Graduates from BA Costume Design and BA Theatre Design have won a rent and rates-free studio in this year’s Wandle Studio Prize.
Open to all third year BA Theatre & Screen and BA Fine Art Wimbledon College of Arts students, this studio residency and career opportunity aims to provide graduating students with practice and career development for a year after they graduate. It’s one of several prizes awarded to undergraduate students at the prize-giving event which opens the Summer Shows each year.
This year’s winners, costume designer Akshy Marayen, and theatre designers Yvette Freeman and Sally Somerville-Woodiwis, hope to use the studio as a base from which to devise and provide workshops exploring physical theatre, costume, and theatre design for young people in the Merton and wider community as a whole.
We spoke to them about their plans.
Congratulations on winning the prize, how did it feel to win?
A: It feels quite surreal! I just feel very lucky that we have been given this opportunity and I can’t wait to start!
S: Crazy!! It feel’s like we have a very real chance to establish ourselves as professional designers now.
Y: I agree with Akshy, very surreal, it was all a bit of a whirlwind! Now we have to do some work! But I am really looking forward to starting: the studio space is in a beautiful location and perfect for our workshops.
Please tell me in your own words what your plans are for the space over the next year?
A, S, Y: Our aim is to start our own theatre company under the name ‘Wandelling Sprites Theatre Company’. Our aim is to give the next generation an insight into the theatre and costume industry, with the hope to encourage and educate those younger than ourselves about possible careers in the arts.
We would like to start a site-specific project by combining our skills to create exciting and fun opportunities that celebrate Merton Abbey Mills’ unique community.
We hope to promote and possibly collaborate with the Colour House Theatre which is already located at Merton Abbey Mills. We aim to use and hire Merton Abbey Mills’ rehearsal space and theatre for our own projects. Our end goal would be to put on a performance in this this space.
We would like to draw upon this vibrant textile history for Akshy to create natural dyes workshops and use influences from the Wandle Trail, Colourhouse Theatre and unique artistic community to create site-specific performance workshops would lead to a performance.
What does winning the Wandle Studio Prize mean to you in terms of your professional development?
A, S, Y: Winning the prize will really help the start of our professional development. It will allow us to continue to be creative and productive by starting our own theatre company. It will help us to develop workshops that we can continue to run in the future. Winning the prize also means that we can use the space for any other freelance work we may have. Also have the mentoring and careers advice will be invaluable at this early stage of our careers.
Tell us about your time at Wimbledon
A: It’s so hard to sum up my time at Wimbledon – I feel like I have learnt so much not just about my practice but also about myself. It’s been challenging and difficult at times but always rewarding. I feel that I have used this time not only to push myself creatively but also allowed myself to take risks and to make mistakes and I am very glad that I did because I feel like I have made the most out of my time at Wimbledon. I have loved all the workshops and facilities and I think I will miss the dye room the most!
S: Wimbledon is where I met my people!! It’s such a creative hive filled with every form of art from painting to performance. It gave me the freedom to find my art form and what I wanted to show using that art form. It gave me the confidence to go and network with other designers, directors and to design with other small productions because I knew that I could rely on the technicians and tutors help/advise on how to make and design for them. Even now I feel like I could just pop in to get some advice. That time at Wimbledon was priceless.
Y: Wimbledon for me, was like coming home. The jigsaw pieces in a windy puzzle of where I fit in the world and what I wanted to do and say about it started coming together over my three year degree. I tried to make the most out of the diverse opportunities that UAL offer; from working for the university to theatre work experience and alumni talks, performances and exhibitions. But despite all of this, it is the people both peers and staff that made my time at Wimbledon feel so homely with friendships for life and a support network from UAL. Without this, the formation of Wandeling Sprites would not have been possible!
You studied different courses but made the application together – how did the collaboration across courses come about while you were at Wimbledon?
A, S, Y: We have all been friends since first year and a lot of our interests overlapped and we are all similar in that we like to learn from others and are curious to learn and explore. We have all helped each other throughout our projects, modelling, performing and giving critiques to one another. I think we naturally came together and decided that it would be really amazing to continue this collaboration and apply for the Wandle Prize. At the time of the deadline we were in the final weeks of our degrees and the workload was quite heavy, so this led to many late nights at each other’s houses putting together our application and presentation!
Now that you have graduated, what plans do you have besides those for the Wandle studio?
A: I am currently the costume designer for the production of Annie Jr with Dramacube. I am also hoping to go on and work as a textiles and breakdown artist for theatre and film.
S: I am currently designing the set for Dramacube’s production of Annie. So, yet again, I’ll be working alongside Akshy. We can’t get enough of each other haha! I am hoping to get more design work and designer assistant work. But first I am taking a trip to Guatemala for a break and recover from third year; so I can be refreshed and ready for my professional career.
Y: I hope to work for UAL, in the marketing sector, part-time, promoting the courses available by visiting schools and colleges for prospective students. I am also building a relationship with Jigsaw4u, a Merton-based charity which supports children who are experiencing bereavement of close family members. I hope to introduce drama-therapy, which uses theatre techniques to overcome traumatic experiences. Finally, I would like to continue promoting my Third Year performance which was based on my volunteer experiences with refugees in Calais. I documented my experiences in a diary which I hope to publish and donate proceeds to Care4Calais, the charity I volunteered with.
Featured image: This year’s winners of the Wandle Studio Prize with Simon Betts, Dean of Wimbledon College of Arts.