“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story…?” Journeys in the USA | Adverse Camber


“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story…?” Journeys in the USA

Wed 12th Oct 2022

Adverse Camber, Review, Storytelling

A blog from our Producer, Naomi Wilds on her recent travels in the USA.

“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story…?”

These lyrics from the final song in Hamilton, the musical, are a fitting summary of the theme of one of the weeks in an amazing 3-week research trip to the USA. 

My week began at the National Arts Strategy/Derby Museums Creative Community Fellows ‘Homecoming’ event near Baltimore.  This event forged strong bonds between mainly UK & USA based cultural entrepreneurs working with communities through arts & culture. For three days, we reconnected and learned together, in a programme devised and created with, by and for those attending. It was brilliant to meet in person, be inspired by each other’s practices, to sing late night karaoke and dance the Science Ceilidh!  There were new frameworks to learn about such as Emergent Strategy led by Mia Herndon – perfect orientation for Adverse Camber’s vision that ‘other worlds are possible’.  I was especially inspired by new organisational leadership models, including NAS’s evolving model of co-creation, and Alternate Roots, a people centred humanistic model, with decision making responsibilities shared with the whole organisation’s membership. Thanks so much to everyone who was part of this gathering, to the amazing NAS and Derby Museums team, including Hannah Fox, Janine Derbyshire and to the amazing staff at Pearlstone for looking after us so well. 

Then onto Washington DC with a group of fellows. Just time to visit the Baltimore American Visionary Art Museum – celebrating self-taught and intuitive artists with brilliant backstories to the creative works, such an accessible and nurturing way in to seeing your own creative potential.  In Washington, I shared time and a pizza with the brilliant NASA science writer Liz Landau, reflecting on the contemporary stories which especially matter right now and her recent fab piece for the New York Times on apple diversity.   I followed the nature thread with Rosalind Allen from RSPB, visiting parks and landscapes around the DC area, illuminating links between area names like foggy bottom and natural ecosystems, Naming such a powerful human tool, used for good and for ill!

Then an amazing afternoon with Washington born and bred storyteller Baba C opening up wider experiences of DC history, the African American Civil War monument on U Street (Black Broadway), and The 1619 Project in the bookshop at Busboys and Poets. So many great stories, ahead of a special visit behind the scenes with fellows at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art – where contemporary commissioned artworks and traditional works go hand in hand. The science, arts and culture mash up behind the scenes revealing the ever evolving stories of how we understand and make meaning.  Amazing to see the obligatory DC’s monument sights, but especially fortunate to have these conversations and perspectives in mind at the same time.

In Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s billion dollar and beyond smash hit musical – it all came together for me.  Who gets to tell which story? How do we tell it? What is the UK’s part in this unfolding story (beyond King George…)  What story are we living through at the moment?  The Kennedy Centre (astonishing!) displays quotes from JFK about the importance of arts. Affirming!  The economics of cultural production aside (expensive tickets, not affordable for everyone, but if split between all the creatives working hard for 3 hours it was a bargain) this performance brings a certain history perspective into view differently and invites so many more questions and interpretations as well as being a brilliant night of lyricism, energy, music, dance, lights and, just, wow!  Time then, to go to a storytelling festival…. Next stop, Jonesborough.

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