Monthly Archives: December 2015

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Changing the Guard

A changing of the arts guard has been sneaking up on us in the West Midlands.

Tim Hodgson must have been Performing Arts Producer at mac birmingham for over a year now. There he replaced Louisa Davies who moved to become Events Manager at the RSC. Paul Burns has moved on from International Dance Festival Birmingham. Fiona Allan is the new boss at the Hippodrome having moved from The Curve in Leicester. Stephen and Jackie Newbould are leaving Birmingham Contemporary Music Group soon. Aaron Wright has just been announced as Artistic Director of Fierce replacing Harun Morrison and Laura MacDermott.

Each producer / programmer brings their own personal interests and preferences to a new post, which impact on who they commission and who they book. Each shuffling of personnel appears to close down opportunities for some and open avenues for others. There are fresh starts and new visions wherever we turn. These are exciting times.

The final exchange on what I suspect is an incomplete list is that Matt Burman has left Warwick Arts Centre (to head up the Yorkshire festival) and is replaced by Julia Carruthers. Matt had a great interest and experience of Contemporary Theatre, which suited Stan’s Cafe very well. Julia seems to have had more of a focus on Contemporary Dance, so we may have to introduce ourselves to her. I’m hoping that this introduction goes well, not least because she was tour managing the Michael Clark Company when they were collaborating with The Fall and she must must have some hair raising stories to tell of those days.

The Official Birmingham Hippodrome Blog: Looking for a last minute Xmas present? Here’s some theatre themed gift ideas!

With Christmas just one week away, we have some great last minute gift ideas for you! We’ve all been there – looked online, trawled the shops and still no idea what to get for those those tricky friends and family members… well, we have the answer! The theatre lurvvie You know they love the theatre, but no […]

The Other Way Works: Is the use of digital technology by the theatre and cultural sector really declining? A (ranty) response to the 2015 Digital Culture 2015 Report

Nesta, AHRC & Arts Council England have just released the findings from this year’s survey into Digital Culture.

Download it here:

The Stage ( have jumped straight in the claim that digital technology is in decline in the theatre sector. But what does this actually mean?

I’ve completed the previous two years of surveys on behalf of The Other Way Works, but this year the request languished in my inbox unopened. So much of the content is focused on ‘digital’ systems and marketing, with narrow and oddly specific questions on particular areas. I didn’t feel that the data I would be contributing would be reflecting our work and relationship with technology in the way I think is important or interesting.

The summary suggests that “digital technology has become seemingly less important to certain aspects of arts and cultural organisations’ work”. They may well have a point, but I wonder how much this is just a case of much of today’s administration and marketing work just being ‘digital’ by default and not considered to be in a special category anymore worthy of particular note?

Surely its no longer news to talk about the fact that your arts organisation has a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Website, sends eflyers, e-newsletters, emails, uses Skype or Hangouts, cloud-based databases, uploads content to video & audio streaming sites. Isn’t that just the way that individuals and organisations operate these days? This isn’t ‘digital’ anymore, its just work. And its definitely not ‘digital innovation’. When there’s a free, consumer service, that as individuals we use on a daily basis for communication and leisure, just using it to help you run your arts organisation isn’t really worthy of note.

The Stage’s claim that Digital Technology is in decline in the theatre sector specifically highlights the stat that ‘only’ 8% of theatres live-stream their performances. So what? That’s just one (albeit one overly focused on by the funders, see The Space & Nesta R&D fund) use of digital technology. And a pretty dull one at that. I think its disappointing or maybe even embarrassing to judge a live artform’s engagement with digital technology with so much focus on this metric.

The report quotes representatives from some of the funders pointing fingers at the sector for ‘stepping back’ from investing in digital technologies. This seems a bit rich to me. The focus of investment in specific areas by organisations is surely heavily influenced by the funders own priorities and the funding streams they create. And it is these that are perhaps exacerbating the problem.

Nesta/AHRC/ACE’s Digital R&D fund decided to make large grants to a few to act as ‘examples’ for the rest of the sector to follow. The responsibility to succeed and the fact that larger more ‘reliable’ organisations were selected meant that the levels of possible ‘innovation’ within these restrictions were questionable. The money flowed to the few rather than the many. And to buildings more than to independent producing theatre companies, making the future even more unevenly distributed. And don’t get me started on The Space (in fact you can hear me making my points to the panel on the video of the 2nd Q&A session at their recent information seminar – at 11:50 in).

Their own metrics paint a picture of their pet funds’ failures to seed digital innovation in the wider cultural sector.
And on the bright side? Well maybe there is one…

The potential positive outcome of this report could be that it makes the case for the funders to be able to make more money available for digital experimentation, ideally with a focus on the independent sector and to creative exploration within the artform itself rather than in the marketing of it. And to make more, smaller grants to allow a much larger number of organisations to get involved, try things out, make more things, make better things, to engage experimentally with digital technologies as new tools with which to create their work – essentially to innovate in this area.

The Official Birmingham Hippodrome Blog: Light installation illuminates Cathedral Gardens

Last night Birmingham Cathedral gardens was the site for our latest pop-up installation by Aowen Jin a renowned British-Chinese artist who works on critically-acclaimed public commissions that challenge cultural perceptions and social inclusivity. Called ‘Midlight’ it features thousands of LED lights with 90,000 colour variations which adjust so that no two experiences with the artwork are […]

The Official Birmingham Hippodrome Blog: New shows announced for 2016 – book now!

We’re delighted to announce new productions on sale for our 2016 season providing a great choice of live theatre for all tastes.  Tickets went on sale to Birmingham Hippodrome Friends today, and will go on general sale from 10am on Thur 17 Dec. Dance: Sampled (17&18 May) has been added to the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016 […]



Photo by Alex Eisenberg

Photo by Alex Eisenberg

14th December 2015: Fierce Festival, an international biennial of cross-art form performance in Birmingham, today announces the appointment of Aaron Wright as its new Artistic Director. Currently Programmes Manager at the Live Art Development Agency, Aaron will take over from Fierce Festival’s current Artistic Directors Harun Morrison and Laura McDermott in April 2016.
Over the past five years at the Live Art Development Agency, Aaron has co-curated international programmes of live art and has worked as a guest curator and consultant programmer for the National Theatre, The Arches and Cambridge Junction.
Eileen Evans, Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees said: “On behalf of the Trustees, I’m delighted to appoint Aaron Wright as the new Artistic Director of Fierce Festival. We were struck by Aaron’s passion and ambition for Fierce and the city of Birmingham. A dynamic curator and agitator, Aaron’s deep relationship with UK and International Live Art ecologies and commitment to their future really shone through. Building on Laura McDermott and Harun Morrison’s successful tenure and Fierce’s track record of nurturing young, inspiring leaders, the board are committed to working with Aaron to grow Fierce in new and exciting directions.”
Aaron Wright said: “I’m thrilled to return home to the West Midlands and take the helm of an organisation that has been a huge source of inspiration to me. Working at LADA, the world’s leading advocate for Live Art, has given me the best possible experience, expertise and networks for this new role. After Laura McDermott and Harun Morrison’s visionary tenure, Fierce is well and truly on the map as one of the most exciting, provocative and playful festivals of Live Art in the world. I hope to continue Fierce’s history of premiering radical international work in the UK, whilst supporting more established UK practitioners,in turn contributing to a healthy national Live Art scene. I’m eager to grow large local audiences for Fierce without compromising its agenda of staging boundary pushing art. Fierce, at its core, is an agitator unwavering in its interrogation of the status quo. I can’t wait to see where it might mislead us all next.”
Harun Morrison and Laura McDermott said: “We are delighted by the appointment made by Fierce’s board. Aaron Wright has impressed us over the years with his independent projects and work at the Live Art Development Agency. We look forward with excitement and curiosity to what promises to be a bold new future for Fierce.”
For press enquiries, please contact:
John Diviney, Brunswick Arts / 07720 337 488
Notes to Editors
Fierce Festival
The next Fierce Festival will take place in October 2017. Across 2016 Fierce will launch a year-round program and the second call out for its West Midlands emerging artist development scheme Fierce FWD.
Aaron Wright
Aaron Wright is a curator and producer of Live Art. He joined the Live Art Development Agency (LADA) in 2010 through the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries scheme and has been their Programmes Manager since 2012. At LADA he has co-curated international programmes of Live Art and speaks regularly on the subject. Aaron has also worked as a guest curator and consultant programmer for the National Theatre, The Arches and Cambridge Junction, as well as co-producing club night Knickerbocker at The Yard Theatre. Aaron also works as producer for the performance artist The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein and is a member of the Steakhouse Live collective. He holds an MA and a BA from the University of Birmingham and is a trustee of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.


mid * point: JMK Assistant Director Opportunity


The JMK Trust in partnership with Birmingham Repertory Theatre is offering an Assistant Director Bursary to a participant of the JMK REP Directors’ Group. The bursary is an arts scholarship, funded by the Leverhulme Trust that will provide a learning and training opportunity for a talented emerging director, based in the West Midlands  who has demonstrated a commitment to directing and a passion for theatre making. The recipient will become a Leverhulme Arts Scholar.


The role

We are looking for an assistant director for Tessa Walker’s upcoming production of Folk by Tom Wells.  This production of Folk is a co-production between The REP, Hull Truck and Watford Palace Theatre and will tour to these three venues after The REP’s community tour, funded by the Sir Barry Jackson Trust.


The assistant director will need to be available for:

Rehearsals from Monday 8th February 2016

Technical from Monday 8th March 2016

First preview Week beginning Monday 8th March 2016

Press: Week beginning Monday 14th March 2016

Closes: Saturday 21st May 2016


Please note that you would also be expected to occasionally see the show on its community tour (7th March -1st April) and run supporting workshops for which a separate fee would be paid.  


As Assistant Director, your duties would include:

To provide general assistance to the Director.

  • As agreed with the Director, to carry out any research that will inform and benefit the production.
  • To observe rehearsals and have input in discussions and production meetings.
  • To create and deliver a series of workshops to support the production on its community tour.
  • To assist the company in documenting the rehearsal process for the purposes of marketing, archiving and evaluating the project through blogs, social media and other forms as agreed.
  • To observe and assist the Director in the production week as required.
  • To attend and participate in post-show discussions by mutual agreement with the Producer.
  • To support the company whilst the play is in performance as agreed with the Director and Stage Manager, including attending and noting the production.
  • Any further duties as required by the Director.


The bursary recipient will demonstrate a commitment to living and making theatre in the West Midlands and will also be or become a participant of the JMK REP Directors’ Group and as part of the bursary will also be responsible for working with the JMK Artistic Coordinator, and The REP to support and facilitate the group until next year’s bursary recipient is chosen.



The Leverhulme Bursary consists of £2,250.


How to apply

Please send a CV and covering letter to Sarah-Katy Davies on by Friday 8th January 2016.


Please detail:

Why you are interested in working with Tessa Walker the director on this production of Folk at The REP

  • Your relevant experience and what you can bring to the role
  • How this assisting opportunity and involvement in the JMK REP Directors group will contribute to your professional development
  • Your commitment to living and making theatre in the West Midlands.


If you have any questions please contact  or