Many thanks to those who joined me to think about gatekeeping and gatecrashing: Dave Pickering, Alex Rand, Nastasha Phillips, Sarah-Jane Maloney, Michela Sisto, Alicia Radagé, and especially Sebastian Hau-Walker for capturing our session by keyboard.

This topic encompasses a lot of what I've been thinking about over the last five years: how to get in through the gates, how to do what you want to do once you're in, and how to bring others through the gates with you. What are the gates for? For whose benefit do we keep people in and out of the theatre? What would happen if we threw the gates wide open?

Our conversation began with ideas about individual artists curating their own career.

- Saying yes to everything, for a while, helps you gain experience, add to your CV, build relationships…

- But sometimes saying yes can lead you down the wrong path, or away from your goals.

- Neil Gaiman gave an inspiring commencement speech on this theme:

- Movie stars often do terrible projects in their early years, when they were saying yes to everything. Then when they're famous, you go back and watch those films and go, “oh, what a waste, why did you do that movie?” Perhaps as theatre artists, we're lucky in that respect, that our work is so ephemeral.

- Creating your “brand” - maintaining your “integrity” - following your “vision” - fulfilling your “mission statement.” Are all these essentially the same idea?

- Reaching a stage where you are comfortable saying no to projects or collaborators that aren't the right fit, can give you the space to say yes to other projects.

- The dangers/economic reality of saying no, as a freelancer.

- Being clear with yourself about why you might say yes or no to a project. Even if those reasons (esp regarding money) can't be explicitly shared with your collaborators. Making peace with the reasons you say yes or no.

- In another session, I heard a great piece of advice about the requirements that a project should satisfy: cash, creative, career. At least one of these must be served by doing the project. Ideally all of them.

We soon transitioned into ideas of an individual artist becoming a gatekeeper:

- I've been thinking a lot about gatekeeping integrity, after curating a one-night performance and suddenly changing from the person who is knocking on the gate, to now the person who is opening the gate to some artists but not others.

- Being a gatekeeper gives you a new appreciation for the intricacies of programming, balancing the tone of an evening (or season), looking at diversity of artists and stories, and the large dose of personal taste that goes into these decisions.

- Gatekeepers of all levels must work harder to seek out and build relationships with the diversity of artists they want to see onstage. Women and artists of colour are not automatically going to send submissions; no one wants to be the only woman or the only person of colour. No one wants to be the token.

- Trusting your personal taste is maybe one of the hardest things about being a gatekeeper - and asking an audience to trust your taste.

- A period of “living in the threshold of the gate” as emerging directors and producers transition from saying yes to everything to curating their own work and the work of other artists.

- Facilitating critical feedback as a gatekeeper? Do we bother for pieces that don't resonate with us - if I'm not the intended audience or I don't care for the premise, my feedback is not going to be useful to that artist.

- Taking risks on artists/work that may not be ready for an audience. - When something doesn't work, I don't mind, as long as the artists were clearly aiming at some big idea. If it's not there yet, it's okay. But I get very annoyed as an audience member when it doesn't work and I can't understand what they were aiming at. Perhaps the way to get in the gate is to clearly know what you're trying to do.

- Not all gates are the same size. Opening the gate for a small one-night variety performance is not the same as opening the gate at the National Theatre.

- What do those big monolithic important gates look like to their gatekeepers? Are they intimidated by even bigger gates?

Then we questioned the role of gatekeepers and their relationship to audience

- Do we have artistic gates for the sake of the audience? They have to trust the gatekeeper to put together an evening or a season that they want to see.

- Gates go two ways: they keep people out and they keep people in. Who are we keeping out of the theatre (both artists and audiences) and who are we keeping in? - What is the difference between a gate and a barrier to entry? (ie, artistic decisions vs institutional racism and sexism, poverty, unpaid internships, the cost of drama school, etc)

- Curating the right audience for your work vs getting passersby off the street to come and buy a ticket.

- Creating a safe space/bringing a supportive audience for a scratch night, etc. - Individual artists (esp. touring) often can't know how their show will resonate with a particular venue's audience. It's the theatre's responsibility to curate the right performances for their audience.

- “Audience Development” - theatres trying to diversify their audience with ethnically specific shows, targeted marketing, community outreach. It's not going to get done with one show, one theatre… this is the work of the entire field for generations.

Thanks again to everyone who participated in this discussion. Please feel free to add any other thoughts in the comments.