Archive for category Session Reports
Convenor: Kaz Luckins (STAGEFIGHT)
Participants: Paula Wharton, Olivia Winteringham & Frank Bramwell
*How important is it?
*Is it seen as a safety issue?
*Are companies like Stagefight important?
*Do people see untrained techniques as dangerous?
Stagefight as a company regard the safety of performers as paramount. Our mantra is:
IF IT CAN’T BE DONE SAFELY, DON”T DO IT AT ALL! Although we teach a number of techniques, I was keen to get across that my concern today was addressing the safety and wellbeing of performers.
If a performer gets injured it can result in them not being able to work. Something as simple as a real slap on the face can result in about a dozen injuries alone, and unfortunately this kind of real conflict is seen as acceptable by some directors and performers. But the truth is the audience still want that “willing suspension of disbelief” when they see someone slapped for real, they spend the next 10 minutes or so worrying about that actor’s wellbeing, instead of concentrating on the plot unfolding. It makes an audience member insecure if they think the person has been hurt for real.
Having run quite a solo session of just me and my thoughts, and one floater who gave a resounding YES to my question before resigning to the lure of coffee, I was pleased to be joined by a few more participants.
We agreed that we had seen many examples of dangerous stage combat practice that resulted in a poor artistic presentation as well as the audience fearing for the performer’s safety. It was commented that with “high end” productions like Lord of the Rings for example, the importance of safety would not be questioned, so why doesn’t this filter down to smaller shows and companies? “High end” productions are artistically effective and the safety of the performer’s is of the utmost importance. Stagefight want this to be the case for smaller productions and companies.
It was also commented that people were not aware that Stagefight the company existed and especially that they are based in the Midlands.
Try and raise people’s awareness of Stagefight as a company and what we do. Promote the fact that we are based in the Midlands, so people don’t have to book London companies. Make performers more aware of being concerned for their safety in performance and not to be bullied into using unsafe techniques that could cause injury.
Audiences are very important .
Sometimes they fall asleep in theatres.
Sometimes they don’t come at all .
Sometimes its just people who know the performers.
These are some things we talked about
- It’s a social experience to go to the theatre it should be welcoming, friendly inclusive. The bar should never be shut when the show is over . Need to provide a space to talk and reflect together .
- Evenings of short plays are popular with audiences
- Audiences will come to stuff that they feel has a local connection.
- Audiences will come to stuff with local known artists in them .
- Ticket prices matter .
- Theatre makers should be thinking about the audience when they make work.
- Do cheaper tickets have to mean artists working witout being paid .
- Public funding is subsidizing ticket prices for the public.
- Where are the reviews that the public can read to inform their decisions about what there is to see .
- Word of mouth matters –spread the word ourselves more .
- Social networking and media spreads the word .
- Helping audiences to see great wok and not falling asleep –leaving at the interval-never coming back
Midpoint could embrace being critical friends for each other in terms of constructive feed back to improve the quality of the work we make . so that audiences were getting the best work we can make .
Buddying partners could be set up that feed back to each other on the work we make .
We need to be open to constructive criticism and learn to be honest with each other .
Build in the possibility for audience feedback after every thing we do .
- Something about letting audiences be them selves – have a voice .
Should they be able to boo stuff?
- Educational settings be able to justify taking young people to see theatre that is not on the national curriculum –building audiences for the future.
- A forum on line that really discusses work that’s happening in the region –that is rigourous and courageous- creates an appetite for discussion –creates a buzz – encourage audience responses-something that people want to read .
- Give ourselves and audiences to be honest about the theatre we are making .
- Don’t underestimate audiences
- Respect audiences
- Shit hot theatre will prove itself
Convenor: Gareth Nicholls (Little Earthquake)
Participants: Phil Holyman, Lou Platt, Kate Kavanagh, Jack, Sarah-Jane, Kim, Vimal
G frustrated with not being able to do work around his theatre making which feeds his theatre. Temping as the only option.
P – working in arts environments in ways which DON’T feed creativity
Need to find jobs which take advantage of the skills you have.
How do you identify the transferrable skills you have into terms which other industries understand?
Teaching as default position: what are you teaching? Who are you teaching? What are you teaching them for?
Need to be there as a theatre-maker and not just as a substitute teacher.
How do you explore a given subject through theatre?
How can you still be a theatre-maker in other environments without being stifled by drudgery?
Is it possible to approach other jobs in creative ways?
How do you harness the value of your skills?
How can you be flexible enough to be able to take advantage of opportunities to do creative work when they come up?
- A temping agency for artists: a web hub
? An extension to the Midpoint website
How much voluntary work should we do for ourselves and for each other?
A skills sharing economy is great but doesn’t pay the rent.
Is the value of what you’re contributing to each other EQUAL?
Employer’s appreciation of the skills that you have.
Different levels of different admin support needed at different times.
- How do you collate this? Or advertise this?
Not needing to have to explain everything to admin people all the time if your admin person is already involved in the arts
How do we highlight people who are looking for arts admin careers and how do we match them up with people who need them?
[UPDATE: Lou’s bike had NOT been stolen.]
Trade fair / job fair: to let people know what you do; what you are working on; and the skills you have that they can draw upon (and ideally, pay you for)
More honest than networking
? A speed dating model: Sarah-Jane’s example: a set of teachers and a set of dancers – everyone gets three minutes to say what they’re looking for / what they can do
JobPlot / Creative Alliance / Noel Dunne
Making use of personal connections within the community’s network
Advocacy and recommendation power
Convenor: Tracey Briggs
Participants: Kate Kavanagh, Frank, Louise Stokes, Nadeem
There’s a lot of talk about consolidation, and strength in numbers, and how theatre makers can work together to create a better future. Yet very few people consider Equity as an option. Why is this?
Perception: Unions have a bad reputation historically. From a producer’s pov the word Equity is scary. It feels interrogative.
People think it is just for ACTORS, rather than an entertainments union covering Stage Management, Directors, Variety, Circus and Performance Artists, Singers Models Designers…!
People think ‘What’s the Point?’ It is no longer a closed-shop where you have to be a member to work. the only time they hear about Equity is in relation to rates of pay.
There seems to be a branding issue!!
The good side: The world is different now – the union is changing with the times and the industry
Independent theatre is represented within the union and has it’s own committee http://itac.weebly.com/
You can save a lot of money from Public Liability Insurance – it’s included free with membership!
As an established organisation with skills and experience in negotiations and a history of successful campaigning, would it make more sense to utilise these than try to start afresh?
A union is not a corporation which does stuff. It’s members do stuff, giving strength in numbers and political clout – the more Active members = the more clout!
What would people like to see? More links to other practitioners e.g. writers. Re-establish play-readings for new writers?
A feeling that the union wants to work with independents – promote the benefits more
Did You Know… The Old Joint Stock pub theatre venue was created from an Equity campaign?!
Investigate what the union can offer! http://www.equity.org.uk/home/
Convenor: Steve Johnstone
Participants: Frank, Sophia, Natalie, Trina, Louisa, Lou, Vimal, Jack, Rochi and others
Notes: (Random jottings as things came up)
- Theatre has to go out and find its audience
- New audiences want different spaces and different things
- A Theatre building in itself can be a barrier
- Does a fragmentation of place and style fragment the audience as a result – not knowing where to do for a regular supply?
- Some performers only want the prestige of big venues
- Audiences want to stay in familiar settings
- This can be an advantage – in non-theatre spaces you can capture a new audience who are going there for something else
- How easy is it to promote this type of work?
- But it is potentially the most exciting work and people will want to come.
- Venues need to be open to working off-site – will people like the RSC see their work developing in this way, more and more?
- Who are the people who don’t come now?
- People on lower income streams
- Cultural background and familiarity with spaces plays a part
- Physical accessibility etc
- It isn’t about cost though, people may be more comfortable with recorded material, like film – they aren’t put off going to the cinema because they saw one bad film.
- We have to acknowledge that film, music and comedy have a much greater following and audience and are dominant – but other places are struggling too, like clubs and pubs.
- In other countries and other cultures live performance is more central, is there a way back to that in the UK?
- Are the rural areas and the urban areas of Britain different – villages will still turn out to shows – in the urban environment we have to find the communities of interest, not just geographic communities
- We don’t have a right to an audience as theatre makers, we need to build them by hard work and trust
- We need to bring together marketing depts. And artists more so they work hand in glove.
- Good example of developing audiences is The National Theatre of Wales – The Passion in Port Talbot – finding new ways of letting more people in to the process.
- We need more transparency of process, so that people can see into all the stages of theatre making – not just the product
- Flash mob events, where people are just part of something
- Event theatre – people come because it is new and different and happening NOW
- People stop in the street for all sorts of impromptu theatre and have no problem with that
- How do we evolve and what do we take forward? Story, narrative, not necessarily linear, but encapsulating story is important. Transportation to different realities.
- How has the channel hopping generation affected story?
- Where are the TV/theatre crossovers – how can they complement each other?
- Channel hopping v. making people concentrate and slow down time to allow a different perception.
- Avon Calling and Behna – theatre ion people’s own homes – new audiences
- Are we suppressing our audiences with theatre convention? How do we manage between suppression and collective participation? There has to be place for both things.
- New audiences with no idea of convention can be challenging for venues and performers.
- We need to create the rulers of engagement for audiences for each new show and each new space
- We as theatre makers are responsible for making comfortable spaces for our audiences, where they know what is expected and managing their experience – esp. new audiences.
- We need to empower, encourage and engage our audiences. We need generosity, commitment and collaboration – between us and our audience.
- Why does sport draw massive audiences – what is the difference?
- Which is the most unpredictable?
- Do we want spectators or partcipants
- How do we satisfy all audiences, from newbie’s to the more experienced?
- What is our social responsibility as theatre makers? – To engage audiences in thoughtful experiences?
- Theatre cannot exist without an audience, so creators have to creat with that in mind – but who comes first us or them? Do we target and audience or start with an idea – and how do commissioners effect this process?
- How many times do people participate in things and not know they have been an audience? Does it matter?
And then lunch happened…
Convenor: Derek, Talking Birds
Participants: Charlotte (Stans), Olivia (Kindle), Laura (ACE, EM), John (Drum), Bianca, Jane P, Rahael, Paul W, Pippa, Claire (Big Brum), others
Space – making it available but this being manageable and not draw away from an organisation’s artistic focus.
Collaboration. More conversations. Joining up thinking in terms of programming/ scheduling and applying for funding. Partnering.
The limits of capacity of organisations with staff to directly support. Need to focus on practical/achievable mechanisms. The exchange is 2-way – the benefit for big organisations working with small ones.
Passing on of expertise eg in international working – mechanisms for passing this on.
Giving feedback on funding applics.
Access to Universities/Acadaemia for smaller / emerging companies, could more established cos facilitiate this?
SKILLS BANK – a pooling of skills available /experience sought
NPOs talking to each other to see whether the right range of leadership is being offered.
Time to look outward, despite capacity issues.
– theatrical Red Adaires to draw on “when it all goes a bit wrong” (a development of “ON CALL?)
- via Midpoint Wesbite – with a capacity to add to info to the bank “wiki functionality”
Sharing useful stuff that companies routinely use via Midpoint website.
CREATING AN ADVICE BANK – real and virtual.
Participants: Adam Ledger, Sophia Johnson, Jill Dowse, Laura White, Graham Rose, Rachel Savage, Liz Tomlinson, Rosie Spiegelhalter, Natalie Hart, Bert Roman, Kate Kavanagh, Wendy Rouse.
1. Artists employed as visiting/part-time lecturers.
2. Artists/groups booked for workshops/performance either directly into the department or into associate venues.
3. Companies hosting student placements (particularly successful at MA level).
4. Practice as Research projects where academics collaborate with arts practitioners to research a particular area of theatre. (this could be part of a MA or PhD
5. Collaborative PhD where student/artist works on a research project for an Arts company which is supervised and validated by a University academic all funded by the AHRC
6. Partnerships between University drama departments and particular theatre companies (Questions raised about how valuable these are to companies. The partnership is often used simply as a marketing tool for departments).
7. Drama departments supporting and nurturing emerging graduate companies. Giving space and resources to support the development of new work.
8. Theatre companies using websites to frame their work in a academic context which enables students to reference their work.
9. Academics attached to projects/companies to evaluate document or theorise the work. This can lead to shared papers/performances/workshops delivered at conference and/or funding applications .
10. Use of students by companies to undertake R and D projects that would otherwise be too expensive to mount.
11. Use of theatre companies in other subject areas as pat of teacing and learning strategies across the university.
Considerations for the future.
Increased institutional pressure on academics to prove how their research will impact on the economic, social or cultural life of the nation, could see academics engaging more purposefully with the ‘real world’.
Student demands for more contact with professional organisations and greater emphasis on vocationality and employability could be a lever for funding within universities
Kate and Adam to consider organising a Regional Universities led Open space event to encourage academics and artists to consider this question further.
Ensure artists are aware of SCUDD (Standing Conference of University Drama Departments) mail base which is open to anyone. This will keep artists informed of research initiatives, new books and conferences.
Encourage academics to join midpoint to keep abreast of regional developments and company activity.
Research what links at a higher level exist between the Arts Council and Regional Universities.
Encourage theatre companies to be pro-active in approaching departments and higher up with ideas. (One artist is in discussion with the VC of one institution to look at how they can be used accross subjects to develop innovative teaching and learning practice.
Point of information
University of Wolverhampton Drama Department is moving into the new 3 million pound Performance Arts Hub on the Walsall Campus. We will most likely be programming work into the bespoke theatre to support student studies. Add us to your mail out.
Convenor: Claire Coache
Participants: Nadeem, Louise, Sarah-Jane, Marlene (and 2 more sorry no names!)
Discussion about sharing resources eg MAC rehearsal space/ Rep wardrobe props etc
Raidene: Rep becoming a hub for stuff/companies to share stuff
Spend 75% time administrating but don’t get paid for that.
How can we cover our roof and food?
Could form a dayjobs group/admin hub via Creative Alliance (Nell Dunn)
Have a job plot/job swap offer/receive admin support from to other artists and companies.
Arts & Business Board Bank supplying business heads/advice/mentoring/leadership/ legal advice.
Have a board although they may not agree with you.
ACE are cutting admin staff by 50% relationships with ACE officers going.
Budget project percentage within ACE funding apps ‘Full Project Recovery’
Sarah Jane drew a picture!
Make actual costs explicit and use them as in kind.
Issue in 3rd sector lots of charities going bust because haven’t realized their actual running costs. (lots of project funding)
Business always includes cost of overheads in the product.
Know the cost of what you are doing. Do a budget and cost your own timein it. Don’t exploit it, be honest.
Put a value on favours.
Do a time sheet.
Ask the hard question of is what you are doing a feasible life choice! We don’t have to nail ourselves to the cross -we are people too.
Convenor: Catherine Edwards
Participants: Tim Stimpson, Rochi Rampal, Adam Ledger, Vanessa Oakes, Ian Craddock
What do writers need?
Small commissioning opportunities.
No pitching culture in theatre – is this a good thing?
Writing to a brief – can be restrictive, but open briefs can be liberating. E.g. Paines Plough Come to Where I’m From – great to be part of a strong collective.
Capital – Small Plays about Big Society – open brief enabled writers to be creative.
Writers need access to spaces and audience, and the confidence to put themselves forward.
Adam Ledger – interested in directing innovative forms of new writing. Happy to direct rehearsed readings of relevant material. Worth a conversation with the Rep re. use of Door as new workshop space?
What would the theatre get out of it?
Patrick Morris – Hotbed Festival – combines workshops/ rehearsed readings with commissions. What is the legacy of activity? Plenty of benefit for writers, but need to consider venues and audiences. Financial viability?
A Play, A Pie and A Pint at Oran Mor has toured nationally via Paines Plough. Interest lies in the concept/ event. Ties in with small commissioning idea.
Be great to bring this to Birmingham. Venues? Old Joint Stock?
45-60 minute plays, lunchtime or teatime. Writers could work to open briefs.
New writing is London-centric – nothing to see in the region. Need to get writers out and about to see new work.
Old Joint Stock produces new work and is building audiences. Challenge is funding – commercial business, so unable to offer space in kind.
Is there a role for WM Writers’ Guild – connect with MidPoint
- co-ordinate networking event with writers
Theatre Producers’ Forum (mentioned in a session yesterday?) Set up speed dating event.
Already informal meet-ups (theatre cuppa)
On Call – directors/ producers.
Writers to send profiles to MidPoint website – problem – not all writers have their own website. Could upload LinkedIn profiles (or equivalent).
Is there need for more grassroots level courses? Concensus – not necessarily. Courses useful for networking more than content.
Masterclasses valuable. E.g Arvon Courses, without having to pay for it!
Could piggy-back on MPhil course – e.g. invite tutors like Stephen Jefferies to stay on for an evening and meet local writers.
How to get funding for development workshops. Networking would also help writers get attached to projects.
Could create links with university drama courses – write for large/ flexible (mainly female) casts – good experience.
- Writers’ Guild WM to connect with Mid*Point to organize writer/producer/ director speed dating event
- CE to investigate Play/Pie/Pint
- Conversation with Rep re. possible use of space
- Set up theatre equivalent of screenwriters forum
Convenor: Tim Stimpson
First of all, not a ‘fringe’ festival. We need to have a festival first to have fringe! Birmingham deserves a festival. There is an appetite for a festival that is more concentrated on professional theatre than Arts Fest.
A prominent festival has the potential to combat a number of perennial problems:
- Making audiences aware of theatre.
- Connecting venues and artist into a more connected ‘community’.
- More media attention on our work.
- Help create a more vibrant scene that will encourage artists who train here to stay here.
- Potential to bring in work/companies from the wider region
- The Comedy Festival model – allocate two weeks in which work that would be happening anyway (including at major venues) is placed under that tag of a theatre festival. Smaller work could then cluster around this. Use the prominence of the major venue to encourage people to see more alternative work. Festival ticket offers (eg. 3 for 2). Major sponsorship for programme. Possible problem with curatorship.
- String Theory – start small and more specific, but in a way that would create a chain of niche festivals across the year. This might include BE Festival, Fierce etc Gap in the market for a new writing festival – perhaps shorter pieces in showcases. Manchester’s 24/7 Festival could be replicated.
When, How and Where:
- Best over the summer months.
- Needs to have geographical cohesions, centred around a core venue
- Use non-theatre venues, such as unfamiliar spaces (eg. Office buildings) and venues that already have a non-theatre buzz (eg. Hare and Hounds, Glee Club)
- Could launch around opening of the new library in 2013
- Need to have daytime activities/workshops
- Not just about the work – create a buzz around the event, including places to hang out, connect etc..
Talk to interested parties over next few months
Possible meeting in September