• Sadie Phew

Phew: Moving On!

Updated: Mar 19

Well, it's been a tumultuous time for me lately but things are looking up now. This past year I'd been renting from a live-in landlord, with the last 6 months being particularly difficult. After realising how unhealthy my living environment was and that I needed to move, Lockdown happened so I had to just wait it out. I dealt with it by having good boundaries around my personal space, gardening, therapy, meditation, putting energy into my artwork, setting up a business and planning performances, but things came to a head a few weeks ago and I found myself suddenly having to move. Unfortunately live-in landlord set ups don't allow the tenant any rights, even if a formal tenancy agreement has been signed. I don't feel like I want to ever have my housing stability in the hands of an unstable person ever again. Lesson learned.

Luckily I have amazing friends. I fled after feeling unsafe at 3am on a Thursday night/Friday in an Uber, my friend took me in at hers, and by the Sunday every last belonging had been packed and moved out thanks to a team of good friends and support from the police! Hopefully I won't ever have to deal with anything like that again. Homelessness has always been my Achilles Heel. I had a big adrenaline crash a week after the initial incident where I realised I wasn't safe and had to leave immediately. My energy levels and ability to work have been affected, I've been inconvenienced by having boxes of my kitchenware at the studio, and I've had to shift my focus from my creative work to sorting out my housing situation, just when things were really starting to flow.

Fortunately though, I've been able to be kind to myself and allow myself to rest when i need to, I sought advice from trusted friends, I called in support and I asked for help. I'm sad about leaving the plants in the allotment I built. I tried to take some with me unfortunately my cucumber plants didn't survive the transplant trauma. I am also mourning the leaving behind loads of beetroots and the carrots I planted which reminds me of the commission I painted for Oblique Arts in June (pictured below) for their online gallery, featuring those same beetroots and carrots and a crying face. It's like I had a premonition about this happening!

Colourful abstract expressionist artwork depicting a crying face with the word Strong on it's forehead, permaculture systems, vegetables and treehouses, entitled Post-Covid Utopia, by Bristol based artist Sadie Phew
'Post-Covid Utopia', 2020, 60cm x 42cm, mixed media on canvas, by Sadie Phew

I have continued working, although much more slowly. Gen and I worked on a giant collaborative painting (pictured) bringing together all of the audience responses to the questions we asked at the end of our Hazmat & Covid performances, 'What is life AC (After Covid)?'. This piece of community artwork is a collaboration between us and our audiences who made drawings and answered questions after our shows in the streets and parks of Bristol in August. We love it and think it captures the chaos of the these times really well. We are looking for an exhibition space where the artwork can find a loving home, either temporary or permanent, where it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and also be seen by the people who contributed to making it. Please get in touch if you have some ideas about exhibition spaces.

Artwork by Sadie Phew and Genevieve Davis titled 'Hazmat & Covid: Moving On!' 121.5cm x 173cm, Mixed media on Canvas. The artwork is a collaboration between the artists and audiences who contributed with their pictures and words in response to the question 'What is life after covid?'
'Hazmat & Covid: Moving On!' 121.5cm x 173cm, Mixed Media on Canvas © 2020 Sadie Phew - & Genevieve Davis

I've also been working with film-maker Alex Tabrizi finalising the last details so he could finish the editing process. I got in touch with Alex initially to film a 1-2 minute film documenting the community arts project and our final street performance, but his creative input developed it into something more. We filmed in the studio at the beginning of our art-making process, did some sketches and improvised interviews and have ended up with a short film. I couldn't stop laughing when I watched it. You can find it on our facebook page if you're interested.

I'm really enjoying my work at the moment. Even though things are a bit difficult I don't doubt my decision to quit the nasty office job that I hated. It suits me to be able to work to my strengths and set my own schedule, working to my own energy levels rather than cramming it into a 9-5 format. For years my worklife has involved constantly forcing myself to perk up, smash coffee into my face, and get back to hammering away at some spreadsheet like a machine. I've found that I have more energy now I'm doing work that aligns with my values and that I enjoy. I've learned alot in a short time recently: about working with others, how I like to work, stage craft, character development, street theatre, improvising, acting for screen, making websites, flyers, promoting events, Search Engine Optimization, funding applications, getting a project off the ground, adapting the arts to this strange new Covid world, budgeting. They don't call me Sadie Phew for nothing!

For 10 years now I've worked on community arts projects with Oblique Arts, a Cambridge based arts charity, but in recent years since living in Bristol it hasn't been my focus. I would use up my holiday allowance from a full-time job to take part in arts projects at festivals such as The Pedal Powered Barbers and the Folk Festival Arts Installation. I would end up feeling burned out as I didn't take proper holidays to relax. Now that creative work is my main focus I can give the best of myself, rather than turning up tired and cramming it in around other priorities. Oblique Arts have been very supportive of me over the years, and a massive thanks to them for funding our covid-inspired street theatre performances, Hazmat & Covid, with an Arts Council England grant. I look forward to planning more projects in Bristol and beyond and creating a supportive network of other artists to work with.

Cambridge based Arts Charity, Oblique Arts, logo. Scribbly white writing over collaged chromatic stills taken during community arts and film making workshops

I've got a few commissions in my studio waiting to be finished as my work has been delayed with everything that's going on. I'm looking forward to getting back on track in the coming weeks. I am still trying out my collaborative commissioning process and want to focus on getting these pieces finished next.

Onwards and upwards.

Sadie Phew

****For anyone else experiencing homelessness or unstable housing, you can call Bristol City Council on 01173526800 to see if you can get some support. Please share this info with anyone who could benefit from it.

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