Monthly Archives: July 2009

Yascapi's Blog: Clore Fellowship research: from many acorns

A couple of days ago I arrived home from one of those wearisome days at work to be cheered by the post awaiting me on my doormat: for once there was no nuisance junk mail, no pesky bills even, just two delightful packages. One, a cd of the wonderful veteran Cuban guitarist / singer Eliades Ochoa – a present from my husband currently 8000 miles away on work – and the other, my contract for the Clore fellowship I’m about to embark on.

And the latter, of course, re-ignited my thinking about the Clore fellowship experience awaiting me just round the corner now. In a couple of weeks’ time, I have a meeting with the Clore staff to discuss ideas and plans for the year, and the combination of this appointment with a renewed awareness that the start of this journey is now very imminent has prompted me to turn my attention to articulating some of the rather vague thoughts that have been circling in my head for the last few months.

One of the elements of the fellowship I am particularly looking forward to is the research: fellows are asked to produce a 20,000 word paper on an aspect of cultural leadership that interests them in the course of their year, a process that is supervised by a university-based academic. I gather that mine might be a rather odd attraction to this part of the fellowship – I think it can be a daunting part of the programme, or for some people it can seem far too akin to ‘homework’ to be met with a groan. I, though, have to confess to missing the academic rigour and intellectual stimulant of that sort of process: I certainly feel my brain hasn’t worked in that way since university, and although my working life has most definitely not been short on challenges, they’ve been of a very different kind and haven’t stretched the old grey matter in anything like the same cerebral way. I am well aware that my brain doesn’t currently feel capable of the sorts of academic gymnastics it enjoyed in my precocious student years, so I am looking forward to once again grappling with thoughts, ideas, concepts, principles, abstracts and hypotheticals. Although, this time, with hopefully less precociousness and more professional experience to rough the neat abstract theories up a little, and bring a bit of realistic grit and profanity to the holiness of thinking.

I don’t feel anything like ready to settle on a particular topic to research as yet, but I have got as far as collating some half-articulated thoughts on various areas I’m interested in. My hope is that one or other of these little acorns might sprout some shoots which hold enough promise for developing into a full paper in due course. My embryonic subjects in need of much further thought are as follows:

1. Presenting international theatre
What is the role of the cultural leader in creating a context for international work? Whose story is it to tell? What foundations need to be laid – and how? – in order for it to communicate with an audience / reach its widest audience? What are the effects of globalisation on the creation and development of cultural voices? Does the international reach of these voices mean they are being diluted or strengthened? Does the internationalisation of theatre benefit audiences and what role needs playing in order to best serve audiences with this globalised cultural offer?

2. The non-creative creative
What is the role of a ‘non-creative’ cultural leader (i.e. someone not defined by that term ‘creative’, usually referring to directors, designers, choreographers, etc.)? How can a ‘non-creative’ leader be creative? Is there a place for ‘non-creative’ creativity in the cultural sector? How can they grow a creative space / organisation? What is the relationship between ‘creatives’ and ‘non-creatives’? Is there a creativity in the silent space between them, in the tension?

[And, by way of a sub-question: how can I be a 'non-creative' when my best thinking is done at 1am?]

3. Autocracy versus democracy in the arts sector
Leadership versus collaboration; hierarchy versus non-hierarchy; leadership versus democracy? Are these things in conflict with each other within arts organisations? Are they mutually exclusive, complementary, co-existential or symbiotic? Is there room for strength of artistic vision and principles of collaboration to co-exist? Is there a benefit to this? Where do autocratic and democratic models of cultural leadership serve the arts best?

4. Leadership and risk
What potential is there for risk and failure within cultural leadership in the current climate? How can leadership allow for, encourage, and embrace failure brought about by risk? How much is leadership actually about being the one who takes the risk, who leads the failure? Can failing be leading? In fact, if an arts scene without failure is a stultified and stagnant one, does the success of our arts sector depend upon its failures? Failure breeds success; it defines excellence through being a foil, through being a motivation to do better, to tell the truth more truthfully, to speak more powerfully, more honestly. Failure is our drinking water – what if there weren’t any?
[Some of these thoughts came to me during a Metapod Connect session this afternoon in which Pete Ashton mentioned the Failcamp scheduled to take place in Birmingham in October - a glorious celebration and sharing of spectacular failures and the lessons resulting from these experiences.]

5. Only Connect: touring companies and their audiences
How do non-building-based touring companies grow and maintain a relationship with a nationally disparate audience? Can a touring company lay claim to an audience as their own rather than borrowing them from a receiving house? What chance is there for cultural leadership to create the conditions for growing that audience from afar?

I think at the moment the ones that seem like the choicest pick of the bunch are the thoughts about presenting international work and about risk and failure. Two topics that perhaps are related, and perhaps they seem the most interesting because they raise the most – or the most difficult – questions.

I genuinely want to challenge myself to research questions I don’t already think I know how to approach, or about which I’ve already made up my mind. I want to scare myself. I want to open up a void and dive in to its surprises.

play_risk


Ed's Home » Theatre: Welcome to the new blog

Goodbye old blog theme, hello new blog theme. This new look blog isn’t just a skin change, things have changed behind the scenes too. The old articles are now available at archive.edshome.co.uk. The old site was made with a CMS called Drupal, which I philosophically agree with, but for blogging (and much else), WordPress is quietly taking over the world, so I thought I’d let the tide sweep me out to sea. Hopefully the warm comfortable fur of WordPress will draw me in to posting more. I’ve adapted this blog theme myself, based on one called Bluebird, with inspiration from greyscalegorilla.com. As for the content of the posts, don’t expect much to change, there will still be lots of incoherent rambling on subjects with which I have no authority; don’t take anything too seriously. I’ve also stuck a twitter gadget at the side. Please subscribe, though, because it’s much easier that way. The link is here.

The picture at the top is me taking a picture of me in Morocco with an Olympus Trip.

The Other Way Works: Summer round-up, and what’s coming up

We had a busy couple of weeks at the start of July, but more of that later.  First, some news of a new project: ‘Avon Calling’.

Some of you may have seen some early ideas for Avon Calling at our performance at Pilot back in March 09.  We’re pleased to announce that Avon Calling has been selected by Pilot to be part of their double-bill ‘It Came From Pilot’ at Warwick Arts Centre on 8th October 2009.  It will remain a one-woman show, co-written and performed by Louise Platt.  We’ll be rehearsing throughout August and September.

Back to what we’ve been up to so far this summer…

We started July with a performance at Pilot at the A.E. Harris Factory space (which we called ‘Spool’).  It involved using live sound looping to create evocative soundscapes. We started work on the show at 10am on the Monday, and performed it on the Thursday night. It seemed to go down well, and the current MD of the A.E. Harris factory gave it the thumbs up (despite the comic depiction of a fictional member of his staff!)

The culmination of our project at Colmore Infant & Nursery School in Kings Heath took place on Friday 10th July, as part of a day of celebrations marking the school’s Centenary. Artistic Director Katie Day has been working with parents at the school since March, as part of a Bright Space project investigating the school’s history.  Everything came together on the day, and a dedicated handful of parents performed in a 10 minute ‘WW2 Air Raid Shelter Experience’ for every class at the school – 13 performances in all.  We seem to have captured the children’s imaginations – as later on that same day one child presented us with a drawing of everyone inside the shelter, and we overheard playground games at breaktime involving sirens and running to the shelter!

Take a look at the Education section of our website for information about our other participatory projects.

Kindle Theatre: The Balham Ladies Amateur Astronomy Club

balham-thinktank-007

In May 2009, Kindle Theatre collaborated with filmcafe, Tony Appleby and the digital planetarium at Birmingham’s Thinktank, Millenium Point to showcase the first scene from The Balham Ladies Amateur Astronomy Club, a neo-traditional play set between 1835 and 2009, in which three women struggle for Enlightenment and emancipation in the man-made world of the sciences. Using innovative fulldome content shot by Steve Davies of filmcafe, and Kindle’s playful, intimate style of audience interaction, the invited guests were hushed into the planetarium to attend the inaugural meeting of the Balham Ladies Amateur Astronomy Club. With the night sky opening up on the dome above them, they witness a demonstration of meteor showers disintegrating into confusion, exasperation and sublime terror.  What is truth?

1I thoroughly enjoyed, as ever with Kindle performances, the sense of event, of occasion and of a complete experience; the show began the moment we all began accumulating at the bottom of the elevator, long before we arrived in the Planetarium. What I took away with me from the event was certainly a sense of the potential that space offers and the potential impact the interplay of those two media – film and theatre – might offer an audience in that space.1 Audience Member.