maybe through the arts and through practice do you think that’s something that links up oh absolutely yeah and i think the things that i’ve learned um you know that a lot of these negative experiences that we have you know that can lead to bitterness it can lead to anger and and it can take a long time to you know stop feeling that way um and i guess i’ll link back to i mentioned earlier that i sort of you know when when talking about these things through kind of social media channels i’ve been using this hashtag creative recovery and essentially that’s about taking the negative stuff and turning it into something positive and impactful and and you know motivational and in my case predominantly visual and and artistic um so here in my studio i am working on um an exhibition with funding that i acquired during the lockdown from the arts information company i’m a member of that company and they had a um a fund that was opened up when when lockdown began and i was successful in getting one it’s just a small amount of money but it was enough to be able to kind of get the materials together and pay for my studio and things like that so i’m doing that kind of for for so many hours a week um but i also have set up a um a community interest company during lockdown um which essentially uses kind of creative projects and arts um to to to benefit um the people of biker old town which is where i live it’s a company’s called i love scarborough road and it’s basically um you know what’s about giving back to society and re-engaging with with kind of communities and and and like i think the one of the you know the biggest impact of these negative experiences i’ve had is like feeling like a drone and feeling like you know just in this sort of kind of this empty vessel just kind of going about my job and and actually you know now that i’ve come out of the other end of this and and i’ve you know been through employment tribunal and i’ve been through all these things actually i wanna i wanna you know i don’t just wanna sit in this space of like kind of creating um personal art just on its own because actually what what the process of painting does when i come here every day it kind of really allows me to have this like kind of meditative state it’s really nice therapeutic process where i’m i’m really focusing on what i’m doing and that act of of kind of really focusing and you know kind of completely clearing my mind gives way for me to have ideas and and and you know develop things you know so so a lot of the ideas that i’ve kind of come up with for some of the project work that i’m going to be doing that’s community interests led is has come out of me sitting and painting um and you know as i say i wouldn’t be sitting and painting it i don’t think if if i wasn’t kind of a person who’s come out of the other end of these you know these negative experiences i might just kind of be comfortable in you know in a in an all right job um and that’s not a bad thing it’s it’s just different to what i’m doing um and so in a way like i’ve been as as i said at the beginning of this it it wasn’t something that i just wanted to do it was something that i needed to do and needed it and and and i needed it because of what i’d experienced and and i don’t know i couldn’t say you know would i prefer to have not been through all of this trauma and and you know just be fine going to a you know full-time job say i don’t know doing the admin or or you know i i don’t know i i couldn’t it’s impossible to say really you know you know like you know i asked ask myself questions big questions like you know my mom died when i was 15 and i sometimes think like oh wow like what i wonder what my life would have been like if she hadn’t died um but then i kind of like it doesn’t matter because this is what i’m doing and this is where i’m at and and this is it’s not about what preferential because it just you you all you have is what you what you’re doing here in this moment and the only things that you can change are in the future and you know um you have the ability to make decisions to change things and and like the more negativity that you hold on to and the more you know the more i hate the term but the more baggage that you have the more you know weight that you carry around like the harder it is to to progress um and you know i’m sort of like yeah i i i want to empower other people who’ve been through similar experiences to myself to be able to kind of find their own path i’m not saying that every person i know who and i i know a lot which is alarming really the amount of people i know who are either going through employment tribunal right now or applying for an employment tribunal or or trying to figure out whether they have a case for employment trying from all different walks of life and all different you know different jobs that i’ve done is alarming and i’m not saying that every single one of them should you know get a studio and be an artist because you know that’s not going to work for all of them but i guess for them you know what i’m what i hope for those people or what i empower those people to do is find what works for them find what their route is um and you know you know for some people um you know for some people it’s just doing something very very different um i met a woman you know um waitressing in a a restaurant we don’t we don’t say waitressing we say service staff these you know seems like a bit of an outdated term waitressing but um a woman who had um her husband had died and she just left the town that she had lived in for her whole life and you know met a partner in and married and you know and just left and came to newcastle and got a job in a in a restaurant um and that she’d never she’s never worked in a restaurant in her life before and you know she’s in her in a probably in her mid-40s but she just was like she had to do something different and and so i guess yeah it’s it’s it’s about making about making changes and and being creative with how you do that that doesn’t necessarily mean you know make art or do something creative but more like be creative about how you change what it is that you’re going to do yeah gosh um yeah so um we’ve we’ve got through quite a lot there rachel i think it’s very no don’t apologize or anything um i just wanted to ask if there’s anything else you’ve mentioned quite a few things but if there’s anything else you want to signal boost while we’re here any other organizations or people you want to mention just as we come to our close yeah i mean i like in a way i would have i would have loved to talk more about like some of the projects work that i’ve got lined up um but i feel like the the the issue that we’ve talked about is such it’s so important and it’s so relevant right now i’m glad that we’ve talked about that but with regards to the work that i’ve i’ve kind of got um happening or or coming very soon i just want to shout out some like um thanks to the arts information company um arts and heritage uh the new bridge project well newcastle gate gateshead and bluestone consortium um or these are all organizations that have kind of helped me kind of progress um with work or all that are you know are offering me opportunities to to to do work um and b d studios which is where my studio space is um and that is within commercial union house which is run by orbis um who have uh have only been we’ve only been open when did we come back in 6th of july and we came in and they’re doing an incredible job at keeping this space safe for me to be able to come in and work every day and i’m so grateful to jp and peter and all the the people um involved in making this place safe and excellent yeah that’s lovely um well look come back on again you’re always welcome um that’s when you’ve worked through your project stuff and a lot of your individual work as well if you get your exhibition going um that’s that’s to catch up again and see what’s going on yeah that’d be brilliant brilliant that’s great i mean i guess one thing so because the the um the uh funding i got from the arts information company for my exhibition we’re not sure if you know if an exhibition is something that’s going to be physically possible in the next six months so what i may do is is look into funding possibilities to create a virtual exhibition yeah yeah of course yeah and so i’ll let you know if i manage to make that happen yeah i i think there’s every all the technologies there there’s there’s nothing to stop these things from happening night and it shows that that just like working from home it’s been possible for a very long time yeah yeah absolutely i think with the right um yeah with the right motivation and and the right support and the right funding often as well um you can achieve a lot if you you know if you’re able to get those um you know to get that support and to get that but i think that the only way to get kind of funding and support when it comes to work is to believe in what it is that you’re doing yeah and unless yeah if you don’t believe if you don’t believe in what you’re doing then how can anyone else believe in it and that’s i think yeah finally like accepting what what i’m doing and accepting who i am and who it is that i want to be and what it is that i want to achieve means that i think if i believe that everybody i’m you know talk to about it believes it too and that’s i think that’s that’s the the key i i believe who knows yeah i always think of um and singing straight through the line in one of the songs that’s um you got to take the wheel and own it and drive it like you stole it so nice that’s all we got today i like that that’s a nice that’s a nice one to end on thank you so much paula yes thank you rachel it’s been really wonderful to catch up and all the best with everything that you’re doing it’s really great work thank you thank you same to you um and i can’t wait to hear it lovely this has been audiovisual cultures with me paula blair and my very special guest rachel brick the music is common ground by airton used under a 3.0 creative commons non-commercial license episodes release every other wednesday wherever you get your podcasts please do rate share and subscribe to help others find the show i’m always happy to hear from potential guests so you can email audiovisualcultures or find us on social media thank you so much for being with us be excellent to yourselves and each other


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