thoughts on fixing touring

May 2, 2018

For as long as I have been working in the arts, the discussion about ‘the crisis in touring’ has rumbled on, combining a call from companies that ‘venues aren’t booking us’, with venue programmers saying ‘I can’t find work that I can book for our audience’. It’s these challenges that have become something of a pre-occupation for me, through the work I make, the companies we produce with Farnham Maltings and with house as a 200+ venue south east network. With house we have  tried to encourage openness and …

the next ten years for ACE

March 21, 2018

I have tried to enter the ‘conversation’ online about the next ten year stratergy but, to date, it feels like shouting in the dark. maybe themes and debate will come later. So for now – and not for the first time – i’m going to write this to find out what i think about what ACE might do over the next ten years.
First. change the name – from Arts Council to Culture Council. not only does this better express what ACE actually does it is a much more …

further proof of a government that doesn’t ‘value’ the arts

September 17, 2017

If we are to believe the front page of the Sunday Times this week we are about to see another assault on our values as a country in which a government hell bent on promoting a narrow curriculum demonstrates, once again, that it has a willful disregard for the people who nurture and care for the quality of life of the country and for our long term economic future. A government that seems incapable of making judgements based on anything other than vote capture and simplistic notions of …

keep the conversation going

September 7, 2017

I have been talking to Surrey County Council for ten years now about working together. there have been lots of days when i – and i am sure they – have scratched our heads as to why or what we were trying to make happen. i have, on occasions cursed them – usually i admit because they are different from me and work differently. But, but, but something has finally flourished.
For the past couple of years Surrey County Council has had a freeze on appointments across the authority, …

on the road to nowhere

March 8, 2016

Last week we ran an event called ‘I liked it but I couldn’t book it’ as part of the Guardian and BACs series of conversations called A Nations Theatre led by Lyn Gardner – who has written a blog about the event here. The focus of that particular conversation was how we might ensure contemporary theatre thrives in our rural communities. In thinking what I might say before the event I decided that the one notion I wanted to challenge was that of ‘taking the audience on a …

things to do before we die

October 5, 2015

we have been asked to organise a series of events that explore what the arts might do to shift some uncomfortable truths around the narrowness of the audience and the workforce of the arts – particularly across the south east of England. I don’t entirely know why we have been asked but there you have it. Having been asked we are determined to run the best events that we can.
in planning the first event i stumbled upon this uncomfortable observation about most events organised around diversity. ‘that entail grabbing every …

the threat of the ‘greater south east’

April 21, 2015

I am constantly being reminded that it’s not so much the election that we should be mindful about but the following three months that lead up to a Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn – assuming we have a government by then – (but thats another matter.) We will need well rehearsed arguments for the usefulness of the arts. Ones that go past ‘we cant take another cut’. All the more so if DCMS goes and with UK Theatre suggesting that theatre production has actually grown in the …

small victories

March 2, 2015

my friend Catherine told me a story today about a moment of everyday drama from the door of a supermarket. which may be why i noticed this…..
later i ended up in Sainsbury’s walking down the middle aisle before you get to the eggs. Where two parents were hectoring a boy of no more than five for ‘not behaving responsibly’ and telling him ‘that he should know to stay close by’.
i assume that they had temporary lost him and, in reuniting, were expressing their relief. but there was something …

in praise of Stuart Bennett

February 10, 2015

Some people leave a mark on you. Stuart Bennett was one of those people for me. He founded the community theatre arts course at Rose Bruford College in the late 1970s which did so much to fuel the rise of a vibrant alternative theatre scene in the 80s and 90s.  Stuart was one of the key movers and shakers in the Theatre-in-Education movement, with a career spanning Belgrade TIE, Cockpit TIE and others. I was auditioned by Stuart as an awkward young man in the 1980s and he …

artists beware

January 24, 2015

There has been a debate raging of late about how much artists are subsidising the arts through unpaid work. Firstly, its worth saying that many of the people working to make the buildings vibrant are equally contributing way past what they are paid for. Nobody gets up in the morning thinking ‘how can i make the world worse’ but sometimes, out of anxiety or pressure to balance books or to ‘minimise risk’ apparently logical decisions are made that do much to undermine the ambitions of us all.
Mark Makin, …