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D&D Roadshow 2013 - BRIGHTON

Venues & Organisations - How do we become better neighbours and partners?

Orla Flanagan - 10 September 2013

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Stacy (Sallis Benney Theatre) and Orla Flanagan (Brighton Dome & Festival) began by expressing that they felt there would be benefit in creating more of a forum for conversation amongst all of the venues in Brighton, in a more regular way. They acknowledged that this is not a new or complex proposal - but would be useful to share thoughts and connect better in terms of programming, and marketing ourselves and our theatre offer in Brighton.
Tim Crouch asked the question of whether venues in Brighton responded and dealt with local and national companies/performers differently?
Response from a range of venues was:
Yes we do, there is a lot more requests and approaches from local companies, and it is about of achieving a balance in the programme.
Yes, it is an opportunity having local artists make approaches, as it is an opportunity to build an ongoing conversation and relationship, which is not always possible.
In terms of Brighton Festival it is important in the programme that there is an element which reflects Brighton and its stories and identity.
Tim expanded to say that a long time back Bristol Old Vic had struggled to engage with the local artist community - and the question was asked whether it should be the National Old Vic rather than the Bristol Old Vic therefore.
Discussion then moved to Theatre Bristol, which seems to have been the glue that has really connected a huge number of independent artists in the city, and many of the group wanted to find out more about its goals, and how it has been set up.
It was pointed out that it got a lot of regional development money to set up and run, which has dried up since. Orla suggested we invite someone from Theatre Bristol to come to attend a First Fridays for example and share the experience of establishing Theatre Bristol so we can consider whether a similar model could apply here (and how we could go about the first steps in setting it up). Martin Lenton said that he desired more support for artists amongst the independent community, in terms of moral support and critical support, and to provide more support for each other. A regular event called ‘Express’ run by B & H City Council was mentioned, as a successful networking forum, and that the Dome (Pippa Smith) used to run informal coffee mornings. First Fridays, which has been running since last autumn was mentioned as a regular peer-led networking event which could act as a springboard or check-in point for particular groups of artists etc. James Turnball pointed out that we share a theatre audience, which hasn't been mentioned to this point, and we need to share that more - and that link for audiences ended with the death of the Gardner Arts Centre. Someone pointed out that Brighton is a very transitory place, and people move on, and projects can fizzle out as a result. Theatre Bristol is a success so far as it sits with a community of independent artists - and it is not one organisation's vision driving it, and it is managed by a range of artists, so the responsibility is spread. Theatre Bristol has a website that also acts as a listings for the city in terms of theatre, and it is a model or format that could potentially be shared, and was built with that in mind. Theatre Bristol is owned by everyone, not just one side of the organisation.
Where do we get the funding for that - as it needs to be managed regularly by somewhere centrally or it will fizzle out, and similar initiatives have been tried in the past but never survived. An online presence seems more appropriate to 2013 than a print presence. Surely digital industry in Brighton would be able to support this somehow - or is there a funding body such as the The Audience Agency, which would get behind it. Source Magazine was discussed, but it was agreed their focus seemed to be more music oriented. Also suggested was magazine BN1…It would be important to have collective use of a website.
Tim pointed out he craved a place (online) where he could hear what scratch work is being made, and what work is being made by Brighton artists. There are so many artists in this city - though not always making work for and in this city.John Lindstrom talked about Made in Brighton which was supported by ACE in a different era when money was not so squeezed, and it has not carried on. Someone mentioned the digital focus in terms of the ACE and whether there is a possibility of supporting funding to set up and establish a portal through that. Emily Coleman pointed that she has explored quite a lot about resources for independent artists through So You Want to Be a Producer etc. and is happy to share what they found out etc. Tim made the point as well that we are our own audience and so supporting and attending theatre happening here is key.

ACTIONS:
Orla agreed to follow up and attempt to set up a meeting for all venues programming theatre in town to meet informally and share ideas and their plans (as appropriate).
Perhaps this group can link with the independent community in some way - to progress further the idea of Theatre Bristol and thrash it all out in more detail.
Orla agreed to invite someone from Theatre Bristol to present briefly at First Fridays in the coming months.

(Apologies if any of this has been somewhat paraphrased - hopefully effectively).

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