Being a Mother in Theatre-world

We are delighted to welcome a guest post from China Blue Fish, who is performing in Brighton this week. We’ll let her tell you all about being a mother in show business!

“I am a performer, theatre maker and mother based in Bristol. I am currently on tour with my duo feminist comedy show, Queen C*nt-Sacred or Profane? Created with my wonderful partner in crime, Deborah Antoinette Ward. We decided to call our character comedy sketch show after the oldest term for the female genitalia in the English language, Cunt, when hearing that etymologically, its’ roots come from the meaning Queen, Wisdom, Knowledge and Creator.  For us, it is symbolic that this word has now become such a profanity, mirroring the themes in our show and many facets of womanhood.

We created the piece from our lived and shared experiences of walking as women in this world. We wanted to reclaim our bodies, our sensuality, throwing light on some serious issues, turning them on their head to create a joyful and celebratory piece.  I have a scene whereby I play The Virgin Mary who breaks down the ideals of the perfect mother, finding her personal freedom within her body, as well as the pleasures of gin!  It was so great to make this piece, being able to let go of holding it all together during the devising period felt authentic and liberating. Every time I perform it still, I’m able to let go of some of that tension which feels great.  It’s definitely a unifying experience for all the mothers in the audience, something very relatable!

The creative process for this show started when I was 6 months pregnant. The work continued throughout my pregnancy and funding applications and rehearsals for our debut show started when my daughter was 2 months old.  Without family nearby and lacking the funds for childcare help (such is the artist’s life!), I stole moments when she was sleeping, working late into the night when she’d gone to bed.  As a new company, it is challenging to get funding- we went through 3 applications for an Arts Council Grant until on our 4th attempt, when my daughter was 1 and a half, we succeeded! (What was that saying? If at first, you don’t succeed…) This is funding our current tour. It has been really helpful to have flexible and understanding collaborators who are happy to work hours, accommodating my childcare needs.

Being a mother working in the arts in 2019, under a Conservative government that is pushing notions of austerity and making lots of cutbacks, is challenging.  Despite there being attempts at diversity and inclusiveness in organisations such as The Arts Council, they provide little to no funding for mothers, parents and carers making work.  After much searching, we were able to claim for childcare during show times only.   Alongside having my working tax credits, and therefore child tax credits, taken away when Universal Credit was rolled out in my area, this made it difficult to find space to make work.

Luckily, my father, a musician with more flexible working patterns, was able to stay with us for short periods of time throughout the process. Taking my daughter out and about, and bringing her back intermittently throughout the rehearsal day for cuddles and breastfeeding.  With this help, I was able to make and tour the show.

Last summer we performed at The Underbelly at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We performed a month-long run at 11.45pm every night- as I’m still cosleeping and breastfeeding, you can imagine how tiring this was! But I had a wonderful time and wouldn’t change it for the world. I am so blessed to have this support- my father stayed with us for the month, my mother joining him for a week, and my partner taking on the baton for the last few days!

It really is a juggling act, as is most work as a mother and parent I’m sure!  In France and some other countries, there are better provisions for artists and I hope that in the UK, we’re able to put more emphasis on supporting mothers, fathers and carers in the arts, to be able to pursue their careers.  For what is a world without art? ”

What is important to mention is the show was created in partnership with Lunette Cup – which has meant China has been able to juggle motherhood and creativity somewhat AND bring us this amazing show. THANK YOU!

Catch China’s show is this Saturday and there’s still time to book in advance to get the £8.50 special price (rather than £15 on the door). We will see you there!

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About Claire Jones-Hughes

Founder and co-editor of BrightonMums.com, Claire has been blogging since 2009. She has posted on a variety of sites including The Argus, The Huffington Post and The Guardian's Comment Is Free. Known as The Contented Mummy on social media, she is dedicated to honest, unsponsored blogging so that parents can benefit from shared experience. Can also be found at www.fitfaband40.co.uk - sharing her journey to health & wellness.

View all posts by Claire Jones-Hughes →

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