The Future for Emerging Companies in Kent: How do we foster a supportive and non competitive community and encourage artists to stay in the region?

Phoebe Marsh, 19 September 2012

This report is a collation of three separate questions all relating to emerging companies in the region.

We recognize that there is an increasingly supportive and varied community of artists choosing to stay within this region. While there is much talk of a “brain drain” and a fear that we loose many new artists and theatre companies coming out of our universities to larger cities, there is a strong group of companies and individuals who have chosen to stay. This community is very peer supportive and this group of artists regularly support and mentor each other, and newer companies coming up. This exemplifies the idea of a community of artists taking responsibility of their own development, rather than perhaps relying completely of local institutions. This group becomes larger every year, interestingly within East Kent, a large proportion of these artists and companies all have graduated from Kent Universities theatre course. The question does arise then, as to how UKC-centric this group is and whether there are artists and companies perhaps slipping through the gap, or not being recognized because they have not come from the same institutions or networks.

It should be noted that a large proportion of this particular group fall into the above category.

The group recognizes a need for smaller arts communities within specific towns, e.g. Canterbury to engage with others. Forming links between say, Medway and Canterbury can help to encourage our networks, share programming, resources etc.

An idea to engage with collaborative funding has arisen from many of todays discussions. Several companies/artists coming together to form a consortium of some sorts and so sharing the work and rewards of a larger funding bid.

One group member asked whether we feel artistically restricted in this area because of it's funding trends, e.g. towards outdoor performance. This seems to be a key issue for companies when making decisions regarding form and content. Realistically someone pointed out that we do need to follow certain funding streams and therefore produce work which would perhaps not be our initial intentions, however members of the group spoke of how this had been a positive process for them.

With regards to the notion of competition within the community,the group generally agreed that though this was natural when it comes to lots of people applying for the same pot of money. There is not a particularly competitive ‘feel’ amongst artists and currently there is little competition between specific companies in regards to their work. Simply, right now, everyone's work is very different. As the community grows, this will perhaps change but it was pointed out that there is a need to recognize every artist, not just in relation to their work, but also in relation to their skill set. The idea that we are all resources and can collaborate with each other to generate new work for and with each other was offered. The idea that with increasing competition, the need to be more flexible in the work that we produce was also raised.


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