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South West based arts organisation Light and Lark has received funding from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Fund towards its community story sharing project Milk Monologues. Co-producers Natalie Remington and Rebecca Megson Smith, mums themselves, will use the money to help reveal the truth about the surprisingly taboo subject of early-infant feeding.

The project has been in gestation for two years and was inspired by Natalie’s voluntary work as a breastfeeding peer supporter, which revealed the many struggles and triumphs of infant feeding. Natalie realised there was a damaging and isolating silence around the realities of the experience, especially for new and first time mothers.  

“Milk Monologues is a participation project with parents and caregivers, giving them the opportunity to share their stories about the life-changing experience of infant feeding, in a safe, supportive and fun way,” explained Natalie. “This past year in particular has shown us how desperately we need communities – they say it takes a village to raise a child, this project aims to reseed the village around the subject of infant feeding.”

One of the most important aspects of Milk Monologues is having an inclusive process – mums will be paid for their time in the sessions, while a creche will be available on site. Those who can’t attend in person can contribute their stories via 1-2-1 online sessions, while a virtual whole group session will open up the self-created village, to reach more women around the country and even globally.

Many of the practitioners working on the project are parents themselves and the programme has been built with the complex demands of parenting and working in the theatre and the arts in mind.

“Many people who have previously worked within a performance or production background have to drastically reduce their output or often change career altogether when they start a family,” said Rebecca. 

“We passionately believe that parents working in the arts should feel valued and empowered to continue their practice. Working with guidance from PIPA, we are instilling values within our working practice that help artists feel supported, with flexible approaches, an open and honest understanding of people’s needs, along with onsite childcare where appropriate.”

Rebecca lives and works in Bristol, and started developing a creative relationship with Tobacco Factory Theatres in 2019 when they co-produced Moby Dick on the SS Great Britain with Darkstuff Productions.  “We’re delighted to be partnering on Milk Monologues, which we expect will build powerfully on our artistic relationship with Rebecca Megson-Smith, and valuably enrich and expand our relationships with young families in South Bristol,” said Mike Tweddle, Artistic Director at Tobacco Factory Theatres.

“We are currently developing an updated vision for the theatre, based on our commitment to:

– Being a welcoming hub where local residents and artists of all backgrounds feel they belong, and can feel ownership of our decision-making and direction of travel.

– Consulting with and learn from our communities, and adapt / improve our projects and methods to be widely applicable and relevant.

– Being a centre for professional development, personal enrichment and creative learning for all ages and stages.

“With the rigorous support this project offers to young mums to collaborate on the project, the prospect of building long-term relationships and lasting activities for this group, and the creation of a piece of theatre which speaks to the complex, diverse experiences of early motherhood – Milk Monologues offers us a powerful opportunity to fulfil our refreshed vision. We look forward to providing a welcoming and supportive home for the residency in September.”

The Milk Monologues live creative story sharing workshops will take place in early September at Tobacco Factory Theatres and Trowbridge Town Hall in Wiltshire. Additional remote engagement activities include a letter writing project, and a virtual collaborative song. For further information and to sign up, please email Natalie and Rebecca at email hidden; JavaScript is required.