28th May 2016
Curated by Danna Solomon
This month’s featured artist is writer, performer and creator of things Siân Bevan, who is based at Out of the Blue’s Leith Walk Studios.
After handing off three-month-old Thane to her partner, Johnathan Elders, Siân takes a breath and sits down to talk with me about her work.
The ground-floor studio from which Siân works, affectionately called François by its collaborative inhabitants, is roomy and light-filled with bespoke desks, shelving, and nap pod constructed by Siân, Johnathan, Cam Hall, Nicola Shepherd, and Craig MacFarlane themselves. The five artists met through work on the International Science Festival, and their creative collaboration has since, according to Siân, extended far past that singular event. She tells me the shared studio space makes sense, since they work so much together, and having the space to come to has made all of them feel more focused. “Coming here means I’m going to work,” she says, “and then when I finish, I’ve finished work, and I go home.” The mix is eclectic. “We have games creation over here,” she says about Cam’s workspace, “Nic and Craig do lots of science communication…Craig eats bugs on a regular basis…John is an artist and a sculptor. We all sort of do lots of bits and bobs.” Siân also says that they have occasionally worked on projects all together, including one of Cam’s games, and a training program for the science festival in Abu Dhabi. The combination of skills and interests creates a creative working space conducive to both free-thinking, and productivity, and their co-working seems to increase accountability as well.
Siân grew up in Yorkshire, attended Newcastle University for English literature, did her master’s in Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier, and has accidentally lived in Edinburgh for eleven years. Her initial creative outlet was stand up comedy, her first performance a comedy show she wrote and performed with a friend when she was about 20 years old. While Siân has largely moved away from performing comedy, she still enjoys the occasional master of ceremonies gig, and still enjoys performing and writing material for performance, especially for young people, or “smaller people,” as she calls them.
As a new mother Siân indicates she has definitely faced novel challenges, but the studio space has made a huge difference to her work/life balance, and her capacity to work productively. “I can come here and concentrate, but then also, when Thane needs a feed, he can just come in, and we have a little bed for him here. I think if I had just been working from home I’d have got nothing done. But as it is, I can come here for a couple of hours without feeling too guilty.” Siân also says her studiomates, some of whom are also parents, are very helpful as well. “They don’t mind if Thane cries,” she says, “And Cam and I are in a similar situation, so we don’t mind that all we talk to each other about is babies and nappies and feeding and stuff.” According to Sîan, it is easy to get self-conscious that perhaps she is writing too much about Thane, but, “it takes up 75% of my brain…I’m going to write about the baby.”
It seems the biggest challenge Siân faces right now is the big challenge facing everyone in the creative industries: finding consistent and satisfying work. “The arts climate is a tough place at the moment,” she says, “there are lots of awesome projects happening in Edinburgh, but it feels like the money side of it is spread super thin. I know a lot of people are dropping out of freelancing. It’s really hard.” The space behind and above Siân’s desk is occupied by an impressive calendar and vision board, which evidence her daily hustle.
Right now, Siân says she will write whatever pays the bills, but “stories are at the center of it all.” She has done a lot of traveling in the past for her work, but since Thane has come into the world, she has been more of a “homebody,” looking for projects closer to home. She works with Debasers Filums doing production work, and favors online freelance copywriting projects that she can do from the studio. Siân just finished working on a theatre project for imaginate with performer/writer Andrew Jeffrey called Lab Coats, which frames science ideas for small children. She is doing some more work with imaginate, running a youth theatre ‘Acting for Camera’ course in Falkirk, working on a novel for young people, and considering going into training for data analysis and technology with the hopes it will add new dimensions and applications to her story telling. Siân’s passion not only for creating stories, but making them accessible to universal audiences, is evident. She says, “I think it comes from doing a lot of stuff in the science world without being a scientist that I realise how much you value someone being able to speak the right language and say things in the right way. All the people that I admire, whether it is in comedy, story-tellers, or writers, they are always the ones who can take a big scary thing and then rework it.” Some of Siân’s heroes are Alan Bennett, Victoria Wood, and, surprisingly, Liza Minelli… but then again, who doesn’t love Liza Minelli?
François will be open for Leith Late on Thursday, June 23rd. When we spoke, the artists had not yet decided what they would be doing for the event, but it would “probably involve stories…and beer.” Siân says that any budding philanthropists looking to leave her money in their wills are welcome to attend. “My son is super cute,” she says, “and he needs a rich benefactor.” I, for one, will be there with bells on, excited to see what has gone on in the studio since my May visit!