How do local artists (& communities) benefit from the big boys parachuting into our cold spots? 

Convener(s): Kate Hall – Creative Peterborough

Participants: Jumped Up Theatre, BAC, Filskit x 3, Spare Tyre (Bonnie) and a few other lovely people


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

The conversation was framed as not being about knocking the big boys parachuting in, though those sentiments were expressed, but identifying the essential mechanisms for there to be some real, tangible benefits from the parachuting – how to make the best of this opportunity. 


  • - Get the fundamentals right by asking what local artists and local communities actually want / need – and decide NOTHING before this conversation had been had. 
  • - It (whatever that is) needs to stem from the place where it is coming to.
  • - This takes a long time and shouldn’t be rushed.  It probably should have started earlier.
  • - If the “big boy” has nothing to offer – they shouldn’t come.
  • - Bring in a skills / activity that is not present in that form (otherwise the local artists will want to know – “Why them and not us?”
  • - Make the activity meaningful and sustainable (3-5 years, not 3 weeks to 6 months)
  • - It has to an honest, transparent and respectful relationship between grown-ups who are equal and have repriocity (sp?)
  • - There may be indirect benefits, as well as direct BUT these must really be transferred over i.e. the local artists must be given access to the new audiences, local connections etc that the “blow-ins” create (i.e. sharing of contact lists, audience data etc etc.)
  • - The artists are local so they can give access to local communities – but the “payment” for this action must be real and useful – i.e. more than a coffee.
  • - If the “big boys” are sitting down to pick the brains of local artists they need to demonstrate that they really do value this contribution (and are not being all imperialist and just bleeding the local artists dry) by paying for the artist’s time / effort – cash is preferable, support-in-kind can be negotiated.
  • - There is a world of difference from programmed work and integrated work – the latter assumes you know your audiences (and have one.)
  • - Include the local artists of the future, so they can see a reason to remain.
  • - There is no point unless a meaningful legacy has been left – as a minimal it has to be to increase the capacity of the local artists (i.e. to produce, fund raise, network.)
  • - Are their companies who have been here before, contain artists who have a connections to the area? i.e. parachute in ones who share values or share something else with the local artists.
  • - If you can, use local artists to deliver what you are doing – or at least make 50% of those artists local.
  • - NEW IDEA ALERT: The visitors work (in new ways?) with the same resources as local artists have to (they walk in the local artists shoes) AND If they make a piece of work for that locality it should be a piece of work that they couldn’t have made anywhere else.
  • - NEW IDEA ALERT: BAC are providing a platform for artists – Newly Scratched, bringing in artists from the areas that they are touring to.  So local artist goes to “visit” the home of the “big boy” and is given a boost by being given a platform there.
  • - NEW IDEA ALERT: Bring in emerging artists, who are closer to the experience of local artists than the “big boys”, and who will also have benefit to gain themselves.  This will result in a more meaningful commitment.
  • - NEW IDEA ALERT: Bringing in emerging artists is riskier (than the safe pair of hands of the “big boys”) – utilise this.  Get them to do something risky that local artists have dreams of doing, but don’t know how or daren’t risk their reputation to do.  Let the emerging artist fight the fight, learn the lessons, knock down the obstacles (and all other clichés of arts development), with the local artists being an integral part of the process.  When the emerging artist leaves, a need had been created, and idea tested- and the local artist move into the vacuum –are able to pick it up where the visitor has left off.
  • - NEARLY NEW IDEA ALERT: For, in some way, the emerging artists to also be doing the same project elsewhere (simultaneously?), and thereby bring the lessons learnt elsewhere, to this residency.  (There are probably other ways of doing this – i.e. process be informed by an R&D ino similar projects elsewhere, and / or project includes a “live” research / evaluation process.


Examples of networks working in this way are: Creative Ecology Wiltshire (was Theatreworks), HOUSE (South East) and Theatre Bristol. 

Another example cited was the Olympics Regenerations of Stratford East and environs – is the activity meaningful?  Is it born from the community it is “transforming”?



  • - Pound the streets and talk to passers by (literally) Intensive street outreach.
  • - Talk to the agencies that have a relationship with the local communities you want to reach.
  • - Local artists are a community in their own right, and they are also part of the local community.  They should only be used as agents / brokers if you understand what they do and what their moral compass is. (values)
  • - This takes a long time and shouldn’t be rushed.  It probably should have been started earlier.
  • - If it can’t be long – make it intensive
  • - Ask questions like: Who is asking the questions? What are your access issues?  What shall we do together?
  • - If you are, just, shiny and sexy and get the pulse going – what is built in to build on this…
  • - Don’t chase numbers, chase quality EQUALS change that is effective, and therefore does reach numbers
  • - If you are using existing networks, which have been developed or offered by local artists etc, you are also being asked to safeguard the trust that they have built up.
  • - NEARLY NEW IDEA ALERT: Look how international aid works – it reaches the community it needs to reach by having a dialogue with local leaders / stakeholders / gatekeepers about what is needs.  And then allocating funding and resources appropriately, including handing them over, to be distributed locally.
  • - Matching product and place.  Do what suits the community you are trying to reach will respond to i.e. Project in Bristol where exhibits were created following visits to Asian family homes where their stories were captured.  Q: How to maintain engagement with this new audience for the gallery – did they go back?  Did this change their cultural habit?
  • - Have a long running, consistent drop-in programme running so that once communities are engaged, they have somewhere to go even when the circus leaves town.


The “big boys” pitch to the ARTISTS and COMMUNITIES  - and it is them who have the “nay” or “yeh” as to what happens (we will tell you what we want, what do you bring to our table…)

This consultation should be meaningful (refer to The Ladder of Participation) rather than tokenistic.

Note to self: Connected Culture….