Annie Rigby, 24 January 2015

People are angry and frustrated, from both perspectives. We know that we currently spend a lot of time whinging about each other, swapping horror stories and rolling our eyes. Let's stop wasting our time and start making change.

What's at the root of our issues?
- Money (For independents negotiating deals is intertwined with our personal financial life - are we able to pay our rent? For venue staff, this is rarely the case. For venues, there is a perception they hold big budgets for commissioning artists. This is often not the case.)
- Risk (often not shared fairly)
- Mutual understanding (or lack of)
- Systemic problems (i.e. Arts Council funding is currently weighted towards supporting venues rather than independent artists / companies. Arts Council are therefore expecting venues to deliver more and more of their strategic agenda, rather than small organisations.)
- Lack of trust (pervading sense that venues hold the power and expertise and artists are ‘low status’. However, this is holding us all back.)

What can we do to make change?
- Artists need to get onto venues' boards (and vice versa). If we're on those boards we need to push for change, so that a bigger proportion of budgets goes to artists.

- Artists need to speak collectively and make their voices heard.
- Independents need to challenge the money that venues receive for artists' development, where very little of the cash actually goes to artists and instead supports core venue costs. Independents need to lobby Arts Council to trust that giving money directly to artists is as (if not more) effective artists' development.
- Artists need to be confident to say to venues and funders:
“This is not working.”
“I am not going to apply for your ‘brilliant opportunity’, because it is actually a shit, cash-less deal that doesn't help me make a living as an artist.”
“This might be the way your venue always works, but here's why working differently might be a good idea...”
Artists need to spend more time doing this, and less time just whinging about things that piss us off with other like-minded artists in the pub.
- Artists and venues need to focus the conversation on artists' livelihoods. We should ask, “Is what you are doing having a positive impact on a project, but a negative impact on the sustainability of our / their livelihoods?” We aren't going to solve the issue of lack of diversity on British stages unless we make it possible to live and make theatre.
- We need to collaborate better and more deeply. For example, sharing staff across venues and independent companies.
- We need to speak collectively to Arts Council, ITC, Equity, our local authority arts teams, trusts and foundations to make our voices heard, to point out the tensions in the current system and suggest ways of making it better.

Next steps:
- Rebecca is running a symposium at OvalHouse about how venues can better

support artists. Go to it if you can and make your voice heard.
- I (Annie) am going to feedback this conversation to Neil Darlison at Arts Council
- Jen (from Curious Monkey) is running a symposium at Northumbria University on the Future of Fringe. Go to that if you can and carry the conversation forward.
- If you're an artist, join the board of a venue. If you work for a venue, join the board / advisory group of an independent company / artist.

Thanks to everyone who came - Mel Scaffad, Catalina, Rosie Spiegelhalter, Lyn Gardner, Sarah Wilson, Kevin Shen, Alex Murphy, Rebecca Atkinson-Lord, Xavier de Sousa, James Stenhouse, Matt Trueman, Tracy Gentles, Clara Giraud, Jake Orr, Leo Burtin, Jo Crowley, Natalie Querol, Jen Dewar, Nit Paldi, and many more whose names I didn't catch.


Independent artists, vs, Venues, independent companies, independent artists, venues, Independent, independent