Creatives In Residence #09: Esther Ferry-Kennington

05 June 2020 by Ed

We appreciate all of the positive feedback about our "Creatives in Residence" blogs. For the next in the series of kitchen table stories of Lancashire's creative community in lockdown Esther Ferry-Kennington, Director of Horse + Bamboo and Executive Producer of Lancashire Encounter Festival shares a deeply personal and insightful perspective on how she is navigating these extraordinary times.

Creatives In Residence #09: Esther Ferry-Kennington

I am a furloughed Executive Director of a theatre. 

I am an Executive Producer of an outdoor festival, freelance and working from home.

I am a housewife, so is my wife

I am someone’s Mam.

I am having a mother of a lockdown.

I am having a good week, and so it seems like a good time to reflect on the not-so-good weeks, of which there have been a few.

I love being a Mam.  I’m a woman married to a woman, getting pregnant was no accident. We wanted him and love him very, very much. He has three parents on purpose and is very much brought up by a village of family and many other social networks.

My many years of daydreams of what motherhood would be like did not include moments like shouting at him in a busy high street “WHAT’S THE RULE BILLY? DON’T TOUCH MY BOTTOM!”  They also didn’t include being trapped at home with him for two months and counting. He’s five. Questions like “what can I eat?”, ”will you play with me?” and “where’s the remote control?” have started to cause a spasm that goes through me and I have to use every fibre to stop myself shouting “OH JUST F&*K OFFFF!!!”.

I am of a generation that can be a Mam and also all kinds of other things too, as is my wife (who wrote this piece on a similar subject: Read article here.

When my Mam found out she was pregnant with me in 1977 she went to her boss to tell him. The imagined conversation went something like:

My Mam: I’m pregnant.

The boss: Ok. Thanks then. Bye.

My Mam: Erm, actually there’s a new thing called maternity leave you have to keep my job for me till I get back.

The boss: Eh?

And then my Mam and Dad had to go to the Citizens Advice Bureau and find out how it was done and what their rights were. It’s very possible my Mam’s was the first maternity leave to be taken in Cleveland under that new legislation, it was certainly the first in her workplace.

In the UK, for some, the role motherhood takes in a woman’s life has changed drastically over the 42 years of my life and I know that if being a mother would have meant giving up work and other prospects it may not have been a choice I would have made. I took 5 months maternity leave during which I started a new folk festival and I wrote Horse + Bamboo’s strategic plan in my keeping in touch days.  This is no judgment on the stay-at-home parent. Some of my best friends are stay-at-home parents, really, they are incredible, thoughtful, creative parents and it works for them. It does not work for me.

Many of my lockdown terrors have been about self-image. I have had to battle the word “useless” going round and round my head. I have cried at the relentless parenting that needs to be done by me and my partner because there’s no school, not grandparents, nor friends’ parents, just us, us three together, all the time. I am so lucky, I love them both so much, but part of the joy of life is to be parted and to come back together and share tales of what you did in the time you were away. I’m also lucky because we are sharing the load; I know that’s not the case for many women. 

But this is a good week, and I’m focusing on the present day. My son played by himself for an hour today, full of imagination and noise and when he had played himself out he said “will you play with me?” I put things down and I said “yes”. 

I’ve got good, exciting work to get on with. I’m putting aside my fears for the world of theatre, for our viability and purpose as an arts sector when we start to move out of this. 

But they are only to one side, perhaps under my pillow. See you at 5am, fears.

Esther Ferry-Kennington (June 2020)

Esther Ferry-Kennington is Executive Director of Horse + Bamboo and The Boo Theatre and is Executive Producer of Lancashire Encounter. Esther joined H+B in 2007 from Oxfam. She is an ex-croupier, a keen singer and a Morris dancer, and probably much more besides. She is often found out and about selling and promoting work to the outside world with a tape measure in her handbag.

Horse + Bamboo 
Horse + Bamboo is an award winning company that create stunning visual theatre, unique in the UK and respected worldwide. The company works using masks and visual, puppet, physical, music-based forms rather than text. It works internationally as well as from The Boo in Waterfoot, Rossendale.

Lancashire Encounter
Lancashire Encounter Festival is an authentic voice for Lancashire, celebrating the breadth of the County's diverse cultural offer with high quality and high profile arts. Taking place every other year at the end of September, Lancashire Encounter sees the city of Preston buzzing with life and alight with creativity. Lancashire Encounter 2020 was scheduled for 18 - 20 September 2020 with new dates for the festival now 17 - 19 September 2021.

Images: Horse + Bamboo

Creatives in Residence Look out for more features from those working across the spectrum of creative occupations over the forthcoming weeks including designers, artists, film makers and more to share tales and tips for how they are working and coping while we adapt to the conditions created by the Covid-19 crisis and consider readiness for times ahead.

Click on the names below to read the other Creative in Residence posts in this series:

If you want to share how you and those in your organisations or networks are navigating these unusual and unprecedented times please get in-touch:

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