Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Braw and The Brave Meet....Jay Lafferty

Photo by Trudy Stade

Jay Lafferty is a everything a creative should be. Generous in spirit, hard-working, supportive of others, adventurous and fun-loving, in addition to being insanely talented and multifaceted- aye she's a scunner! I can vouch for all the above as I have had the privilege and the pleasure of teaming up with her on a recent project (gaining a new friend in to the bargain) and can safely say I bagged a good 'un. A stand-up comic, producer, writer, director and community artist, Jay has gained a wealth of experience working in a variety of settings over the course of her fascinating career thus far. Ever so keen to challenge herself creatively her CV boasts an impressive back catalogue of TV, radio, theatre and education work.

Stand up had not always been on her radar despite being nominated 'Class Clown' at school. Famed for her uncanny impersonations of teachers, Jay recounts herself as a somewhat 'challenging young person' who used her funny side as a defence mechanism. Completing a Community Arts degree Jay went on to work with the Scottish Autism for a number of years and although incredibly rewarding, the understandably challenging aspects of her role encouraged her to seek out a pastime that would allow her to blow off some steam. "My mum wanted me to do reflexology-for selfish reasons obviously! I chose an evening class in stand-up comedy at Strathclyde University insteadMy wee Mum's still upset she missed out on all the free massages".  And it's just as well she did, as Jay found her calling in this 12 week course that opened her eyes to a world she had not considered as a viable career option. "I hadn't really realised that stand up was a job...if you weren't Billy Connolly". Learning the ropes from comic Viv G alongside like minded people gave Jay the buzz to start creating her own material. Forming one fifth of the critically acclaimed comedy troupe 'The Don Quixote Appreciation Society', hosting bi-monthly events in Glasgow, the group were involved in the first years of the Glasgow Comedy Festival. Amidst all the fun and the inevitable banter-fuelled environment of the comedy scene, being the only female on the bill presented many a challenge along the way which is something Jay tackled head on. "When I started I was quite hard edged and brutal. It was a fight as a female to get the gigs and to get audiences to take you seriously. I'm really happy to say that things have now changed massively within the industry and I'm proud to have played a small part within that". 

Photo by Trudy Stade

With experience comes confidence and over time Jay has found the need to remodel her material in order for it to say something more poignant and fitting to the ever-evolving artist she is. "As a young comic I challenged things by being 'one of the boys'. The great thing about growing older has been becoming more confident to just be myself. I'm more forthright on stage. I want my comedy to say something about me". Her 2015 solo show 'Mockingjay' highlighted the social pressures bestowed to women in their 30s. From careers, to mortgages, babies and pension schemes, Jay was keen to spotlight the angst of 'never being done', of always feeling you are not ticking all of the boxes of success. "Mockingjay helped me realise the  pressure wasn't exclusive to people in their 30's. Younger and older women and also men spoke to me about identifying with the show's subject. I think realising that they weren't the only ones that felt like this was a relief". Following it's success, Jay identified a real appetite amongst audiences which has spurred her to continue this dialogue. She is currently working on 'Besom'- a show that aims to challenge the anti-feminist rhetoric that still exists within society. "Comedy should be essentially to make people laugh but if it touches you and makes you change your mind about something then that's a bonus".

Like any other creative in their field, Jay's work has been shaped by her life experience and notably by the chance to write for others, as well as commenting on subjects she would not normally tackle. Frequently appearing on the award winning BBC Radio Scotland satirical quiz show Breaking the News, Jay regards this kind of opportunity as a means to broadening her horizons. Writing to order is something she also enjoys and her 'behind the scenes' work for TV and radio has had her concocting gags for popular panel shows. "Generally I wouldn't have been writing about politics or the news for my own set. Writing for this kind of platform I've entered into a new realm of comedy that I previously hadn't considered and I'm really enjoying it". 

Treading the boards for over 13 years, Jay has become accustomed to dealing with all the usual performer pitfalls from exploding microphones to fainting fellow comics, rarely fazed by the crazy antics of the world of stand up. Working in the industry for so long it was almost inevitable that Jay would find love whilst doing what she loves best. Marrying fellow comic, writer and satirist Keir McAllister a little over 5 years ago, the pair regularly collaborate on projects and can often be found on the same line-up. Part of the comedy troupe Viva La Shambles they produce a monthly show at The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh with Jay regularly compering this fabulously fun-filled extravaganza with the emphasis on experimentation and the alternative. "From quizzes to dance-offs. lip sync battles to eating challenges, we've done it all. This one time we made an audience member the headline act. We got the whole audience behind him and by the end we'd built it up so much that we had people coming up on stage to take selfies with him!". Despite the obvious challenges that teaming up with your spouse can present, Jay delights in working alongside her husband to bring not only her but his vision to life. "A real highlight to date was producing our first Fringe show together, 'The Last Laugh'. It was great to see the show that Keir had written get the recognition it deserved."

Viva la Shambles

When she is not doing stand up, compering or writing Jay is creating new works of theatre via her production company Watch this Space Productions.  Most recently with her children's show The Song of Fergus and Kate, with illustrator and animator Henry Cruikshank, costume and set designer Socks Rolland and musician Dave MacGregor on board, Jay married storytelling, puppetry, music and animation in this tale of learning to celebrate one's differences. She enjoys working alongside like minded creatives and has learned over the years to trust the collaborative process. "I used to be a bit of a control freak. I've learned that it's great to have your vision but it's even better to bring people along with you and let them shape that vision". As Head of Delivery for Impact Arts for a number of years, Jay thrives on the chance to team up with others to make something new and innovative and her time spent as a community artist has provided both opportunity and experience which she still very much enjoys now as a freelancer. In addition, working with psychologist Stan Godek has led to her delivering Autism and Creativity, Mindfulness and Managing Challenging Behaviour training which Jay has found invaluable when working in schools and community-based projects. For her it's about the people she has connected with both within theatre and comedy, as well as her education work that has made the journey that all more fulfilling. "Every job I've had I've met someone who has inspired me".

As a creative it's all about celebrating your 'and' and I think Jay Lafferty is the epitome of just that. She has more strings to her bow than you can imagine, excelling in every single one through her raw talent, determination and an honest thirst for new adventures and insight. "I want to look back and be proud of the choices I've made. If I were to give my teenage self any advice I'd say, 'Screw them! Stop worrying about everything and what others think of you’. Sometimes I still need to remind myself of that".

Where's you happy place?
"Anywhere where my people are. It's not about the haves and have nots of this life. It's about the people you're on this journey with".

Favourite Film?
"The Goonies"

Who dresses like a badass?
"My friend Socks-she's always rockin' some brilliant hairdo and a Disney t-shirt."

Who would be your 3 dream dinner party guests?
"Stevie Nicks-she's my idol. I reckon she'd have a lot of interesting stories. Tom Waits- Keir would be devastated if I didn't pick him. I love how he sounds like he's swallowed a tractor. Finally, Bill Connolly!"

 'The Song of Fergus and Kate'

Beacon Arts Centre
27th May 2017

'Besom' at the Edinburgh Fringe

Gilded Balloon at Rose Street Theatre 
2nd - 28th Aug (not 14th) 2017

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