11 Questions with Lady Kitt, paper-cutting artist

Lady Kitt is a paper cutter, performer, researcher and Artistic Director of "Fulcrum Arts and Research". Based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, she works nationally and internationally in a practice which includes interactive performances, online works, community events, science/art collaborations, academic papers, mass bubble blowing and vegetable carving. 

What are you listening to/reading/watching at the moment?

I’m enormously dedicated to repetition - to the point of being pretty ridiculous. I like to re-read, re-watch re-visit the same things over and over and over again. It can drive other people round the bend, but I find it comforting and, as I change, my relationship with the work changes.

 I’ve just picked up one of my all time faves again: Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley. I must have read it 20 times since my Dad first gave me his dog eared old copy 15 years ago. In the first year I had it, I probably read it 4 or 5 times. I started talking about it with some friends last night and then couldn’t stop thinking about it. Reading it again, and just holding it, is so evocative. The copy I have is old and so used that there is about half a chapters worth of pages missing from both the front and back.

Listening-wise I don’t like much music, but my sister (Bridie Jackson) and Dad are both musicians and composers, so I do go to their concerts from time to time. I enjoy listening to spoken word stuff especially when I’m paper cutting. I’m absolutely gripped by The Archers on Radio 4 at the moment - I’ve listened to it since I was a child (even when I was a teenager and it was considered astoundingly uncool - nothing could make me turn off)! I also like The Bugle podcast, which my husband got me listening to, and nothing beats a spot of Alan Bennett reading The House at Pooh Corner if I’m feeling glum.

To watch, I would highly recommend the Live Art Development Agency’s Live Online resource. They have lots of videos of live art/performance and artists speaking about their work - it’s fascinating.

As well as obsessively re-reading and -listening to things I also like to re-visit artworks. One of my favourite paintings is William Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil. It’s in the permanent collection at The Laing Gallery in Newcastle. I’ve been going to see her since I was a child and now I take my children to visit her too. We like to look at her and say “She still looks quite sad - maybe she’ll be a bit happier next time”, but she never is.

Describe your life in 3 sentences:

Making stuff: art, food, jokes, babies, a mess.

Organising stuff: I’m dyslexic and find some rather ordinary tasks complicated. I’ve created lots of systems to help me with this but maintaining them takes lots of organising, list writing and labelling (every box and draw in our house is labelled). It’s very time consuming, but being disorganised would be more stressful.

Family: My family (my husband, his family, our children, my sister, her soon-to-be-husband and my parents) are nosy and noisy, love to gossip about people we know (and people we don’t) and put the world to rights. Everyone has an opinion on everything and we all talk loudly at the same time. I’m sure it’s many people’s idea of absolute hell but I adore it.

What's the biggest challenge you've overcome?

The illness and death of my wonderful younger brother Louis. He had a genetic condition called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and died when he was 18. I wouldn’t say it’s something I’ve overcome, more something I live alongside. The word “challenge” seems small for a series of experiences so huge and incomprehensible, but I struggle to find any more appropriate. It continues to inform how I understand the world. It is a part of everything: my values, my hopes, my worries, the work I make and the people I love.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given? 

Don’t try to get people to understand you. Your time is better spent trying to understand other people or, if you have a great deal of energy, trying to understand yourself. 

 What do you consider your biggest failure?

I’m not really into the ideas of failure - I just don’t think it’s very helpful. In everything there are elements that work and elements that don’t. I think it’s important to evaluate and acknowledge outcomes - very few things achieve nothing at all. To me finding out why something doesn’t work is as valuable as doing something that does, though not half as satisfying!

What do you consider your biggest success?

The fact that our children are good friends with each other. Mostly, it’s their success, but I know that I help them along a bit and it makes me more happy than anything else in the world.

Who or what inspires you?

People doing things they believe in thoughtfully, with kindness, passion and fun. I’m on the board of an amazing theatre company called Curious Monkey and they are just astounding. The work they make is fantastic and the way they work is fantastic. 

I also love physical theatre company DV8 and contemporary dance/comedy duo The New Art Club. I always feel really fired up and ready to get stuck into projects after I’ve seen anything by either of these companies. 

In the last year or so my family have started attending Sunday Assembly Newcastle. The organisation Sunday Assembly was started by a couple of comedians who wanted to do something that was like church but totally secular and "radically inclusive". The Sunday Assembly philosophy is "Life is short, it is brilliant, it is sometimes tough, we build communities that help everyone live life as fully as possible.” There are Sunday Assemblies all over the country (and in fact the world) I massively recommend it - it’s beautiful, funny, touching, inspiring - all the good stuff… and there’s singing and cake.

What would you do with your last day on Earth - (logistics no object)?

Spend it with my family: cooking, talking loudly over each other, drinking champagne, screeching with laughter and playing Chinese Checkers.

Who are your dream dinner party guests?

Julian Barnes, Francesca Martinez, Ru Paul, Sandi Toksvig, Tom Shakespeare, Katie Price, my mum Sue (who is utterly charming, very funny and always makes everyone feel included and valued) and Desmond Tutu - I met him when I was a child. He gave me a kiss, but I was too shy to talk to him - I’d like to rectify that, and give him a kiss back.

What's number one on your bucket list?

I don’t have one. The only things I’ve ever really consistently wanted to do were make art, find someone lovely to marry and have some funny, cuddly children and I’m doing all of those things.

Tell us one thing that might surprise us:

When I was in my early twenties I wanted to marry Britney Spears. I was living in London and went to quite a lot of trouble to find out which hotel she was secretly staying at and set out to propose to her (I even made a ring), but I bumped into some friends on the way and ended up going to a party in an abandon swimming pool instead.

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