Author: John

Building Set and Preparing Costumes – May Email

Welcome
Welcome to this May Edition. Another month closer to the industry opening with many venues and organisations well underway in their preparation with fewer limitations that have been in place for the last 12 months.
As part of this The New Greatest Show on Earth project offers its own support through the Setting the Stage programme which I wrote about in the March edition and produced a video as part of the April email. You can check them out a long with this month’s video on my YouTube Channel click here
Community Spirit Update
Those wishing to volunteer at the Community Spirit event who not already signed up, now is the time is take action.
The online process is quick, easy and safe. Head over to the website by clicking here, fill in the online application form, book your interview / informal chat for a day and time that is convenient to you. You don’t need to decide what you want to do on the day, the application form only asks what event, this will all part of the discussion in the interview and you will be able to look over the roles online once you’ve applied. With COVID restrictions lifting you can either have your interview online or in person. The online booking of interviews is for one on one, but if you would prefer a group interview then let me know using the email below once you have completed the online application form and I will book all individuals in for the time slot. I do ask though that groups are kept to 3 or 4 people at one time.                         – Safeguarding PolicyVolunteer Policy
Unions, The Importance’s of
As an industry we are so lucky to have some really dedicated unions and canopy organisations that have worked tireless during the pandemic and lock downs to ensure members are represented within decision making of government and relaying information back to members. Without them I think we would be in a far worse position at this end of lock down. So, if you are reading this, and you are not a member then sign up and get involved. Whatever you do as part of the creative industry you can find an organisation or union that will represent you, just search online for creative industry unions.
Speaking Engagements
Back in February I briefly mentioned about speaking engagements talking about the project and how it can help boards, volunteers and venues. With the restrictions now lifting I will be more than happy to travel and speak in person, before my break this month I will publish a full list of topics and prices on the website.
2025 Trust Fund – For whom and Criteria
Last month I wrote about the governing of the 2025 Trust Fund, this month I want to touch on the who the fund will be open to and what kind of criteria would have to be met to access the grants. Essentially it will be one of the first things the board will have to decide when they come together in 2023. But just to give you an idea of what the vision of the trust looks like and what you could expect. I will publish these on the website later in the year. There are just three main areas that those applying will have to provide evidence that their projects, that it benefits the Community, that the project has a strong element inclusion of diversity and that it will benefit the long term of the creative industry. Click here to donate to fund.
Theatre Through the Years – World War 1
The first world war broke out in 1914 and during the 4 years theatre became paramount as the escape for those who were left at home and civilian life. Theatre was what took people away from the reality of the fighting and political disagreements. Theatre was used to promote British views and identity. In 1916, 20 million people were able to see the harsh reality of the fighting for the first time in the film The Battle of Somme, without this kind of showings the ordinary people would not have known so much about the war. Like with every other part of history of theatre there is always something to learn. The reality of the pandemic has been harsh and has been shown through digital media. So, it’s down the creative industry to find ways to take the minds of the ordinary people away from the reality, like I said last month, there is always something we can be doing, it just may not be what we want to do currently.
Get Involved
If in receiving these emails they leave you with a sense of something to get involved, whether it be part of the creation process or the publishing or even help organise local visions of the programmes like Community Spirit. Then please do send me an email offering your support, I would love to hear from you wherever you are. If you are interested being part of my local Community Spirit event, either as a participant, small business or sponsor, then please contact me on the email below, I would love to hear from you. If you are a media outlet and would like to pick up on anything in these emails or on the website, then please do feel free to contact me via: media@aticket2ride.co.uk

Casting and Rehearsing – April Email

Welcome
Welcome to the April edition of my yearlong campaign supporting the creative industry. If you are new to these emails and would like to read the back story from January then visit my website, details at the bottom. Also don’t forget that all these emails are accompanied by a YouTube Video, to watch this month’s click here. If you would like to find out how you can get involved in this project or indeed if you’re a media outlet reading this and would like to more information to publish then check out the end of this email for details.
Reaching Out into Community
It’s been over a year now since the industry was closed due to coronavirus. So this year I wondered how many took to the internet to promote World Theatre day of putting theatre in the minds of locals as we prepare to reopen our doors. April is a writer’s months with an event called Camp NaNaWriMo. How many of you are using this event as an excuse to reach out to local writers, both professional and wannabes as in encouragement, to show appreciation to writing craft. On the 21st and 22nd April we have World Creativity Day, I would love to hear how you will be encouraging your creative community to celebrate.
2025 Trust Fund Update
The 2025 Trust Fund will be a national charity connected to The New Greatest Show on Earth Project. Like any other charity there will be a board to govern and makes strategic plans tol guide the Trust. From the middle of 2023 to the beginning of 2024, I will be recruiting trustees for the board. During the summer of 2024 the board will begin to recruit member of local task groups who will be the first point of contact for all applications. The application process for grants will be two stage, first it will be the local task groups, made up for a cross section of local community, who will decide who to award the grants too, stage 2 the main board would check to ensure the application does cover the criteria with enough appropriate evidence. The main board will also focus on finding inspiring stories of individuals and groups that could be awarded specials grants and bursaries. If you buy Community Logo items from my online shop all profits go towards the Fund, plus you can donate here
Community Spirit in brief
There is still time if you want to sign up to volunteer for the Bridgwater event or indeed create a partner Community Event where you are. Head to the website for details – www.aticket2ride.co.uk/community If you missed the livestream in March, you can watch on my YouTube channel, link at the bottom, you can download the PowerPoint by clicking here.
Lighting The Beacons The second phase of The Greatest Show on Earth Project is called, Lighting the Beacons, the focus is on venues and theatres. As explained in this month’s video, Resetting the Stage workshops are the bridge between the first phase, Community and this second phase, you can find out more about the workshops by clicking here. I am introducing Lighting the Beacons now as it will be theatres themselves have struggled through closures due to the pandemic, with some already gone into administration. This format of this programme is a tour, so it will introduce logistics side of the project, which is an area focused on much more in the final phase of this project. More information about Lighting The Beacon will be available on my website from September.
Theatre Through the Years – Puritans and the Plague
The longest closure was after the English civil war when the Puritans took government, they made public performances illegal on moral and economic grounds. Though ‘illegal’ performances still went on, so the Puritans placed fines on spectators for attendances. When the monarchy was restored in 1660 the ban was lifted on theatres and performances. Then a year or so before Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet the great plague of London struck 1665. This saw the closure of theatres for 14 months and took the lives of around 10,000 Londoners. Many play writes, actors and artists fled London to tour. It was also through these times of closure that writers like Shakespeare turned to writing poetry. The Kings Men were eventually able to perform at Hampton Court, tand were paid £103, plus £30 compensation for their financial loss due to closure. From the 18 years of Puritan rule to the Plague of London we learn that as an industry there are always things we can do, even in the face of adversity. Still after all those years of closure theatre and arts came back bigger and stronger like never before, in new and better ways.
Get Involved
If in receiving these emails they leave you with a sense of something to get involved, whether it be part of the creation process or the publishing or even help organise local visions of the programmes like Community Spirit. Then please do send me an email offering your support, I would love to hear from you wherever you are. If you are interested being part of my local Community Spirit event, either as a participant, small business or sponsor, then please contact me on the email below, I would love to hear from you. If you are a media outlet and would like to pick up on anything in these emails or on the website, then please do feel free to contact me via: media@aticket2ride.co.uk If you know someone who would like to join the mailing list please get them to email me using the address at the bottom of the page.

Dusting off the set and props – March email

Welcome

Welcome to the March addition, the third of of my year long journey in supporting the creative industry to return to our communities in the wake of the current pandemic.

The latest announcements from the UK Prime Minister of the 22nd February regarding his road map to unlocking the economy has been welcomed by most industries, with creative being to reopening reopen from the 17th May. In case anyone has missed them, you can download the full details here.

YouTube Channel

As with previous emails this one is accompanied by a YouTube video, this month I talk about the 2025 Trust Fund, click here to watch, also subscribe to the channel to get the latest updates. You will also find my series The Paradox of the Arts here as well other videos, including the recent pre-recorded live stream that gives more information on the Community Spirit programme. 

Online Speaking Engagements

Just to remind you all that I am making myself available to speak to organisations and boards about my The Greatest Show on Earth Project and you can get involved. You can contact me through the usual channels at the bottom of the email.

Resetting the Stage

As the creative industry begins to make its plan its reopening and comeback, we need to look at ways that we can sustain ourselves going to forward. You can find out more by clicking here. As part of The Greatest Show on Earth Project I created a series of workshops that look to encourage boards and volunteers to think outside the box as we work our way back into our communities.

Volunteering

For those interested in being part of the Bridgewater (Somerset) Community Spirit event, whether this be part of organisation or on the day help you can now sign up through our website: www.aticket2ride.co.uk/registation

If you are thinking on putting a similar Community Spirit event in your area and would like to tap into my volunteer system, then please do get in touch through the usual channels at the bottom of email for more information.

Theatre Through the Years Medieval Years

By Medieval Europe theatre was being used as a way to educate people on the new Christian religion, with priest regularly performing to retell the celebrations of Christianity.

More widely in communities’ groups of people would perform morality plays. These were so often performed by ordinary people and organised and funded by guilds of craftsmen and merchants. Other forms of theatre were mystery and farces.

Today’s theatre still has medieval roots, including stage directions and most plays are written in ordinary everyday language. Taken from the lessons of medieval times which aimed at educating people, during this pandemic, where we can’t do what we want to do to entertain, we can go back to our roots by using our crafts to teach and educate on the current situation.

Keep Updated

I am keeping the website updated so please do keep an eye out for key information. I am also happy to hear feedback on these emails, the programmes or indeed what you are doing as the UK begins to unlock. So please do feel free to contact me at any time either through social media or email.

If you know anyone who would like to receive these emails please get them to email me through info@aticket2ride.co.uk to be included, don’t forget to add this address into your contacts to stop the emails going to your junk box, as well as subscribe to the YouTube channel and follow me on social media.

Laying the Foundations – February Email

Welcome
Welcome to February’s email. For those of you who are new on the mailing list these emails are all accompanied by a YouTube video which you can find by clicking here, the theme this month is Volunteering. Don’t forget to subscribe and press the bell for the latest upload notifications. So, January brought the UK into another lockdown, meaning all venues are forced into yet another closure, so not a good start to the New Year, is probably an understatement. But focusing on the positives, we have seen lots of people showing their support for the arts, wanting theatres reopened, because they know, like we do just how much the creatives impact have on their communities and individual lives.
Look Forward
Like with many businesses during the current COVID situation, I am not able to offer up a full list of services. However, I am happy to speak via Zoom to board, staff and volunteers about the project and the 2025 Trust fund. It will give you an idea how you can get involved and how it could potentially impact you and your local community. I’m charging a small fee of £10 per engagement, this will be placed in the 2025 Trust Fund. If you would like more information, please feel free to email me or message me through the Facebook page or direct message on Ingram both profiles are @at2rentertainment.
Supporting Local
I think what we are learning from the pandemic is that we need to think small, over the last couple of decades or so we have seen this idea of nationalisation and globalisation. Where businesses become corporate and set up as many outlets across the country, some individuals owning more than one of these businesses and employing thousands of people. I think 2020 has shown that this model really doesn’t work, how many of national chains put in requests of funding from the government or investors? How many people lost jobs as a result of these businesses closing down? So right in the heart of these hard times, when unemployment is high and funding is scares and people are looking to find ways to make a difference, as an industry this is our moment, we are at the heart of every community, a concept that I spoke about on video in latter part of 2020, you can find them on my YouTube channel. So, let’s encourage people to be creative it’s what we do best as an industry, connecting people with their inner selves through imagination. Pre pandemic the creative industry enjoyed thousands of hours of support from volunteers who showed the love for our industry by helping to making it happen in their own communities.
The 2025 Trust Fund
Don’t forget to donate to the 2025 Trust fund. Over the course of the year through these emails and videos, you will learn more about the Trust Fund and what it means to the industry, also how you can get involved, both in terms of fundraising and being part of the strategic planning that will give accountability for ensuring the money arrives where it is due and on time. Click here to donate.
Community Spirit
In 2018 a £4.5 million program was launched by the UK Health Secretary that would see the arts put on prescription from doctors in an attempt to tackle health issue such as depression, social isolation and even those with complex needs. Activities include drama, singing, visiting museums and creative reading. These were not about replacing, but instead to be worked alongside conventional therapies and medicines. I think that even with the current restrictions we should still be able to fulfil this role within our communities by whatever means we can. The review on this incentive in December 2020 showed how positive the impact Arts on Prescription has become. Maybe this is a starting point to bring our audiences back to our venues, it will also bring new unsung talent to light. As we recover from the pandemic, we need become proactive and explore new, inclusive and engaging ways to reach out to our communities, things we have never dared to try before. The Community Spirit programme is about sharing in each other’s ideas, because the lockdowns during this pandemic have shown, we need to move forward in our approach because government is not going to jump at supporting as part of its response. So, as an industry we need find ways to support people who suffer with isolation and other mental health issues, as we have heard this is worse than ever during this lockdown. Plus, there will always be away to link those programmes to our main aims and objects. As a way of sharing and networking I have created a Community Spirit group on Facebook, you can join by clicking here. There are also local versions of the group that you are welcome to join via the same means. Don’t forget in August I am hoping to launch the Community Spirit main event (COVID pending) which is a fundraiser for the 2025 Trust Fund and the opportunity for the industry to seek out hidden talent within our communities. Finally, though the plans for the Main Event have currently stalled slightly due to the uncertainty of the pandemic’s restrictions and length of lockdown, we are opening registration for those wishing to volunteer in the Bridgwater event on the 22nd February, please head to www.aticket2ride.co.uk/registration. If you are putting on your own version of this event and decide that you would like to tap into my volunteer system to for recruitment, please get in touch through the usual channels to find out how.
Theatre Through the Years – The Beginning
It’s important that as an industry we never forget where we have come from, because there are lessons embedded in our past that will help us in our future and it holds the keys to our road out of this pandemic. So here in the UK theatre started as a set of traditional rituals performed by Celtic and Pagan cleric, but real theatre as we know was created in Greece, comedy and plays were first performed in 6th century BCE. It was developed as it made its way through Europe, like the Olympic flame, arriving in the UK around the 5th Century, where over the cause of 2000 years we have adopted, developed and changed it to what we know today. In this time of uncertainty, where the industry is forced to a standstill, we need to stop, take stock and return to our roots. Not to Greece, but to the way we sold it the whole entertainment thing to the crowds, both as audience and participants, by going out into the community and doing what we love more. The 21st century extends the community around us as we meet and find people online who share in our own personal unique creativity.
Final Thought
Keeping in touch is so important as we begin this long road to recovery. I find there is nothing more uplifting then hearing both positives and struggles from others as we share this journey together. So please do feel free to contact me at any time either through social media or email.   Networking and supporting each other is more important than ever before, but the industry will get through this, we will come back bigger, better and stronger than ever.   If you know anyone who would like to receive these emails please get them to email me through info@aticket2ride.co.uk to be included, don’t forget to add this address into your contacts to stop the emails going to your junk box, as well as subscribe to the YouTube channel and follow me on social media.

Setting the Stage – January Email

Welcome

Happy New Year let’s hope this year is better than the last. As part of my ongoing project, I am also posting YouTube videos that accompany these emails, click here to watch and subscribe.

It has been a while since I have got round to writing to you, but I think all of us can typically be forgiven for not keeping up regular contact with our supporters through these strange, unprecedented times. Normally these emails will be about my work in theatre and events and services I provide as a business, but I have so much I want to share that 1 email isn’t going to be enough, so I’ll give you a snippet here then spend rest of the year building on it.

Policy Update

First things first, I’m obliged to let you know that I have updated my privacy policy in accordance with GDPR and Brexit, you can find a copy by clicking here. It does cover these emails both on this system and the new system I’ll be moving too this autumn. It also covers use of all aspect of the websites produced as part of the A Ticket 2 Ride Entertainment Group.

Introductions

I’m John Cole, I have spent more than 30 year being part of the creative industry. I now run A Ticket 2 Ride Entertainment Event Support Services here in Somerset. Through my experiences in theatre and the creative industry I created The New Greatest Show on Earth Project. Which is the theme for this month’s video, use the link above to view and subscribe.

Setting the Stage

I don’t think I need to mention how hard it is for the creative industry living through these unprecedented times and we are far from beginning a proper recovery, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the immediate future. During the latter part of 2020 I created a series on YouTube called ‘The Paradox of the Arts’, which gives my vision and hope for the industry. Use the link at the bottom of the email to watch.

2025 Trust Fund

Money has been high on the agenda for the industry through the pandemic and rightly so with a slow response from government. So I decided I would set up a charity that is run by the industry for the industry.

This is a grant fund for the future, it will also be the emergency fund for mass closures in the future. A fund the industry doesn’t have right now.

Now typically many people decide only to donate to an established fund or a fund that is run by someone they know, and the money is immediately available for its beneficiaries. But I think it is fair to say that these are not typical times.

Because of what has happened during this pandemic, because of the slow response of support from the government, because many theatres are threatened with closure, because many freelances have suffered financially, would it be wise for the creative industry to come together now and have a plan for the next time? Because its not a case of ‘if there’s a next time’ it’s a case of ‘when is the next time’ and will be we be ready?

The 2025 Trust Fund, it will create certainty the next time the creative industry is forced into mass closure or having work with restrictions, but our freelances and theatre staff will all know it’s business as usual in the knowledge of a contingency fund. More information is available on my website. But for this to be successful the fundraising starts now, and you can donate today, click here.

Community Spirit

The 2025 Trust Fund won’t just rely on personal donations of course, it has an annual fundraiser. In August 2021, I will hopefully put on the very first Community Spirit (COVID pending).

This fundraising event’s main objective is to be the opportunity for the creative industry to search out new talent within local communities.

Many very talented working-class people are left out of the limelight as it becomes hard to find opportunities. Community Spirit is a fringe festival on your doorstep. It covers all five areas of the arts: visual, literacy, performing, multi skilled and all other forms. There’s more information on my website, if you would like to put your own local version of Community Spirit please to get in touch by replying to this email.

Final Thought

Keeping in touch is so important as we begin this long road to recovery. I find there is nothing more uplifting then hearing both positives and struggles from others as we share this journey together. So please do feel free to contact me at any time either through social media or email.

Networking and supporting each other is more important than ever before, but the industry will get through this, we will come back bigger, better and stronger than ever. If you know anyone who would like to receive these emails please get them to email me through info@aticket2ride.co.uk to be included, don’t forget to add this address into your contacts to stop the emails going to your junk box, as well as subscribe to the YouTube channel and follow me on social media.

Health and Safety in the Arts

Here is another blurb from the series of ‘How to in the Arts…’. This post we are looking at the health and safety in theatre and the arts. This is obviously one of, if not the, most important part of running theatre as it can be the most costly if things go wrong.

For the purpose of this post theatre is defined as anything where a live performance is created whether the audience is paying or not. So this is from street theatre right up the stadium and big arena productions.

I have been involved in the Health and Safety of many businesses over the years ranging from completing checklist as a worker to creating the companies Health and Safety strategies. I recently completed an official IOSH course with BECTU and Creative Skills with an emphasis on the creative industry.

 So here are my top 5 bits of advice for theatre or any creative professional for survival in the arts industry:

  1. Ensure it is written down

So often management try and get rid of staff for breaching Health and Safety as the individual is seen as liability to the company, but when in fact the liability is often on the company simply because they had not got the procedure in writing in the first place. The aim of Health and Safety is remove assumption and grey areas from the line of work, so one of the best way to do this is to simply write it down and make sure staff, crew and freelance are all aware of it and know where to find information if they are not sure. Even better get them to sign to say they have read and understood.

  • Training is never too expensive

While most theatres and industrial personnel may feel confident to train their staff in house, never be afraid of sending them on external courses. This does two things, firstly it will raise the morale of the individual as they feel appreciated and that you value them enough to invest in their learning. Secondly the training will pay for itself as it will mean less accidents, less injuries, less time off as things are being done not just efficiently but safely too. There is far more course on offer external to your business then what you can offer. To decide what people need to people need training look at your risk assessments, a great example of the failings of training in the arts industry is that of Manual Handling. Something that most industry professional look for when taking on freelance and contractors and even staff is the IOSH Passport training provided by BECTU.

  • Don’t be afraid to say NO

This is really important, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure everyone who works for them, including contractors and freelances are safe in doing their required job. So if you see something that you feel is not safe then say. If you are required to go up a bit scaffold and you don’t think it looks safe then you have a right to ask to inspect risk assessments and other appropriate paperwork that declares the structure safe. Also be clear beforehand what exactly it is that you are required to do, this relates to the first point, don’t assume. The last thing you want to do is turn up to a theatre assuming that the rig is on electric motors only to find you have to climb up and lower them all by hand or worse still the don’t move at all and you have to hand ball lights up and down ladders. Ask for risk assessments, any other relevant paperwork before you sign the contract.

  • Be Prepared

The Scout motto is Be Prepared. This leads on from point 3 as a freelance ask the right questions before you take on a job, you are entitled to see paperwork relating to Health and Safety. Find out exactly what you are being required to do, the more information you get before the day the better prepared you will be, theatre is by far the most dangerous place of work. Most of the crew are freelance or work with touring companies that go from one venue to the next, safety should never be compromised and anything can happen so you need to know what is what is what, who you are working with. Better still write your own risk assessments for your line of work, then you can align them with the venues assessments as part of the negotiations.

  • Take Ownership

Whether you are management, staff, volunteer, contractor or freelance, make every task you do your own, take the responsibility to make the area safe. Communicate your thoughts and ideas about safety in the area you are working, because safety is everyone’s job regardless of grade or role. If something goes wrong or looks like it may go wrong tell someone, don’t just assume someone else has said something. As someone who has been in had oversight of a health and safety strategy for a business, I always say that I would rather be told about a problem by every person on site, and that may well be 50 or more times, but that is better than nobody say anything and an accident happens. Things can only be sorted and changed if people speak up. The human condition means we are always looking to put blame on someone else, but sometime a fault in the first instance may not be anyone’s fault, it only becomes someone’s fault when they fail to report it. We often fail to see our own mistakes which could simply be not saying anything when something looked wrong.

So there you have it, Health and Safety in nutshell. Remember if things go to court on the grounds of neglect of Health and Safety in the workplace, whether a company or an individual you are guilty until proven innocent, the reverse of criminal law. Judges will often use the view of an everyday passer-by to determine fault, then set the penalty and sentence on what could have been the worst possible outcome.

Mental Health in the Arts

It’s so good to see that mental health in the arts is finally making its way up the industry’s agenda. Across the social spectrum as well there are so many organisations and a campaign trying to break the stigma that surrounds what is often a delicate and sensitive issue.

I briefly touched on this in June 2018 as I write about GPs in Wales putting the arts ‘on prescription’. You can read that post here. But with an ever increasing strain on an underfunded health service by a government that has put money higher on their agenda then the people they serve, it quickly becomes apparent that industries need to find ways to look after their own.

Mental health is so important, it can either make or break a person whatever industry they are in. The creative arts are one of those industries that can be very isolating at times especially in the current economic climate where jobs are not guaranteed, and almost by irony the same creative industry can be a help.

So wouldn’t it be good if venues themselves had an in house service or at least someone that staff, cast and crew could all use whether they are resident or not. I am not saying that each theatre needs to employ a specialised doctor and councillor, but just have appointed resident staff that have the appropriate training and can be available.

Wiltshire Creative has published a guide for venues to use when working with artists with Mental Health Problems: Click here to see guide.

The guide lays out exactly what Mental Health is and how it sits within the UK laws and regulations. It also gives a list of charities and organisations that can be of help, as well as recommending the ‘Mental Health First Aid’ Course which is very quickly becoming widely available across the UK.

As a venue or theatre having this information is so important, you may not be able to deal with the immediate situation, but you should be able to support an individual by being able to point people in the right direction and that can only be effective by having the right contacts.

We are not just looking to make theatre accessible to more artist, we need to be open a wider audience. How about becoming an autistic friendly theatre? While autism is not a mental health problem statics have shown that those with autism are at a high risk of having mental health issues.

A lot of venues are now creating ‘safe spaces’ for those with dementia, while this again is not a mental health problem, those who care for loved ones with the disease can feel isolated, and it is this feeling that can lead to mental health problems.

Opening your venue to become a hub for individuals with mental health issues to use the creative arts as a means of support, while allowing them to socialise and gain confidence in a safe environment. Of course nobody is expecting a creative team to organise a support day or group as experts in dealing with mental health issues, but by taking the advice of Wiltshire Creative about building those contact of organisations that can support that is the first step for a venue when it comes to stamping out the stigma surround mental health.

Remember any charity or organisation will be more than happy to help and support a venue that wishes to reach a wider audience while supporting those artists who work for them. If any industry can be the driving force behind removing stigma about anything in society the arts can, but first they must lend that support to their own.


#BaccfortheFuture

You may have heard recently Prince Charles say that ‘Every child should have access to the arts at school’. Something that I have written lots about on this blog this year, it has also been a huge discussion point within the industry with so many campaigns being set up to support the notion.

In this short post this week I would like to list come of the campaigns that you can get involved with, whether you work in the industry or not, a teacher or even a parent. It encouraged that everyone gets involved in these campaigns.

If you have read about my latest project The Greatest Show on Earth then you will know it has its own indirect link to this campaign as it is about giving everyone an opportunity to be part of theatre, regardless of social status, race or background. To read the original post on this you can use the search bar to the right of this post ‘This is Theatre’. You can also click here to sign up to the monthly newsletters.

Other campaigns that all have useful resources include:

www.baccforthefuture.com

Are Arches Still Required?

What will theatres of the future look like? In a time of economic uncertainty and when there seems to be continual government budget cuts with the public supporting its funding cuts to the arts (The Stage 30 June 2016) does the future look bleak? Or is it a Doctor Who opportunity, time to regenerate our theatres and venues.

Some venues are becoming multipurpose with their wide variety of uses and more productions are being accommodated with fewer restrictions. But there are still many venues that have not made this transition whether it is due to funding or tradition. So have the 1900 year tradition where the audience sits in rows looking at the proscenium arch become outdated or just restricting for users and writers? So is it possible the arch only has repercussions on income as only a certain type of production can play to a restricted interest audience.

A new question arises, “Will funding cuts really ruin the arts financially or are the arts bringing it on themselves?” Am I saying we should do away with tradition of an arch? Of course not, but remind ourselves that modern day imagination sees beyond a picture frame style of theatre.

In 2010 the Guardian published an article about theatres being high contributors to the carbon footprints and two years later the Arts Council of England introduced an element into its criteria to encourage the arts to examine their impact on the environment, with the same organisation introducing diversity into the criteria in 2010. It almost seems like ACE either are not keen to give out funding or is it just they can see beyond tradition.

While there is enough acknowledgement that cuts in funding will continue in the currently climate, there are a lot of people in the industry who are digging their heals in demanding that funding improves, which won’t do any good as when the money has finally gone it won’t be able to just reappear.

Organisations like The New Art Exchange Gallery in Nottingham that heavily rely on funding as they only generates 18% of its income are going to be the worst hit. By contrast and an excellent example to the Arts Industry is the Leicester Curve, a building project that overran its schedule and was well over budget, but now has become a money maker cutting it’s dependency on funding from 33% to 25% with a program that continually looks at ways to become financially better off (ITV News 20 July 2016) and they have an arch, but it’s not the only space.

No money has ever been guaranteed as any funding body could collapse or have its own funding cut at any time. Regional’s need to open up by looking out for new ways of being funded this may include going down the commercial line and have local business support, there is always opportunity to help each other in a partnership. But more than that looking at how they spend the money given through funding, what costs could be cut and I don’t mean making staff redundant. But the fact is funding criteria’s are going to get tougher, having to show budget and proving some sort of percentage to self-funding will always be on the cards.

Creating a new diversity of use to a space opens the door to new opportunities which have a high chance of leading to more income. Just imagine what would happen if a venue redeveloped its main auditoria that just has a proscenium arch format into a format where the incoming company had a choice of either an arch, being in the round or a bit of both and still have the same number in their audience. I know there are venues that currently have studios on the side, but these are often smaller then the main auditorium, and not every venue can afford or get the permission to build studios.

If a venue is being redeveloped why not make it far more environmentally friendly, while the cost of installing systems which have a lower impact on the environment can be high, this is usually accompanied by high long term savings. There are money making schemes, for example what if a venue had solar panels it would reduce spending on electricity during the season and during the dark period its feeding electricity back into the National Grid.

There are theatres that taking in conferences and weddings which is a wonderful way to utilise their spaces. But there are also theatres that are possibly too picky on what they accept, even when the production offers to do a profit share. So as a producer when you encounter this response you understand further why we have a public that supports funding cuts to the arts, it looks like the industry just wants free hand outs year on year.

Most theatres plan their seasons months in advance, if it was done on a week to week bases there would never be an audience. So why are we planning theatre funding that way? Do we need to stop thinking about a theatre for tomorrow and start thinking of the imagination of the new works of the future?

Funding in the Arts

We often read that theatres should be working with more diversity in their performances and possibly being penalised if they fail. At the same time there’s this discussion about lack of funding for new works. Surely there is a link between the 2 here?

I think maybe we forget a few things, for instance all of today’s great shows all started the same way trying to source funding. Look at Les Miserable, when you look back at when the idea was first hatched it was, in all cases, the rejected play and for no other reason than it had miserable is the title. Yet as it began its 30th season 2015 it had become one the best loved and longest running musicals of all time being translated into 22 languages with productions in 42 counties and 319 cities.

Or look at Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap playing at the St. Martin’s Theatre, the longest running West End play as it began its 63rd session in 2015. There is also the world famous works of Shakespeare, originally written in the 18th Century, they all needed funding at to start out.

All of these scripts were written about a society that was racist, that was sexist and worked on stereotyping. But some of these stories are well loved and give a powerful message reminding us about our past. But to penalise a theatre or production for lack of diversity when attempting to stage these shows would be wrong and it wouldn’t solve the diversity issues in our theatres.

In The Stage on 28th May 2015 Maria Friedman spoke about the lack of work for ‘Older Actresses’, and is almost forcing a generation to move over to directing. While for ‘diversity’ this is good as we are seeing a rise in the female directors. But what does it do for the on stage diversity issue? Is it really the fault of the director or the actors that there is a limit to variety of works to cover all bases of diversity?

Steven Berkoff’s recent comment that ‘White actors should be allowed to play Othello’ seems like a desperate cry to close the diversity gap, as Othello works because of the black / white issue of the day in which it is written. White people have never been singled out and forced into a situation that Othello was, and to do that would make the whole play unreal and unbelievable.

Now I am not saying that funding bodies should just give out money to new works, as the element of risk will always be high. The writers and all those involved to producing the works should work on their pitch and not just to the funder but also the potential audience. In today’s techno world there are ways to gage if a show is going to work, in very much the same way as the retails can gage if there is a market for new product.