A few months ago I participated in Rosana Cade’s Walking : Holding – a public performance piece where members of the audience hold hands with strangers while being walked through a city. As performers, each of us brought our own back-story and thoughts : experienced stigma around holding the hands with same-sex partners in public, resistance to others being in our personal space, worries about what others might think seeing us walking hand-in-hand with a non-partner, discomfort with the vulnerability of offering your hand for a stranger to hold onto. Willing to stick with it despite our fears and worries, the results for us were delightful and surprising. We were able to create a comforting safe space with a complete stranger through the simple act of connecting to their hands and walking in public. Is that openness and vulnerability all it takes really?

Fascinated by the Walking : Holding experience and wanting to know more about the main person behind it, I sat down with Rosana and her parter Ivor MacAskill in a cafe in Valletta and delved a little into their take on collaboration (they regularly perform together) and the role of art outside the boundaries it tends to create for itself.

How did Walking Holding and the current team running it come about?

Rosana: “When I first made Walking : Holding I had set up a queer activist group with Laurie (Brown, who helped run the workshops and performance for Walking : Holding in Malta) in my final year of study. I was really interested in work about sexuality and gender and doing things in public space. I eventually came up with concept of Walking : Holding as my final piece for university and asked Laurie if he would be in it since he often cross dresses and I thought it would be good to have him as part of it. I got invited to take Walking : Holding to several cities and initially did all the admin and preparation myself. Sally (Rose, who was part of the team in Malta) was already working with me as a producer on another project and I asked if she would help with the logistics needed in the run up to the performance. It’s only recently that Sally has started to come on location when there are enough resources to cover that. Being very young when I started, I thought I had to do everything myself and that no one would support me to do what I needed to do. It was a great realisation when I found out this was not actually the case. It’s not in my nature to be demanding but having the right people on board makes a world of difference.

Speaking of collaboration, you have collaborated with both your sister Amy and partner Ivor, arguably your closest. How does this feel?

Rosana: “Collaborating with my sister was really hard. Up until that point in my life she had been the one with the knowledge and experience as my older sister. I wish on that first day I had said I would take the lead but at that point I thought leadership should not be there and that it should be an equal, horizontal relationship. I found it really hard to disagree with her but through collaborating together in this way we now see ourselves as equal people rather than big sister, little sister.”

I imagined that collaborating with Ivor would be much easier since we were both artists, but it actually took us some time to figure out how to work together.”

Ivor: “We had very different ideas of what the show would be since there is a different tone to our work. I use humour and am practically always undermining myself whereas Rosana’s work tends to be more serious, like Walking : Holding. “

Rosana: “Working with your partner means you do not put your game face on. We had to figure out how to separate our work and home life – at some point we travelled separately to the rehearsal space so we could have our own space. Working together also means we cannot support each other in the way we usually do when working with others, we’re both too immersed in it to have enough perspective. Having another collaborator onboard is actually very helpful here. At the same time, because we are partners we have a great connection and we can do things on stage that would not work with anyone else.

In general, collaboration is great because you have someone to consult and check things with. Working on my own means I have no one to bounce thoughts against; on your own, everything feels much heavier.”

Through your work with Walking Holding, you were invited to create “The Safety Map” in collaboration with leading UK queer arts programmers, Pink Fringe, funded and supported by The Police. This was a cartographic project that creatively facilitated a context for LGBT experiences of the city to be recorded with the aim of spreading more awareness of hate crime and influencing police decisions and policies. You also created a three day practical workshop co-facilitated with your sister Amy called “My Big Sister’s Gonna Teach Us To Lap Dance”, which explored different feminist ideas surrounding stripping, in partnership with the Live Art Development Agency and Fierce. How easy is it to make the leap between what is more commonly recognised as art and places where your art practice and experience can be used for what many might consider to be outside of art?

Rosana: “One of the things I am most interested in is how to use what comes out of the art world outside of it, because it is where i feel it would be most useful. My approach is that of an artist, I am interested in having a minister of loneliness, in engaging and working with those in power. I love to reach out through my work. In an arts festival you have one just type of audience whereas elements of the piece could be interesting in different contexts. I want to explore working with people with issues around touch more, to engage more with social problems. My work mainly happens in artistic contexts and I do not have a lot of experience in taking it further but am really interested in this and can see its potential. Sharing the knowledge is very important to me. We are making a film about Walking Holding (with filmmakers Claire Nolan and Charlie Cauchi, funded by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and the Arts Council England) that I hope will help spread the work and encourage people who might be scared to participate.”

More about Rosana Cade: https://rosanacade.wixsite.com/performance