We spoke to Jo Sharp who is the 2017 recipient of the Saltire Award, a training bursary presented by Youth Theatre Arts Scotland and the Saltire Society. Jo is currently working with the Lyceum Youth Theatre on a scratch performance of “Mr Blue Sky” which appears at Chrysalis as part of the Emergence performance.
Tell us a little about yourself:
“I am a Scottish artist, director, maker and writer. I work in collaboration with people of all ages in a range of settings to create performance. I use drama to investigate complex ideas and explore unanswered questions with who I am working with. My interests include identity, anxiety, activism and feminism. Since graduating from Contemporary Performance Practice at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I have engaged in a number of facilitation experiences including an internship with the Lyceum Youth Theatre and freelance directing and producing roles at Falkirk Youth Theatre and RCS Life Long Learning.
And what work excites you?
“Politically engaged devised performance by and for young people is what I am passionate about. I believe that collaboration through the arts can provide an opportunity for young people to think critically about the world we live in and offer a platform to express their views and opinions. Youth theatre is a fun and safe space where young people can be themselves, be celebrated for who they are and feel comfortable to explore and question their opinions and identity. In my youth theatre practice I aim to create safe spaces and raise new voices”
So what has happened since you found out that you had got the Saltire Award?
“Since receiving the award I have begun the process of creating a performance for Chrysalis festival with the Lyceum Youth Theatre and have been able to engage in new opportunities and training. I am developing a new performance about mental health with a group of young people in Edinburgh. At Chrysalis we are presenting a 20 minute scratch performance of ‘Mr Blue Sky’ (as I write this there are only two rehearsals left between now and then! Exciting and terrifying!)”
Tell us more about Mr Blue Sky:
“While I was undertaking my internship with the Lyceum Youth Theatre through feedback channels many young people suggested mental health as a subject for performance. This is a subject I had examined in previous devising processes while studying and engaged in research around and I had recently been looking into the Scottish Youth Parliament’s 2016 manifesto ‘Our Generation’s Epidemic’ which outlines the serious rise in young people coming forward for help with mental health issues. Everyone has mental health. One in four of us will experience poor mental health in our lifetime and yet this is a subject that still carries a stigma – that needs to change. When the opportunity to make a scratch performance for Chrysalis came up this felt like the perfect thing to make a show about!”
What has the Saltire Award meant for you so far?
“Alongside creating the performance I have been able to use my Saltire Award to take part in training and opportunities that will help me to create the best show I can and also further my practice. This includes undertaking mental health first aid training and attending the Youth Links conference which this year is examining young people’s mental health and wellbeing. I am also VERY EXCITED to say – that I’m going to be attending an artist’s development week with one of my favourite performance makers, Bryony Kimmings, in London at the end of November”