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NEWS > Emerging Talent Award recipient > Antonia Beck (LEH 1996-2003)

Antonia Beck (LEH 1996-2003)

Theatre maker and performance artist Antonia Beck tells stories using writing, theatre and music. She used her Award to help her explore the concept of creating new rituals and connections.

Over the last year, as we’ve continued to adjust and process the on-going impact of the pandemic, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the role of ritual in daily life. For me the word ritual has tended to be associated with something grand and ceremonial, marking a big moment in life, and I hadn’t previously paid much attention to the idea that as well as being a grand act, a ritual can also be something small and ordinary, an everyday occurrence that can ground us and help us find purpose in times of need.

The pandemic and other global conversations that have come to the fore over the last 18 months have made us stop and think, to question what we know, to make significant changes in our lives and to exist in an unfamiliar state for a prolonged period of time.

Crisis mode has at times left me reeling, feeling lost at sea, and as faint familiar echoes of life pre-pandemic start to slowly come back, I’ve been spending time thinking about the things that have kept me going during this time of uncertainty.

One new ritual (although I didn’t consider it a ritual to begin with) that has helped me feel more tethered is going for a daily walk. Being at home every day, I suddenly found myself with the luxury of time to take 45 minutes or an hour out of my day to go and walk around my local park.

Aside from the positive contributions to physical and mental health, I’ve found that this new ritual also offered me new forms of connection. Connection to a community of people who embark on the same daily ritual as me and a much-needed reconnection to nature.

Over the days and months as I walked the same route round the park, I found myself becoming much more observant of the environment around me and able to really see the incremental changes that take place across the course of a year. The changes in light, the colours, the different bird calls, the different textures underfoot as grass grows and leaves fall, the sudden sprout of mushroom clusters along a path that hadn’t been there the day before, as the seasons shift from spring to summer, autumn to winter.

I’ve also came to recognise my fellow ‘ritualists’ - walkers (with particular focus on walkers with dogs of course) and when I began to look forward to seeing the two dalmatians with their owners, the brown and white sheepdog that faithfully runs alongside the old man on his bike or the goblin-like bulldog that huffs and puffs behind its fast-paced, striding owner I realised I felt a sense of connection. A connection to a place that is contributing to my sense of being, a connection to a ritual that a group of us are acting out together, and I now find myself part of a small community who guide me along this daily ritual. These people, animals, trees and even mushrooms have become my waymarkers.

The adoption of this and other new rituals over the last year has given me time to reflect on the power of connection and the ways in which we might achieve this, and I’ve been inspired to develop a new performance that looks at the art of ritual and connection, and how we can reclaim this ‘sacred’ act to create and embody new practises that best serve us as at different moments in life.

As part of my Emerging Talent Award, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and researching different rituals, looking at different cultural practises, traditions, symbols, the sacred and the secular and identifying the reasons why rituals are so important and why we hold onto them. How rituals help us communicate, process emotions, evoke memories and (re)connect with the world.

To inform my research I’ve also spent time interviewing a range of people who embody ritual in their day to day lives in different ways - celebrants, a yoga teacher, writers, researchers, dancers, gardeners, spiritual leaders and even a farmer.

My research has also led me to look at ritual and connection in archaeology, folklore, mythology, architecture, and music and with the support of a writing mentor I’ve started writing a piece of performance poetry which will become the narrative of a new site-specific performance in 2022. Inviting audiences to come together and take part in a new creative experience that explores intentional and everyday ritual, the art and importance of being, and encourages connection amongst a group of strangers.

Thank you to LEH for supporting me to develop these new ideas and for providing time and space to reconnect to some of the things that matter most.

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