Blog: Reflections On The Catalyser Programme

In Autumn 2022, Clod Ensemble welcomed twenty young artists to our studio space in North Greenwich for the first iteration of our Catalyser programme. Catalyser saw these artists participate in an intensive five-week workshop programme which drew on Clod Ensemble’s interdisciplinary interests – dance, music, theatre and visual arts to name a few – as well as receiving training on fundraising, show production and other skills useful for the practicing modern artist. Subsequent to their participation in the Autumn programme, the artists will receive six months of mentoring from Clod Ensemble. In order to allow the artists to fully dedicate themselves to the Catalyser programme, participants received a £1,000 bursary for their involvement.

Lou Doyle, one of the Catalyser 2022 cohort, is a live artist whose work is primarily concerned with topics of consent, connection and bewilderment. Doyle is a dramaturg for the queer devised theatre company Sweet Beef and a co-founder of the Shrinking Violet theatre collective. In this post, Doyle shares some of their thoughts and experiences about Catalyser.

Last year, I had an elaborate three-act fever dream where two genderqueer air hostesses performed a pornographic opera on inflatable evacuation slides. It was a welcome interlude to a fairly Satanic kidney infection I’d been recovering from in hospital.

When I woke up from the dream, I called my friend Trevor to tell them – in jest – that we should turn it into a performance art piece. We laughed a lot, but never thought it would happen – not when we were both feeling close to burnout from trying to forge careers as “emerging” 25 year-old freelance artists. However, by the grace of Clod, this piece was one of the projects that I was able to properly launch off the proverbial runway thanks to the company’s artist development programme Catalyser.

Catalyser is nothing short of a gift. The programme provides early career artists aged 18-25 with bursaries in order for them to take part in movement, sound and design workshops. As a participant, you are essentially able to immerse yourself in ways of making you’ve never tried before. Such artistic freedom is almost unheard of during a cost of living crisis, but Catalyser really gave me the inspiration, resources and encouragement to indulge some of my most ambitious ideas.

The workshops propelled me forward in making my air hostess act ‘Easy Ryan High Club’ happen. I met Daniel Hay-Gordon from Thick and Tight, who led a fantastic workshop on cabaret and gave me indispensable nuggets of wisdom about satire, as well as Tylor Deyn, a dance artist who combines queer aesthetics and explosive movement in his performances with the Bullyache project. Deyn led incredible morning improv sessions to the kinds of music I love – SOPHIE, Azealia Banks – encouraging us to lose ourselves in the movements he taught us and play with gravity as we crossed the studio in our morning warm-ups.

Image Credit: Vipul Sangoi

I’m getting an adrenaline rush just from remembering those sessions – they were a big influence on how I wanted ‘Easy Ryan High Club’ to look and feel as a movement piece. I spent mornings sifting through the Clod archive, pulling out images that artistic directors Suzy Willson and Paul Clark had collected over the years and piecing together mood boards of materials and costumes Trevor and I could use.

Since the Catalyser workshop series concluded in November 2022, Trevor and I have performed ‘Easy Ryan High Club’ at Miss Ellaneous and Riposte Queer Art Rave, two of my favourite regular gigs in London. Through Clod, we have also connected with venues who are interested in supporting the development of a longer show.

Furthermore, Clod has helped me find some other truly unexpected performance opportunities. Between January-March 2023 I’ll be making a performance for the launch of Jennifer Moore’s ‘Birds of Greenwich Peninsula: A Birdwatching Logbook’, planned to take place in the North Greenwich Design District later in 2023. The performance will be based on the seed of an idea I made for the Catalyser open studio event on 2nd November 2022.

Coincidentally, a curiosity about birds sort of crept up on me during my month in Clod’s studio on the Greenwich Peninsula. The whole area is peppered with small, incredibly vocal brown birds, and I discovered that you can hear their melodic conversations theatrically amplified in the bus garage of North Greenwich station. My piece for the open studio was a thought experiment exploring how I might encourage people to go to the bus garage in order to hear the birds “perform”.

Image Credit: Vipul Sangoi

Catalyser definitely got me thinking much more deeply about how I listen – specifically listening as a means to be more present, and how movement and architecture affect the ways I hear the world. Whether using masks to think about how the body communicates and performs in space, visualising the architecture of sound through techniques from Ecole Jacques Lecoq’s Laboratoire d’Etude du Mouvement with performer, designer and teacher Aurelian Koch, or just spending time in the studio where – I’m convinced of this – I could smell the wooden rafters holding up the ceiling when sound artist Melanie Wilson invited us to “listen to the room”.

I feel so privileged to have been given such a supportive space in which to find my way in these practices, some of which I’d never even heard of before the course. I sincerely hope that Catalyser continues to empower other emerging artists to discover new practices and projects.