Wednesday has been our official ‘in-residence’ day during the last four months at the BCLT. Today, Wednesday January 27, is the last.
This residency alongside my fellow translator in residence Olivia Hellewell has been an eye-opening, nourishing, collegiate joy. I’ve been made to feel hugely welcome by all at BCLT and the wider UEA community and leave the residency having explored the themes and engaged in the projects that I had planned to, only to emerge at the other end with more questions and ambitions for what comes next.
A particular privilege afforded to me by having my translator-in-residence hat on has been engagement with, and the creation of opportunities for, those literary translators at an earlier stage of their careers. This has naturally included the MA Literary Translation cohort at UEA: I’ve enjoyed hosting or co-facilitating workshops, discussing theatre translation specifically but also considering how the ideas of voice that are familiar to theatre practitioners might be relevant to translation more widely. I also enjoyed the rare chance to co-devise a workshop on translation that brought together students of translation with those of drama and creative writing. This was particularly important to me as I firmly believe that such cross-departmental events in training settings are vital to bettering the working relationships between translators and other theatre-makers in production settings further down the line. Olivia and I also hosted an informal coffee-morning for the MA students, offering a chance to answer some pressing questions for those approaching the end of their studies and wondering what a career in literary translation might actually look like. This important question is one that I am looking forward to feeding into my conversations with fellow committee members at the Translators Association: watch this space!
The Residency had its public-facing element and in the difficult conditions of COVID there has been some silver lining in the fact that the evening workshop and afternoon research seminar that I delivered in the autumn could both be attended live or on catch-up by anyone with an internet connection. In terms of my own practice, it was particularly rewarding to explore some of the issues surrounding a current project I am working on with Chilean dramatist Bosco Cayo and how questions of voice and representation combine when bringing a play-text from one context to another. This space for reflection has undoubtably changed the way I will approach my translation work going forward, and I look forward to Olivia’s seminar in February which, if my exchanges with her throughout the residency are anything to go by, will be generous and illuminating.
Likely my final act as translator in residence will be co-hosting a ‘speed-dating’ session for directors and theatre translators at London’s Theatre503 (as I write, tomorrow). This will be the second running of the event, and saw the number of applications more than double on last time. It is a simple concept: translators and directors have a series of high-speed one-to-one chats, facilitated by our newfound friend, the Zoom break-out room. The goal is for fellow artists to engage with each other’s work and hopefully go on to form future partnerships.
It feels fitting that my residency should end in this way, for in the theatre translation world, at least, there remains for me an unanswered question: how do we translators with more experience facilitate the move from training, education and workshop environments to concrete opportunities for work and professional progression? In the case of theatre translation, small steps such as buy-in from Theatre503 for this event, or the presence of representatives from London’s Gate and Royal Court theatres, alongside the theatre company Foreign Affairs, at the BCLT summer school last year, are examples of how we are making progress, even as the theatre world faces unprecedented challenges from the pandemic. But there is much more to do.
Although I will soon be a ‘former’ translator in residence, I will wear the badge with pride, and am grateful indeed for the many opportunities it has given me, and the inspiration I will take from my time here as I look ahead into 2021 and beyond.