Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bushwhacked...

Well, that didn't take very long! Since I haven't been shortlisted, I can now share with you that I applied for Artistic Director of The Bush.

I know, it was a bit of a long shot, to say the least. What prompted me, and I don't think I'm betraying any confidences in saying this, was a message circulated via the Writer's Guild that The Bush had approached them to let them know that they would be open to receiving applications from playwrights. This seemed like an interesting and important development, so I thought I may as well take them up on it.

It was fun. I spent a weekend writing what was essentially my manifesto for theatre - any theatre, really (though I think The Bush is uniquely placed to take on many of my suggestions.) I thought: at least I can bung it on my blog if it doesn't get anywhere. And it didn't. So that is what I'm doing. I can only assume that its lack of success was down to a far more senior playwright than me having applied, which is quite an exciting thought. (It can't be that it wasn't any good, obviously.)

You'll forgive me if I don't reproduce the application in full. Apart from anything else that would make it insanely long rather than just annoyingly long. But you don't want to read How I Meet The Person Spec - that's just me blathering on about how great I am, and you know that already.

No, the real reason I reproduce this here is not self-aggrandisement. (Honestly - how can it be? I didn't even get through the first round!) It's more to share some of my thinking about where theatre is at in this country, particularly in the aftermath of the cuts debate. It's also to put some suggestions out there for how we - all of us, but particularly those running theatres - might respond to the current climate, and indeed even use it as a creative opportunity. So there's a range of stuff to follow. You probably won't agree with all of it. But I hope that you will at least find it interesting, and let me know what you think.

And if you do run a theatre, or if you have been shortlisted for the Bush job, then I hope you might even take some of these ideas on board. They are by no means copyrighted, and I would be delighted to see some of them get out there and take on a life of their own.

I tried my best, but now it is over to you...

Bush Theatre – Artistic Director

Why I am applying

This post presents a unique opportunity to lead one of the country’s foremost new writing venues into its next phase. At a time of great upheaval to arts funding, and even existential challenges to the value of state subsidy at all, the move into the old Shepherd’s Bush Library, along with ACE’s decision to keep the company within its portfolio, is a decisive vote of confidence in the Bush Theatre, and an acknowledgment of its importance to the local community. This move is a chance for the new Artistic Director to prove just how right that vote of confidence was. To achieve this, I would institute an unparalleled programme of community engagement which will build on the Bush’s greatest strength – developing intimate plays about ordinary lives, and how they are shaped by the society around them.

I would seek to direct this specialism towards making the Bush and its writers an essential part of their local area, in a way in which theatres much more commonly were, historically. By investigating local people’s lives, involving them in our processes and nurturing their own creative skills, the Bush could lead the way in showing how subsidised new writing can illuminate a community’s understanding of itself. It makes sense for a playwright – the theatre artist with whom all stories start, whose raw material is life itself – to be the one to lead this. One of my main policies would be to involve a rolling team of working playwrights in the key decisions of the company.

This opportunity comes at a time when circumstances have aligned within my own career for the vacancy to present an irresistible chance to consolidate a number of strands of my work. Various passions have come to fruition over ten years as a freelance writer and project manager, and are now seeking a new phase of their own. These projects are what I would variously term ‘investigative playwriting’, ‘embedded playwriting’ and ‘research and performance’ – and I will discuss in more detail precisely what they involve a little later in the application.

Originally, these practices began as passions explored in my own work as a student on the Goldsmiths MA Playwriting programme ten years ago. They then found their initial form as ad hoc freelance community writing projects for companies such as Half Moon Young People’s Theatre, All Change Arts and Almeida Projects. As my career developed, and I gained the experience and reputation to take things to the next stage, they became institutionally supported – most notably by Mulberry School for Girls in east London, with whom I have a long association as their writer-in-residence. This specialism developed to the point where I am now regularly invited to run workshops and speak at conferences on how to go about accessing communities and creating drama with, for and about them. This sharing of expertise has perhaps found its fullest expression in the Writing for Specific Audiences module, which I have taught on the Goldsmiths MA Playwriting course for the past five years. Two years ago, I instigated a partnership between Goldsmiths and the RADA Foundation course in Acting – with whom moves are underway to offer playwrighting training to local teachers, and schools tours of the short plays written by Goldsmiths students as part of their course.

In 2011 things have evolved yet again with my appointment as Associate Artist at Tamasha. Here, I am running a pilot playwrights’ training programme in collaboration with Mulberry School, with a view to creating a hub for training playwrights in this work, so they can start up their own projects in other schools around London. I will talk more a bit later in this application about what my vision would be for this work if it was to be placed at the heart of a theatre company like the Bush. But suffice to say that the combination of the Bush’s infrastructure, reputation, expertise and reach – along with its move to the Library – presents a thrilling opportunity to instigate what I confidently predict could become the next big cultural movement within British playwriting.

I should add that the community and writer training side of my work has not been at the expense of my own writing. I enjoy a thriving parallel career of mainstream play commissions and productions for a diverse range of theatre companies both in the UK and abroad. But ‘parallel’ makes these two halves of my work sound separate, when in fact they long ago became inextricably linked. My investigations of the communities I work with keep me fully connected with the real world and offer unparalleled inspiration for new play ideas to take back to the theatre industry. Shakespeare was familiar with this – that playwrights are totally of this world. They are the voices of their age and communities, not isolated artists pontificating about the world from afar – a model which seems to have become an unfortunate side effect of the structure of much of the modern creative industries.

It is reconnecting with this real world inspiration which I would like to address with my leadership of the Bush. How, in a post arts-cuts world, and at a time when state investment of the arts has never been under such fierce attack, can playwrights reconnect with the communities they are supposedly writing for and about? How can writers be supported in investigating experiences beyond their own, and represent those experiences with authenticity, legitimacy and integrity? How, in turn, can the surrounding community’s creativity be encouraged by having a world-class theatre company on its doorstep? What, precisely, are the taxpaying public getting for their subsidy? In short, what is theatre’s function in a digital, globalised society – and how can we make it essential once again, to our collective sense of self and where we are all going?

The Bush Theatre is on the cusp of an opportunity to revolutionise British theatre, by leading by example.

My Vision for The Bush

A man walks into a Library holding a crumpled scrap of paper. He approaches the front desk, hesitantly. The Librarian looks up and smiles.
‘Hi. Welcome. How can I help?’
The man pauses, unsure of quite how to proceed. He unravels the paper, on which a few short sentences are scrawled in blue biro.
‘I … I brought this. I heard you were collecting them.’
The Librarian nods. ‘We are. Thank you.’
She opens a door behind her, leading into some sort of vault beyond. The man catches a glimpse of shelves upon shelves stretching away ahead. The soft clamour of a thousand whispers catches him unawares.
‘It that…?’
‘Yes. That’s the others. Yours is just the latest one.’
The man frowns, and takes in his surroundings once more. The municipal doors are at odds with the play posters, the Librarian’s issuing desk incongruous next to the box office.
‘Is this a library ... or a theatre ... or what?’
The Librarian smiles.
‘It’s all three.’


The Library is the key. Allowing theatre artists to run the Library for local people will be the motor. Putting a playwright in the driving seat will determine the direction. Because this will not be an ordinary Library. It will not just house books, plays, specialists, and knowledge. In fact it won't be just a lending Library at all. It will be a borrowing Library, and a producing Library. A place where theatre artists not only stock the stories of yesterday, but actively invite new submissions, borrowing anecdotes, experiences and fresh ideas from the community around them. But it won’t just be a warehouse; it will be a forge, in which new stories are smelted every day, and the end results professionally staged for all to see. It will become an interface between dramatists and their immediate surroundings in west London. It will work as a collaborative process in which Londoners, young and old, rich and poor, are encouraged to bring in the raw materials for the specialists in the Library to work their magic. Those who have an idea for a play can bring it to us. They will be able to choose whether they develop the idea themselves under our specialist tuition, or whether they gift it to our collection, for our writers – and writers of the future - to browse and to do with as they will.

Perhaps they can't yet see the whole play, but instead have just a fragment – a hunch that something within their experience might contribute to a tale. An unusual line of work, a strange anecdote, a local rumour, a family mystery, an urban myth, or perhaps simply a desire to see someone like themselves represented on stage. They can bring us these fragments too. We will rinse them, polish them, place them into our collection, play them off against other fragments, see how they interact, hold them in different lights and see how they shine. In this way we will build a catalogue of inspiration for our writers, little pieces of real lives donated by the community which our theatre serves – sorted, indexed and filed away by our staff. Submissions could come from across media platforms, via voicemails, texts, tweets, wall posts, uploaded photos, audioboos, as well, of course, as emails. Perhaps they could take three dimensions in the form of objects; heirlooms, lost property, donations of a loved one’s possessions so that they might live on. We would display these fragments periodically, in collections curated by resident artists. Details of the donors would remain attached to each idea and exhibit, so that further investigation can take place if a writer becomes inspired.

Writers must of course bring their own ideas – that is what they do best. There would be nothing prescriptive about our approach. Writers can continue to operate in the traditional way should they so wish. But we will encourage them to at least have a browse of our Library of Life, just to see what they might find. You never know where it might lead them…

This concept, of building up this Library, is at the heart of my vision. The description above is just one way in which it might operate. As well as inviting submissions, the Library will of course house an extensive collection of plays and books on theatre history – but also books on other subjects of use to playwrights; politics, philosophy, economics, sociology, cultural studies. The Bush at the Library would become the first theatre company to take responsibility for the political and cultural education of its youngest playwrights. It would become a thriving hub of ‘living’ research – cultivating meaningful links with the great minds and thinkers of our time, for our writers to access during their research. We would broker introductions to specialists of all kinds at the cutting edge of their field; professors, philosophers, scientists, new media. We would host regular TED-style talks in our auditorium for writers and the wider public to listen and debate together, focusing on innovative new ideas that might come to shape our world. The Bush Library would become a centre for learning about where our world is currently at, and where it could be going. This constant spirit of enquiry is what will shape and inform our play-making process. Writers will be encouraged to come to us with requests for areas of human life they are interested in investigating, and we will do everything we can to gain them access to those who have had experiences the writer has not. We will offer training in interview techniques, seminars on the different forms creative research can take, and masterclasses on ways to extract drama from real life.

This is not a recipe for David Hare-style linear naturalism, nor for verbatim or documentary theatre. Writers will be encouraged to consider theatrical form in all its myriad possibilities and, where there is interest, will be teamed up with artists of other disciplines – composers, animators, dancers, MCs, sculptors. We will foster a spirit of blue skies collaboration, emphasising artistic ingenuity and formal originality in responding to the real world inspiration underpinning the plays in development.

Under my leadership, the Bush would dramatically expand its existing community programme, sending writers into local schools for medium to long term residencies. The company would form links with schools experienced in hosting artists-in-residence such as Mulberry, Thomas Tallis and Islington Arts and Media School, in order to offer supported training to playwrights looking to learn those skills. During their residencies, writers will not only research their own interests, but will teach playwrighting to both students and staff. The Bush Library will host regular short play festivals of the best of this new work.

But we wouldn’t stop at schools. The Bush at the Library will cultivate a wide network of relationships with local organisations who would like to host a playwright, and approach new organisations where a writer’s interests do not coincide with venues we have on our books. Writers will be encouraged to take up supported residencies wherever their interests take them - bookmakers, police stations, care homes, factories, restaurants, shopping centres, garages, timber yards, racecourses, private members’ clubs. They will investigate the hidden locations, characters and stories of London and bring their findings back to the Bush in their ideas for their main stage work. All organisations generous enough to host a writer will be repaid with the offer of a free Introduction to Playwriting course for interested members of their staff, and complimentary tickets for a staff outing to a Bush production. The best of the plays their staff write will be brought back to the Bush and presented in seasons of readings of short plays by local people.

No longer will our professional writers be told to ‘write what you know’. On the contrary, should they wish to they will be actively supported in writing what they don’t know – and guided and assisted in doing so with legitimacy and integrity. We will encourage this by paying more for plays which are more ambitious and which will take a longer time than the average to research and to write. On top of this commission fee, we will also pay writers an hourly rate for the teaching and community work they undertake as part of their ‘indirect’ research, for example as part of a residency. In this way we will equip our writers with proven experience and transferable skills, to help them make a living between commissions, or to take out to other theatres or on new projects they start up themselves.

The plays chosen for production would continue to build on what the Bush does best – from overtly political plays like Stovepipe, Little Platoons, or The Contingency Plan, to dark visions like Stitching or Bites, to more contemplative yet no less devastating personal stories like Artefacts, Adrenalin…Heart or Age of Consent. The common thread would be plays which aspire to make an original contribution to our understanding of what it means to be human and to live in the 21st century – either through taking up the baton of a national or international debate, or charting something tender and true about the human heart in its modern context. The difference would be the range of methods I would seek to open up for playwrights to access, understand and create these originals visions. Working in isolation would no longer be the default mode for our writers – though of course would still be there as one option, among many.

Under my leadership, the Bush’s productions would seek to place theatre as an art form at the cutting edge of articulating and shaping our sense of ourselves, while acknowledging the times of unprecedented political protest, economic upheaval, international conflict and technological change in which we now live. Along with my team, I would seek to take full advantage of the nature of live performance as one of the few areas left where we still gather en masse to consider issues of collective importance. As part of this, I would continue to seek out and develop artists from communities from whom we hear too seldom in British theatre. The Bush Library will understand that, at their best, both theatres and libraries can be organs of democracy.

Our writers’ key resource will first and foremost be other writers. We will appoint a rolling panel of working playwrights who will select and develop the work of other writers in the Literary Department, rotating perhaps every six months to fit the pattern of their own writing commitments. Playwrights will be actively involved in programming decisions, and in appointing and appraising the Literary Manager. We will build on Bushgreen to cultivate and facilitate communication among a national network of playwrights at all stages of their careers, and broker mentoring relationships, advice sessions, or script reading for younger writers by older writers they admire.

We will instigate a policy of publishing on the theatre website the names and biographies of everyone involved in reading scripts for the Bush. Those who are new to reading for us will be given formal training from a more experienced reader in dramaturgy, writing script reports and in feeding back to writers one-to-one. There will be opportunities for new readers to sit in on these meetings and shadow more experienced staff. Where we have the writer’s permission, we will publish script reports on the website, perhaps attached to the scripts on Bushgreen on which they are reporting, thereby highlighting examples of good practice which the writer has found particularly helpful. We will build on the Bushgreen technology to create a tracking system for scripts, not dissimilar to parcel tracking websites where, by entering a reference number, a writer can see how far through the theatre’s system their script has progressed, and when they are likely to hear back.

We will put in place a formal appraisal system for writers the theatre has worked with, involving debriefs for produced writers, and feedback sessions for commissioned and seeded writers which are a genuinely two-way conversation, and attempt to fully understand a writer’s intention before attempting to articulate a response. Written feedback will be collated and regularly reviewed.

We will facilitate networks and social opportunities for writers to meet directors and other potential collaborators, such as designers. We will ensure that there are at least two writers on the theatre’s Board at any one time. We will strive to guarantee every commissioned writer a minimum of £10,000 per play. Then we will open a welcoming cafĂ© and bar open all day long in which we will encourage them to spend it. (They will get a 50% discount if they can show they are there to work on a play in one of our soundproofed booths.)

The Library will regularly host public masterclasses, Alan Ayckbourn-style – where well-known writers will speak publicly about their work, while actors perform key scenes from the writer’s best plays, interspersed with analysis, anecdote and observation from the writer him or herself. These will be open to the general public as well other theatre-makers. We will hold Paines Plough style ‘Later’ events, where writers read from their own work in an informal cabaret-style setting. We will offer free playwrighting classes to other theatre staff, from sound, to LX, to stage management, to directors, to front of house – so that our specialism becomes shared with all those collaborating with us. If writers express an interest in learning other aspects of stagecraft, such as directing or design, then we would endeavour to offer them training too, in a reciprocal sharing of skills.

We would make an open and expansive offer to west London’s young people, by founding youth theatres and young writer’s groups for different age levels, and encourage our professional writers and other theatre artists and technicians to engage with them. The youth theatres would be arranged as mini theatre companies themselves, with opportunities to learn technical theatre arts, stage management, administration and marketing, as well as acting and playwriting. Those ‘graduating’ from either of the senior youth groups will be seriously considered for professional parts or commissions on our main stage, if necessary in smaller parts alongside professional actors, while they learn their craft fully. We would support any of our young people in applying for formal training, and raise money for bursaries for them to do so.

Our Library would make contact with influential academics with an interest in studying theatre’s positive effects on communities. Those with whom I already have some relationship - such as Dr Tim Prentki, convenor of Theatre for Development at University of Winchester, Prof Helen Nicholson at Royal Holloway and author of Theatre and Education, and Amanda Stuart-Fisher, senior lecturer in Applied Drama at Central School of Speech and Drama – would naturally be a first port of call, but we need not restrict ourselves to them. We would host and support these academics in applying for research funds to conduct formal studies of the work the Bush is undertaking, and publicise and disseminate their findings as part of a growing body of evidence to make the case for the positive social, economic and personal impact of a theatre’s direct involvement with its communities.

But it wouldn’t all be about plays and playwrighting. The theatre’s Executive Director, General Manager and Accountant will be encouraged to undertake public presentations explaining theatre economics, where public subsidy goes, how it interacts with other income, and the reasons for key spending decisions. These talks will explain the front-loaded nature of the costs of theatre production, and the need for a theatre to be able to take risks. They will answer the public’s questions. This is not by any means designed to put these staff members on the spot, but to use their expertise to make a solid financial case for continued state investment in new writing – and to start to compile a body of evidence for use by the whole industry against its critics. We will publish these arguments for continued state subsidy on our website, hold copies in our Library, and encourage other theatres to submit their own examples to our collection. The collection will be publicised among and made available to politicians and local councillors sympathetic to our case, for use in debates and future spending negotiations.

Libraries have historically been at the cutting edge of new media; they were some of the first places to offer public internet access. Our Library will be no different, but we will extend this offer to explore new media in all its forms. Our Library will understand that new media no longer means sitting passively in front of a screen – we all now have geo-locative computers in our pockets, making the whole world a potential location for stories if used in the right way. It’s really exciting that the Bush already has a member of Non Zero One among their staff, and that this has led to a forthcoming co-production – we would encourage more links with these companies who use ‘subtlemobbing’ and other interactive forms of storytelling to make the world their stage.

We will encourage our writers and directors to investigate computer gaming as a source of immersive storytelling for a new generation. We will make links with renowned British video games manufacturers like Sensible Software, Eidos and Rockstar to explore new ways of developing stories together. They need us – their games look stunning but their scripts are often somewhat lacking. And theatre needs them – their immense popularity, commercial success and technical know-how dwarf anything we can offer. Ironically, both our sectors are often lumped together in discussions and figures relating to the ‘creative industries’. Yet we almost never talk to one another. The Bush Library would begin a conversation.

We will explore collaborations with performance companies like Coney and Hide&Seek, and make links with video artists like Simon Wilkinson, who has invented immersive worlds using goggle and headphone technology in which the user can still move about – the nearest thing yet to virtual reality. We will talk to directors like Ellie Jones, who seek to involve the audience as characters in the play, with their own tasks, objectives and moral choices. There is a whole generation now who are used to being the heroes in their own stories but theatre has yet to really engage with them. Our Library will find ways to do so.

We will also use new media to share our expertise with those cut off from us by distance, for example by uploading video recordings of the masterclasses described above. But we could also commission shorter, more self-contained video podcasts of writers demonstrating playwriting exercises they have devised, or talking more generally about their approach. These could be watched by beginner writers in other parts of the country, or abroad, or utilised by teachers as part of a creative writing class with their students. Free downloadable exercise sheets could accompany the podcasts, and those who have made use of them invited to submit the results. The best of these could perhaps be recorded separately and uploaded as postscripts next to the original films. A series of these films arranged in order, and looking at different aspects of playwriting - from Location, to Character, to Dialogue – could in principle make up an entire distance learning module which anyone with internet access could undertake, wherever they live.

We would also use new media to involve the public in the processes our playwrights undergo – for example by having the writer set up and ‘operate’ a Facebook account in the identity of a character from a play they are developing. Audiences would be invited to friend request the character, and then interact with their fictional lives through commenting on their status updates. The writer operating the character could try out storylines they are considering, writing in the character’s voice. They could even see if they could find a way to get people on the character’s Friends list to begin their own imagined stories involving the character. In this way audiences can take part in a writer’s process in a fun and accessible way, without imposing too much on the writer’s space and ideas. The writer would not be obliged to use any material suggested, but something interesting might come out of it for them, and if nothing else it would double up as a useful marketing tool for the play. In theory, if audience members get really involved they could even potentially come to feature, directly or indirectly, as characters in the play themselves…

In the spirit of a public institution, our Library will operate under the principle that the public are allowed to see every area of our operations. I would hold regular ‘open access’ days, where rehearsals, board meetings, set workshops, programming meetings, could all be visited. Obviously I would seek other staff members’ permission where appropriate, restrict numbers if necessary, manage movement within the building and/or operate a by-appointment system. But in principal nowhere would be off-limits. This is the public’s theatre as much as ours and we want them to see how it works.

As for my own writing, I would happily write plays for the Bush in the same way that a director would direct them. I have a couple of currently unattached ideas in development which could become Bush plays, though I would need a couple of months away from frontline duties to complete them. I could broker co-productions with any of the companies mentioned on my CV, either here or in the US. But I would not want my work to dominate any one season. A significant proportion of my work in recent years has been as a producer and facilitator of other writers, and I would seek to maintain that healthy balance.

During my travels in America, where I have had several productions, I have been struck by the different arrangements they have to the set-up of their theatres. An almost total lack of state funding has made them very entrepreneurial. There have been two immediate side effects to this.

The first, predominantly employed by larger companies, is to cultivate a huge list of loyal subscribers – season ticket holders who get a discount for buying a ticket to every show, all in one go. This commitment in advance stabilises the theatre’s finances for the entire year. One theatre I worked with in Portland, Oregon has 50,000 on their list. The result of this is that they have to put on eight-week runs of all their plays. This is because the first four weeks are entirely booked up with subscribers, so further weeks have to be added if the general public are to get a look-in. I can tell you, the royalties on a sold out eight-week run are astronomical! Perversely in this scenario, lack of state funding means playwrights earn a lot more money. So I would seek to put in place a subscriber system at the Bush, and to put on slightly longer runs to allow for this, and to try to earn writers more money.

But the second side effect of the American model more directly affects theatres of the Bush’s size, and that is that they are largely found in an outlying suburb, and often operate part-time. Most staff there are part-time and have other jobs to supplement their theatre work, particularly actors. Shows are usually only performed Thursdays to Saturdays, and most rehearsals start at 6pm and go on late into the night to allow people to fit in their day jobs. But – crucially – to get by, their day-to-day costs are funded largely by direct donations from their local community, over and above ticket receipts. They operate like local charities, and become good causes in local fundraising events.

The result is an extraordinary local feeling of ownership over the neighbourhood theatre. It really does become a feature of that suburb or district, a fondly-regarded and cherished local institution. These theatres have a relationship with their local audience quite unlike anything I have come across in the UK. Again, somewhat counter-intuitively, our system of state funding has the side effect of diluting the public’s relationship with their venues by putting several layers of bureaucracy between the tax take and the theatre’s public portion of their income.

Many of my proposals above are about trying to remedy that distancing effect, and reconnect people with the publicly-funded theatres in their city, over which they have the right to feel an ownership. In the first instance, I would like to acknowledge this with an inaugural season of free events – offered to the public as a Thank You for their continued support. I would like to publicly acknowledge the debt that subsidised theatre owes to its taxpayers, and to offer them something in return. The Thank You season. (Though I might do another few drafts of that name.) Part of this season would be a three-day conference in the new space, aimed at bringing together theatre-makers, community organisations, private firms, academics and all the stakeholders mentioned above. It would simultaneously launch the vision outlined in this manifesto, and invite local suggestions for how it might be improved – or even submissions for entirely new ways in which the Bush might engage with its public, in ways which we haven’t even thought of yet.

Clearly, there will necessarily be financial and logistical limits to the scope and depth of the programme we can roll out at any one time. In that sense at least, this manifesto is admittedly something of a wish list. It contains a wide range of ideas which could be explored to take the theatre to its next stage. I would be sure to proceed in a spirit of collaboration – bold collaboration, setting our sights high - but nevertheless taking advice from all members of the company, using their existing expertise to guide us in how best to achieve these goals. I would rather do some of it brilliantly, and build on this over time, than overstretch ourselves doing all of it superficially in my first year. But if given this opportunity I would absolutely commit to this for the long haul. I also recognise the immense success the Bush has had doing what it already does so well. Its mission to ‘discover, premiere and champion … singular voices that speak directly to life in the modern world’ would still remain at the heart of the company. My proposals would simply seek to help the company do this bigger, bolder and better – and to take their wider public with them every step of the way.

Finally, there is a bigger political agenda here. And that is to use directorship of the Bush to make playwrights and playwrighting essential to a society again. I desperately want to tackle the disgraceful negative stereotype given such widespread currency during the cuts debate - that we are all ‘corduroyed luvvies’, lazy artists taking state handouts and producing obscure, self-indulgent work while other taxpayers do the nine-to-five slog. If there is one thing that debate highlighted in no uncertain terms it was that theatre-makers have a serious image problem. As Artistic Director of the Bush I would do everything within my power to address this. Showcasing who we are, what we’re like and what we do would be a key part of this – ordinary citizens contributing tangibly and unpretentiously to a community’s well-being on numerous fronts. I would demonstrate in no uncertain terms just what publicly-funded playwrights can do for a society given the right institutional support.

I hope you will consider my application.

2 comments:

Ned said...

Hi Fin,

As someone running a company with an intrinsic and fundamental relationship with its local community, I just wanted to say that there is so much in your post that I admire and agree with.

The idea of local people really investing in and feeling that they have ownership of a theatre company/building should be fundamental to what we do. So much of the time the industry faces inward when it should be doing the opposite.

The only way we can make our work appealing and relevant to our local communities is by involving them in what we make. And that means putting that belief at the heart of an artistic policy, not tacking it on to the side of it.

That's where some of your ideas really resonate - I'd love to know that they could still be considered at the Bush even though they chose not to shortlist you.


Ned x
www.islingtoncommunitytheatre.com
@ictheatre

Fin said...

Hey Ned!

Long time no see, thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the manifesto - let's make it happen! Sounds like Islington Community Theatre is going from strength to strength, which is great. Well done you. We should have a drink and compare notes some time. The more like minds we can get together on this one, the better. Drop me a line.

Fin
finkennedy@yahoo.co.uk