DESPERATE MEN IN ACADEMIA
Susan C Haedicke (associate professor professor in the School of Theatre, Performance, and Cultural Policy Studies at University of Warwick, UK) mentions us in her new book: “Contemporary Street Arts in Europe: Aesthetics and Politics”!
“In a simultaneously serious and playful way, they reclaim public spaces as the crowds gather round them, and they encourage the audience to bring debate into those spaces”
OUTSIDE ONLINE REPORT
A live forum about outdoor arts in the UK and beyond, held on Monday 21st January – supposedly the most desperate day of the year.
We set up Outside Online as a bit of an experiment – to see if we could set up a live, online forum for outdoor artists, provoke some interesting discussions and find out what people were planning for the next year. We fed back the results to NASA’s For the Love of It convocation on Feb 8-10.
Outside Online attracted 20 participants including Jeremy Shine (Manchester International Arts), Claire Teasdale (Bristol City Council) Edward Taylor (Whalley Range All Stars), Liz Pugh (Walk the Plank) and Mandy Dike (previously of The World Famous, now of And Now). Huge thanks to everyone who contributed for their time and input.
We set it up as a 3-hour live forum on our Facebook page, with 16 different topic headings . The discussions generated 147 posts, and we also tweeted as we were going along – tweets were picked up and retweeted by people including Lyn Gardner.
It was also something of an experiment in using the internet and social media to link up outdoor artists and help foster useful new networks / connections / debates. We hope it may become an ongoing project and are thinking about how it could develop in future – perhaps with other companies / organisations hosting similar forums or suggesting topics. Feedback from participants included that it was ‘exciting’ and ‘a great idea’ with a ‘nice feeling of equality’ and ‘sense of community’– but that it would have been better with fewer topics and perhaps a few more laughs …
Posts clustered around 5 popular topics:
- New opportunities
- Name three things that would improve your ability to create work
- Is the UK becoming a receiving house rather than a producing house for large scale work?
- Ace is using an image of Royal de Luxe as its cover photo on Facebook. Discuss.
- Are the opportunities for showing provocative work reducing or shifting to new places?
We thought the conversation might focus on the ‘post-Olympic landscape, but it actually took off in other directions.
In very brief summary – several of the debates circled around the problem of bookers ‘playing it safe’ and not wanting to take a risk on new work. Conversely, UK companies then also tend to ‘play it safe’ or produce work that holds back – either worried about not getting bookings or from lack of confidence, money etc. So perhaps we need to be bolder in our vision / ideas? The most popular debate was on whether the opportunities for producing ‘provocative’ work were shrinking or moving to new areas – and indeed what the word ‘provocative’ actually means to different people.
Interestingly, this ‘provocative’ theme was picked up at For the Love of It by, amongst others, Bim Mason in his session and Ed Taylor provided a very interesting written contribution on the theme.
Outside Online also discussed the differences between European (particularly French) and British work / markets – observing that UK large-scale shows tend to be one-offs whereas European companies (particularly French ones) keep touring the same shows for many years. The different funding / support models must play a part but – given that the UK IS producing these shows – why do they tend to be one-offs? And should we be celebrating the fact that more people are being introduced to outdoor art by UK-commissioned shows like Royal de Luxe – or lamenting the fact that UK artists aren’t getting the commissions? Or even simply accepting that the UK produces great small/middle-scale shows and stop worrying about the large-scale work? No answers here but many questions to ponder.
There were also some good comments on how to encourage young theatre / circus graduates to produce outdoor theatre, with suggestions including more seminars / workshops on courses plus opportunities for students to see shows. This would give a better introduction to the sector while they are still studying as many still have a preconception of outdoor / street art as Covent-Garden style street shows.
And it was good to hear that plenty of people have interesting projects in the pipeline, from Mandy Dike’s new company ‘And Now’ to the Whalley Range All Stars Mintfest commission ‘Future’ and Walk the Plank’s upcoming show in Derry ‘The Return of Colmcille’.
For a more in-depth summary of the main topics please read below: