The Tim Gebbels Bursary Scheme
In February 2017, Extant lost a dear friend and long-time collaborator, Tim Gebbels. Tim made a huge contribution to our theatre company since we started 20 years ago, and an even bigger contribution to attitudes towards visually impaired people within the performing arts sector. As a way of remembering Tim and the impact he had on our work, Extant set up The Tim Gebbels Bursary Fund so that other visually impaired artists will be able to follow their dreams.
Between November 2017 and January 2018, we asked friends and supporters of our company, and of Tim himself, to donate to the bursary fund. Thanks to their generosity, we now have a bursary fund of £3,000 with which we used to support UK based visually impaired artists who found themselves at a crossroad in their career and wanted to try something new – develop a new artistic idea, take part in an artistic event or undertake some training – which they couldn’t do without financial support.
Claudine Toutoungi is a playwright and poet who received funding as part of the Tim Gebbels Bursary fund to attend a week long writer’s retreat at the Ty Newydd Writers Centre. The funding gave her the opportunity to work on a new drama with the working title PARTIAL. PARTIAL follows Ada, a partially-sighted character living with a faulty cornea. The reader follows the characters journey through personal and work struggles as she tries to cover up her sight loss. Throughout the drama the reader observes Ada finding a confidante in an App that is used to help guide her through the realities and absurdities of what she is experiencing until the boundaries of the relationship start to blur.
Claudine explains that the Tim Gebbels Bursary Fund inspired her to write more drama, developing her career towards writing for different platforms. Claudine is already working towards publishing a second collection of poetry in the coming year and is endeavouring to explore options of performing.
Tracey Marno is Chairman for Bury Society for the Blind, a Trustee at The Met Theatre and a facilitator for Engage2Stage drama Group. She received funding as part of the Tim Gebbels Bursary Fund for training delivered by Extant on how to facilitate and run a drama group for visually Impaired People.
Tracey explains that the bursary helped by giving her the confidence to run the Engage2Stage groups, set up by Extant in 2017, and developed her abilities and knowledge. The group has since performed to paying audiences and participated in a celebration in memory of Victoria Wood. Tracey credits the training with developing her confidence and says that she has “more belief in myself and [am] able to step outside of my own comfort zone.” Tracey wants to ensure the longevity of Engage2Stage, learn more and develop her skill set and believes the training she received will contribute greatly to achieving this.
Having always been interested in adopting challenging roles Tracey postulates that she now knows she has the capability and a great desire to share her passion, to benefit others in some creative and enlightening way. Tracey’s passion for acting “grows every time I take part in a project, performance or simply just being in a theatre. Being around other actors, directors and vocal/movement coaches gives me a platform to grow and develop. A door is ajar that I need to break through!”