GUEST BLOG: Dais Hale on not being sorry in creating new processes

Dais Hale is a London-based arts producer specialising in work by artists who have been traditionally ostracised from mainstream spaces, with a focus on Queer, Trans, Global Majority & Learning Disabled & Neurodivergent identities. They are working with Access All Areas to present Not F**kin’ Sorry by learning disabled and neurodivergent collective Not Your Circus Dog at Soho Theatre and various other venues this September, including Southbank Centre on 10 September 

‘When I was doing my masters in creative producing, I got into a Facebook argument with a well-known director. He came to the college to have it out with me, a 21 year old student – quite embarrassing for him that he felt he needed to do that, and quite aggressive. He wasn’t open to think any differently to how he had always thought. He tried to tell me all the ways I needed to change to fit his world (including using my middle name – apparently it would make people take me more seriously). It was the start of me really realising there was such othering in the industry. I decided then and there that I would create new processes to make the work I produced, rather than forcing the work I made into previous methods and moulds.

When you stage work like Not F**kin’ Sorry the words ‘representation’ and ‘visibility’ get used a lot. People have been visible and ignored for years. For me this work is about rewriting the whole oppressive system and the process of making, putting that front and centre so the industry sees there is a different way, and audiences see a wonderful show, rather than it being about pity. I want to make work that is centred from joy, that is not in the absence of trauma or darkness, but if you centre the process on joy, especially autobiographical work, you can centre care for the artists, audiences, venue and everyone involved. We are rewriting the processes we have been indoctrinated into, to actually suit the people and the projects we work on. 

The way we start that off, which I do with every project now, is create a counterculture for the process – sit down with each other and say “these are the perceived ways of how we do this, but what do we want and need?” For example, the hours or days you are available, are you open to voice notes over Whatsapp, being clear on deadlines etc. These can sound like common sense things, but they can be revolutionary for members of your team. Yes, there are things that cost money, but lots of things that help access are free – clear communication, respecting boundaries, giving information in the way the way the recipient wants to receive it. Really listen to people.

That’s the reason I like cabaret and performance art so much. There is a DIY, radical element that has always run through it, and the subcultures that have built cabaret are marginalised artists who have needed to build their own way, because often the door was closed to them elsewhere. I don’t know if I would have stayed in the industry myself if I hadn’t found them. It also creates access points for audience to connect with those they maybe don’t come into contact with in their daily lives through humour, fun and excitement. Through challenging taboos. If you can make someone laugh, then you can make them care about you. If you can make them care, you can galvanise them to want to see change.

A Scene from Not F**kin Sorry
Image: Harry Elletson

We’re not trying to be perfect. Own things not working, being imperfect, but develop and grow and allow each other to fail. Marginalised people can feel you have to get it perfect first time. We must be allowed to fail. Because fear of ‘getting it wrong’ often causes complete inaction. But by being honest, it brings the whole community up with you.

The perfection of ‘you don’t do it the way we want’ is stifling. There is a difference between being unprofessional and doing a process in a different way. And frankly, I’m tired of talking about change over and over in the industry instead of seeing others just do it. The time for ‘inclusion’ was yesterday. The pandemic has shown us a stark picture of how disabled people and artists are treated in this country, it is more necessary than ever before for us to take up space and advocate for our voices. Our show is a rallying cry to show we can take up mainstream space, that it is wanted, needed and we are not f**kin sorry for doing it!’

Scene from Not F**kin Sorry
Image: Harry Elletson
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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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