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As a resident in Blackpool and of working-class origins feeling invisible is a familiar sensation. Add also being a woman and approaching mid-life and that sense of disappearing is amplified. Blackpool Social Club spoke to Angela Vowles and Jo Catlow about their recent collaboration exploring a creative piece exploring this very thing.

Q: Tell us a bit about you, who you are, and what you do?

Jo: I’m a multi-discipline creative practitioner. Originally a performer I’ve gone on to devise and direct a number of projects, such as directing for Glass Splinters at the Phoenix in London and writing and producing “Nannas with Banners” a theatre production inspired by the women of the anti-fracking movement at Preston New Road on the outskirts of Blackpool. it was performed at the STUDIO, Grand Theatre, Blackpool. The Harris, Preston for Lancashire Fringe Festival and at the Millennium, Sheffield for Remembering Resistance. The cast included actors and members of the PNR community. I was recently awarded the Matt Greenhalgh Prize for Best Feature Length Screenplay by the University of Central Lancashire, and I’m currently in the early production planning process of my stage play, “Locked In” which charts, through a mix of naturalism and expressionist physicality a man and his wife’s journey through his onset and subsequent battle with Motor Neurone Disease.

I love vocal practice and specialise in the empowering effects that a freed and uninhibited voice, physicality, and mindset can have.

Angela: Who am I and what do I do? My name is vowels because I am known for making vowel music. I am an academic researcher at UCLan focusing on non-verbal communication through extending vowel sounds. Much of my work is independent and I am working towards an album launch. https://allvocalmusic.wixsite.com/vowels

Your recent showing of work happened at Art B&B – how did you come up with ideas, and influences, and what did it look like & Did you collaborate with anyone and who were they?

Jo: I met Angela in November last year (2021) after we were introduced by my daughter. After we had chatted for a short time it became clear that our individual creative practices both contrasted with and complimented each other beautifully. I apply lots of physicality to my vocal teaching and delivery and this worked perfectly with Angela’s approach. I layer and collage my images, altering colour, tone, texture, and light and Angela applies a similar technique with her soundscapes. We devised and led our first ‘Sound Punch’ workshop in March this year, focusing on the invisibility of women who are approaching mid-life or beyond. Five women shared their experiences and emotions through conversation and discussion and then through integrating breathing and relaxation, Laban movement, and vowel sounds in the workshop. Using the images I captured of the day, I created a collection of abstract prints that tell of the journey of this group of women. Angela provided me with the audio track she’d created with the sounds of the workshop. I then cut, edited, and transformed the digital version of print images into an immersive audio-visual video that is the centre point of the exhibition launched at the ARTB&B on Friday 20th May. The workshop participants; Audrey O’Gara, Stephanie Porterhouse, and Anjie Mosher were integral to the process with further support from CPRA – UCLan.

Angela: The Iridescent Woman was an immersive sound installation that grew out of a Sound Punch workshop that combines improvised vowel sounds and Laban movement. Jo Catlow-Morris and vowels combine disciplines in image, sound, and movement, to create an organic portrait of the middle-aged plus woman, raising awareness of how they appear to disappear in society. The Sound Punch workshop-based venture was one of empowerment, exploration, and expression; working with participants’ innate ability to make non-verbalized sounds and physical expressions. Audio and video footage from this workshop led ultimately to a tangible and collaborative product.

Why was this piece of work important to you?

Jo: The iridescent Woman is so important because it has given vibrant and powerful visibility to the women who told their stories so honestly and eloquently at the Sound Punch workshop. The collaborative nature of the project has been extremely inspiring and empowering for the creators and the participants alike. New friendships have been made, an important aim of the workshop experience. Attending the launch event has motivated other women to join us for our next Sound Punch workshop which means the message of empowerment through a freed voice and physicality is spreading to a wider audience. I’ve relished having the chance to combine a variety of my different creative specialisms within the project. It’s been such a wonderful and fulfilling process.

Angela: I have been running choirs and vocal workshops for many years, it was great to work with women who wanted to share experiences and experiment with vowel sounds and movement. The outcome of this project was an awareness of the middle-aged woman and how she remains iridescent throughout her life. Check out my all-vowel music on Soundcloud and https://allvocalmusic.wixsite.com/vowels

I often think about how creative actions can bring people together. A shared experience: community choir and dance are good examples of being able to take part and feel part of something. As a child, we painted, played, and danced to learn and to connect with often just the very action being the most integral part of the creative form.

As we grow into adults and perhaps forget to play, creative actions where the community voice is heard in whatever guise is powerful. Hidden voices overlooked voices collaborated and shaped into new forms to raise aspiration and in turn inspire new creative actions. The artists and spaces that encourage these happenings promote a sense of personal freedom and power and in Blackpool, these things are critical and welcomed.

Find out more about Jo and her creative adventures here. Facebook Abstract Creations Instagram

Including the opportunity to view the visual pieces from the series at The Art B&B.

Contact Jo or The Art B&B for information on viewing times.

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