The Uncertainty Principle: How do I talk about work I haven’t made yet, in a way that is attractive to programmers/ venues, without closing down possibilities in my head? 

Convener(s): Rachel Briscoe

Participants: Lots of people, some of whom were: Tom Latter, John Myatt, Nick Bruckman, Martyn Duffy, Mark Trezona, Matt Ball, Erica Whyman, Kate McGrath, Sam ???? Apologies to everyone whose name I don’t have.


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

General advice and thoughts:

  • practice with low stakes conversations
  • use the Radio Times technique (50 words, the DNA of the project)
  • Separate: Here is what I know/ Here is what I don’t know.
  • Be aware of the person you are talking to and don’t be afraid to ask: ‘What do you need me to know right know?’
  • Avoid getting defensive and making up rubbish when you don’t know.
  • Think about what excites you – and what will excite the programmer: what is the bit of passion in the middle of the project?
  • Give people safety handles: companies you’ve worked with/ it’s a bit like …/ our influences are …
  • If you don’t know the what, know the how. What process will you use? At what stage will you know more?
  • Be upfront about the risks.

More specifically on talking to venues:

Remember it is the audience that the venue are thinking about. Venues are not actively opposed to ‘risk’ – they are thinking about the audience, whether they will come, and whether they will come back.

Tell venues what they should tell their audience.

What is the story of the evening? i.e. what will an audience experience? (Different to what is the story of the piece)

Is it funny? Is it heart-breaking? Talk about emotional content of the piece.

Is it like your past work? Place it within context.

What if you don’t have a past body of work? Some venues will work with very early career artists.


On scratch process:

Does it help? Depends what you want to get out of it.

It can be a way of starting to build a history/ body of work for yourself?

Is it just visibility for the work or is it more helpful to think about it as building a two-way relationship?

-> a way for the venue to spend time with you

Tension between presenting something polished (to impress people) and something scratchy (to progress the work)

Remember that it is a scratch – it’s about finding out about the work

If you present something too polished, will people want to see the finished show?

The venue can help by providing a very clear context for you to present the work within.

Genuinely engage with audiences: tell them that they are important to what the work becomes and mean it.


Thank you everyone for your generosity and helpful ideas.