Research, Renew, Reflect

Leanne Moden reflects on her recent Nest Residency

At the end of April 2022, I spent a beautiful, sunny week in Coventry with Talking Birds, as part of their Hatching Residency.

I was really excited to work on a completely new idea – a one-person show based on my recent experiences of chronic illness – and the residency gave me the headspace to finally start the process of thinking about the project, rather than just thinking about thinking about it.

In 2021, I had a sudden and frightening period of ill-health, and the experience really showed me how invisible and chronic illnesses are often treated in the UK. I wanted to explore the highs and lows that come from navigating the world with a chronic condition, with a view to turning this into a piece of autobiographical theatre.

One of the things that struck me most about getting sick was how worried I became about ‘not being useful”. When I was incapacitated by my condition, all I thought about was how much time I was taking off work, and how inconvenient I was being to those around me. That made me think about the current societal narratives around productivity, usefulness, and community, in relation to illness and disability.

During my first couple of days on the residency, I did a lot of thinking, note-taking, and reading, and I wrote pages and pages of stream of consciousness narrative. At the end of each day, I worried that I hadn’t written enough, or used my time as wisely as I could. This was pretty ironic, given I was meant to be writing about productivity and rest! So, by Wednesday, I vowed to just go with the flow, and not get too het up about “being productive”.

As a result, I spent the final few days writing around the themes of the show, as well as plotting the story arc, thinking about how “Deal Or No Deal” might be the perfect metaphor for the Just World Hypothesis, and generally getting super excited about what I was writing.

I also found time to write a draft for a commissioned piece for an unrelated project, and I spent a day working through my current archive of poetry – finding stuff that I’d started but failed to finish, and earmarking it for editing in the summer.

It was almost as if the fear of not being productive was causing me not to be productive. It all felt a bit meta, truth be told! But actually, it was all grist for the mill, and I wouldn’t have found time to consider my own relationship with “feeling useful” if I hadn’t had the time/space afforded by the residency.

It was also really lovely to meet and chat with other creative people during the lunches, and these serendipitous conversations were super inspiring too. I’d like to extend a huge thanks to everyone at Talking Birds for such a lovely, welcoming, and creative experience. I hope it won’t be too long until my next residency!

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