Friday, 4 February 2011


Issue: Theatre in the public sphere: are we making a good account and could we do more?

Convener(s): Amber Massie-Blomfield

Participants: Sorry I didn’t write it down!

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

- Does the man on the street ‘get’ theatre?
- Is theatre ingrained in people’s every day life like TV/ Cinema is? ie is going to theatre ‘natural’ for people? How does it become so?
- It’s absurd to talk about the value of the arts in terms of numbers, educational value, economic value etc, as its true value is distinct from this. It’s like religion- you can offer countless rational arguments for the existence of God, but ultimately it comes down to- either you ‘get it’, or you don’t.
- The only way to understand the value of the arts is to have a transformational experience of it yourself. Maybe we should have a crack group of artists we dispatch to people who don’t get it, to give them a transformational artistic experience in their front room and then leave. Lock MPs in their offices and ‘send in the clowns’.
- We must avoid the danger of the commodification of the arts.
- What kind of artists do we want to be?
*Forming sustainable communities around art
*Theatres as community hubs- more than just places where theatre happens
- Why are people so up in arms about libraries closing as opposed to theatre? And why have so many more people signed the save the forests petition than save the arts?
- Do we devalue theatre by making it other than theatre?
- How do we translate the value of theatre without de-valuing it?
- Why do people go to the West End?
- We need to normalise the act of theatre going at a young age. We need to ensure children have more and better theatre experiences.
- Cutting of creative partnerships etc- we are returning to a regressive, Victorian form of education.
- Theatre can teach particular skills:
* thinking critically
* being decent
- ‘You’re not allowed to use your brain anymore’.
-Arts stimulate critical thinking.
- How many people came to professional theatre through experience in amateur companies as a child?
- People aren’t going to be able to work full time as an artist anymore.
- Does the fact we don’t pay ourselves properly reflect poorly on our professionalism- mean people don’t view us as professionals?
- Can we make good experiences of theatre for children happen?
* We should look to international examples such as Sweden, where they take both children and theatre for children seriously.
- What is our first experience of theatre? It is so often meant to be ‘educational’, issues based theatre, it is hard work- or it is watching our friends in bad amateur theatre. This is the associations theatre holds.
- Michael Gove’s educational strategy is scary. We should have ‘art for arts sake’ for children.
- There is a danger in ‘socially helpful’ art
- Theatre is many things to many people- we don’t need to try and define it.
- We should ask people what they want their theatre to be
- “I should go to the theatre”- the idea being that theatre is good for you rather than enjoyable.
-Do we set up too many barriers/ conflicts between ourselves in the theatre community? – we should champion musicals more!
- Theatre standing alone and accounting for itself on its own terms.
- Is it an inherited habit/ passion?
- Do we only talk to our own community? How do we have conversations beyond the realms of theatre?
- ‘A form of creative practice that asks people what they want and give them the means to do something about it’
- Our plight is in the context of a larger plight- we don’t contextualise it
- We need to be more knowledgeable about politics in general- more access to information will enable us to articulate arguments
- Do artists have too much of a sense of entitlement?
- Big society is getting into people’s consciousness.
- When the question is posed: ‘Yes the arts is important, but what if there were less hospital beds and someone died because of it’- how do we respond? It is impossible to engage with the question- because weighing the value of art and a human life is inherently absurd. It’s a non argument- and yet it is the discussion we are forced to have.
- The arts are going to be stronger and better thanks to the funding cuts.
- We will find a model that will work better than government funding.
- Art is a ‘feeling’ that can’t be explained.
- We should be annoyed about the economy as a whole being fucked up not just arts funding.
- Funding is a form of commercialization
- Is it a false idea that depression/ bleak circumstances make for better art?
- “The arts is life: the cake not the icing on the cake.” We need to burst people’s bubbles and draw people’s attention to creativity.
- Busking as a means of bursting the bubble. Street theatre is a great means of bursting the bubble. ‘Watch this space’
- Britain has an insecurity about making experimental theatre- we should look to other cultures where it is acceptable- the way things are curated.
- The European ‘theatre of ideas’ can be stifling- it is dangerous to set up a sense of entertainment vs serious.

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