Delson Weekes is an emerging musician, choreographer and theatre maker. His project, PULL UP, is a current Unlimited commission. Vicki Hawkins, Co-Director of BLINK Dance Theatre, sheds some light on where the project’s currently at…
Welcome to the world of project PULL UP, where gritty reality collides with mystic euphoria. This world has been created by emerging learning disabled artist Delson Weekes, who is a Co-Director of BLINK Dance Theatre. The PULL UP journey has been a thrilling one so far, from launching the album in Romania to Delson’s eclectic choreography of high-speed car chases and trippy space expeditions.
Delson has worked on PULL UP in two phases; in phase one he created a ten track concept album with mentoring from sound artist Bulblet, and in phase two he has been directing BLINK performers in a response to his music.
Phase 1: Creating the album
Delson chose to work with sound artist Bulblet who specialises in artistically enabling learning disabled artists to create music.
Delson is a wizard in the recording studio and is passionate about expressing himself through music. He also has communication difficulties and is largely non-verbal, so it can take longer for him to articulate ideas. Bulblet describes their process:
“At the beginning, it was as much about Delson realising he was the boss as creating the music itself, as this is Delson’s first time as lead artist. It was important to lay a solid foundation of communication where Delson knew he was being listened to and there was no ‘end goal’ as such.
Delson is a West London born artist who’s proud of his Jamaican roots. It is clear to see he has a wide range of influences when listening to the music he has created. When describing his music Delson communicated it has moods and themes such as scary, sad or magic. ‘I have the power, good power.’”
Launching the album in Romania:
In December Romanian producer Halima Habil, who had been to see BLINK’s FOUR CORNERS invited Delson to launch his album in Romania in Fabrica de Pensule Cluj, and Macaz theatre co-op Bucharest alongside a sharing of FOUR CORNERS.
Delson co-led inclusive workshops with Roma young people and young people with learning disabilities and mental health needs. It was the first time the young people had seen a theatre performance or taken part in a workshop and their teacher said, “you have given us many ideas about how we can work with them.”
For the venues, it was their first time presenting work made by professional performers with learning disabilities. Katia Pascariu, Macaz Theatre Co Manager stated, “there’s not even really a word for learning disability in this country. We don’t see these people because they are hidden. I hope this will empower people to get more involved.”
As well as hosting the launch and workshops, Theatre Macaz also built a ramp especially for the show to increase access to the venue for disabled audience members who they had not previously engaged.
You can see the 1 minute video of the launch here.
Phase 2: Directing a performative response to the music:
We have been working track by track. Delson has been leading by either using the Makaton Mychoice app on his iPad to direct structured improvisation or by demonstrating choreography and scenes which the performers learn and respond to. BLINK artist Kat Gill has been supporting Delson throughout the theatre making process; clarifying his choices and generally breaking things up into manageable chunks.
The performance is a mix of dance and theatre which is performed track by track. It is edgy and surreal documenting city life as well as a dream world which includes wild beasts and magicians.
Delson has worked with an amazing array of talented collaborators throughout PULL UP.
Delson has been working with graphic recorder Zuhura Plummer to create a visual guide to his music. She describes the process: “I was intrigued when I was contacted to work with someone who is non-verbal as my job is to draw out ideas while people talk. I arrived at a studio at Goldsmiths one Monday, not being entirely sure what to expect. There I found Delson and a brilliant bunch of people who were clearly deeply committed to helping him bring about his vision for PULL UP.” Zuhura has created designs for each of the tracks which include Delson’s drawings. BLINK hope the handout visual guide to the music will make the piece more accessible for Deaf and hearing impaired audience members.
Graphic Designer Travis Crowther of The Modern Designer and set designer Ruta Irbite have also been innovative in their approaches to collaborating with Delson. They have spent time in the studio watching the work unravel and have provided options based on their observations for Delson to choose from to ensure he is leading on all elements of the project.
BLINK are visiting artists in the Goldsmiths University Theatre and Performance department who are hosting the project. This has included regular observations from Leonie Elliot-Graves, a PhD candidate who is using the project in her research on leadership and choice for theatre artists with learning disabilities.
Throughout this project Delson has been clear his vision for the piece is experimental, he hopes to get funding to develop it into an immersive experience and find unusual venues to bring PULL UP to. Watch this space…