Thursday, 29 March 2012


Convener: Vicky Graham

Participants: not noted, but included: Sarah Dickenson, Rebecca Manson-Jones, Rebecca Atkinson-Lord, Dan Baker, Rajni Shah, Holly Roughan, Marie Solene, Stella Duffy, Lynn Cordy, Lizzie Crarer, Bethany Pitts, Sue Emmas, Lyn Gardner

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:
Following on from the formation of new theatre company Agent 160, its first tour, and Lyn Gardner’s Guardian article on sexism in theatre this week, we asked:
-       Are there women on top?
-       How do we ensure that the astonishing young women in theatre today are still there in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time?

-       Sphinx has data on this, available on their website. They’re hosting a conference at West Yorkshire Playhouse on March 2nd.
-       Stella Duffy commented that although it has been decades since she started out, with confidence that the climate would change, very little has
-       Women are still referred to as a minority.
-       Opinions divided as to whether women are in fact on top
-       Drama schools have been known to admit majority men according to jobs available, not reflecting 52% female population and talent
-       There are more male roles on screen
-       Scandinavian culture has created more female-led successes (e.g. Borgen, The Killing)
-       Motherhood and childcare requirements make careers difficult to sustain – the industry doesn’t allow for these
-       As creative people, we should be creative and change our working models, e.g. welcoming children into the rehearsal space. The fear is that the industry will default to easier working models – ie. men in charge
-       It’s difficult to square the circle between being a parent and being an artist, but as artists we should come up with creative solutions and “be the change we want to see”.
-       Many examples of excellent female role models and leaders, including Vicky Featherstone, Erica Whyman
-       Feeling was that organisations (especially mainstream) aren’t producing enough female work, e.g. Donmar, Hampstead, Bush seasons have little / no work by women
-       Should it be the duty of women on top to ensure opportunities for next generation of women?
-       Women should be able to be artists in their own write, not just “female artists”
-       It was noted that 10 minutes in to the session, there was only one man present
-       Sisters have to do it for themselves!
-       A call to make conscious decisions in programming – a lot of the problems are down to unconscious choices
-       Female writers aren’t part of the canon
-       We need to see more female writers on syllabus and in schools
-       Growing up, women’s work is equated with a feminist political agenda. What if you don’t want to be political? Will this change for the next generation?
-       Why do people want 30% participation for women, and not 52%?
-       Some organisations operate blind script reading policies – see Lyn Gardner’s article and Bruntwood prize
-       Implications of gendered language discussed. We don’t say “he’s a male director” or a “career man”. Why do we / should we say that for women?
-       Concern about the lack of continuity and support for women’s second and third plays
-       We didn’t have feminism – we jumped straight into post-feminism
-       “This isn’t just about the arts, we need to change the whole fucking thing!”
-       Anecdotes about the aspirations of a group of young producers: all men wanted to be Nick Starr, the women just wanted a job
-       We need to work on women’s lack of a sense of entitlement and audacity, which is endemic in society
-       We all have to be the change we want to see, and do it from our own position, e.g. programming women’s work, only mentoring women and making conscious choices every time
-       The importance of women looking after other women
-       At one drama school, of 10 directing students, there’s only 1 woman. The boys are confident, where as the 1 woman isn’t able to say she’s a director yet
-       In Canada, positive discrimination in education pushed so far that boys underperformed in schools. There’s now a counter drive to address that.
-       Do women help other women enough? Some are territorial, which is endorsed by society.
-       Should a female artistic director programme work by women even if it’s not as good as the male work? The question should actually be “what can we do to ensure that women’s work is as good?”
-       We have to talk about a different kind of leadership, and different types of success
-       85% of audiences outside of London are women, who want work with a strong message
-       It’s important to have sell-able plays, and some think women’s work is harder to sell
-       There’s a tension between programming what people want and educating their taste
-       There’s an idea that work about women is only for women – e.g. if a woman writes a family story it’s a “domestic drama”, whereas if Mike Leigh writes it, it’s “universal”
-       Value and sell-ability: does our society value fun enough? It doesn’t all have to be political. It can be Mamma Mia – all women: producer, writer, director
-       We shouldn’t apologise when work is being made about women, for women. It’s not a dirty word / concept.
-       Why aren’t men involved in the feminist debate?

-       Blind submission policies
-       Conscious choices about who we work with
-       Being conscious of our working styles and practices, shifting them if necessary to accommodate different needs
-       Diversity in panels / people evaluating work
-       It’s everyone’s responsibility to back women – men’s as well as women’s
-       Being sensitive to everyone in the conversation, but still getting the work done
-       Evolving our working models
-       Celebrating really great work by women and their achievements
-       Starting young and starting messaging with tiny tots
-       Being aware that we need to support women at different stages of their career - not just at the start
-       Not being afraid to challenge stereotyped gender roles in popular culture. E.g. panto
-       Compulsory female mentors for all senior men in theatre
-       Compulsory male mentors for women in theatre
-       Ensuring feminism is NOT a dirty word
-       Next time we choose a play to see, choose something made by women

Women and money:
-       In publishing, men are paid more
-       Nationally, women earn 10% less than men in equivalent roles
-       Women don’t ask
-       Need for consciousness-raising groups so that women know what they’re worth

Positive examples of all-female plays
-       House of Bernard Alba and Playhouse Creatures
-       Tim Crouch’s Taming of the Shrew

Conversations to be continued:
-       Gatekeepers: why do they make the decisions they make?
-       Female narratives and role models when working with young people
This message added at the end of the report:
Email me via Improbable and I’ll make it :)
(lets do it out of London too!!)
Stella x

Thursday, 8 March 2012


This is a list of all the reports written so far, you can see a list of issues called but not yet reported here.

How can we trust art organisations wanting to support independent artists/ inventors?

Convenor: Li-E Chen

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

I initially raised this question at the State of The Arts conference 2012 in Manchester few weeks ago. I posted this issue again at the DandD7 as the question hadn’t been properly discussed and I hoped that there were people at DandD7 who could suggest what and how “Trust” could be created and developed between independent artists and arts organisations.

Organisations can support independence within the arts and the production of radical and challenging work. I feel many organisations work too ‘safely’ and often support the same artists. Is this because it is easier for them to work and follow the same pattern of programming and producing?

Artists need full creative freedom, without the limits of expectation and space.
Unfortunately many organisation seem to be results driven and focused on production. This is detrimental to artists work where focus is on the process. There is a notion that if a work is not finished or incomplete it has failed. This is because organisations still caught up in the commodification of art and deem it necessary to show an end product in order to justify money spent or place value on the artist and their work.

Risk taking between artists and organisations:

I think ‘great art’ comes with work that is ‘incomplete’ leaving an openness to it. When work is complete it has already died and become merely a product, no longer art.
The highly rigid structure of many organisations programming and commissioning can in turn disconnect audiences.

In the discussion meeting at the State of Arts conference 2012, , Producers and arts organisations were concerned that artists couldn’t deliver or complete their works. I think they should not under-estimate independent artists’ abilities, even though they may not speak out. I hope the trust can be repaired through conversations. Producers must be prepared to take the same risks as artists in order to achieve greatness within the arts. I wonder which art organisations and producers are willing to take the same risks as the artists do?


“Dream of Trust”

I wonder if organisations can establish their own independent spaces where any artists/individuals regardless of their practice or project, are free to work together. This would be a space for building trust, love, and a better society to live in. Artists could thus be more independent and use these spaces for experimentation, development and have time to understand the work they are producing.

“Achieving great arts for everyone” is not only the responsibility of the arts organisations, it is the artists also who need to take responsibility.  Artists can’t produce ground braking work without the support of time and space; not just time and space, but a supportive environment where cross-generational artists are encouraged to take risks.

Young Vic is an example of an organisation I think successfully addresses this via their young directors programme - this allows individual and independent directors/artists (any ages and backgrounds) to develop exceptional new works. The support that the programme is delivering is focused on directors’ on-going professional development, as well as giving on-going opportunities.

Improbable’s D and D is a great example of an open platform that is given opportunities for artists, arts professionals, and audience to engage in an open dialogue in an on-going process.  It alleviates isolation and allows for genuine and progressive collaboration and dialogue.

I think this is something ]performance s p a c e [  also attempts to do through the provision of space and events it curates - an independent space where artists can develop any kind of works without limit to any artistic practice. However, I wish there are more spaces like this, rather than only a space created by artists.

My dreams of Sadlers Wells, Tate Modern, Royal Opera House, National Theatre, South Bank Centre, and all the arts organisations.... I wish they will have their own independent spaces which are run as an Open Space and open for everyone like Improbable’s D and D monthly. I attended Improbable’s D and D for most of every month since 2009, because this is the only space where is open to everyone. I wish there are more spaces like this within all the arts organizations where any individuals can be part of it. It is really important to recognize the value of this that can change the society and create a better place for people to live in and give opportunities to create greater arts in the future.
I can understand it is really hard for organizations to understand the value of it, therefore, I have created one and want to demonstrate that it is essential to have a public space within each art form where new forms could emerge in this open environment.

Action to take:
Send report out
Tell people about it and create dialogues with arts organization
I dream about this dream imagining that I am one of the art and cultural leaders who want to create great arts for everyone and dream for a better society to live in every day life.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Living off your art

Convener: George Mann
Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:
Following the session "How can artists run good businesses that earn them a living and are sustainable?" held on the 25 February 2012 I changed the name of this follow up ‘action’ session to the above.

Core Issues?

I began the session asking to identify the ‘core issues’ that make it difficult for artists to run successful businesses and make a living in order to get the ball rolling, they were deemed to be:

1.     State of Mind

-Young professionals finding it hard to ask to be paid and finding themselves in cycle of unpaid work that’s difficult to escape –like attracting like…  they feel unprepared when leaving education and that there’s no support. Doubt as to just how true this is, we collected more info about organisations, books, etc that offer help. See below…

-Business is a dirty word: it was felt that many find it difficult to accept that making a living off your art involves business, and prefer to think of it differently, some even to deny the fact –but we agreed it shouldn’t be like this.

-The myth of the poor artist and that this is the way it should be, a romanticised way of life (when in fact many professional artists in many professions are highly successful and comfortable financially or, quite frankly, rich).

The three ‘issues’ identified above are considered to be part of the problem facing artists and perhaps behind the statistic 50-75% of artists end up leaving the profession after five years because they cannot make a living.

2.     Education

-There are not many well-known organisations offering support to artists running self employed / company businesses providing training in business management, or access to different business models available. This point, it was argued, is not entirely true, there are many orgs out there, ITC for example, but perhaps we haven’t done the research to find out? Or perhaps they’re not well known enough.

-Uni’s and drama schools etc., can do more to prepare –educate – guide their students towards the information we’ve discussed and collected through these two sessions. Only one or two actually do this for their students.

-It was felt that although some know about business help –courses, training, info such as books, access to the help mentioned above requires money and although we recognise the above cannot be run/produced for ‘free’, we agreed that they were expensive, more so for students.

-Can the ACE help make this type of training affordable?

-Someone points out that if artists were trained to run businesses properly, efficiently, well, that this would help art thrive. Business can help art thrive, it needn’t be a dirty word or concept.

3.     Lack of protection for companies and artists from bad conduct.

-Theatre’s misbehaving, i.e. not adhering to contractual agreements on marketing support, for example, letting down companies and artists…

-Artists and companies feel vulnerable to political consequences if they voice their concerns about misconduct they’ve experienced in their dealings with theatres –such as repeated bad practice of not putting up posters/flyers etc. For example, by voicing their concern, they may find themselves unable to book tour dates at said venue in the future…

-Artists, it was felt, should come together to support each other, so that concerns and reports of bad conduct can be aired and backed up by the community, this way theatres cannot so easily ‘misbehave’ knowing that there would be consequences, that other people would find out.

-Can ACE do anything to make sure theatres that they fund are doing a good job? We say this knowing that they’ve recently suffered massive cuts, so where these people would come from is anyone’s guess…

What Can We Do?

Talking is all very well, but really, what can we do, what difference can we make, how can we change the status quo?

We felt there were two ways of doing something about this:

1.     Communication

There is a severe lack of communication about how artists can run their businesses, be they self employed, or wanting to establish a company, and if this was improved then artists would know what is out there, and how to find it –as there is stuff out there, even if it’s not ideal…

2.     Promote learning/education

…About how artists entering the industry can run their businesses, successfully. This involves uni’s, drama schools, the ACE, ITC –they could all do more, work together, to help make the arts thrive through good business management.

How can we encourage drama schools/uni’s to make sure they properly prepare their students before leaving their institutions, to lessen the shock of the ‘real world’ to provide access to and guidance about making a living off your art?

The two, communication and promote learning/education kind of sit together, and practically we felt the next steps could be:

There needs to be a site or page, perhaps on the new D&D website (?), that becomes well known, a place artists know about and direct other artists who are starting up or who need business guidance.

A forum?
Perhaps on the abovementioned site/page to ask questions openly to a membership (free) and community of artists who can reply, like a notice board.

Create a D&D Satellite
To raise this issue with people in the arts who have influence and can actually bring about change, high profile critics such as Lyn Gardner, ACE representatives, MPs in the cultural department, Business school reps, ITC reps, Equity reps, BECTU reps, drama schools/uni reps with and without business prep courses, life coaches, Princes Trust, Venues and Theatres and Festivals, etc. Put these issues to them and see what could be done practically, make them give a s**t about it, see it’s importance.

Partner ITC with ACE?
Encourage a dialogue and partnership between organisations such as the ACE and ITC who could make training courses of this nature more affordable and available to artists who need it, be they start-ups or well established artists needing a helping hand.

Who will do this?

I acknowledged along with many others that I don’t have the time nor money to really take on the above tasks, but that there are people out there, the influential people we mention above, who could include these tasks as part of their job description and could be better placed to make a difference.

So we have concluded that what is most important at this stage is:

Organising a satellite D&D to get the right people together, and

Getting this info, which in itself is helpful and a good start up on the D&D website –a place, a forum, a community that exists already and continues to grow.

The right people need to do this

Tips, advice, organisations, & comments that came out of the above discussion:

Helpful Organisations Online:

Creative choices: help with developing your career in the arts, fantastic stuff to help you here…

Free Cycle can help you acquire set, props and costume for free: a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.

CIDA: If you’re a creative individual, business or arts organisation looking for support to take your creative business or project further, you’ll find it here, whatever stage you’re at.

Heads for Business: To bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business.

PANDA ARTS: PANDA’s mission is to proactively support a vibrant enterprise culture by nurturing talent, creating connections and providing an authoritative voice for the performing arts sector. PANDA supports 
Anyone working, or aspiring to work, within the performing arts sector within the NW and neighbouring regions.

Helpful Books:
Screw Work Let’s Play – John Williams (not Spielberg favorite composer)
Sales on a beer mat – Mike Southon
So you wana be a theatre producer – James Seabright

From Tanja Raaste:

I attach the info on the course I'm running at Blue Elephant through 2012. Thank you for putting up the info onto your new blog.  Do send me the link when it's up, and I'll feature it on my resources page (which is still under construction:  click here )

Another resource you might want to put a link to is my newsletter (see links below my signature below) - the newsletter mainly deals with arts business issues – you can have a flick through the past issues (link below).

Kind regards,


Tanja Raaste
07980 619 165

Business Skills for Artists – new course at the Blue Elephant Theatre.  Details here.

Sign up to the monthly Nordic Nomad Newsletter here.  For past issues - click here.

-Actors agents, although work for some, also help distance actors/artists from the reality of business and of money, this can lead to difficult situations, feelings of powerlessness and in rare cases corruption. It’s good that actors know this is not the only route…

-Artists can apply for working tax credit, did you know this?

-Perhaps the current trend of arts businesses being charities and not-for-profit orgs puts pressure on others to follow suit when in fact their business model does not suit this? Again, is it wrong to make a profit? Is it wrong to want to make a living, buy a house one day, be comfortable as an artist…? This probably adds to the perception of the poor artists myth, and the moral stance some take in believing that business is a dirty word in the arts.

-Business is a creative ‘thing’, it can be exciting to run your own arts business

-Business and art engage two different parts of the brain, which is a challenge but also helps us separate and not mix the two where they shouldn’t be mixed.

-There’s an inherent violence and difficulty in the arts, it’s not easy, it is hard work, and no amount of education and guidance will change this fact.

-EVERYTHING is negotiable, no doesn’t always mean no

-Can ACE do things with Uni’s and Drama Schools AND ITC, pairing, arts management courses in conjunction with…?

-NPO’s are not obliged but they are encouraged to mentor and help other artists with their own businesses/companies

-Can someone create a list of willing venues who would help artists, mentor them?

Another useful resource:

26 March: Starting a Performing Arts Company
Former Director of ITC, Mary Loughran leads this fascinating and exciting one day course, providing an overview of the essential skills required for setting up and running a performing arts company.
10am - 5pm at the Albany. 

For more info you can check the ITC website: