Issue: HOW CAN THEATRES SUPPORT ARTISTS WITHOUT DICTATING TO THEM?
Convener(s): Rachel Briscoe
Participants: Sorry, didn’t write down all the names. People whose names I knew already and who came or who wrote their names down include Annette Mees, Matt Ball, Ben Webb, Dan Barnard, Amy Letman, Mark Stevenson, Matt Rodgers, Ben Eaton, Victoria Pratt. Please add your name if you were also there!
Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:
- Structured programme or informal support?
Benefits and disadvantages to both.
Structured programme means both parties know where they stand, there is progression and an end point; informal support allows greater potential to engage with different artists/ projects differently and respond directly to the project in question. Being clear with audiences if they are part of this processes: if audiences are coming to a work in progress showing, be clear about that, and use the opportunity to build audiences for future fully realized productions (everyone loves a phone vote.)
- Dialogue from the beginning?
Allow artist and theatre to find out together what they want. For artists, it can be useful to have a dialogue with people who know their space and their audiences. Venue needs to be clear with artists about their audiences. [Here we had an interesting sub-discussion about ‘educating’ audiences, our discomfort with that phrase but wanting theatres to be ambitious in their programming.]
- Ways of making approaches to venues that retain value for the artist.
Approaching venues as platforms or for something specific rather than funders. Remaining an equal partner in the creation of your work. Thinking about your offer to the theatre: what do you bring as an artist? That doesn’t have to be financial – it can be about the way you engage audiences or anything else.
- Conflict between theatre ‘brand’ and artist ‘brand’
Venues need to work with the right artists/ artists need to approach suitable venues for their work. Venues can help themselves by being clear about a) what they programme, and b) what support they provide. Programming is an artistic act in itself: artists should respect this. Artists can help themselves by getting to know venues, and by playing a longer term game: go to a venue with a portfolio of projects you want to do over the next couple of years and ask which of these might be of interest.
- Value of in-kind support, esp in financial times when no one has cash to chuck around.
Space, advice, introductions. What do venues actively offer? Part of in-kind support to artists should be ‘after-care’ – inviting colleagues/ funders/ ACE people who can help the project go further. Can companies do in-kind resource swops with theatres e.g. we have a projector we’ll lend you for 3 weeks, in return for a week’s rehearsal space.
- A shitlist for abusive/ negligent venues?
Sometimes damage is done by artistically frustrated people who run venues and want to take over ideas; sometimes through over-enthusiasm and rushing things to full-production before they are ready.