Points of Honour: What Are Yours?

Convener(s): Tom Martin

Participants: Simon Bowes, Tom Wright, Dodger Phillips, Morven Macbeth, Lian Bell, Rosy Banham, Kath Burlinson, Ira Brand, David Cottis, Rosemary Lee, Bethany Haynes, Amelia, Daniel Bye, (and others)

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

The first wave of discussion moved around the problems of defining what a ‘point of honour’ might be. Alternative definitions included:

  • Critical position
  • Levels of compromise
  • Moral/ethical code
  • Dignity
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Principles
  • Values in a process/while making work

An early point of honour from a director: to provide their collaborators with some level of protection from unacceptable behaviour.

Honour was discussed both as a noun (an abstract set of values – shared or totally individual? Imposed, recollected, imagined?) and as a verb (as in ‘to honour’). The first use was difficult to discuss productively, and many points were made about the inherent contradictions of ‘honour’, owing to its manifold definitions – honour killings were raised as an example of when two moral codes clash, and also as points when adherence to a code trumps respect for another(‘s life).

This multifariousness of ‘honour’, however, prompted a lot of talk on openness, and being critical of assumptions – about the value of accepting or rejecting established/proposed worldviews. But integrity and consistency were identified as key factors in having ‘honour,’ especially in an increasingly relativistic society. 

The second use (‘to honour’) proved perhaps more illuminating, as it encompasses respect, tolerance, and an understanding of the difference between our selves; conversation shifted to the ‘contract’ between artist and audience. To ‘Hospitality’ – always creating a sense of welcome, and not taking for granted a fixed method of welcoming – in a sense creating a shifting contract that might guard against disappointment/frustration.

This contract was interpreted both as a code of behaviour (dynamic or rigid) and as an approach to an aesthetic framework (individual or shared). The problem with honouring this contract lies in the assumptions that we make both as audiences and makers. Are concepts of honour/respect perhaps methods of pushing our problems/ideas/aesthetics on other people? Do we assume that they have agreed to the same contract as us? Young audiences in particular do not understand the terms of many theatres’ ‘contract of behaviour’, but performers/makers are not ADAPTING to these emergent audience behaviours, nor are theatres PRESENTING the contract – much talk of being stuck in the ‘British way’ of viewing a piece of work or going to the theatre. The live arts offer so much in the way of a potential conversation – is there a point of honour to be found in engaging with and promoting that conversation? ‘WE ARE HERE, YOU ARE HERE, THIS IS NOW’

We identified value in the live, active viewer, who feels free to heckle or to walk out (as a reaction to the quality of the work, or as a result of not knowing what their role in the show is), but we also identified instances when a live interaction is purely an imaginative one. The term ‘audience interaction’ seems too caught up in pantomime tropes, and can productively refer to an audience sitting, silent, appreciative.

Feeling betrayal or disappointment at the disconnect between what an artist thinks they are doing and what they are actually doing…

In the late stages of the session, the problems of subsidy and sponsorship were brought up – a point of honour among some was felt to be the level of compromise deemed acceptable when deciding whether to accept funding from organizations like tobacco, oil or big pharma…it was posited that, with public subsidy becoming ever scarcer, more artists will be forced into making these choices.

The idea of an artist being by definition tied up with championing social responsibility was refuted – these decisions of accepting subsidy from ethically dubious sources apparently rest solely with individual morals.

(The ‘Noble Profession’ meaning to not accept this ‘dirty money’?)


  • Points of honour are difficult to define. Like bridges that you cross when you reach them.
  • The contract between an audience and an artist is always being renegotiated, and a point of honour might be the direct discussion/confrontation of this contract, in order to set up expectations of behaviour on both sides.
  • A point of honour in some was found in their desire for ‘open’ rather than ‘closed’ work – work that accepts and values the presence of an audience.
  • A point of honour for many was in finding and maintaining the balance between what is actually happening (LIVE) and what one wants to happen (THE WORK).