Writer in Residence: Martha Pailing

Martha Pailing is a writer, spoken word and performance artist. Her writing often blends personal material with fictional characters to create absurd and tender narratives. Martha’s work considers what it is to remain empathetic and soft in a brutal, emotionally temperamental world.

Her past work includes commissions for the Roundhouse, The Royal Court, Essex Book Festival, METAL Southend and Penned In The Margins. She has performed across the UK including the Roundhouse, The Royal Court, the Barbican Centre, LADA, People’s Palace, Curve Theatre, Bootleg Social and, of course, The Old Electric.

Martha says:I could not be more excited to be the writer in residence at The Old Electric!

This residency is going to be about getting stuck in – seeing, observing and listening yes, but doing, chatting and collaborating so the writing can be richly informed by the diverse artists and people that take part in The Old Electric’s eclectic programme – whether that be as a professional artist, emerging artist, curious creative, anxious first-timer and everything in between! This writing residency also sits alongside the Power Plays Programme so it’s going to be a particularly meaty and delicious time to be around. 

The Old Electric is the home of alternative art that I wish would have existed 10 years ago – it represents much welcomed creative progression in Blackpool. The venue brings together several art forms, takes creative risks and challenges the negative narrative that very often brands Blackpool. I am fiercely passionate and loyal about the town which should be celebrated in so many ways. 

I was born and bred in Blackpool, so the town will always remain an integral part of who I am despite spending the past several years in London. Nothing quite sounds as good as the hard northern U in bus. 

I plan to frame some of my residency around the complexities of laughter. It is, of course, a huge topic that I would never claim to do justice in just 5 months – so I will be focusing on some common language as prompts. 

For me, the phrases that come to mind are ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ and ‘laugh it off’ as well as dig into what laughter looks and feels like. I want to try and encapsulate the resiliency, dry humour and joy that exudes from the place, as well as play with the idea that the town is quite often deemed a ‘laughing stock’ to other areas of the country. Come the end of the residency, it will be us that have the last laugh.”

This opportunity is supported by Factory International, the producer of extraordinary art from world-renowned artists to the North’s rising stars. It produces Manchester International Festival every two years alongside running a hive of invention and creative exploration at Aviva Studios in the heart of Manchester – the new home of Factory International. Development of great art and artists across the world with a focus on Manchester and the North of England is a key priority and it is delighted to be supporting this artist residency in Blackpool.

Photo credit: Matt Crockett