SOFT TOUCH ARTS
twenty years I’ve worked with young people on arts-based
projects. For twenty years it’s been a challenging
and rewarding process. But the highlight has got to be
‘Off You Go Then’, a DVD project made together
with young people from the Saffron Lane Estate in Leicester
about Joe Orton.
For eighteen months we were immersed in researching the
life, work, highs and lows, ins and outs of Saffron Lane’s
most famous son and interpreting it to tell the story
how we wanted to tell it. With a limited budget we filmed
where we could – around the Saff, in the cells in
Leicester’s Guildhall, in Leicester’s Little
Theatre, in the flat in Noel Road complete with builders
and building work (group member – ‘That’s
Joe Orton’s toilet, Joe Orton’s toilet!’),
in drag outside St Pancras, in the Shaftesbury Hotel,
outside the library in Islington, inside the library in
Saffron Lane. We interviewed Leonie Orton Barnett, the
good folk on the streets of Saffron Lane and Leicester
City Centre: young man – ‘Do I know Joe Orton?
If he’s the Joe I’m thinking of, I knew him
about three months ago’: woman – ‘I
know all about Joe Orton, I work in the theatre, he wrote
Room at the Top’.
In the process we learnt a lot about Joe Orton and his
work, researching, acting, filming, editing, life in the
1940s, 50s and 60s, gay life and homophobia and about
ourselves too. Through the duration of the project my
life went into freefall, my Dad died, my marriage spilt
up, and at the end my sanity was distinctly precarious
but, to counterbalance all of this, I’d led a project
to be proud of, I’d gained a whole new set of sons
and daughters without having to give birth to any of them
and, most importantly, I’d developed a fine line
in innuendo which I continue to hone.
I’ve only just started getting to know Joe Orton,
I’m not ready to let him go off yet, long may my
relationship with him continue.