what do you mean, ecology

More and more we hear, and use, terms like the theatre ecology. I do it. I say  ‘we contribute to the development of a regional ecology’. And then I was sitting in a room and I heard someone else say it and I thought what does that mean?

I think ecology means a ‘whole system approach’. For what ever reasons we arrived at a point in the late 20th century in which jobs had become increasingly specialized and disconnected. Companies made work and then tried to sell their shows to programmers who in turn tried to sell it to an audience.  And each company would develop their own means to produce and distribute their work.  The touring world was awash with vans and photocopiers and administrators.

What I think a more ecological model looks like is when the artist is aware of the needs and ambitions of the programmers, the marketers, the audience – perhaps even the Arts Council, and the Local Authority. And they understand the ambitions and needs of the artists. A model in which each recognises their interdependence with the whole sector. Ideas, resources, relationships need to flow between each other. We know this. I make work for village halls and I know that if I make a poor show it is harder for the next company. It is my interest to help ensure that the work of others is as good as it can be. And it is in my interest that I understand programmers, audiences, ambitions and that they achieve them.

Maybe artists have always done this. I know that companies want to perform to full audiences. Nobody wants to play to 10 people on a Wednesday night. And I know we cant blame the stretched programmer or publicity assistant who are trying to keep the boat afloat. I am not arguing to dumb down the work of artists – nor to give people what they want. But I do want to be popular.  I want us to be relevant, and have influence.  And I believe we will only achieve this if we care about the whole system.

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