CAJ Collab @ Poplar Union

Michael is a lovely man and a dancer and he was in the year below me at Calder High School. I hadn’t seen Michael in years until he came to see Above the Mealy-Mouthed Sea at Omnibus Theatre last September.

It wasn’t long after that that I got an email from Michael, telling me that he’d loved the show and asking me if I’d like to be involved in a new project he was developing with his friend Eve called CAJ COLLAB.  This is how he described it to me:

“the concept is we facilitate a collaboration between two artists who haven’t worked together before. In the space of one day, they meet, work together to create a low stakes score/work which is performed that evening. It came from our desire to create collaborations/performances away from the high stakes, labour intensive structure of funding – rehearsal – performance.”

I was really excited by this prospect and thought it was an incredible and intriguing idea! I signed up straight away and the date was set for September 16th.


Photo by Jack Smith

The artist they paired me with was Akeim Toussaint Buck, Akeim is a dancer, beatboxer, writer and musician and he uses a loop station like me. He’s one talented guy and it was a pleasure to work with him.  I recommend you check out his stuff! I’ve got to hand it to Michael and Eve too, I think they chose very wisely when they paired us together. Our styles are complementary but not the same and it was amazing to learn new skills and techniques from him.


Photo by Jack Smith

As the day approached I got increasingly nervous, although the stakes were low there’s still something terrifying about having just one day to create something to present in front of a paying audience. I’m also really keen to incorporate more physical/dance strands into my performance work so I was really looking forward to dancing with Akeim but a little bit anxious that, because he was a trained dancer, I wouldn’t be able to keep up!

The venue was Poplar Union, I hadn’t been before but is a fantastic venue,, really lovely. The performance space is very flexible and there’s a lovely cafe with great food and a fantastic community feel.


Photo by Jack Smith

It turned out that I shouldn’t have been nervous at all. I often find the anticipation of something scarier than the reality of it. When we got in the room together, the process was surprisingly easy…

In the morning, Akeim led a physical warm-up and we discussed themes we wanted to explore. I was keen to explore our ideas about the city and had the idea of keeping the curtains open and performing against the large french doors that ran the length of the back wall. The big windows looked out on to a park, a housing estate and then, beyond that, the towers of Canary Wharf; a snapshot of the variety of landscapes that make up London. We actually used some of the outdoor space as well, as you can see in the photo below.


Over lunch, Akeim told me that he was becoming a father, that his girlfriend was expecting a baby in February! So, as a result of the fact that parenthood had been on Akeim’s mind, the piece we made centred around wrestling with the idea of whether London – the city we both live in and love – is a good place to bring up children. The whole childrearing/London issue had been on my mind a fair bit too (not that I’m expecting a baby!) so we had a rich seam of thoughts and ideas to mine.


Here are some of the techniques we used to collaborate:

  • We did a couple of free-writes with ‘the city’ and ‘childhood’ as starting prompts. We then used choice lines of the material we came up with to create more material and movement from
  •  We created a movement sequence together based around ‘Hedonism’, each adding a phrase
  • We improvised conversation which we then took the best bits out of and used them as a loop to create a backing track to move to
  • One of us laid down the beginnings of a song and then the other one added harmonies and melodies to it
  • We took it in turns to tell each other a story about our childhood and the other one provided percussive backing

We made material fairly easily and then it was a case of stringing it together, of finding an order that felt right and creating transitions.

The whole thing was an amazing experience. I loved the getting stuck into some movement too although, to be honest, I was incredibly sore the next day! Akeim and I have even discussed the possibility of sourcing some funding to develop the work into a finished piece, so watch this space.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the first ever CAJ COLLAB back in July but I heard that it was amazing and very, very different from ours. I strongly suggest that you follow CAJ COLLAB on Instagram here so that you can hear about their next event and go!

And please check out Akeim, see what things he’s got coming up and support him if you can. He’s actually got a new solo show on at the fairly new Streatham Space on Wednesday 10th October, you can buy tickets here. It’s also on at Home in Manchester on the 26th and 27th of October. Tickets here.

Thanks for reading 🙂


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