Gemma Walker’s residency at Echo Echo Studios

Echo Echo is very pleased to have hosted a three-week residency recently by theatre maker, performer and director, Gemma Walker.

In this blog, Gemma looks back at the research project in which she worked intensively with Tonya Sheina of Echo Echo Ensemble investigating movement and text.

I have always been a fan of Echo Echo and the style and quality of their work is truly unique and interesting to me. In early 2015 I participated in an open workshop led by Antonina Sheina (Tonya) looking at movement with text. I am passionate about storytelling and am always looking for new ways to connect with material and this was a whole new world to play in! I found the attention to detail and level of sensitivity involved to be particularly appealing and Tonya was a wonderfully attentive and engaging teacher. From then I knew I wanted to work with her and Echo Echo to explore movement and text on a deeper level.

At the end of 2016 I received a General Arts Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Lottery fund under the Support for Individual Artists Programme. Echo Echo very kindly invited me to do a 3 week artistic residency and the award afforded me the time to work with Tonya intensively to explore movement with text in April/May 2017.

To have the time, space and intensive support to explore a new way of working, rake over ideas and really focus on my interests has been an invaluable opportunity for me as an artist. It has helped me to ‘find my voice’ as a theatre maker and performer by allowing me the time to think about what I want to say and how I want to say it. The residency has boosted my confidence as I have been able to enhance my skills and forge new working relationships. Tonya is a wonderful teacher and director who listens and watches attentively and guides gently. Some of the Echo Echo ensemble participated in a couple of workshops in the final week to offer feedback. Their input and support has been invaluable.

It has been a joy to work with Tonya, thanks to Echo Echo and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. I am amazed at what we have accomplished in 3 weeks together. I feel utterly inspired, full of ideas and so excited to develop this work in future.

Gemma Walker

close up2


Gemma studied Drama and English Literature at the University of Birmingham and started work as a drama facilitator in Birmingham in 2006 before moving home to Derry the following year.  Since then she has trained in the world renowned Meisner technique with The Impulse Company, London/New York from 2013-2016 and is currently learning sign language. Gemma is one half of comedy storytelling duo, ‘The Makey Uppers’ with Sorcha Shanahan and their show ‘Alternative Bedtime Stories’ received rave reviews at the Belfast Comedy Festival in 2016 and is set to tour in 2017/18. She has been director of the Ulidian Youth Drama Group in Derry since 2007 and, as a freelance theatre maker, regularly devises new theatre with community groups from all areas and backgrounds. She has worked all over the UK and Ireland with people of all ages and abilities and writes and performs regularly for a diverse array of projects (storytelling, theatre, street performance, performance poetry). Her greatest passion lies in continuously finding new ways of telling stories and connecting people through storytelling.

Antonina Sheina - image by Barry Davis


Antonina Sheina originally studied acting in at the Russian University of Theatre Arts in Moscow. She then worked in the Moscow Malaya Bronnaya Repertoire Theatre for four years until 2011 when she moved to Ireland and joined Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company where she now regularly performs, teaches and directs work. Recent projects include an all-island tour of The Cove (2017), Echo Echo’s production of Lost in Frost a dance/ theatre piece for children which Tonya created and directed in 2015, and Echo Echo’s production of Walk By (2016) in which Tonya performed. Tonya also performs regularly with LUXe the Processional Theatre Company.

Gemma’s 2017 residency project was supported by ACNI SIAP and Echo Echo.



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