Harpy Interview: Creative Collective's Rose Fowler

Harpy Interview: Creative Collective's Rose Fowler

By Becky Sales

Let’s talk about social media and how we communicate. On an almost daily basis we hear about the damaging effects ‘reel life’ vs real life can have on our interactions, relationships and development. That’s exactly what Manchester-based performing arts group, Creative Collective, and Mental Health charity, 42nd Street, are exploring in new production, The Talk.  

The average person spends nearly two hours a day on social media platforms, which amounts to a staggering five years and four months of a person’s lifetime. And, for young adults, nearly half (44%) of 18 to 24-year-olds have admitted they feel more comfortable using social media and messaging apps to talk to people.  

Those young people, who would rather communicate through emojis instead of emotion, are at risk of missing out on the minutiae that make face-to-face conversations vital for socio-emotional development. So how do the social media dependants of the younger generation truly express themselves?  

Here Rose Fowler, Co-Founder of Creative Collective, discusses the premiere of The Talk: an immersive theatre experience drawing on an in-depth study of how we communicate emotions in contemporary society.  

The Talk sounds like an interesting concept, can you tell us how you created it?  

The Talk, funded by Arts Council England, is an interactive piece that explores the power of conversation through theatre, sculpture, photography and digital installation. It’s set in a dystopian world that forbids authentic conversation; happiness is key and negativity is an illegal act under the governing body, Happy Lab Inc.  

We started working on The Talk three years ago. The initial inspiration came during a discussion about why, when someone looks at you and says, "we need to talk", are you suddenly filled with this weird sense of dread? So we wanted to see if other people felt the same way we did.  

After that, we sent out a survey to uncover what ‘the talk’ meant to people. We got over 60 anonymous responses back, which covered a huge expanse of subjects. But the overall takeaway was the reluctance most people have to these honest conversations. 

Delving into this concept, we started to form a narrative around how we express and suppress our emotions in a digital age. The piece started to really lend itself to issues that younger adults in particular could relate to. So we approached young person’s mental health charity, 42nd Street, to see if there was an opportunity to collaborate. Fortunately they said yes, and three years down the line here we are!  

Why do you feel now is a good time to launch the production?  

For me, it’s the perfect time to create a piece that explores how we communicate with each other. We're living in an increasingly digital society, with no signs of technological advances slowing. Despite being set against a dystopian backdrop, many of the themes we touch on mirror the present day.  

We’re not completely against social media by any means and know there are many benefits. It just seems to be taking away our ability to be fully present and enjoy the moment. So, the main aim for The Talk is for the audience to come away with a re-ignited respect for the power of face-to-face conversation.  


What should attendees expect to get involved in at The Talk?  

We’re inviting the audience to be a citizen of Happy Lab Inc’s Rehabilitation Clinic. Here, they will participate in the reform of a TalkerThe Talk is a fully immersive experience that will hopefully get the audience to question their relationship with themselves, those around them and the devices they use. In a nutshell, it’s part performance, part installation and full participatory fun!  

Tell us about the Creative Collective, how did you form? What are your plans for the future?  

We all met whilst working in hospitality at The Lowry Theatre in Salford. We were getting pretty fed up working all the time and not doing anything creatively fulfilling, so my co-founder, Roisin McCusker, and I formed the collective. We've all come from different creative backgrounds which means that, when we have an idea like The Talk, we can contribute our different skills to make it happen.  

It's a great way to work and learn new skills as you go through a project. Once The Talk has finished, we’ll be re-focusing our attention on our upcoming short film, as well as ideating our next theatre production.  

Lastly, what do you think of Manchester’s creative scene?  

One of the best things about Manchester’s incredibly collaborative creative scene is that everyone has fire in their belly. It's hard to be a creative anywhere, especially when you're told that London is 'where it's at'. It's nice to prove that wrong!  


How to get involved with The Talk:

The Talk will take place over three nights at The Horsfall – starting on Wednesday 20th March ending Friday 22nd March with three performances on each night at 5.15pm, 6.30pm and 7.45pm. Tickets can be purchased at Ancoats General Store or here.   

Keep up to date with the Creative Collective on Twitter @crellective.  

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