Artist Residency at Hawkwood: Tim X Atack
"I know Hawkwood is the Centre for Future Thinking; now and then it’s wonderful to stick with the present moment, the future best served by the here and now."
How much should you expect to get done on a 5-day residency? What goals are realistic or healthy or wise?
I was born in the late middle ages, so I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few residencies over the years. My first ever, as a teenager, was a series of workshops with the jazz band Loose Tubes. As an electronic / computer musician who couldn’t sight-read a score, my ambition was basically to emerge with the tiniest sliver of dignity intact (I pretty much failed, but in the end that led to its own learning.) On subsequent residencies I’ve variously composed and recorded albums, written full drafts of plays, filmed interviews with politicians and economists, done a lot of walking around cities. They’ve mostly been joint endeavours, with group ambitions.
This Hawkwood experience was, in the nicest way, the most solitary of them all. I was alone in the Gate House, a bracing walk from the main building. There was very little planning I could do beforehand – it was a last-minute opportunity offered by Hawkwood and Bristol Old Vic Ferment, with all parties happy for me to nurture whatever felt most alive in that moment. Ferment, especially, know and support me as a multi-disciplinary artist, all lines of work ultimately feeding into one.
So I chose to start drafting a feature film screenplay that had been on my mind for some time. And as this would see me working under my own steam, it was fairly difficult to make any prior judgement on what might constitute a ‘good’ result.
And, to my surprise… this lack of specific ambition really, really worked.
It wasn’t just a matter of the page count I reached by the end of the week – it was that I had built a profound confidence in the work, all from allowing it whatever kind of mental space seemed right.
I was even able to type away over mealtimes. This isn’t always the case on Hawkwood retreat, but here I was quietly grateful to have been placed at the furthest extent of the dining room: solo, hilariously identified by a small blackboard announcing my name and purpose, yet separate from the other Hawkwood guests; a beady-eyed curiosity in the corner, like a parrot on a perch in a Victorian restaurant. And like a parrot, I was occasionally engaged in conversation as an experiment – and this too was welcome, keeping me on just the right side of ‘hermit who occasionally emerges from his cave to eat biscuits’.
Later in the evenings I went to one of the music rooms and played a lovely piano, as a way of rewiring my brain for the day’s last few hours of writing. I even filmed a rendition of a song from a musical I’m developing alongside director Tanuja Amarasuriya (hopefully there’ll be a chance to upload it here whenever that unfolding project allows.)
But the end result of the week at Hawkwood was a great first act for my screenplay, and genuine giddy excitement about what was to follow. All without a daily word count to hit, or a defined outline for the full story, or even anything like a research question. I know Hawkwood is the Centre for Future Thinking; now and then it’s wonderful to stick with the present moment, the future best served by the here and now.
Tim X Atack
Tim is a Writer and Composer, based in Bristol. He has previously been selected for the Channel 4 Screenwriting scheme and is currently developing television series with Echo Lake Productions and Calamity Films. Under the name of Sleepdogs he collaborates with theatre Director and Producer Tanuja Amarasuriya. He has written and scored all their shows to date. He won the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2017 (judged by Russell T. Davies and Lucy Prebble, among others) with his play HEARTWORM.