How can we keep the arts & theatre open to people from all backgrounds?

Jen Thornton, 7 July 2012

We talked about different things to do with the arts being open - in terms of attending performances, becoming performers and working in the sector/industry.

Here are a few things we thought might help:
• Lots of promotion is online but this can exclude people who don't have a computer
• We could fund all of the arts more (possibly by ditching the defense budget!)
• Increase the proliferation of things like the
Night Out Scheme, which is run by the Arts Council of Wales to bring theatre to rural locations
• Theatre in Education vs Community projects - are there strengths in taking theatre into schools where a diverse group of people are already present, instead of hoping they'll come to a community event
• Theatre tickets on prescription?
• Distribute public funding/put onus on funded organisations to divert more to engagement and access than main strands
• Make the effort and care - arts arts organisations we need to actually want to involve people, not just say we do
... and two big things:

Be Patient

• Longevity is important
• Thinking about sport - 20 years ago Britain invested in grassroots sport and are now

reaping the benefits. We should do the same with the arts and be prepared to wait for the results
• El sistema is a good example of a long-term project which has taught young people to play instruments over time

• We could find a way to explain the ‘etiquette’ of attending an arts/theatre event, so people aren't worried about what will happen
• Alternatively we can change the etiquette (e.g.
why do people need to be quiet when the curtain opens?)
• Use more open language and provide the right information. Instead of writing copy and using theatre-y words, talking in our own voices can better share information about a project
• Make things relevant. If this means not programming Chekhov, fine, but if you're going to put on a Chekhov play, be able to explain WHY and what it offers for the people you'd like to come along
• Be prepared to expand and change our definition of art and theatre. E.g. can the arts council give money to rappers on a street in Caernarfon just like they would to an opera company? - this also informed by the idea that Mozart, Shakespeare et al were rebels in their time but 100s of years later we glorify them. Similarly no-one would have paid £1million for a Jackson Pollack in the 50s but now they're revered. Street art and rap could be like this in 50 years so we should accept all new forms and embrace them as art

Our final point was that perhaps we just need an entirely new set of definitions. Is ‘theatre’ now defunct completely as a term? Instead of ‘we’re making a theatre project' should we just be saying ‘We’re telling a story today' ‘we’d like to play a game' ‘come

and hear something’.

I'd personally love to seriously look at a new vernacular for theatre and arts, so let me know if you have any ideas!


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