Reflections on the First Year of Pests - David Doust
A year of Pests. Feels a bit odd, thinking about it. A year. A year ago Sophia Greppi and David Doust sat together, in Sophia Greppi’s lounge, with Margaret the full sized cardboard cut out cow watching over us, and came up with Pests. I’ve said this on other platforms before but its an important part of the messages I’d like to communicate today, I cannot believe what that year has given me. I cannot believe the year that Sophia and I carved out for ourselves by sitting in that room and deciding we were going for it. The highs, the lows, the frustrations, tears, venting at Tilly my partner as she listens and then kindly says ‘keep going’, celebrating with her, celebrating with Sophia, celebrating existing. We have existed for a year. I hope - and to the best of my ability will work on - that we exist for more, as I’ll touch on later.
I want to reflect on whether Pests has been a success. A lot of what I measure Pests’ success by are long term goals, I want us to have a long term regular audience, a network of Dorset based artists, a full time theatre venue. Something I continually struggle with is celebrating little moments, I’m often thinking “yeah this is all well and good mate but when is it going to pay the bills” - a really valid point about the arts in general - and I have learned over the year that that big success will come, maybe, but these little successes are here, now, and I’ll never get them again so soaking them up, nourishing myself on them has been an amazing learning curve. I cannot tell you the exhilaration I felt when two people came to see a show with us that I didn’t know and then those same two people came back to see the next show. That was a small success that suggests we’re working towards a big success. I feel then, to conclude this point, that the answer to that has not been decided yet. It doesn’t need to be decided yet, the fact that we’re still in a position where the question is open to ‘whether Pests is successful’ is enough because at this, very early, stage in our career and life, the possibility of the answer to that question being ‘yes’ is enough to work towards. A first year of keeping ourselves in the question.
Pests, in short, has staved off the post-university break down. Pests has, for better or worse, created new anxieties and worries that have helped stop the overarching ‘what am I doing with my life’ thoughts, being replaced by other contextual worries like ‘please please someone buy a ticket’. I refer to these jovially now, because I am having a good day, but Pests does create a strain on my mental health. It has put me in situations where my anxiety has gone through the roof, only the barest thought that it’ll be worth it if you get through it holding me together, by and large it has. Working a job for money and working a job because you believe art can change peoples lives is difficult, add in that despite the relentless hours of job number 2, you’ve still never received a single pound for your labour, add a long-term, long-distance relationship with someone finishing their degree and all the support they, understandably, need with such a difficult period and you get a recipe for a really spicy mental health curry. A really spicy mental health curry that every day needs a spoonful of cooling mayonnaise mixed in, because at times that curry makes you feel warm inside in the best way, even if at other times it leaves your eyes watering, mouth burnt and an overall concern for the pain when it comes out the other end.
My mental health would be worse without Pests. Pests has given me a purpose. My close friends at university can attest to my complaints of anxiety if I haven’t worked on something I feel is meaningful after 48 hours. Sometimes I get anxious about the work I should be doing if I’ve played on my Xbox for over an hour. I live in constant fear of failing and am truly scared of not achieving everything possible in my life. To wring the wet cloth of life dry to the very last drop. Pests gives me an outlet to channel all of those things.
It is really important to acknowledge my privileges and to remember that Pests is shaped by those. Pests feels a definite influence because I am a straight white (though I really challenge this, given more of my heritage is Spanish than English and I hate the way you pronounce Chorizo like its spelt CHERITZO you fucking heathens) male. I’ve always fundamentally, stupidly perhaps, believed I can change the world and I don’t think I could do what I do if I didn’t believe that I was capable of achieving great things. I am also privileged enough to live at home and therefore be able to work less paid hours as I don’t have high rent to pay, meaning I can devote more time to unpaid work. The other two great privileges I have are Sophia and Tilly, my life wouldn’t be the same without either of these great women.
My thanks must go out to the following people:
My family, for coming and supporting all the events, for running the tea and biscuit stand, for helping me distribute posters and flyers (my least favourite job) and always believing in me.
J-P Hughes for his faith in community, in us, in the change young people want to bring and in allowing us into a sacred space and trusting us to deliver challenging projects in that space with the due care and attention it requires.
Emily Bone for her tireless work with us, my gosh I cannot wait to watch your career flourish my friend.
Joshua Vine, you are force to be reckoned with in performance, in facebook messenger and I hope you feel as proud as I do of representing Pests because the success is ours.
All the performers that have worked with us over the year, we, literally, couldn’t do this without you.
Kate McStraw for her invaluable advice, support, kindness, general all round good person qualities that stop me from thinking about whether I should give up and work with my sister in accounting (not that there is anything wrong with accounting, I had a great 10 month stint of it pre-uni).
Andy Lee for his support, trust and cups of tea.
Peter Courtenay for listening to my frustrations about the Bournemouth arts scene.
Every single audience member we’ve ever had, you are our life blood and I would have given up if it wasn’t for you.
Everyone that came to the Pests birthday.
Andrew Cooper for always being on the end of a phone call when I want 30 minutes to talk about comic books and video games.
Matthew ‘Croydon’ Edwards, I’ll never take you for granted my immense friend.
The Royale Oyster Boys, for making all the noise (in a polite, non invasive way) everywhere we go.
Sophia Greppi, you have given me one of the best years of my life and if that is all we ever get, because we don’t know what the future holds, then I want you to know how closely I will hold you to my heart for the gift of your time.
Tilly Ingram, I’ll do my best to keep loving you as I do now for the rest of our lives together if that is what you want.
YEAR 2 LETS GO I’VE GOT SOME IDEAS ABOUT HOW YOU’RE GOING TO BE SOUND.