Why Sport, not Art? An Olympic Debate 

Convener(s): James Bush

Participants: Jamie, Alex, Tom, Seth, Tim, Nick, Catherine, Emily, Julia

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

This discussion addressed the similarities /differences in audience relationships in sporting/theatrical events, with the outside influences of the Arts Council/Government Policy and societal trends of belonging being factored in. The points that arose were as follows:

  • As a nation do we value the ‘healthy mind’?
  • The mass appeal of sporting teams and events is embedded in our modern society – contemporary tribalism?
  • The Olympics is a massive financial initiative which has resulted in money being re-directed away from the Arts and links with an uncomfortable proximity in the relationship between the Government and the Arts Council.
  • The benefits of the Olympics (development and regeneration of urban areas, tourism, and the consequential economic boost) are apparent.
  • Where the potentials are for Artist’s to get involved in the Olympic momentum?
  • Projects/Performances that seek to promote an audience relationship akin to that of a sporting event – Directing a show as Football Manager, including shouting from the sidelines and substituting actors.
  • Games/Rules/Timed Duration on stage in favor of scripted, conventional performance – allows the potential of surprise, encourages ‘liveness’ of an event to take precedent in the viewing experience.
  • Crowd Behavior – the volume of audience, the varying degrees of involvement, etiquette and ‘classist’ divisions
  • Football has a soap-opera quality, played out on the back pages, however the event is played ‘honestly’ in the moment, there is no pre-determined result, that commitment and potential for endless chance is what fascinates and consumes spectator.
  • Can we invest this in our theatre?
  • Supporters and Belonging – geographical located, family tradition, comparisons to religion, socially engaging.
  • Theatre still marred by remnants of negative elitist stigma.
  • There is a need to re-define the conventional stage/audience relationship to interest wider audiences – license must be given to audiences to enter into a ‘two-way’ relationship with performance, to engage, in order to harness the vitality of the live event.