Yesterday, I completed the second of two public speaking engagements. One in Birmingham and the other in London at Fertility Fest
A festival looking at assisted reproduction and creative responses to the experience. I was showing my work “Photos I’ll never take” and speaking alongside Katie Barlow and Jodie Day, at the dour sounding session- Facing involuntary childlessness. I couldn’t imagine anyone coming into our session, when its such a depressing subject. Amazingly we had a full room both times. I was very impressed with Katie Barlow’s film and Jodie Day’s talk. It was great to share the session with them.
It was such a pleasure to take part in this event. Also very interesting to see how different, the same two events could be. In Birmingham, I was surprised to find that after I had shown my work in a slideshow, I couldn’t speak immediately afterwards, because all I could hear was crying from the audience. In London, instead of crying, I got applause and lots of people came to talk to me afterwards. Same show, different response. Very interesting.
I was much more nervous for the London talk and also feeling quite emotional. Although I don’t know why. So, I took advantage of the Quiet room, to calm down beforehand. A space with trained counsellors, away from the emotions the day was bringing up. I told the counsellor that I couldn’t imagine anyone choosing our session. She told me that it had been her first choice and that two of the counsellors were coming to it. They had had to ask permission to go, as it might be too many counsellors away from the quiet room. This was great to hear.
It was also lovely to get such great feedback from the two events. However, there is something very difficult about concentrating on one’s failures. It was the first time that I had discussed my personal situation with strangers. Normally I refuse to discuss my situation and concentrate only on the art and art issues, but this event was about sharing. It was quite hard, very difficult not to think I had shared too much. Hard not to imagine being judged.
Also, there is some difficulty for me in showing my work to others in a similar situation. On one hand it was very supportive, but the work is intended for those who don’t know what its like. It’s meant to ask for empathy, but when the viewer already has the experience, is it damaging? Or is it healthy? I also have four of the photos on a wall in the theatre and I heard one person say, as she went past, “I can’t look at those”. I suppose it depends on what stage in the assisted reproduction process a person is. To face childlessness, when still trying, is probably not a great idea. It was also hard for me to be at a festival where some people have been successful. However, one thing we all have in common is that we have all had to at least face the prospect. of being childless.
It was great to attend other sessions, there was some great work at the Festival. Jessica Hepburn worked very hard to bring the festival about. Great idea and very well done. I’m hoping some of the contacts and offers made will come to fruition.