Archive | November, 2013

A list of things that I have worked out recently #artsfunding

28 Nov


1. All work that is made from public subsidy in the Arts – should be made free and available for all – at some point during the life of its production or presentation

2. Explaining, to some people, that these changes are going to have to happen, can be exhausting.

3. Continuing to think, even just an arms reach into the future, actually threatens some people.

4. The ones who get it, have always got it. The ones who don’t, never did.

5. Understanding the civic role of artists in their communities has a potential for inspiring creative social change

6. There will always be people who will tell you why your ideas are wrong and will not work

7. Knowing that Creativity is actually imaginative ideas that have value

8. Taking time to develop imaginative ideas is most important…

9. …before trying to make ideas fit into a funding application

10. We need to consider and make projects that can exist on more than one platform or space

11. We need to work with people with whom we don’t normally work

12. We need to diversify our whole approach and attitudes

13. We need to be braver and bolder in our work

14. We should shape the future and not cling onto the past and how things used to be better, as this is not actually true.

15. We need to remember that game theory is at play when people talk of collaboration and sharing

16. We need to get on with it

17. Now…

– no boundaries – a tale of two cities @nbd2014 @pilot_theatre

27 Nov


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness”

Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities –

For No Boundaries – those cities are Bristol and York

Prior to getting involved with helping to deliver this conference for Arts Council England and the British Council – I have been doing a bit of thinking and working out how we got to this place and how things come about. So a bit like reverse engineering it was good to look at the DNA of some of the technical and shifts in the history of Pilot Theatre’s innovative practice.

We have been livestreaming our work from Pilot Theatre for more than 5 years now. We first streamed some of our first Shift Happens conference in July 2008 on the then nascent livestream channel which was then called the ‘Mogulus channel’ My interest in this technology stemmed from my first trip to the TED conference in Monterey back in February 2007. Here I saw the first touchscreen handheld devices (that are now ubiquitous) and saw handheld screens delivering video and live content for the first time. I realised then that the genie was out of the bottle and we were now looking at a different horizon in terms of how we would view the world and the work that we make – particularly in the Arts and Creative Industries.

So I decided to draw together a conference that looked at these possibilities, and Shift Happens was born in 2008. I invited over from New York, Julie Borchard-Young, whose company – ‘By Experience’ was running and delivering the New York Metropolitan Opera broadcasts into cinemas. They were the first to do this, and I was fortunate to be in New York at the time to see how they did it, and to meet Julie, and for her to agree to come over from New York to talk to us in Old York to share her ideas. In our audience back then was David Sabel – who struck up a discussion with Julie to do a feasibility study into the possibility of doing the same for the National Theatre. Within 2 years NTLive was created. ShiftHappens? yes it certainly still does. We ran our 5th Shift conference this year

It was great to catch up with David Sabel last week at the NT to talk about new possibilities – and more of that later – but like all these technologies they have the ability to disrupt and change the game and that is what are continuing to do here at Pilot. Which is why we have two pieces of information that are recharting the course for us as we evolve and understand our civic and leadership role.

The first is that Pilot Theatre are part of the consortium with Watershed Bristol to deliver No Boundaries – the next iteration of the State of the Arts Conference – and this is a commission from Arts Council England and the British Council – on February 25/26 / 2014 .This is really a tale from two cities – Bristol and York, where we will use our technology and teams to link up the speakers and events live and online. The contributor list is growing and we look forward to welcoming you to either the Guildhall in York or The Watershed in Bristol for this event.

The second bit of information is that we have landed a two year contract with the City of York Council to livestream their Council and Cabinet meetings. Again this is part of our civic role of being in a City and working together with our partners and funders to deliver open and accessible information to everyone in the City in which we make our work. This partnership unlocked a great participation with the City with our recent Blood + Chocolate project and again as providers of the Guildhall in York for the conference and access to the high speed fibre link between York and Bristol.

News just in too – that York has been awarded an Ofcom TV licence – so again the partnership working we have with Science City York and the creative infrastructure can really make shift happen in a place that has implications and we can all reach much further.

Working in this space isn’t always easy. Thinking, even just an arms reach reach into the future, for some people is threatening and doing new stuff and convincing people that we can do this can sometimes be exhausting – We have been doing this for the last 15 years and here is a list of the ways we have been trying to shift thinking and make new stuff happen. I have written on here too about the challenges and rewards of making new stuff – here is a link to that blogpost.

Find out for yourselves – come and join us No Boundaries Feb 25 / 26 2014

Spoken word poets I have seen at TED – #SarahKay #ShaneKoyczan

2 Nov

So – trawling through the archives of this blog I came across these two brilliant talks I saw at TED back in 2011 – with Sarah Kay and this year 2013 with Shane Koyczan. They are both amazing and worth your time.

enjoy…Sarah Kay – If I had a daughter…

and Shane Koyczan – for all of you out there

#Artsfunding – how it actually works on the ground…

1 Nov


It can feel a little precarious out there – balancing on each others shoulders to keep upright – as our scene from our recent production of Blood + Chocolate shows…

There has been a lot of activity and online chat about the ‘Rebalancing the Cultural Capital’ publication. Here the amounts of money per head invested in arts and culture varies geographically. The headline news is that Londoners benefited from £69 of cultural spending per head, compared with just £4.50 in the rest of England. In addition, Arts Council England committed 45% of its £317m arts Lottery funding to London, meaning that Lottery players across the country funded the arts to the tune of £17.41 per person in London, but only £3.90 in the rest of England. The actual document can be found here

This of course that is not the whole story. It merely states where the funded organisations are based. For sure many of these tour, and play a national role for the benefit of the whole country. There are big national institutions, that are also obviously based in the Capital. The facts remain that it does need addressing as ACE Chief Executive Alan Davey made clear yesterday.

As the Artistic Director of a National Touring NPO based in York I think it is important to look at how artsfunding works on the ground and what the per capita spend looks like for people on whose heads it is being counted. Our recent Blood + Chocolate production was the culmination of 18 months work within our city. The building of trust withing the volunteer groups, the embedding of artists and teams withing the city to generate and support a cast of 200, and a team of designers, costume makers, builders, makers, stage managers and crew totalling 300, so that each night we could take our audience of 300 safely through the streets of York and make a transformative piece of work for participants, audience and the creative teams involved.

This took a sustained investment from ACE and the City of York Council – with additional support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and was built on trust and ability of the creative teams (Pilot Theatre / SlungLow / York Theatre Royal) to deliver the scale and ambition of the project. Yet even though we sold out the entire three week run to a capacity audience – this generated 45% of our total budget. The rest of the project required the remaining 55% to be found from arts funding and sponsorship to enable it to happen. Without this Blood + Chocolate would not have taken place.

This sustained investment enables our team of artists being present in communities and to be based in a city. So not just flying in with a one off tour date, a week in a theatre every couple of years, or a live or pre-recorded transmission to a paying cinema audience.

It is our mission at Pilot Theatre to make all our work at some point freely accessible to all. So that anyone regardless of any geographical, soci-economic, or other demographic reason should be able to freely access the work that we have made with our use of public money. This is our duty and my role as an Artistic Director to help make and deliver great art and culture for everyone.

So whilst it is not the same as being there – it is another way to experience the project – we delivered a live webstream of Blood + Chocolate during the run of the show – It captured the audience perspective as we used steadicam views from within the crowds as well as cranes and moving cameras. It is part of our ongoing research into how to make filmed theatre work more effectively and translate better across digital platforms. Most importantly it is available to watch and share for free below.

So, you see in a digitised world the notion of geographical area boundaries become increasingly less important in the funding debate – but we all need to shift this to ask the questions

– where is the art being made? by whom? who with ? and most importantly – who is it for?

If you want to see some of the per capita people who were involved in this project – the Flickr group by our 31 volunteer photographers have captured them rather well for you here

My thanks go to all those whole helped to make this project happen

Marcus Romer – Artistic Director – Pilot Theatre – York – England –