Friends with Money

I’m writing this blog as I make my way to Manchester, where I’ll be rehearsing (or rather, finish making) The Best of Both World’s: A Busker’s Opera, which premieres at the end of next month at Camden People’s Theatre.

While it’s a lot of fun, making this show currently feels really raw. The tension it explores – the intangible values we hold vs. the state of our bank balance – is very real as I can probably state currently having under £100 to my name.

Now, I know that I’m definitely not in the worst situation around. I have a roof over my head, and I know I’ll be able to feed myself this evening. And until that £100 runs out, I also have no form of debt.

If you ignore my bank statement though, in many other aspects of my career (and indeed, my life), you could probably say that I’m doing alright… you might even go as far as saying that I’m relatively successful… (whatever that means…)

I also must acknowledge that I feel like a bit of a wally writing this. Once again, I’m not about to provide anyone with any answers, and it’s the second post in a row that I seem to be writing from a place of aaaargh…

Listening to Chris Goode’s podcast with Ridiculusmus last week, late at night, whilst walking home from the tube was both reassuring and terrifying… In my book, having been around for twenty years is a massive success in itself. Never mind having toured extensively, published books, and generally made what many would agree is a significant mark in the world of theatre-making… And yet, from what I gather, their bank accounts aren’t in a much better state than mine.

And that’s terrifying because if they haven’t cracked it in twenty years, how am I meant to make it to the end of the month?

And that’s reassuring because they’re still around. They’ve had good years as a regularly funded organisation (RFO) of Arts Council England, then a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) when it became a thing… They’d spent time building up to that, and it then enabled them to do a bunch of things they wouldn’t have been able to do without that support… and now… Now I guess they’re going to have to make a bunch of choices about what they can do moving forward…

There was no drama, in their conversation with Chris Goode. They stated what’s so, in what sounded to me like calm frustration… It was clear that while they have had some tough moments, they love what they do, and they are aware of the political pose they choose to strike up by doing the work they do…

I’m not as wise yet, and I’ll certainly be frantically waving spreadsheets around for the next few weeks… and one thing that I’m also clear on, is that emerging/early career makers have to be aware of the fine print when committing to being an artist.

A few years ago, in the aftermath of the “I’ll show you mine” campaign, I wrote of my frustration of the debate that opposes “the emerging” and “the established”. I think there’s a lot to be gained from the dialogue between both sides of the coin. (I didn’t even mean that money joke…, you’re welcome)

I couldn’t end this blog without mentioning the crowdfunding (or friend funding, as Stella Duffy puts it – and which is often a lot more honest) campaign we are currently running with Drunken Chorus’ development scheme Drunken Nights – of which Jon Haynes is a previous mentor – as it speaks to many aspects of this conversation.

What Drunken Nights does, is give artists some time to consider how they might make DIY, adaptable pieces devised to be put in front of an audience that wasn’t necessarily asking for it. And it gives them some time to be in conversation with an established maker (this year; Nic Green, Ursula Martinez, Third Angel).

I don’t know if the company would quite agree with me, but to me, Drunken Nights has always felt like some kind of DYI free university, where in playing together, many different people are slowly unfolding some very concrete, very responsive ways forward in terms of thinking about what both artists & audience development might look like when it’s done hand in hand…

So yes, here comes the ask.

If you’ve got anything going spare and you care, head there.

If times are tight, tweeting you might.

Any questions?

In focus

This year has already got off to an excellent start, in many ways. Our calendar is filled to the brim with excellent projects, the beginnings of new adventures and fruitful conversations with oodles of talented people.

If I look at the bare facts of what we are currently undertaking, there’s not an ounce of doubt that I love the work I get to do, and I am very aware of the privilege that comes with doing that work – and indeed, the lifestyle that comes with it.

Yet I can’t help but feel a distinct kind of pressure. It isn’t stress in the usual sense. Of course, there are a number of potentially stress inducing things lying ahead… Whether it is the opening of Weald at the Finborough, the imminent programme launch and looming marketing deadlines for Hear Me Roar, and setting things in motion for the beginning of a crowdfunding campaign for Drunken Nights… and all sorts of other things, small or big. But all these things are manageable, and enjoyable in their relative franticness.

The pressure that seems to be there for me seems to come from the constant tension between making things happen on the ground, and the awareness of the bigger picture of the world at large – and not knowing where to start.

Climate change

Brexit

The ‘migrant crisis’

The list goes on…

While I’ve always been relatively politically aware, I’m now grappling with a spooky sense that it’s all joined up. Reading Maddy Costa’s recent blog, this quote really stood out for me:

In her book Depression: A Public Feeling, Ann Cvetkovich argues that depression is “how capitalism feels”

In the past I’ve written about how as artists and creative practitioners, we still operate with language (here, for example), and within value systems that don’t belong to us but that are deeply rooted in a broader systematic logic that definitely doesn’t work for everyone.

I’m aware of it, and I’m aware of the contradiction that lies as I both point it out, and continue participating in it.

I won’t be able to be in Lancaster for the Festival of Questions, but by Jove am I full of them… I’m so full of them that it is actually quite difficult to be writing this morning… I’m so full of them I haven’t even yet found a way to express them. I’m lacking focus in my reflection – and thank you for reading, as I can’t be sure how much sense I’m making.

I guess this is something of a message in a bottle, a gentle distress signal to those who might feel the same, a longing for a community of people who tend to swap full stops for question marks?

I also guess that the real question is – how might we take time out to formulate questions, how might we embrace wondering while keeping ourselves afloat? My questioning isn’t very good at paying the bills these days… and once again, it all traces back to the dollar…

 

David Bowie Hunky Dory Album Cover

To begin with

Hello there,

and welcome.

To this blog, to Making Room, to 2016.

I’m imagining that you find yourself here because you already know a little bit about us. Maybe you follow Jake on Twitter, or you’ve been to one of my shows. Or maybe an algorithm took you here by surprise.

Whatever brings you here, welcome.

I won’t write much (if anything) about what we do, and what the little organisation behind this website is all about, as you’ll easily find that information by navigating the other pages. As we are at the beginning of our adventure, you won’t have to stray too far to find out more.

I might tell you though, that here, Jake and me will take it in turns to write to you every week. We might tell you about what we’re up to, what we’re enjoying reading or listening to. We might also write about the things we are struggling with, the questions we don’t have any answers for.

It’s a starting point, an invitation to respond, to connect.

Last night, thousands of people gathered in Brixton to celebrate the life and work – and mourn the death of – David Bowie. I could chip in with my story, my relationship to the Starman, how translating Little Bombardier in English class certainly has something to do with choosing to move to England – but I won’t.

It’s not particularly interesting, and there are dozens of gorgeous stories out there.

What am I saying? Hundreds, Thousands, Millions…

Time and again, a conversation that I have about the work that I do, the work that we do, is that it’s not of value, that people don’t care… and bring on the argument about arts funding would be put to better use in hospitals… (Ellie, thank you –  you’re taking one for the team at the moment, I trust it will be – it is – useful.)

And then this happens. And it speaks for itself, doesn’t it? It’s been on my mind for the last 36 hours anyway.

In other news, if you follow either of us on social media, you’ll know that we’re gearing up for Hear Me Roar and that Jake’s favourite train will be taking him up and down the West Coast Main Line as Snuff Box work on Weald (which opens next month at the Finborough, see our events page for more info). I’ll also be spending a fair amount of time on trains as I head back on tour for the last part of the month…

All this business means that there’s not much I’ll have time to enjoy in what’s going on elsewhere, though I am looking forward to going to the Tintin exhibition at Somerset House (London) (I’m a really really big fan), and finally discovering imitating the dog’s new show The Train  (Lancaster, then touring) which I got to hear a lot about before it was made.

I wish you all a very great week, and I hope you’ll enjoy following this blog as it develops. I’m still thinking through what function it might hold, and what it might look like, and I very much welcome your thoughts, suggestions, contributions.

Warm wishes,

Leo