Some thoughts on touring

April 13, 2023

If I had a pound for every time someone has told me that touring is broken over the past 30 years, I would have enough money to ‘rescue’ the ENO with money left over to celebrate all the extraordinary work that happens up and down the country in theatres, arts centre and village halls every night of the week. Far from being broken touring is the solution to many of the challenges facing the sector not the problem. What better way to ensure more is made of the …

thoughts about towns

July 9, 2021

There is something in Raymond Williams observation that “the common image of the country is an image of the past, with the common image of the city an image of the future”. Which leaves us, living in towns, inhabiting an undefined present.
These are a few reflections around the challenges, particularity and opportunities for cultural organisations working in towns. I am based in the southeast but hopefully there are some universal truths. I know that Banbury and Borden in the southeast are wildly different from the towns of Mansfield …

What next for Farnham?

April 22, 2020

Four weeks into the current lockdown and I am only now starting to recognise what might be possible in terms of repurposing the Maltings to support the town . We began a month ago by working with the town council and local paper to coordinate the emergency response for Farnham. Together we have set up a helpline, which now supports over 500 people with shopping, prescription pick-ups and social calls, we are providing marshals for the temporary treatment centre at the local hospital and drivers for meals on …

the shape of the emergency

March 27, 2020

In an earlier post I wrote about the things we are doing in Farnham to respond to the coronavirus crisis. Here is an update one week on.
We are working closely with the Town Council, community groups, The Farnham Herald, residents associations, health authority, food bank, credit union and many more. What has very quickly become clear is that this isn’t going to be an emergency like a flood or fire. This is a slower, longer term set of challenges we face. At the moment, mostly, people are safe …

re-directing the arts centre

March 19, 2020

Like every other cultural organisation in the country we are trying to make sense of ‘what next’? Because we are companies full of creative, motivated individuals the urge to find solutions, try and predict and respond is overwhelming. Farnham Maltings has a mission expressed as ‘contributing to the quality of life of all the people of Farnham’. Given this mission, an animated staff team and a set of positive relationships with our local authorities, it has, dare i say it, almost been fun to identify problems and find …

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 …