The Wider Arts Sector –
Other Practitioners

Throughout my artsaward I have come into contact with a wide range of practitioners. Both physically and over the internet. In order to research the variety of jobs available in the arts and what people do with them I have been able to make good use of a resource I helped to create, as a consultant on the development and sitting on the committee commissioning it as part of the YPPT digital strategy. The resource I have mentioned elsewhere too and is called www.getintotheatre.org. It has been launched relatively recently by the time of writing this, at the start of November 2007 (open doors month) in a soft-launch phase as there is still other parts that we are enhancing and adding to.

I will personally be going out to interview a number of artistes, directors, technicians and the like as well as co-ordinating these as I have already done for the Arts Council England. This will bring me into contact with yet more practitioners and in fact help me further with answering, is there enough provision for young people in the arts sector? In the mean time below is a snippet of the research I have done into other practitioners in the arts, particularly those related to me in a technical theatre and arts management perspective.

These practitioners are some of those that I found through the get into theatre.org website and kind of people I have looked at most during my arts award experience. Throughout my artsaward experience it may have become apparent that I would like to go into arts management/production and as such I found a local producer with the following profile:

What do you do?
Producer, Eclipse Theatre, based at New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

What was your very first role in theatre?
Trainee administrator, Tricycle Theatre

What else have you done in theatre?
* Acting head of diversity and operations, Arts Council England
* Project officer, Race Equality Scheme, Arts Council England
* Ballet project manager, Push
* Front of house manager, The Albany
* Administrator, Tiata Fahodzi
* House manager, Tricycle Theatre
* Administrator, Push
* Trainee administrator (Arts Council funded bursary), Tricycle Theatre

Have you got qualifications?
A performing arts degree

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Actor

What do you do all day?
I’m currently producing a four-week season of play readings across Nottingham, Leeds, Birmingham and Ipswich. My days include ringing actors and directors, processing invoices, checking ahead with the venue we next travel to and generally responding and ironing out the many creases.

I’m also casting 15 actors for a programme of activities in conjunction with a casting director.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The versatility. The fact that no two days are ever the same and that I’m in an industry that I love and respect.

And the worst?
Being away from friends and family

What’s your dream job in theatre?
To run a building

Got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?
Immerse yourself in theatre; learn how to ‘hustle’; be your own marketer; take time to listen and absorb from those that have done and are already doing it.

The profile of Gemma here really shows why I have such an interest in this area of the arts. What she does day to day really appeals to me along with the travelling around the country as this is something I have become accustomed to. Communicating with a variety of people and ‘making something happen’ for the benefit of the community and those involved is something that to me seems not only a fun but a rewarding career.

Another profile I really like is relatively local to me seen as I spend half my time in London now working is a producer for street arts. As my arts debate section shows and my other hints I admire the often under-rated and under funded work done by circus and street arts companies. As such this profile of a job is another that would almost be my dream job.

What do you do?
Associate producer, Artichoke (outdoor creative event producers)

What was your very first role in theatre?
Assistant administrator, Emergency Exit Arts

What have you done in theatre?
Various freelance contracts including:
* Interim director of Stockton Space (The UK’s first centre for international street arts)
* Producer, Spiral Flight
* Company manager, Artichoke
* Project manager, Independent Street Arts Network
* Project manager, NVA / The Hidden Gardens
* Carnival coordinator, Deptford Festival

Have you got qualifications?
A philosophy and English literature degree and an MA (a second, higher-level degree) in cultural criticism

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I can’t remember. I’ve always been a bit rubbish at planning my future too far in advance!

What do you do all day?
Artichoke produces extraordinary performances and events, usually large-scale and often outdoors or in other unusual locations. Artichoke also runs a separate consultancy company. My job covers both sides of Artichoke’s work. The consultancy work usually involves research and report writing. For the events, my role can include working with artists to develop an idea, bringing together a team to deliver it, fundraising, budget management, logistics, marketing, and coordinating additional projects such as outreach and volunteering programmes.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The events themselves. I love the adrenalin of working a large-scale event–nothing beats escorting a 40-foot elephant through Piccadilly Circus. I enjoy seeing the reaction of the audience and I enjoy using my skills to enable artists to realise their vision.

And the worst?
The time it can take to get things done – it can be very frustrating! And unnecessary hoops to jump through.

What’s your dream job in theatre?
Pantomime dame…but of course I’m the wrong gender

Got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?
Freelancing is a really good way to get a very broad experience in a relatively short space of time. It can be daunting having to find work, but there is demand as many companies can only afford to take on a full team temporarily. After a year or so, if you’re good, the work will find you. Be diligent and care about your work and what it says about you. Also, care about the people you work with.

The work that Katy here produces is the sort of work I would like to get back out of London to young people across the country, especially those in rural areas such as where I live. I think the development of skills in this case has been brilliant. Coming from a background with a degree in English & philosophy I guess has given her a good basis for challenging the work and thoughts of others and the resultant positions she has taken in cultural development of society. Something which again I consider to be particularly relevant to me where I have literally today started a role in how young people can inform the cultural development of the 2012 olympics, and pushing this kind of project on by firstly establishing the aims of the huge numbers of networks that are in existence already to find how we are best placed to concentrate efforts for engaging young people. The consultancy side is further relevant to me as during my artsaward time I have increased what I do in terms of consultancy in the engagement of young people through both the ACE (Arts Council England) and the NCB (National Children’s Bureau). The organisations that seemed to have supported Katy through this process do not seem to include any single body, but more as a local sector in street arts where it seems she established a name for herself and managed to find her own way through. This is in contrast with the first profile I have highlighted where she seems to have been able to use Arts Council England support during her earlier days and they are notorious it seems for keeping people involved in arts careers (as I have seen with a few others in the industry. With NAYT also being a good organisation for promoting arts careers).

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The other way I have got to know about how people got into the arts to where they are now is that during my ArtsAward experience I have sent out a small questionnaire to a few practitioners I thought would be relevant. The responses have then aided me in exploring how my work relates to them, and as I have grown even more lately I have been able to see this in action by working alongside some of these as a colleague too. The responders’ have included;

  • A youth arts company director
  • A dance company director and arts facilitator
  • A venue assistant manager
  • A national project co-ordinator (arts strategy at the ACE)
  • A national Arts Youth Council Co-Ordinator

All these have had a variety of experiences and there current roles are intriguing to me, the best thing I have found that their combined age is refreshingly young for such positions in the arts.

Their full questionnaires are on the appendices disk, but the bits I am pulling out to explore how they affect my artistic development are the areas I find are more interesting.

I will start with the youth arts company director, Abdul Shayek who runs Youth Of Creative Arts (www.youthofcreativearts.co.uk).

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His response to the question ‘How do you find working in the arts industry?’ was ‘Very pleasing as it is within the industry I wanted. It is however very hard and at times tedious.’ And then looking at the question ‘What sort of training did you undertake?’ where he answered ‘I was part of Theatre Royal youth theatre and also National youth theatre. All else was learnt on the job.’ I find this really interesting knowing where he now is, he came from a background where he worked hard to get through the youth arts system and is still finding the sector to be ‘very hard’ and ‘tedious’. I can relate particularly to Abdul as I think his comments are very true, whilst I don’t have so much experience as he does, I too find the sector to be ‘tedious’ in that there are some people championing youth arts and others that seem to want to restrict it. I consider myself to be in a similar position where I want to get further involved in the arts coming from a youth theatre background but not so much as an actor but in the production and strategic side, and engagement area just as he is in. As such his particular relationship to my practice is in the area of trying to develop youth arts but facing an uphill struggle. I had met Abdul through YPPT residential events as he was a support worker.

I am secondly going to pick out the responses from the Theatre Arts Strategy Officer Sarah Lovell, who is the Co-ordinator for YPPT. Sarah came from a background in visual arts and only ‘discovered’ arts when she was 17 at a youth theatre. But since then she has gone on to study and work in the arts with her answer to the question ‘What sort of jobs have you had and where have you been with the arts?’ being:

  • Assistant Director / Staff supervisor Glenda Jackson Theatre
  • Freelance drama practitioner (Contact Theatre, Action Transport Theatre etc)
  • Lecturer (FE college and HE – LIPA, Chester College, JMU etc)
  • Regional Development Co-ordinator National Association of Youth Theatres (NW)
  • Festival and events Producer and other events management
  • Arts Council Officer

This to me is very relevant as I would love to get into more of the sort of work she does with the Arts Council and that she has as a producer and working with the NAYT. This is why I have found talking to Sarah such an insight into the arts, much more than can be written in any questionnaire, the personal experiences she can recount and discuss really shows me how great the arts sector can be. Having said this however she does also highlight some home truths in the questionnaire about the arts sector. In response to ‘How do you find working in the arts industry?’ she cites ‘Long hours, low pay, over reliance on ‘goodwill’ of workers. Without voluntary and sessional workers a lot of youth, participatory and community work would collapse. This should be rectified to give more status and value to the work that is being done in this area and which ultimately feeds the arts industry.’ Again I can really draw comparisons with Sarah from my taster experiences I have achieved through the ArtsAward in that the goodwill of workers can make or break a project. You really appreciate the work people put into an event, sometimes not paid at all, and other times paid so little I am surprised people can live off it. However the work such people do is vital to the arts, without those practitioners that are willing to share their skills and try and enhance the lives of the young people they come into contact with in the arts I believe that the arts sector would not be growing so quickly. For this reason I truly admire the work of a number of people including most youth theatre leaders, especially my arts adviser where I have seen first hand the stresses and strains placed on her when ultimately it is us as the young people in the project that are benefiting most.

 

Events

I have attended a huge amount of artistic events from shows, to project launches, to workshops, & festivals. Some programmes and info documents are outlined in the appendices and you will also find there my reviews on some shows that are more recent due to my launch of a blog on www.emrysgreen.co.uk which looks at a few things I do but does feature a number of artistic events that I have reviewed. By posting these reviews so readily on the internet it has allowed me to share what I think of events in a public domain and allows for comment from other if they so wish. My events of note that I will talk about are; YPPT National Youth Council residential’s, the Big Youth Theatre Festival, & the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds’ Lisa’s Sex Strike. I am picking these out as key events for reasons I will portray in my brief description of them.

YPPT National Youth Council Residentials – These are often 3 day events that consist of workshops, group work and shows. Whilst I have attended numerous ones through my artsaward time my favourite one of note would be the Nottingham based residential, although the London based one the week after the moderation should also be very interesting. This residential was good for me as it allowed me to portray the skills I had learnt during my artsaward experience in that I not only performed my staff (a new thing I have been developing in thanks to the experiences and opportunities I have got involved in, despite not being what I originally set off to do) but as a facilitator and arts manager. In a facilitation aspect I led a workshop that had been slightly adapted from the one I led 2 months prior for almost 2 hours. The evidence of this is on the timetable in the YPPT folder of the appendices disk entitled ‘Residential4 Schedule Draft4.doc’. I also led a session on the filming for which I became the communication (young peoples engagement) co-ordinator and as such used this session to train young people in what the plans were, and obtain their views on how the project was undertaken, and who with. This furthered my arts facilitation and leadership skills whilst allowing me to learn more about the young people who were involved in the arts and who inspires them to the arts. The 2 hour workshop also allowed me to learn how young people got into the arts and why as well as who inspires them, and this was explored through a creative process. This process is indicated in the appendices disk as ‘BYTF workshop notes.doc’ in the YPPT folder.

So, BYTF itself. BYTF is the Big Youth Theatre Festival, ran by the National Association of Youth Theatres. I attended the event with YPPT as one of 4 young people to assess the event and its provision, to look at what it was like, what good practice there was, and what could be improved. However we were also there to deliver 2 workshops about how people got into theatre and what people would want out of the international conference. The first workshop had a low number of attendees and ended up being a bit more of a talkshop workshop but proved useful nonetheless to gain more insight into the arts sector itself. The second workshop was much better with a number of attendees and I was able to learn yet more about co-facilitation with peers and of course get out of it again what young people would like from an international conference and why more young people should get into the arts. The festival was a 4 day event where I also attended a number of shows and workshops myself to learn more about other art forms and experience a range of artistic styles. I especially liked the Saturday of the event where I attended a circus theatre workshop where along with trapeze and tight-rope walking I tried the staff. Later in the workshop the circus owner / ringmaster invited me to add fire to the staff and then asked me to later perform in their circus show that evening. In front of hundreds of people in the big top I performed a piece that I choreographed between the workshop and the show and I actually loved every second of it. The opportunity to go to the festival was one not to miss and I’m glad I did snap it up, as seen by my application form in the appendices disk. Pictures from BYTF are also on the disk, whilst the programme is in the appendices folders.

And lastly, Lisa’s Sex Strike at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds on the 12/10/07. I found this to be an exciting show that really used the origins of greek tragedy very well. I put out a review of the show itself on my website for all to see, but I had also been there to assess the theatre and this assessment can be found in the appendices again. I learnt from this visit that even traditional theatre can be very enjoyable and whilst I look a lot at increasing the newer styles of theatre I found that it was important to remember the straight dramas had a superb effect on the audience, especially when combined with comedy and great technical effects that really set the atmosphere.

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