Friday, 4 February 2011


Issue: What is your elephant in the room? & “We’re not talking about what really matters.” Well, come on then.

Convener(s): Annie Rigby & Stella Duffy

Participants: Tom Martin, Simon Bowes, Rhiannon Armstrong, Matthew Austin, Matt Trueman, Poppy Burton-Morgan, David Luff, Alice Massey, Karin Verbruggen, Roddy Gauld, John, Amber, and many other people.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:



ELEPHANT – Gender inequality
The person who brought this elephant said she felt too shy and insecure to call this as a session yesterday.
Response – Lots of people agree that this needs to be talked about. Why in 2011 do we still have such an unequal landscape? Can the NPO process change this and make organizations and the Arts Council more accountable in addressing gender inequality?
Result – The person who brought this elephant doesn’t feel shy and insecure now, so she’s called this session for 3pm today.

ELEPHANT – It’s tough to be a session convener.
Hard to manage it and have the conversation you want to have.
Response - Just do it. Don’t feel like you need to manage it. Just be there.

ELEPHANT – There’s a sense of people not taking responsibility. We’re waiting for someone else to sort it out for us / find the answers / ask the questions.
Response – There is an issue about confidence in our community that we need to address.
Someone said “I came today because I’m scared. I hoped that someone would be here – an elder, a mentor – who could help.” We need to make connections. We are all the community.
We need to stop seeing ourselves as separate. We need to reject the notion that we have to defend the arts on the terms set by someone else. The government will form policy around us. That’s the only thing they can do.
We need to engage with politics. If we can’t we’re going nowhere.

ELEPHANT – We’re in the eye of the storm, waiting for the NPO decisions. So we can’t talk about the things we need to talk about.
Response – We should call a post-NPO D&D for April. Or perhaps once the dust has settled.
Our elders have been through this all before. We can learn from them now. An elder said “It’s career stopping. But you’re still an artist. I’m returning now. Keep starting again.”
Not all of us are part of the NPO process.

ELEPHANT – We aren’t saying which organizations we think should be cut.
Response – Togetherness vs division. We say we’re all together and a community, but we want the Arts Council to cut “them” and not “us”.
Should we say what should be cut?
If the cuts are an opportunity, what do we want?
We need to address the issue of solidarity. And who are we communicating to?
We need to increase our audience’s confidence as well as our own. They need to feel able to talk about what is shit art, because there’s going to be a lot. One of the successes of modern art is that people feel the confidence to say that it’s shit. Perhaps free entry to museums and galleries made this possible.
We need to keep experimenting with the monetary value of theatre. We assume the £6 show must be worse than the £10 show. It’s like we’re choosing wine at the supermarket. Forest Fringe have opened this up at the Edinburgh Festival. People are willing to spend £50 on a West End show. Maybe we should picket ‘Legally Blonde’ because we think it’s shit art.
But we need to recognise the value people get from that experience, rather than complaining that we don’t like ‘Legally Blonde’.

ELEPHANT – The big organisations are a milelstone around our necks.
Response – They cost so much to run, they aren’t environmentally sustainable. There’s a sense of rave culture coming back – making theatre in backstreets in Scarborough.
We want art with teeth.

ELEPHANT – People don’t believe the arts will go away, so our campaigns have no teeth.
Response – Could we have a great arts strike? It’s not possible. Is it?
Four times as many people signed the Save our Forests petition in one week as signed the Save the Arts petition.

ELEPHANT – How much space is there for real change?
Response – What does change mean? We’re too protective of what we think we are.

ELEPHANT – I don’t know if theatre is important to people who don’t make theatre.
Response – Theatre isn’t coal. We need to stop talking and thinking about it as if it’s a commodity.
It’s a mirror. It’s crucial in showing us (as society) who we are.
We’re too inexperienced and under-confident in making the case for the importance of what we do. We’re hampered by a sense of being lucky / feeling blessed to be in a position to make theatre.
We make theatre because we want to change the world. Whether that means changing people’s perspectives, bringing joy, bringing people together. We should stop being embarrassed about stating this.
When is there too much art? Thinking there could be too much art is as stupid as the Conservative party trying to set a cap on immigration. There isn’t a finite amount of space. The more art we make, the more space it creates. But there is a cap on money.
Apparently all the RFOs cost the same as a Chinook helicopter.

ELEPHANT – Time and time again people talk about how they can’t make a living out of theatre at D&D.
Response – There’s a sense of entitlement which isn’t helpful or interesting. We keep finding ways, so let’s just get on with it.

ELEPHANT – D&D is not good for our confidence.
Response – We’re just looking in on ourselves which isn’t helping. We’re better when we’re looking outside. We need to bring in more diversity. “Normal” people.

ELEPHANT – Cameron Mackintosh
Response – Cameron Mackintosh isn’t in the room. We need people from commercial theatre here. Why aren’t they? We’re not making them feel very welcome. We’re attacking ourselves? It’s not helping.

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