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Diverse opportunities
Date posted: 18 June 2021
Whilst looking for alternative ways to navigate a lockdown, freelance artist, Melissa Pasut, discovered the Wales Wide Training Programme. Here she reflects upon her expectations, connections found and virtual interaction that removed geographical boundaries.

I first encountered the Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP) through a Facebook post towards the end of the first pandemic lockdown in the summer of 2020. Being in a state of exasperation and panic, I thought that this particular post - for a meeting to be held for freelancers - was a possible way towards escaping this state of mind and linking up with others to see what could be available for those like myself. As our future prospects had vastly diminished and most of the confirmed projects for those in the arts had come to a halt, any opportunity to find support towards a way forward was very welcome.

I had no expectations, but was curious to see what it was about. As soon as I logged into Zoom (sadly now one of the most common forms of interacting with other humans) Tracey welcomed me as though we had been friends for many years. She explained what WWTP was about and encouraged us all to engage with what they had to offer. I had a sense that perhaps there was an alternative way to navigate through this increasingly challenging situation.

Prompted by Tracey’s super efficient methods of communication, I immediately researched the WWTP opportunities and have taken part in several of the programmes since joining the network. Firstly, I applied for the Bursary Award to try and connect with other practitioners, which, although was unsuccessful this time around, spurred me into thinking differently about how to approach those who may be able to offer advice or collaborate in the future somehow.

I was then successful in securing a funded place for a freelancer to attend the CPD programme with Cai Tomos: a series of workshops and creative practice support sessions. At the time, there would have been no way I could financially afford to take part, so this offer of a free space was even more appreciated. For years, I had been trying to attend a workshop with Cai and when I was finally able, the pandemic had struck and lockdown had hit one week before. Timing and coincidence was perfect when WWTP then opened up this possibility again.

This was an opportunity to not only engage professionally within the workshop environment, led by Cai, but also to build on a growing network of professionals in Wales with intimate discussions about the current state of affairs and how we were coping within the chaos. There was a general sense that freelance practitioners, including myself, were struggling, with how to manoeuvre the crisis: accepting the loss of confirmed work, working out how to secure new work when continuously entering and exiting lockdowns, new Brexit restrictions and the potential death of the performance/touring industry for UK based professionals. The list went on and on… yet somehow, there seemed to be hope…

Being based in North Wales, I have found there is a vast geographical divide between the North and the South. A positive outcome of the tragic situation with the pandemic is that virtual interaction can remove some of the physical barriers normally in place and this has expanded my network to reach beyond local borders. Interacting in this way, especially through the WWTP, brought me together with a dancer from South Wales and participating in Cai Tomos’ workshop series and also engaging with Cardiff-based dance organisation Groundwork Pro, meant I felt I could approach this dance practitioner for a future collaboration. This would not have happened without my involvement in these programmes.

I have since participated in other organised events such as shared practices, speaker’s presentations and meetings that are always geared towards supporting freelancers and opening up networks. With WWTP what I find is that there is an all-inclusive approach in reaching out to practitioners. Regardless of age or experience there is something that all of us can tap into. Challenges with promoting work and securing the next 'job' often revolve around who you know and how you approach organisations. These sessions are giving opportunities to freelancers in an attempt to open these channels, even during lockdowns. They are listening to what we need and doing everything they can to offer resources that address those needs.

I was also invited to take part in a film addressing the impact of the pandemic and how the opportunities offered by WWTP have affected practitioners. I felt very privileged to be involved and speak about my personal experience with WWTP. They have been a constant source of practical advice and inspiration for my continued practice since I joined.

Not having been a part of this network prior to the pandemic, I have nothing to compare it to regarding past events, but as an organisation successfully navigating a complex system of virtual delivery and continuing support, they have shown exceptional resilience and growth. As time passes and I participate in the diverse opportunities that are offered, I feel a growing connection to the network and its practitioners, particularly with Tracey since she has been the one I have interacted with the most.

I feel I can be truly open and honest about the experiences I have had and it’s now up to me to decide what I will do with these in the future.

  • You can find WWTP on Facebook or please visit
  • Photographs: Top left - Gwenfrewi Project: Children of Trees. Photographer: Elizabeth Wright. Guillermo Luis Horta Betancourt (Dance, drum and voice); Andrew Leslie Hooker (guitar and voice); Melissa Pasut (Dance and Voice); Rachel Sweeney (Dance and Voice). Top right - Melissa Pasut, Returning By Katherine Betteridge and Sioned Roberts. Photographer: Matt Dean.