February 4, 2022

The Green Shoots Interviews: Katie Day

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A picture of Katie Day

We caught up with three members of the creative team from Green Shoots – director Katie Day, writer Sudha Bhuchar, and John Sear, game designer & software developer – to ask them about their roles in the project, what they have learned while working on it, and its potential legacy.



Tell us a bit about your role within the Green Shoots creative team

I am the artistic director of The Other Way Works so as well as directing actors as part of Green Shoots I’m the creative lead on this project and all the other projects we produce. This means I came up with the original concept and then developed it with the help of some core collaborators. When we’re in the thick of a project I’m often standing back out of the way; sometimes I feel like I’m the hub in a wheel with all my collaborators as the spokes. I’m in the middle trying to interpret what I’m getting from one person and then feeding that back to the other people, for example I’m taking comments from the writer and feeding them to the illustrator and processing the information so that everyone (hopefully!) knows what we are trying to achieve.

How does it feel to have your original concept taken on by other people?

That’s what I absolutely love! I love coming up with ideas but in terms of making them real I can’t do that on my own. Since my background is in theatre, I would call myself the director, and I do direct actors as part of this project, but that’s a very small part of it. I love seeing people run with my ideas and seeing them come up with far better ones than I could have done, making them richer and more interesting, and then making them a reality.

What do you think is new or interesting about this project?

For the creative team this is quite new, and maybe a little crazy, as we have found ourselves making a children’s book and none of us have written children’s books before! There may be products out there that are similar but we’re using the book form and opening it up into all sorts of interactive elements including puzzles inspired by escape rooms, aspects of radio drama, and many other storytelling techniques. This means the book acts as a gateway for all this amazing online content, and I think that’s quite different. One of the things we’ve done is reflect on a previous project John Sear and I made for adults called A Moment of Madness which was about bringing  together real-world gaming and escape room gaming with immersive and site-specific theatre. In that project there was interaction with lots of documentation and a telephone system so for Green Shoots we tried to think about how we could combine information that you read, and interactive media, in a format suitable for children. Partly what’s new about this is the form and I’m really interested in how it will eventually manifest.

Can you tell us about a memorable or moving moment during the process?

When we set out to make this project it was about raising awareness about the climate crisis and specifically among primary school aged children and other members of their families. We were looking to hear from people who weren’t the ‘usual suspects’ in the environmental movement as historically it’s been dominated by the white middle classes; we found that some people in the UK can often feel a bit insulated from current impacts of climate change but obviously there are people in other parts of the world who have been experiencing climate impacts for 20 or 30 years. On that basis we decided to talk to people who have closer familial links with places where these climate impacts were more strongly felt. We visited a school in Small Heath in inner-city Birmingham to do some workshops and to talk to the kids to get to know what they knew about climate change, what their experiences were, and what they cared about in relation to the subject. We went in with quite open questions and found that a lot of the kids had families in Bangladesh, and they spoke of aunts and uncles who’d had to move house due to flooding. One of the children told us that they themselves had recently moved here to the UK with their family as a direct result of the climate crisis. They had experienced a storm in their country of origin and their family had decided to move to the UK for the chance of a safer future. That was a bit of a thunderbolt moment for us and as we sat there and listened, we realised that these children were exactly the people we should be hearing from, this was a lived experience from someone who lives round the corner from us.

How do you go about bringing all these stories and creative elements together?

It’s a total puzzle and at the beginning you just don’t know how it will work! The way that we’re trying to do this is not have the big picture answered at the start and that’s maybe quite an odd way of doing it for some people. We did some brainstorming days where we mapped out several different narrative scenarios, so we do have a rough, very broad-brush picture of the story we’ve decided to tell. Then we picked a moment in the middle of the story and started writing that scene, adding in interactive elements such as games and other pieces of content as we went. Then we visited the school again to test it with the kids and now we’re writing a bit more. The way we’re doing it is quite iterative, so we just do a little thing, try it, see if it’s good, see what the kids like, what they engage with and so on and then do a bit more.

What have you learnt that will change the way you work in a creative process in the future?

For me it’s raised a lot of questions around working with people who aren’t from the same white background as me and instead working with creatives who are closer to the participants that we’re working with in terms of their experiences. Because we’re working with a school where the children are predominantly from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds, we wanted to tell their story in an authentic way, so it was important to have their communities represented in our core creative team. Bringing Sudha Bhuchar on board as our writer and working with Fats Begum as our facilitator has been crucial for this. It’s been a lot to negotiate and a lot of testing out with the creatives about how they want to tell the story. What’s been interesting for me has been having those people in the heart of the creative team means that it’s impossible to brush their perspectives aside and that’s great as it can be “too easy to make things easy” when you’re trying to solve lots of problems. It’s opened a whole world to us, a whole world of culture and knowledge and the complexity of all the differences between the communities that we encountered within the school. If I was working with a specific core group or audience, I would definitely work with core creatives who had experiences more similar to that group because it allows the participants’ voice to continue through into the actual authoring of the work in a way that I think could easily be lost by creatives who didn’t have that same experience.

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