Spotlight Edition 3 – Keira Martin

Hello to all those reading, we’re grateful that you’re here to engage with Spin Arts and find out more about us! Over the next few months, while our shows aren’t touring, we’re going to introduce you to our team and our artists.

This Spotlight Edition shines a light on Keira Martin.  

Who is Keira Martin?

Keira, is an independent international performing artist from Barnsley currently based in Leeds. She’s a versatile storyteller, telling stories of the underrepresented through Irish-contemporary dance, music and song. 

What does Keira stand for?

Injustice – I have an injustice radar, it doesn’t matter what it is. 

I believe art can change lives, because it changed mine. 

If I didnt have it, fuck knows what I’d be doing!

Socialism all the way. Socialism is sharing. I’m an ally and try to understand different perspectives and privileges. 

Would you tell us about your current works?

My more recent work is Good Blood, a collaboration with my sister Sioda Adams. Our tour has been delayed due to Covid-19 but we managed to run it on the back of a lorry at Slung Low for audiences from across Leeds.  See video here.

Dancing on the back of a lorry has inspired me during this time, I’m in the process of adapting a work with Sonia Sabri, to tour via horse and cart to some of the most culturally diverse and deprived communities in Bradford. See Earth Mothers trailer here.

Most recently, I made a work in collaboration with Josh Hawkins for students at Salford Uni influenced by Andy Burmham’s recent political speech. See trailer here.

These works are all influenced by working class stories about women and what it is to be a working class woman – speaking from my own experience. 

Previous works and events include ‘Here Comes Trouble‘ and Wild Card at Sadler’s Wells Theatre .

Would you tell us more about Irish dance, culture and traditions?

I’m not a scholar of Irish studies and traditions, I’m 4th generation, though culturally it is the forefront for me.  I’m interested in how things are passed down generations and held in people’s DNA’s and identities. For me, it’s about the connection to the land, the emotional connection to it, and a feeling of belonging. If it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood. I am interested in ‘the old ways’, connection to Celtic land, and traditional dance and music – that’s me, I love being in a pub and playing music. 

What inspires you as a person?

Being kind and non-divisive, similarities of different peoples. I can be with people from anywhere and find a connection. Being honest and real. Saying what you need to say and communicating, making sure we know where we stand and being straight-forward. My child, Nestor – children are inspirational.

What is it to be an artist from Barnsley?

I like breaking stereotypes me, and social conventions. People ask where I’m from and Barnsley is the last place people think, it’s not somewhere you are taught by society to admit you’re from, and there’s always been some stigma with Barnsley and small working class towns. 

In Barnsley, people think I’m an ‘out of towner’, so if someone comments on how I look and my big hair, I thicken my accent and show where I’m from and I’m proud, I like to challenge ignorance and encourage learning too. 

Barnsley’s a place where in history, people have come together to rise and revolt, there’s always been a lot of political activity, it’s a place where people rise against the elite. We are born with an injustice radar.

The system is set up for you to fail, for the working class, immigrants, people of colour, disabled, the system is set up like that. We inherit that, we know that from when we’re born. It’s an inherited underdog mentality. 

Do you have a daily practice or wellbeing routine? 

Honestly, doing what I need to do in the moment, not doing what I think I should do. Taking the pressure off, resting, not laziness, rest. Valuing myself better, balance. Lighting fires on a night and sitting outside makes me feel better, I don’t know why. Being in nature. Going to the Yoga Cooler in Leeds. Keeping a perspective on reality – I’ve got water and food, that is privilege in this world, I am blessed. Blessed I’ve got people to talk to, and beautiful people around me. I’ve got my health.

Takes on the industry

More recently, the glass ceiling is being blown off the elite arts and dance, and for the first time in my career I have felt like my voice is valid, and therefore my art is valid. I’ve never felt like I belong because of the snobbery, now it is more local and community focused. The snobbery is shifting and cultural identity, cultural dance, traditional dance, is being seen with more value, because we’re now seeing the hardships of the working class, effects of Covid, Black Lives Matter protests…which is a good thing because there will be more diverse artists and voices, and therefore more audiences. 

If we can keep this going, it will have an impact on the world and encourage more empathy in society. That is my wish for the future, and I hope this time shifts that. My motivation now is bigger than ever, I want to help people, I always have, but even more now, particularly younger generations that have been tossed aside. I want to create opportunities for others and support their voices, give different voices exposure.

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for our Spotlight Edition 4 coming soon.
Take care!