RADAR 2015 | Q&A with Joe Sellman-Leava

Ahead of his RADAR debut tonight, we caught up with Joe Sellman-Leava who’s Fringe First Award-winning show Labels draws  Joe’s own experiences of mixed heritage and racism.

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Can you tell us about your show in one sentence?

Labels is a funny, moving and honest story about multicultural Britain.

What questions lies at the heart of the show; what are you asking the audience?

Why has anti-immigration rhetoric risen sharply in recent years? Do we label people out of curiosity, or to feel safe? How do the words and numbers we use for one another affect the decisions we make about them?

Tell us three things about yourself, one of them must be a lie.

1. I’m 25.
2. I’m from the south west (of England).
3. My family history is like a small snapshot of British colonialism.

What sparked the original idea for this piece and how has it evolved?

Michael Woodman and I (co-artistic directors of Worklight) were in a workshop on racism and equality led by Emma Thompson in 2009. I wrote the beginnings of Labels as homework she’d set us. It’s grown over the years as I’ve become less able to ignore the news.

What excites you about being part of RADAR 2015?

I love that RADAR aims showcase the diversity of both the work it presents and the artists who make it, and Worklight are really thrilled to be a part of this.

Do you feel your work is inspired by, responding to or reacting against any work from wider culture (films, art, music, etc)?

Often it’s a reaction things like to political speeches or episodes of Question Time. Whilst developing Labels I watched films like Swimming to Cambodia and Ghandi as they both – in different ways – combine personal and political journeys in a way that’s both epic and intimate. And there was also a cartoon by Simon Kneebone that I kept coming back to.

What direction do you feel yourself moving in creatively, and what comes next for you as an artist?

Worklight’s next show examines different forms of personal and societal addiction. As with all our work, it’s going to involve a long research phase, and we’re interested in exploring what poetry, music and choreography could unearth from the research once we reach the devising process. I’m also going to be redeveloping a piece I’ve been working on for some years about male aggression, and we’ll be touring Labels alongside these other projects.

Labels is on at RADAR tonight for one night only in a double bill with Portrait by Racheal Ofori – there are a handful of tickets left here.