Identifying what makes a community tick and helping the people express themselves artistically is what motivates playwright and poet Kevin Fegan.
“As a writer, it’s my job to empathise and put myself in other people’s situations. I tease the material out of people and then I help them shape it into something for the stage,” he explains.
“Art isn’t exclusive, everyone’s got it in them, it just needs to be awakened and I love seeing people engaged in the work and what it has meant to them.
“Working in the community also feeds my own writing. Meeting so many different people in different situations means I am never short of inspiration,” added the multi- award-winning writer.
In a career which spans more than 30 years and has seen him write more than 50 stage plays Kevin has worked extensively in a wide variety of places including prisons and schools, with the shipyard workers of Barrow-in-Furness, the feral children of inner city Leeds, unemployed young men in Manchester and refugees in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham.
His most recent plays include Ruck inspired by the UK Girls’ Rugby League Champions Batley Bulldogs, Slave, and Obama The Mamba, about the half brother of Barack Obama.
“You have to be versatile and prolific to survive as a writer for contemporary theatre – I learnt that very early on – but it is equally important that you have respect for the community you are working with and that they trust you.
“The important thing for a writer is not to patronise or do it the easy way. It mustn’t be too tame,” he said with emphasis.
He is certainly prepared to stick his neck out in pursuit of his art as he has twice been sacked from residencies because he stuck to his guns when it came to the content of his work and is proud to tell the stories behind his banishments.
Kevin, who was born in Shirebrook, brought up in Mansfield and now lives in Belper, is equally proud of his roots – although he admits he couldn’t wait to get away from home for the student life in Manchester when he was younger.
Now aged 61 though, he is happier to be living a quieter life in a small town, back in his home county and he is looking forward to getting more involved in the Belper community.
“I am happy to be brought into the fold – I live here and I want to get involved. Festivals like Belper’s are a force for good in the arts,” he said smiling.
At the moment Kevin is touring with a play he has written and produced – Bess: the Commoner Queen – a one-woman play mixing theatre and film, which was first shown in Derby last year.
He had hoped that he would be taking the play to Belper Arts Festival in May and the Guildhall Theatre in Derby in June, but circumstances have conspired against him. Lack of funding ruled out Belper and the unexpected closure of the theatre meant the Derby gig was cancelled.
“It’s disappointing, but I am trying to see if I can find a new venue in Derby. It is possible we may be able to work something out with the cathedral later in the year,” said Kevin optimistically.
The good news is a planned writing workshop that was to run alongside the show in Belper is still going ahead on May 11.
He is calling the two-hour workshop Going Solo and it is specifically aimed at helping writers create something for one performer. The idea is that those taking part will write something for themselves by the end of the session.
It is a pay-what-you-can event at The Strutts Centre in Belper and it starts at 10am.
For anyone wanting to write for the stage the opportunity to gain guidance from Kevin, who is considered to be one of Britain’s most innovative playwrights, is too good to miss. For details go to belperartsfestival.org
For details about Kevin’s work go to http://www.kevinfegan.co.uk