A chat with Heather from Creative Electric

With a week left to put in theatre proposals for Hidden Door 2017, we took some time out with Heather Marshall from Creative Electric to hear about her experience working with Hidden Door…

What work have you presented at past Hidden Door festivals?

I’ve presented work over the past three years at Hidden Door, first in the Market Street vaults and then at the past two festivals at the Old Lighting Depot. The first year I created an immersive audio installation, Glittershit, that explored the impact of MDMA over the course of a night out and the following comedown days.

In 2015 I brought my now infamous ‘ice cream show’ Treat to Hidden Door. I say infamous because the smell of stale ice cream haunted the pink room for ages afterwards and whenever Creative Electric is mentioned at Hidden Door the response is always ‘you’re the ice cream guys!’.

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Treat was an endurance performance, originally commissioned by Stoff in Stockholm, for two performers that explored the importance of self care, especially for artists which is something I feel quite strongly about.

And last year I created re:place which was inspired by a series of letters between two people – David and Justine -that I found in the Old Lighting Depot during a visit in May 2015.

re:place worked with the (homeless) residents of places like the old lighting depot and surrounding areas to develop a dialogue around stories of displacement. I distributed re:place packs which contained basic living essentials and art materials. I wasn’t sure if many people would be interested but I ran out of packs within 30 minutes on the first day. I hadn’t realised how many homeless people there were in Edinburgh.

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Visibility became a central theme with re:place, with many of the re:place artists creating drawings, photography or spoken word about being ignored. One of the most memorable moments was when Daniel said to me that he reckoned around 1000 people had passed him that morning but not one person had acknowledged him. That really hit home for me and many of the other artists working on the project

All the work created by the re:place artists was placed in a room at Hidden Door where we invited artists of different genres to spend 24hrs. Each artist was asked to create work based on the stimulus in the room and their interactions with members of the public who entered the room.

Living there became quite an overwhelming experience for me, I was very aware of my visibility and how many people would choose to ignore me if I didn’t engage with them first. But when people did engage it was usually very positive, lots of questions about where I went to the toilet and if I would really sleep in the room. One lady said she wanted to contact Nicola Sturgeon about my work which was lovely.

But the most poignant moments for me were of physical contact, when someone held my hand or gave me a hug. That became a theme for performer Lewie Watson when he entered the room for his 24 hrs. He remembered Sean apologising after shaking his hand, saying with embarrassment ‘I’m sorry, my hands were clean this morning’ so he used this as his starting point for interactions and written work.

re:place was such a memorable project for me and one that I could only have done with the support of Hidden Door.

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What was your experience of working with the festival?

I love working with Hidden Door, there’s a real community behind the festival and everyone is incredibly passionate, they’re behind you as an artist 100% helping you to realise your work. It means that you can take risks with what you’re creating which is so important as an artist but isn’t always an option with other festivals. Although there are points when (creative director) Dave looks at me and you can tell he’s thinking ‘what is Heather up to now?!’ But I reckon as long as there’s no more endurance ice cream performances I’m all good!

What was the most rewarding aspect of being a contributor?

The most rewarding aspect without a doubt is being able to engage with your audiences. Hidden Door is hands on. You install your work, you hang out in your room, make friends with other artists, chat to people in the bar. There is no other festival where I’ve received so much feedback. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and people feel able to approach you. The feedback I’ve received over the past three years working with Hidden Door has developed my practice as an artist.

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What would you say to anyone thinking of getting involved with Hidden Door?

Do it! Hidden Door is one of the most fun, rewarding experiences you’ll have. You get to create work for unique spaces, learn from other artists and attend some legendary Hidden Door parties (Jill Martin’s neon rave in the computer room will go down in history!).

Finally, congrats on the Creative Edinburgh nomination for the Creativity Award! How does it feel to get this recognition of your wonderful work?

To be honest its a wee bit overwhelming, especially when I saw the other artists I’m sharing a category with – I watched and loved both the other pieces of work. I’m delighted we’ve been nominated, it’s a fantastic recognition for everyone who was involved in the project- the re:place artists, the artists who lived in the room, the audiences who supported us at Hidden Door and the people who so generously gave to our crowdfunding campaign.

re:place really became a peoples project and that would never have happened without Hidden Door.

Hidden Door 2017 will take place 26 May – 4 June 2017 at the old Citadel Theatre in Leith. Our call for proposals for theatre closes on Monday 7 November 2016. We’re also inviting visual art, poetry and spoken word proposals.