Rachel Briscoe, 26 January 2014

Convened by Rachel Briscoe. Attended by many brilliant people including Abby

Galvin, Rosalie White, Annabel, Catherine Love, Mary Halton, Jasmine

Woodcock-Stewart, Jake Orr, Olivia, Hannah Pierce, Jonathan Petherbridge, Carrie

Rhys-Davies, Alex Green, Maddy Costa, Karen, Pete, Jo Mackie, Sarah, Alwyn,

Nicola, John Walton, Jens and some other people I didn't recognise or didn't write their


We had more questions than answers. What follows is some often-conflicting points

that were expressed. I've included them here because I found them interesting, rather

than to support some sort of coherent account or action plan.

How do we talk about the value of what we do, to ourselves?

People talked about daily creative fulfillment, creating conversations/ thought

processes which endure after the work, enjoyment, challenging people.

We talked about the feelings that theatre engenders and this is maybe the monetary

value. But how do we talk about this without looking or feeling desperate?

Can we speak for anyone apart from ourselves?

What would a world without culture look like (ref. Dunlop advert which showed a world

without rubber).

If we don't have culture, we don't understand ourselves. A mirror for life.

It's a form of thought, people need a way in - if you've never been taught something,

you will struggle to understand it. What role does the education system play? Or

maybe we have to be more open to opening up what we do for people.

Is there widespread acceptance that art is an indicator of civilised society? People

talked about supporting art being a prestige thing in France; we have this in UK for

sports but do we have it for art?

Or is it about which art is taken as an indicator of civilised society? This gov supports

arts which make money but does it accept the value of a project which is less glam, on

an estate for example. Have we hit a moment in time in which only people with money

are valued?

Short-termism of theatre - theatre writers are expected to have an immediate response

to a piece they have seen. Is this the same for audiences? Maybe this concentrates

the difficulty - you don't necessarily know the value of something until weeks/ months/

years after.

Should we cut the hospital or cut the theatre? Neither, we should reject this argument

because it's binary bullshit. But we should be alert to the level of propaganda we have

internalised (like this choice).

So what can we do?

Go on strike for a year, see what happens in A World With No Art (would this be long

enough? See short term argument above).

See art as research in the same way as businesses do research - it's a process.

Ask other people to say what the value is/ why they come etc. Audiences are part of a

community. (We talked about whether this was a cop-out, what would be the right

questions to ask - that we'd have to be ok with people saying that actually they didn't

come to the theatre for ‘great art’)

'We're facilitators of something else, of social interaction' - theatres as community

spaces, helping keep communities and town centres/ high streets alive.

Artists also act as consultants for business/ banking etc - get the business people who

employ them to articulate what they bring.

Get business people etc to articulate the experience they had when they were younger

which allows them to do the non-arts thing they currently do.

Other industries advocate - like gaming industry being against cutting arts from

schools curriculum because for them, it's more important for people to do the creative

stuff than it is that people learn programming.

People who felt guilty being artists while friends worked for NGOs/ hospitals - but

actually these people with stressful jobs need the arts as a wind-down. In a hospital in

Chicago, staff were encouraged to do creative stuff (and sports) as a way of

maintaining well-being.

Do people who work in sciences actually think that the arts are useless? Probably not

- it suits certain media outlets to foster these dichotomies. In which case, is the most

important discussion to be had with Rupert Murdoch/ Paul Dacre - people who have a

massive readership. Someone offered to talk to Rupert Murdoch - you know who you


Bess less snobby about amdram, which is really popular - connect what we do up with

what those people do. Amdram shows can sell really well, and many ‘professional’

theatres are struggling. We can also be really snobby about panto. Are we, on some

level, frightened of popular forms (forms where value is self-evident)? But surely their

popularity could help us articulate the value of what we do?

At this point, we realised that we were talking about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art - how much

overlap is there in what we think is ‘good’ and what other people (non-artists) think is

good? We started to talk about the assumptions in what we were saying, including that

everyone was a leftie. We need a way of expressing what we're talking about to all the

people who read the Daily Mail. These people may not be fascists, they may read the

paper for all sorts of reasons and we need to be able to talk to them.

We need to make the linkages clear - how what we do affects a whole bunch of other

stuff (back to the Dunlop advert).

Maybe we could all take someone to the theatre who doesn't go to the theatre


Thanks everyone who came, it was an interesting discussion in which people seemed

to really listen to each other. It also continued after I left, so please add stuff I missed.

(I got really cold sitting on the floor, it wasn't that I wasn't interested).


Community, bad, good, Audience, artist, Value, panto, propaganda, Sport, audience,

community, sport, amdram, value