Interview: Eva Verity, creator of Haircuts by Children
The project aims to provide a creative space in which children and adults can interact
‘There was one guy who once got a nick on his ear,’ says Eva Verity, ‘but other than that, we’ve had no major injuries.’ I’m thankful there’s no trace of annoyance in Verity’s voice, in spite of my slightly anxious line of questioning. She’s talking about her latest touring project with Canadian theatre company Mammalian Diving Reflex, which comes to Glasgow in late April as part of the Arches Behaviour festival. The project in question is the bluntly titled Haircuts by Children.
‘It comes from a desire to bring together people who wouldn’t normally interact with one another,’ she says. ‘Children and adults typically only interact in very specific spaces – within the family or in a school environment. This project is meant to bring them together in a creative community space so they can share an intimate moment together.’ That’s all well and good, but why does it involve giving the young ’uns sharp implements and letting them loose about our barnets? Verity says it’s all about targeting our vanity. ‘Generally adults have a fear – and children as well – of having their hair cut. People are very particular about their hair; it’s part of their identity. So there is an element of risk there that I think is palpable. It’s also creative, so it’s entertaining to watch – it’s not something children normally do, or are given the opportunity to do.’
The volunteers are aged 10-12 and chosen, for this leg of the tour, from Oak Grove Primary in Maryhill. They are given a few hours of training in four sessions by professionals. ‘They learn etiquette and how to do reception and greet the participants,’ says Verity, adding that they’re also taught to ask what sort of hairstyle the customers would like. ‘But they’re also told that if they are given an opportunity and the person’s OK with it, they can just go wild.’
Those last two words sound chilling, but Verity believes the experience is valuable for everyone involved. ‘The main feedback we get from the kids is that it’s fun and they like meeting people,’ she says. ‘They also like that they get to make a little money, for a cause of their choice or an outing or something.’
And the participants? ‘Most don’t expect the children to be as capable as they are, so usually that’s a pleasant surprise.’
Anybody looking for further assurances should be aware Verity has already put her money where her mouth is. ‘I have pretty long hair so I had a couple of children all cutting it at once, and I ended up with a sort of stair pattern down my back.’ She says this with laughter in her voice rather than horror – a reminder that, even if it all goes wrong, you can always grow it back.
Haircuts for Children, Alice Rocks, Glasgow, Sat 28 & Sun 29 Apr. To book an appointment, call the Arches box offi ce on 0141 565 1000. You can also visit the salon on the day to see if there’s a free slot or just to have a look around.