Why does everyone have to move to London?

Convener(s): Matthew Austin

Participants: Shelley Silal, Bronia Evers, Gemma Paintin, Jamie Allan, Sam Yates, Anna Coombs, Natalie Queros, Laura McDermott, Richard Dufty, Ruth Dudmanm, Sarah Jean Couzens, Louisa Norman, Alys Torrance, Aaron Minnigin, Ginnie Stephen, Shelley Hastings, Tom Morris.

Apologies if I’ve spelt anyone’s name wrong… 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Our discussion was based very much around other cities in England in particular Bristol, Newcastle and Manchester as that’s where those outside of London came from. We also discussed Hall for Cornwall in Truro (perhaps the only more rural location).

Interesting combination of born and bread Londoners, people wanting to leave London, people wanting to move to London and those happy elsewhere.

Definition: ‘THE REGIONS’ everywhere outside the M25, can be grouped together as one mass of activity

The feeling that a move to London is a given. That you get to a certain stage in you career/life where the move has to be made. Why?

            There are more opportunities

            There are more audiences

            There are more jobs

Is this a myth? Is this actually the case outside of London? A feeling that actually making work/working in the capital is much harder than elsewhere – greater competition for funding, everyone going for the same pot of money

London-based artists having a utopian vision of other cities like Bristol, Glasgow etc

London as a ‘sweet shop’. That as an artist and audience member you can come to London and sample the delights – you have the NT, Royal Court, Gate, BAC etc etc on your doorstep. But, conversely, that once in London, people tend to bed down and not venture out, that people from elsewhere perhaps experience more theatre because they need to come for a LONDON FIX.

A feeling that the most exciting work is happening outside of the capital.

Where is your favourite company based? Is it in London?

Venues in THE REGIONS often give better financial deals to companies/artists than in London.

Are there more support structures in London for artists?

Are THE REGIONS benefiting from developing agencies e.g. Theatre Bristol etc.

Problem: Very hard for regional companies/venues to get national producers and critics to see their work. Artists forced to do London gigs to make this happen.

Reference to Mark Ravenhill’s article in G2 about regional theatres not taking London hits, and Simon Reade’s (Bristol Old Vic) response saying that THE REGIONS have their own writers/directors/talent etc and generate high quality theatre themselves.

In order to generate and develop vibrant theatre scenes outside London, artists and producers need to ‘dig their heels in’ and invest in those places – only by creating more and more work (and therefore more and more ‘competition’ if you want to look at it like that), can you increase the critical mass, the profile and the opportunities.

It’s about looking for gaps in the market/opportunities and taking advantage of them. The more theatre companies/venues/actors in a city, the better the work.

How do we find ways to retain artists in THE REGIONS?

What is the perception of London? Why do people feel the need to move there? Artists are haemorrhaging out of other cities to seek their fortune in London, whereas perhaps they can get more work in other places.

There are no theatre jobs in the region therefore theatre professionals have to move to London to continue working.

In developing a theatre development agency from the North East, how do you define ‘North East artists’? Those born in the North East? Those living there for a certain length of time? Those making work in the North East?? And therefore, how do you define London artists…

National Theatre of Scotland: no building, therefore engaging far more with the whole of the country… going round and actually meeting people, connecting with people.

Keeping Fresh: Don’t become a native. Invest in your city, but never become too comfortable. Maintain an overview to enable the work to not become too insular. Look out whilst looking in.

Make yourself a national stage: critics are lazy. Book a gig in London and invite everyone. But how does this work with your creative practice? Should we be booking gigs like this, or doing stuff like the Arts Depot Untapped showcase just because lazy critics and producers can’t be bothered to come and see your work in another city. Perhaps we should only do this if it feels right – don’t force it.

Create a Creative Hub in your city: generate a space where people can show, take risks, socialise, etc etc. Generate the scene yourselves.

Use the internet: using the internet as a promotional tool, and the nature of the internet itself is making the (theatre) world much smaller, therefore the gulf between London and THE REGIONS is less…

National Theatre, connecting with the regions? How does the National Theatre connect with audiences and artists outside London. Tom Morris responded to this, saying that it is possible to get work shown at the NT without having done a London gig, but he admits that the NT could do more to connect with the regions.

Could the NT replicate the model developed with Shunt and Punchdrunk (i.e. Shows not based in the NT complex) with companies outside of the capital? Perhaps a problem because the main thing NT offers those companies is marketing and box office support therefore this is hard outside of the capital.

Is there a growing force field around London – a gravitational pull – a magnet pulling artists in and never letting them leave?

Is one of the problems that showing work/making work in London is hard because of financial restraints: accommodation, hires, travel etc etc. BAC working on the possibility of providing accommodation for artists to alleviate this problem.