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Tea with Making Room at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Making Room will be up at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with two shows this year. Amongst the flyering, the get in and gets out, we know that sometimes all you need is a cup of tea and a chat. We’d like to invite those at the Fringe to have Tea with Making Room.

Whether you’re looking for respite in the Fringe chaos, advice on producing, being an artist/company or touring work, Making Room is here for you. These informal chats can be booked in advance via our snazzy booking system (see below), all that we ask is you turn up and that you like tea or another hot beverage, (we’re not that obsessed with tea… honest!)

Across the Fringe, Making Room’s Co-Artistic Directors Leo and Jake will be available to meet you, offer advice or just have a conversation, whatever you need, we’re here for it. Consider it our way of giving back. Leo and Jake are both experienced producers and artists. They’ve toured work across the UK and further afield, worked with large and small organisations, regularly programme festivals, support artists and write a lot of funding applications. You can find out more about Leo on his website or Jake on his website.

Happy tea drinking.

Book a Slot:

Tea with Making Room will happen between 8-28 August, at various times throughout the day based on ours and your availability. If you’re keen to book a slot do so via the form below.

If you have a question drop Making Room’s Ambassador, Kirsten, an email here: kirsten[at]making-room.co.uk

Photo by Louis du Mont

Seeking Ambassador for Edinburgh Fringe

During this Summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe (5th – 29th August), Making Room are offering a professional development opportunity to an early-career creative producer/artist.

We would like to offer an individual an all inclusive bursary of £250 to shadow & support Making Room Artistic Directors Jake Orr & Leo Burtin for the duration of the festival and support their varied portfolio of activity in Edinburgh which includes:

  • Producing Bricking It by Joanna & Pat Griffin & BLUSH by Snuff Box Theatre at Underbelly
  • Engaging with artists and companies whose work may be suited to Incoming or Hear Me Roar Festival
  • Free advisory sessions to artists & companies participating in the Fringe from co-Directors
  • Actively engaging with relevant industry events such as Producers Gatherings etc.

What you will receive:

  • A £250 cash bursary, paid upon receipt of a valid invoice
  • A weekly mentoring/coaching session
  • A venue pass for Underbelly and other benefits associated with being a company member
  • Complimentary tickets to any shows or events you attend on behalf of Making Room

What will be expected of you:

  • To act as an ambassador for Making Room, its work and the artists it represents
  • To distribute publicity materials for our shows for at least one hour per day
  • To make the most of your mentoring sessions, be proactive in asking for advice, support and networking opportunities suited to your professional development aims

Who we are looking for:

  • You will be an early career theatre professional, graduate or student with a passion for the arts and a commitment to your own professional development
  • You are enthusiastic, self motivated and you recognise yourself in Making Room’s commitment to making a difference to society through art & culture and its values.
  • You already have plans to be based in Edinburgh 5th – 29th August

How to apply:

Please send a C.V. (2 pages max) and a short statement (300 words) outlining how you would benefit from this opportunity and what your professional ambitions are to hello@making-room.co.uk by 12Midnight Sunday 19th June.

Download a PDF version of this opportunity

Reflecting on the ‘Hear Me Roar’ Feminist Arts Festival Lancaster March 2016

A response to Hear Me Roar festival from Gerry Harris

Drama Queens Review

I am writing this post on ‘Hear Me Roar: Ages, Stages, Phases’ from a double perspective.

Through one lens I see it as someone who was part of the team involved in organising this feminist arts festival (with most of the hard work being undertaken by unflagging, (very) creative producer, Leo Burtin.)

Through the other I see it as a member of the audience who did not manage to attend all the workshops, film screenings, talks and the Queer Boots dance night- but who did attend many of these and all of the  performances, which are my focus in this review.

Looking through both lenses at the same time, it seems to me that this festival didn’t do too badly in terms of achieving the aims we set out. Yet as might have been predicted the five days journey through this event was far more surprising, more challenging (politically and…

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The Treadmill of Theatre-Making

I loathe the end of a project. Evaluation forms and statistics, stepping back and seeing what you achieved and what you may have missed. If I could I would skip the end of a project and bathe in the joy of the liveness. Long live the ever present project! Realistically that would be impossible, someone has to tie up the loose ends and reconcile a budget. More importantly though evaluation and taking stock of lessons learned can only make you stronger in the long run, even if the thought of having to write another Arts Council England report sends a shiver down my spine.

That’s the thing about working in theatre. You’re constantly living for the live moment and as quickly as that appears on the stage it soon vanishes into a memory. You can record theatre, stream it online or write about it in fine detail but nothing will really capture the moment like sitting in front of a stage in a live moment. Having just finished a four week run producing Snuff Box Theatre’s Weald at the Finborough Theatre I suddenly find myself back at my laptop staring into another funding application deadline. Over the course of those four weeks we had some 900 audience members see our work. Whether they loved it or loathed it, those 900 people experienced something in the theatre and now they are out there in the larger world slightly changed because of what they saw. Even if that change is so small they may not notice it themselves, or perhaps so large they can’t stop thinking about what we made. Either way, the audience have been, they’ve left now, and we’re back to being in front of our laptops, planning and plotting.

So how do we keep the momentum going? How do we keep those audiences engaged with our ideas and work when the next time they might see something of ours is several months down the line in a different city, in a different country? That’s the difficulty of being a company that has no physical home, no bricks or mortar. Of course having your own building comes with a whole host of issues but being able to have audiences return again and again, to feel part of the community that make up that building, even if they go sit in the foyer and not see a show; that’s the experience I’m wondering how we replicate.

There’s mailing lists and social media, that keeps people informed, but without an actual piece of theatre living in a space in which audiences can experience something, what do we have left? Our ideas, our desires, our god damn funding applications? (Can you tell I’m really bitter about having to write the one I’m doing at the moment?).

Then there’s the perpetual problem of always being one step ahead in your work. As one show opens you’re already onto the next, securing a venue, opening a crowd funder and hoping that you’ll get paid in the process. As a freelancer that ‘always chasing the next job’ suddenly becomes a reality when you sit and find yourself on the other side of a show and a few months of empty diary pages. When do we have a chance to really sit back and take stock of what we’ve achieved if we’re constantly chasing the next pot of money or next potential run of a show?

It is something I’ve been questioning a lot recently. The need for evaluation (yawn) is actually paramount to improving your work, as an individual or as a company. At Making Room we have Vision Days and Strategy Meetings, which sound far more sophisticated than what they actually are (cups of tea and scribbles) to ensure we have some sense of continued narrative and development. It helps that there are two of us who can question and challenge each other’s work on a weekly if not daily basis. Why this work, why this venue and why this funder? Its a skill that they don’t teach you at University or Drama School, the evaluation of the industry, yourself, your work and the audience. If anything, we, and I definitely include myself in this, often take leaps into the dark with theatre expecting an audience to follow suit without shining a light on the way.

All of this makes me question; how do we keep the momentum going in our work when so much is required to get that work on in the first place? How do we evaluate and see the merits of our work without succumbing straight to the next funding application? How do you get off the treadmill of theatre-making if only for the briefest of moments to take stock of everything you’ve done so far?


On a lighter note. Here are some things you should read / watch / see.

Hear Me Roar logo

Dear Man

Good morning,

For this week’s blog, as Hear Me Roar is the main thing on my mind at the moment, I thought I’d try something a little bit different, and share with you the letter I contributed to Becci Sharrock’s Letters to Myself project. I hope to see many of you in Lancaster 8th – 12th March!


 

Dear Man,

I realise that in starting my letter this way, you might think I am not addressing you directly.

You might think you’re still just a boy, or you might think I’m not all men… You might even wonder if this is addressed to you if you weren’t born in a male body.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you might be thinking… I am indeed addressing you. You, right there, reading this. Yes, you. Thank you for bearing with this.

For a long time, I wasn’t particularly aware of my gender. I was bobbing along being who I am, carrying with me all the bits of identity that have built up over the years. All at once, I was carrying my social background, the religion I was raised with, my heritage, my age, my sexuality, my education and no doubt, many other things. Being a man was just a tiny, inconsequent piece of a multifarious thing called who I am.

For the most part, who I am, was almost always all about me. Sure, it had some relationship to other people in my life; family, friends, lovers, colleagues… but my starting point was always myself. I couldn’t see how who I was had any bearing on anyone else, in the grand scheme of things. Never mind society, or the world.

And that was fine. It worked. I was bobbing along being who I am, carrying with me all the bits of identity that have built up over the years.

Chances are, this resonates with you. Chances are, you’re bobbing along too. Chances are you are or have been thinking I can’t help being who I am…

And that’s fine. It works.

I have an invitation for you. I’d like to invite you to consider that you can choose who you are. Are you willing to try that on? Great, thank you.

Every day, I choose who I am. In every waking moment, I choose who I am. Whatever the circumstances, I choose who I am.

This gives me the opportunity to choose that I am you, and you are me.

I am you, and you are me.

Remember, I mean you, really you, reading this.

This gives me the opportunity to choose that I am playfulness, love, contribution

This gives me the opportunity to choose that I am creativity, serenity, equality

In choosing this, I begin to notice where it is missing. I begin to notice where I am missing.

And I can take responsibility… Not like a prime minister or a president, not like a superhero or a god… Just with what’s there, what’s on hand, what’s possible…

Whichever kind of man you are, whatever categories you might fit in, whichever bits of identity you’re carrying with you… notice what’s possible, choose who you are and stand your ground.

Being a man – whichever kind of man – comes with an undeniable privilege.

Will you choose to keep it to yourself? If you would do me the favour of trusting me for a moment, I would promise you that it will grow when you share it…

Yours, truly.

Making a Commitment in Theatre Making

Normally with blog writing there is a burning question or point you want to make, but this week I find myself perplexed. I could talk about the new Arts Council portal for grants, or the What Next? group discussion on arts and climate change or maybe a talk with a friend about the need for universal access to theatre and then theres that nagging feeling that we’re not hitting the right diversity in the work we are presenting…and… and… Which is more important to write about? Which needs to be addressed and pull my focus the most?

When it comes to producing theatre there are always questions that are a constant. Most of the time they go unnoticed because to face them could potentially open up an avalanche of question marks and budget lines that just won’t add up. We at Making Room want to be the best producers we can be for the artists and venues we work with, but when it comes to choosing what draws our focus and what we need to be tackling sometimes it can just feel overwhelming. Climate change, funding, accessibility, diversity and that’s before we step into art for social change and education. Where do you begin with these sorts of questions when really all you want to be doing is all of them all the time because they are all just as important?

Leo and I founded Making Room with the statement of being a company that “boldly strives to make a positive change within society through culture”. During meetings we keep coming back to this statement and revising it. Not always in the words but in the meaning. What do we really mean through this commitment? How does it affect the artists we work with and the projects we undertake? Does a play about the pressures of young athletes and their well being have more weighting for us as a company compared to a play on male identity and rural farming? Which do we undertake as Making Room and which do we keep as freelancers? It feels good to question, but at the same time the more we interrogate our ideals of producing the more it throws open the larger questions of ‘how can we do more to make a difference?’

I want the theatre that I produce to be accessible, to reflect diversity and I want equality in genders of creative teams and everyone has to be paid a fair wage. Then I’m looking at a budget and I’ve got a choice, do I add a BSL performance or employ a graduate to learn about producing or remove all printed marketing and boost our digital output for environmental happiness. There is no right answer but when you’re a producer the decisions made when you first put together a budget has implications throughout the entire process. At what point do you make a commitment and how do you ensure that the commitment is seen throughout the process? Who holds us accountable as producers to that commitment?

These decisions can often feel overwhelming. You can have all the good intentions in the world for creating the most accessible production possible but there will always be something that can be improved upon or doesn’t quite meet the standard it should. During the Independent Theatre Council’s 40 year celebrations I attended a conference in which Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director of Graeae, responded to a question from a young practitioner, “how do we do all of this, thinking about equality and accessible and genders – how do we start?”. Her response has stuck with me and one I constantly come back to. Sealey commented that the first step was to “talk about it. Ensure in every meeting you have the conversation.” Allowing the conversation to begin will open up something within the process and planning, even if that discussion stays as a discussion for now. It has longer commitment if you continually question and ask how we can improve the work we make.

So I’ve just written 600 odd words about how much I want to be making the best theatre possible which doesn’t tick the boxes of diversity and accessibility but smashes them apart. Then I’m thinking “how?!” and I’m projecting a mental image of my producing partner Leo and I’m thinking, “Actually, it’ll be alright, we’re committed to those conversations and that is the first place to start”. Let’s not be overwhelmed by all the questions that get thrown at us as theatre-makers. Let’s question ourselves, our work and working practices but most importantly lets engage in that conversation first and foremost. As my friend noted yesterday, “make sure you ring-fence that accessibility line in your budget” and whilst he said it with a knowing wink he’s absolutely right. Some things can’t be outweighed by others on a budget, you’ve just got to ring-fence it and make that commitment.


Some Making Room plugs:

Some shows worth looking at:

  • I was balled over by Complicite’s The Encounter at the Barbican. It has smashed its way into my top 5 shows ever, so take a look.
  • Vaults Festival runs for a few more weeks and there is such a diverse lineup that you can’t really go wrong.

Photo by Spiva Arts via a Flickr Creative Commons Licence.

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.