So the world has gone nuts… but it will be okay… I promise…

So the world has gone bat-shit crazy. Dunno if you’ve noticed? It feels like we are precariously balanced on a knife edge, suspended upside down by our ankles dangling above a gaping void of hate, intolerance and stupidity. 

It’s coming from all angles. 
Brexit – leave – remain. Trigger. Don’t trigger. Lies on the side of a bus. 

Trump – women – men – race – Muslims – Mexicans – small hands – oompah loompah – quiffy. 

Protests.

Syria – chemicals weapons – refugees – migrants. 

Protests.

Iran, Iraq, Russia, China… 

Paris – Quebec – Turkey 

LGBT. Religion. Equality.

Protests. 

Food banks – benefit caps – NHS Privatisation.

Closer to home: Local Authority Cuts and ridiculous council schemes.

Post-truth – alt facts.
Did I miss anything?
We are currently bombarded with information from all angles. Thoughts, ideas, news, truth, lies, politics, hate, love. And it all meshes together in a hallucinogenic haze of distorted reality.

It’s like we’ve suppressed everything for so long it’s all erupting into one giant cataclysm of chaos.

Britain is divided. Parliament is divided. Friends and families are divided. The wealth divide grows ever bigger. Equality is divided. 

There no longer seems to be a middle ground. Just opposing forces of extremes. 
But this has to be a positive thing. The issues that divide us are firmly out in the open – practically smacking us in the face everywhere we look. It presents the perfect opportunity to understand the things that not only divide us but also unite us. Look at why. How can we fix it? How can we try and view things from other people’s perspectives as abhorrent as some of those perspectives may be?

We need to get back to the essence of what it is that makes us who we are. The one thing that unites us all. The fact that we’re all human. 

Nelson Mandela said: 

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

And I think that’s at the core of the problem. We’re so attached to labels, hierarchies, law governed by out-dated religious belief that we’ve forgotten the fundamentals of what it is to be human.

Before we were indoctrinated by society we listened more to our instincts. We didn’t judge people by something that was written down about them, we judged them by who they were and what they did. Rather than what society tells us we should think.

Real emotional feeling. Something that comes from deep within, the essence of being human. Something primordial that has always existed but we have somehow forgotten how to listen to and forgotten how to trust.

We need to get back to understanding those emotions and those deep feelings. And erase some of the negative labels that we’ve learnt to associate to things because our social upbringing or the media says that it’s so.

Same-Sex relationships. People struggle with this – they really do. And they struggle because society has an undercurrent that says it’s not okay brought about from years of prejudice and hate. But they forget the key thing. And that is love. Love isn’t bound by the same rules and regulations that we try and place upon the world. It’s a deep, powerful emotion. It doesn’t understand how we as a society try to control it. It transcends rules and boundaries. It works outside the realms of logic and what we can possibly even begin to comprehend. Love is powerful. Love just is. Love is. 

Once you begin to understand that then you see things differently. It no longer matters about male-female, male-male, female-female. It just becomes as simple as a feeling between two people. Two humans. It’s actually incredibly uncomplicated when you strip away the stigma and noise that surrounds it. Get back to the basics. Love just is.

It’s the same with race & equality. A key word is equality. We’re all human. We’re all beautifully unique but yet there’s that one common element that ties us all together. We’re human. We’re all people. We should treat other as humans and not as objects. 

The media have a massive part to play in this. Particularly around terrorism and refugees. We need to humanise people more. Stop banding around religious titles and creating hate and fear from labels. It’s unhelpful. And damaging. And fuels the problem. Next time you see the term Islamic extremist challenge whoever said it. We need to start calling it out when we see this sort of gross misrepresentation. By all means call them terrorists but don’t make it about people who happen to be of a certain religious belief of a certain skin colour. If a white person commits an act of terrorism then call them a terrorist. Not a murderer. We need to remove these soiled terms and replace them with more truthful statements that are a truer representation of what they are.

Refugees and migrants is another one. Stop calling them swarms. Or making them out to be bad people when you know nothing about them. They are human. They are people. And like all people they all have both good and bad within them. We sit on a throne of privilege. Where our biggest worry is whether we can get a wifi connection or like a photo of someone’s dinner on social media. We don’t have bombs exploding around us. We don’t have to watch family members blown to pieces in front of our eyes. We don’t have to pay thousands of pounds to board an overcrowded ship and risk everything to leave a place we love and people we know in fear of our lives. We are lucky. 

I guess all I’m trying to say is next time you find yourself judging someone else because of a preconceived notion – whether that be from social upbringing or because of floods of negativity from the media. Stop. Look passed the labels. Reconnect with what is human. And seriously weigh up what you actually, truthfully, 100% know to be true. To be fact.

The world is changing. And it may get much worse before it gets better. But now more than ever we can really make a difference and begin challenging each other to change positively with it. To question those who believe different things to us. To understand different view points. To help others understand ours. 

We have a unique opportunity to make a real change on a person by person basis. We definitely cannot rely on politicians or the media to do it for us. Trump is quickly becoming the British Governments seedy wet dream, the perfect smoke screen and distraction that makes them look less crazy and their ideas more normal. And as we get more and more distracted by things elsewhere we lose sight of what is happening on our own doorsteps.

  

Go back to basics. Remember what it is to be human. To be unique. To be beautiful and wonderful. Lead with love. Deny hate. And be the change that you want to see in the world.
X

When anxiety attacks…


It’s been a weird couple of weeks. As per usual everything happening all at the same time. High stress, which is unfortunately how I thrive – it comes with working on events and in a high pressure environment.  So all pretty normal… well normally weird…

Except for the unwelcome return of anxiety / panic attacks which have left me crawling back into my introverted cocoon to hide away, which given current circumstances, protests, campaigns, working on events is not exactly the most useful place to be.

I know what triggered it this time. A confrontation with a bully. Which in itself is easy enough to process. I thought when I’d figured out the trigger I could work around the anxiety. Normally if you figure out the cause you can find the solution.

But not this time.

If you’ve never experienced anxiety or panic attacks let me try and explain the feeling.

Normally it’s triggered by a thought. Something you’re thinking about. And if you know what that is you can train your brain to stop thinking about it and suppress the anxiety. You look for logic. Things you know to be true. Things that you can be certain of. 

But this time it’s not attached to a thought. It’s a pure feeling. And that’s much harder to keep in check. It’s all consuming. You feel it’s grip tighten the insides of your chest, muscles tense, hands shake and the head throbs. It puts you into a high state of stress. You can’t form words properly when trying to speak. You know what you’re trying to say, you hear the sentences coherently formed in your mind. But when you open your mouth to speak it all comes out garbled, breathless, strained – squeaky high pitched. Talking – that automatic function that just happens without thought suddenly requires large amounts of extra energy. When writing things down you miss out key words – like your brain has processed the fact they are there but the signals between your brain and your hand are not communicating properly. And you look back on emails, texts, tweets, facebook posts and realise that they make no sense. That mistakes are all over the place.

Because of the high state of stress you’re in you lose your short term memory – your mind is so consumed with just keeping steady that, that is all you can focus on. 

I needed to get out of the house today so decided to go for a walk along the Bath Skyline and take in the view from Sham Castle. Such was my state of anxiety I cannot remember how I got there. I vaguely remember being in town. The crowds and the noises being weirdly sharp but distorted at the same time. Moving in their own motion which wasn’t quite in sync with the rest of the world. I definitely remember getting on a bus up to Bathwick Hill. The motion of the bus and noises from other passengers causing more unrest. Catching snatches of different sounds at different frequencies all coming together in one distorted soundscape – closing in. A crisp packet rustling to the left, a broken phone conversation to the right, muffled music from headphones, conversations… many many conversations.

I got off the bus and I walked. And all became quiet and calmer. And more normal. All of the thoughts that had been suppressed by the high state of anxiety came flooding down in one go. You zone out, allow them to materialise, realise them and let them go as you keep walking. 

You meet people and you snap into “normality mode” however brief. Smile. Give way to oncoming pedestrians and hikers. Help with directions. Put on the mask of normality that shields you from the fear. And fake it ’til you make it.

And then alone once more. Walking. Thinking. Thinking. Walking. It was a good release. It cleared my head and calmed me down. I got to Sham Castle. Took a few pictures. Sat on the bench over-looking Bath and just let my mind go free for a bit staring out over the city. Enjoying the peace and quiet soothing sounds of the wind through the trees, a distant dog barking, birds singing. 


I lost a good 45mins sat on that bench. And felt much calmer for it. 


I eventually got up and headed off in the direction of Bathampton. As I walked I zoned-out – once more allowing thoughts to flow and materialise. Somewhere along the way I strayed off of the Skyline path. And when a brief moments break in thought occurred I looked up and realised my mistake. This could have been a panic moment but instead it was one of calm clarity. The quote “not all who wander are lost” sprang to mind. Through a gap in the trees I looked out and saw Bathford in the distance and immediately knew which direction I roughly had to travel in to get down to Bathampton and finally back home. My auto-pilot had been guiding me in the right direction which is a relief.


I walked through Bathampton and home and felt much calmer and more “normal”. Although still not quite right.

The walking and thinking had allowed for clarity and reflection about how I had been feeling the last week. I began to understand why I was struggling to converse with colleagues and felt the need to spend time alone. I’ve done an extrovert vs introvert post before. This week the introvert side of me was winning. And it was becoming awkward.

My next hurdle. I feel anxious in the theatre. Deeply rooted in the incident that happened. And that’s not only awkward but potentially disastrous. Even safe theatre spaces that I know intimately have become a real barrier and uncomfortable. It will pass eventually. But it will take time, and struggle and given the nature of the work I do it needs to pass soon – which in itself is stressful. 

So I’ve reached a strange period of doubt. And change. And uncertainty. Not fear but anxiety and there’s a big difference. It’s a big black nagging cloud that’s difficult to beat down – but be beaten down it will. At a time when I need to be at full confidence I’m feeling anything but. I’ve got some decisions to make. It’s definitely time for change. “The Times They Are A Changing”. And I know I’ll bounce back. It may take a while. But I always do.

So if I’m quiet or un-responsive or not as present as usual, or less sociable. Do not worry. It’s a process – it may not be the right one but it’s mine and it works for me. And I will be back. And I will kick some ass!

And if you’re reading this and it helps you. Great. If it helps you deal with your own anxiety then I’m happy to chat about your experiences. That’s the point in sharing and not hiding away from it. To everyone else – as mad as this post may sound I’m absolutely fine – I just need some time and to deal with things in my own unique way. Part of that is writing it down and getting it out of my head (that box is now ticked). 

So don’t worry. 

Us anxiety prone people are tough and we’d have our own club if we weren’t worried about attending or anyone else turning up 😉

  
Love, light & peace xXx 

Why Save The Arts? Is Bath Council about to kill the goose that lays its golden eggs?

I wrote this as a very ranty blog post last night – which isn’t necessarily useful for you but it certainly helped me to put things in perspective. Below is the new version which I hope will be much more useful and productive.

Bath and North East Somerset Council have proposed to cut all arts grants as part of their bid to save £49 million over the next few years. The arts and the library were  at the top of the chopping block, whilst foolhardy schemes to decimate a local meadow and build a Park and Ride (against all the evidence to the contrary) to the cost of £11 million pounds remain a priority. And this is just the first year of cuts – much worse is yet to come.

Currently the arts budget funds a wide range of programmes. Their focus shifted to the outlying areas in Bath and those that perhaps don’t experience as much culture as people living in the central area.  Those areas that have just had brilliant programmes of arts will end up with next to nothing. At least there may still be some life left in the city centre but the affects for the outlying areas could be devastating. Other organisations that receive funding include Bath Festivals who run (or perhaps I should say “ran”) the International Music Festival, Literature Festival and Children’s Literature festival. Recently it was announced that two of those festivals would combine to create The Bath Festival. How will the cuts affect them? In honesty they, like many larger organisations have chosen not to speak out against the cuts so far – so we don’t know how this effects them.

The trouble is if your Local Authority doesn’t show any faith in the arts then why should anybody else? It sends out a very negative and damaging message to our audiences and to people living in the locality of arts organisations. We don’t want to become a city that says “We used to have that and it was great. But now all you can do to entertain yourself is get into debt at the shiny new white elephant, I mean casino! And why not park on a field first whilst you’re at it?”

As “artists” (I hate that as a buzzword!) we understand the importance of funding the arts. What we don’t understand effectively is how to convey that message to everyone else.

Today I was sent a brilliant documentary about arts cuts entitled “Making the Cut” which was created shortly after the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton closed its doors. It focuses a lot on Somerset where they had 100% arts cuts, but it makes the case for the arts in a brilliant way looking at all the different effects to local areas. If you haven’t seen it I really suggest you give it a watch.

I could quite happily sit here and reel-off statistics to you about the economic benefit of the arts. But you will probably stop reading and fall asleep. So let’s tackle this in a different way.

I’m going to tell you a story…

Meet Emily!

(Come on now say hello, don’t be shy!).

Now Emily runs a small arts organisation in Bath. She is currently working on a theatre production using local arts professionals and members of the community. On her team are a director, actors, set designer, lighting designer, stage manager, writer and musicians. Emily has to pay all of them. Out of their fees they all pay tax and national insurance which goes back into the treasury.

Now because Emily is local she needs a place to rehearse so Emily sources a rehearsal space. This happens to be at a small community hall. She pays rent on that rehearsal space which helps those running it to get income. They rehearse for two weeks.

Some of the professionals don’t live locally so they need somewhere to stay. So they book accommodation with local B&Bs. Some of them drive to rehearsals so they pay for parking locally.

During that rehearsal period Emily and her team have regular refreshment breaks. They use the local cafe for teas, coffees and snacks. During lunchtime they use a local pub and eat food. After rehearsals they all pop into a pub for a few drinks.

The show itself requires a set and props to be made. They book and pay for a workshop to build the set and props. So Emily’s set designer Bob and Stage Manager Laura get on the phone and buy timber from a local timber merchant. Laura also needs to find props and what’s the best place to find props? Charity shops. So off she pops to visit all the local charity shops and buy some props.

The lighting designer is the next one, off on a mission. They design the lighting for the show and realise that the theatre doesn’t have all the lights needed for the production. So they phone up a local hire company and book some lanterns for hire.

Now the show needs advertising. So they get a local designer to create posters and flyers which are then printed by the local printing company and sponsored by local businesses with their logos and support shown on them.

Finally it’s show week. Emily pays for the hire of the theatre or does a box office split with them. The theatre employs front of house staff, box office staff, technical staff etc.

The show opens and members of the public come along and see the show. They travel to the theatre either by public transport or by car (again they pay for parking). They spend money on tickets (again the VAT on these goes back to the treasury) and money on refreshments at the theatre bar (which just so happens to use a local brewery to source it’s beverages from). Maybe they purchase a programme. Maybe they make an evening of it and arrive early to have a meal at a local restaurant. After the show they pop to a local pub for a final drink before getting a taxi home.

The show week ends and another company moves in and the process begins again.

 

This is just one slightly exaggerated example from one theatre company. Removing funding from arts organisations cause large ripples throughout the wider economy. If you stop funding a large number of them at once these ripples become much more obvious and the waves reach further. It’s damaging to everyone – not just “artists”.

Bath could become a culture vacuum. Where art isn’t for everyone but only for those who can afford it. If you cut out all the smaller companies and venues you are left with something that is not accessible to everybody.

A cultural event draws people to it. For example the Bath Carnival. People will come out just to watch the beautiful colours and spectacular dancing. It’s visual and it attracts attention. But by attracting that attention, by engaging with the community and tourists alike it creates opportunities for businesses around the event to benefit from it. Draw people in with the arts and culture and the whole city benefits.

For every £1 invested in the arts it brings back between £2 and £6 into the local economy.

That is huge!

 

Empty Shops

We currently have a lot of empty shops in Bath that quite frankly make the place look run down and like it’s dying. Which it will if the rates on the shops imposed by the Council keep forcing small businesses out. Why not allow local arts organisations to take over the spaces temporarily and generate at least some income from these disused spaces?

 

Arts Council Grants

A lot of smaller organisations use the arts grants to enable them to match fund larger funding bids to organisations like the Arts Council England (generally you must have match funding of 10% from somewhere else). If there is no investment from the Local Authority there is less chance of getting investment from the Arts Council for projects. Although the Arts Council try to remain positive in their response to the current situation it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they will be more inclined to support areas where their Local Authorities engage with them and support local artists.

 

Wellbeing

The arts benefit people’s wellbeing. They bring communities together. They promote diversity. They can help tackle social issues. They can rehabilitate people. They teach empathy – the term emphatic arts is being banded around a lot at the moment.

 

Creating Good Art

Even taking it back to the basics – we just want to create good art that everyone can experience and that this enriches the city culturally.

 

Students

We are also home to Bath Spa University which is an artistic university. Will students want to come and study in a city where there is no support for the arts? It won’t matter how good the courses may be (and they are very good, by the way). If you have a choice of going somewhere that you will be supported through your development by a wide range of external cultural experiences or go to a city where the arts are dying and it’s becoming a living museum – which would you choose? Not to mention what happens when these students graduate? If there is no infrastructure there to support them they will take their creativity elsewhere. We should be supporting these artists. They want the opportunity to perform and give back to a city that they have become familiar with. Now they are moving to Bristol or other places because as an “artist” there is very little chance of working here.

 

When the funding is gone we stand very little chance of every getting it back. Looking at some of our neighbouring counties the effects of this are far-reaching and devastating. I’ve used the term before but Bath could become a graveyard for the arts.

 

This all sounds a bit doom and gloom doesn’t it?

 

Well let me assure you we’re not out yet – not by a long shot. There is an ever-increasing number of us that see the bigger picture and will carry on fighting and battling for an industry that we believe in. The support is growing hourly at the moment. And you can all help too!

 

Please sign and share the petition:

https://www.change.org/p/cllr-tim-warren-scrap-bath-and-north-east-somerset-100-arts-cuts

 

ThunderClap

We’ve set up a ThunderClap to go out on the day of the decision. A ThunderClap is basically a scheduled post that goes out on a set date and time. It is the same post from multiple accounts which helps create a lot of noise and draw attention to a particular subject. Please sign up and share our ThunderClap as well:

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/52323-scrap-bath-arts-cuts

 

Your Stories

We need your stories of how the arts have benefitted you personally. We need to show all of the benefits of the arts to everyone in the community and from every angle. You can either leave that story as a comment on the petition or email it over to us: info@theatrebath.co.uk

 

We need to stand together on this and fight as one and we need to make our voices heard. If we don’t then the future of arts in Bath is looking bleak and the knock-on effects will eventually filter through to all organisations – even those who think they are sitting comfortably at the moment. It will eventually affect you as well. It’s not about one organisation, or one group, it’s about Bath as a community of culture and creativity.

 

Don’t let B&NES kill the goose that lays its golden eggs.

 
All thoughts are Luke’s own and do not represent the views of any organisation he may be associated with.

#DandD12 – Final Thoughts & The Power of the Open Space

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It’s taken me a day to process Devoted and Disgruntled 12 and I’m not sure the enormity of it all has completely sunk in yet. At the end of day two I was feeling inspired but I had no idea how emotionally powerful it would feel by the end of day three. At some point I’ll try and write the notes for the two sessions I attended as well.

It’s really hard to put into words and I’m not sure they’ll do it justice but I’m going to try.

There’s something amazingly empowering about being in a room full of like-minded people. All passionate. All engaged. All wanting the best for the industry that they love. All talking about making the future better. Creating possibilities instead of obstacles. Opening doors.

The space, and the openness of the circle or perhaps circles as when one is broken many others form, break down the normal boundaries and titles than confine us in our everyday roles. It’s a space without job titles and hierarchy. A space where anything can happen, anything can be discussed and everybody has an equal voice. Where artistic directors can sit opposite new graduates and talk. Where actors and makers can share ideas. Where established professionals can impart knowledge to those breaking into the industry.

At the end of three days of intense discussion and inspiration a room full of strangers felt like old friends.

Before D&D I had lost a bit of my spark. The state of the world was playing heavily on my mind and the future looked very uncertain. But now I feel inspired, reinvigorated, empowered, connected and ready to face anything.

I felt high on the energy and creativity, the ideas and inspiration and completely buzzing from all of the thoughts racing through my mind.

img_1529

At the closing circle I choked up. I had an overwhelming sense of euphoria. Empowerment. And a humbleness and thankfulness that I had the opportunity to be in the room with so many inspirational and generous people. To fill my mind with the richness of their conversation, be inspired by their stories and journeys and hope that together we can make a difference and move forwards.

I’m not sure I made much sense to anyone I talked to when the circle closed. All the ideas came babbling out of my mouth at a hundred miles an hour. I couldn’t sit still. I was dazed. Exhausted but energised at the same time. I felt like I was radiating a glow not too dissimilar to the orange light of that we had gotten accustomed to over the last few days.

The closing didn’t feel like an ending. It just felt like a “see you later”. Like these ideas and discussions weren’t over yet. That the next chapters were still waiting to be written. And I hope that all the things we discussed and all the action we committed to take bear fruit and that many wonderful things come from the last three days.

Thank you to all those I knew before and who travelled with me, thank you to those of you I met along the way and to all those I didn’t get to chat to – thank you as well. Thank you to Flo for the hugs when I was a bag of emotions at the end of the circle and thank you to Improbable and the organisers for enabling this to happen. What happened was the only thing that could have happened.

Here’s to the future.

x

 

Contact / Social Media:

Personal Twitter: @LukeJohnEmmett    –   Website: www.lukejohnemmett.co.uk

Theatre Bath @TheatreBath    –   Facebook: www.facebook.com/theatrebath

Theatre Bath Bus: @TheatreBus

 

Email: info@theatrebath.co.uk    –   mail@lukejohnemmett.co.uk

#DandD12 – Day Two – Empty Shops, Female Leadership and other bits

Another empowering day of intelligent, thought-provoking open discussion… and a poetry reciting badger – only at D&D!

 

Session 5 – Empty Shop Theatre

A brilliant discussion which led to lots of easily obtainable action points. Lots of links to discussions that happened yesterday; particularly to the session entitled: Bristolians/city-dwellers: How Can We Share More With The Regions That Surround Us? (Link to the report from that session here: http://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/events/devoted-disgruntled-12/reports/bristolianscity-dwellers-how-can-we-share-more-wit/

 

Key Action points:

  • Help create a website which contains user-generated content about setting up and running pop-up venues.
  • Establish a network to help each other and to tour work between venues.

 

Useful organisations/Downloads:

The ABTT – Association of British Theatre Technicians

http://www.abtt.org.uk/shop/books/

Free guide to non-conventional theatre spaces
http://www.abtt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Non-Conventional-Theatre-Spaces-17-Aug-2017.pdf

Free safety guide for small venues: http://www.rusafe.org.uk/#download

ISAN – International Street Artists Network

Edinburgh Fringe Festival have a lot of documentation about setting up temporary venues, licensing, health and safety etc

Quotes/Provocations/Inspirations:

  • Learn council speak – speak to Local Authorities using terminology they understand – find language that’s not arts language i.e. Placemaker Activation
  • Realise that it’s not about always climbing up the ladder and heading for a big producing house – remember that we should be proud to produce good small scale work and that we should accept our work is good and not make it into something it’s not just because its the “normal” way of doing things
  • Take pride in the work that you do
  • Create relationships with property developers, town centre teams and councils
  • Don’t be put off by people telling you it won’t work
  • Revitalise thinking about business use that highlights the work
  • Holding more events across an area on one day attract more audiences than running different events over different days
  • Work with an experienced project manager
  • Social responsibility – Look at the larger impact of what you’re doing and understand the positive and negative connotations of doing this i.e. arts can help revitalise a city centre – but inevitably once that area is revitalised there is seen to be no longer a need for the art that helped it get there in the first place. Think about how the success of revitalising a city centre can impact on poorer areas of the city.
  • Licensing: No licence unless selling alcohol and under 500 people. Toilets and fire exits denote audience sizes. PRS music licensing. Insurance.

 

Session 6 – Female Leaders In The Arts: A Norm Not A Niche

I joined this session part of the way through after butterflying around for a bit and catching snatches of other conversations along the way. To begin with I was the only male there which was daunting as a lot of the talk was about men – but also a really great experience for once to be in the minority. I purposely stayed at the edge of the circle for this one – mainly because I just wanted to listen and learn and quite frankly there are enough white, straight, middle class men talking all the time and making their voices heard and this session was not about me and my voice. It was an opportunity to listen and learn and see what I can do to help the situation and to really discover how the gender divide has effected women in the arts and in society in general. And it was incredibly eye-opening. Thank you to those present for being so open and honest and allowing me to observe. I’ve made a few notes that people raised during this conversation and I hope out of context they make sense (please do suggest better ways of wording things if they do not!).

Notes/Key Points/Quotes

  • Self-empowerment – give yourselves permission to go for roles
  • Gate keeping – other women in leadership roles bringing women up through
  • Creating a new model of leadership which isn’t patriarchal
  • Women to take responsibility for how women are viewed in the arts
  • Women talking and advocating for each other – name dropping other women in conversations, twitter, interviews etc
  • Leadership qualities – how to change the male orientated view of leadership so that it better represents women and their qualities
  • Remembering that emotion is the sign of a strong leader and not a weakness
  •  Start empowerment through schools – governing boards – education
  • Need to change the vocabulary that we use – not just in the arts but in everyday life as well
  • Look at the Iceland model for equal rights of the mother
  • Get rid of preconceived and deep rooted ideas of what a mother should be
  • Equal childcare / paternity
  • Why should women have to fight their way back into jobs from the bottom after having children?
  • Change the culture of male language and put an end to questions such as “do you think you can deal with men” being asked in interviews to female only candidates

After this session I sat down and thought about everything I’d heard and discovered and one thing I’m going to do much more of is shouting about and name-checking the brilliant women that I work with or have conversations with. Especially on social media via my personal account and the Theatre Bath account. I’m also going to look very closely and the vocabulary I use and keep taking stock of how I say things to see if I can make them more gender-neutral. This discussion resonated and reverberated long after it finished so thank you again for letting me listen.

 

img_1523Session 7 – Making things easier to understand (or f**k art speak)

I accidentally wandered into this session and I’m so glad I did. Personally I hate jargon. It’s one of my massive bug bears. I work or have worked with a lot of large organisations that are full of acronyms and slang terms and I absolutely loathe it – just call things what they are and quit labelling them all the time. I also hate that we are expected to speak in cultural tongues in order for us to ascend the cultural leadership ladder. No! Just no! Talk proper like… :p

 

Notes/Key Points/Quotes

  • Whatever we say or think – not everyone has internet access – not everyone is computer savvy
  • Why do we rely on past success to sell shows? Are audiences really interested in some obscure production that someone they have never heard of by a company they don’t know has produced sometime in the past? Why not just write good copy about the actual show
  • Some venues use Skype/Facetime to get artists appearing their to talk about their forthcoming work
  • Realise the value of actual contact with artists creating the work
  • Getting people who have been involved with or seen the “product” to advocate for it and help to write the copy for it
  • Reconnect with why you are involved with a company. Why are you involved with doing the work? This shifts the ownership of the work.
  • Use of the word “Artists” – has it become a dirty buzz word? Is there a certain snobbery or elitism associated with the word? Search for a title within the word that represents what it means to us as individuals
  • Have a bullshit filter or a friend/colleague that can act as a bullshit filter to help us better describe our work
  • Use the 25 words or less method of describing the show / work

 

Session 8 – Want to perform a show in Bath? What can we do to help?

I called this session to try and help connect people who want to perform in Bath with the right venues and organisations and to share what I know with anyone who was interested.

The key points that came from the discussion were that Bath and Bristol do have bubble and cliques that from the outside can be very hard to penetrate. Theatre Bath is going to look at how we can help with this including potentially re-starting our informal networking nights / tweetups so that people can meet with other theatre makers and get the advice/help/connections that they desperately need.

Also pointed out that there is very little scope for development of new work in Bath or showing of new work. So to address this we’re going to look at potentially starting scratch nights so that anyone wishing to show work and get feedback on it from audiences or other professionals locally have a platform from which to do this.

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Closing Thoughts for Day 2

Usually at the end of D&D I feel exhausted and emotional. Today I felt empowered and ready to take on the world. The power of openspace and the ability to connect with so many people on an open playing field is empowering and beautiful.

I’ve spent the last two days walking around the space smiling at strangers, them smiling back and saying hello to lots of different people. I became very aware as I left the circle this evening and headed to catch a train that the feeling of open space didn’t exist in the world that I’d just stepped back into. The reality of walking up the approach to Temple Meads Station and for a moment forgetting that the people milling around me going about their daily lives don’t yet contain the open space magic that the rest of us get to take away with us. I forgot for a moment that if you smile at normal people sometimes they don’t react in the same way as they do in open space. I got some very weird looks from those loitering outside the station as I began adjusting back to the real world but still smiling madly at them. It just reminded me that we’ve got more work to do yet and that we need to spread the open space magic a little wider. Am I going to stop smiling madly at strangers… occasionally saying hello… not a bloody chance. We are all responsible for creating a change and being the change that we want to see in the world. Open space has again re-ignited something within me that I can now keep and take forward in a positive way and implement in the work that I do in the future. From small acorns grow mighty oaks and all that.

I can’t wait to see what the final day brings and I look forward to it with a heightened sense of optimism that things can change and be made better.

Until tomorrow.

 

Contact / Social Media:

Personal Twitter: @LukeJohnEmmett    –   Website: www.lukejohnemmett.co.uk

Theatre Bath @TheatreBath    –   Facebook: www.facebook.com/theatrebath

Theatre Bath Bus: @TheatreBus

 

Email: info@theatrebath.co.uk    –   mail@lukejohnemmett.co.uk

#DandD12 – Day One – thoughts and other ramblings

It was great being back at Devoted and Disgruntled and being surrounded by intelligent and interesting conversation and ideas about the theatre industry.

For those of you who don’t know what Devoted & Disgruntled is or who would like more information visit their website (where you can find reports on all the discussions happening there): http://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/

 

As a bit of a preface to coming along today we have just learnt that B&NES Council are about to cut all Arts funding by 2020 and also we risk losing our library in Bath (or should I say it’s getting downsized to not much more than an internet cafe). So before coming to D&D today I attended the protest about that, but with the new information about Arts cuts weighing very heavily on my mind. So I was in a strange place. Fired up by the brilliant protest but despairing about the imminent and deadly cuts that were creeping upon us like a thick black depressing shadow, reaching out with its chilling hands to rip away the cultural heart from the city I love. Dramatic much?!?

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So with that in mind I somewhat curled up into my introverted and contemplative protective shell and sat back and listened more than joining in with the discussions. Below are a few of notes and observations.

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Session 1 – New Venue – How/What/When Licensing

This was a really interesting session which featured a range of experience of setting up and running venues. I forget the openness and the willingness of people to share best practices and advice. D&D really enables these discussions to happen on an equal playing field.

We discussed everything from finding audiences / users of the space to setting up boards, legislation, subscriptions and everything in between. Below are a few quotes and notes.

“Sweat Equity – Time Banking” – doesn’t always have to be a financial arrangement for using spaces

“No group is too small to be contacted about using the space – go everywhere in the community and talk to everyone”

“Always have a brand leader”

“Make sure it’s the right space for the right show”

Important question – “Why are you actually doing it? Why are you setting up the venue”
This leads on to forming mission statements and business plans.

Artistic Policy = Soul of the venue

Trustees – get them to buy in to your vision. They don’t have to donate financially but they should benefit the organisation.

Create really good art and build a family of support around you.

 

Session 2 -How Can We Help Straight, White, Middle Class, Able-Bodied, Cis Men Know They Are The Minority And The Not The Norm?

Stella Duffy called this session and it was great to be able to sit and listen to the items discussed and how we can all help be part of the change that needs to happen. As someone who ticks most of the boxes for the title of this discussion I wanted to know what more I can do and I felt that this discussion has helped open my eyes to a few more areas that I possibly wouldn’t have considered before.

Some of my favourite quotes were:

Diversity – the Highlander effect. Everyone is fighting for power and to see who can be the most powerful by going around chopping the heads off of others and taking their power.

 

“By empowering others you gain power by power growing”

 

And my absolute favourite quote of the day from Stella herself:

“If men are manspreading – start C**t spreading.”

 

img_1518Session 3 – Collaborate to support Bristol Artists making new work

I have to say I left this session part of the way through when it was made very clear that Bath organisations weren’t particularly welcome to collaborate here. Which is a real shame as our doors are open to Bristol artists and we would love to work with you. Is this the infamous Bath/Bristol divide in action again?

What became abundantly clear though was the feeling of elitism and hierarchy within Bristol that was leaving some Bristol artists feeling excluded from “the club” and left looking in from outside the bubble. This was discussed at some length with talk of gatekeepers and allowing entry and then curation of that entry.

A brilliant idea was raised which was the most simple and effective idea of all that Theatre Bath has used to great effect – although the idea seemed to be somewhat dismissed. What artists need is space to talk and to meet with people running the venues in and around the city. This just means opening up one of the spaces and getting the right people there and allowing conversations and networking to happen. We used to run Tweetups which were informal meetings at a pub where anyone with an interest in theatre would show up, share ideas and ask for help. From these sessions connections were made by companies with local theatres and practitioners which then led on to those companies being able to take their work into the venues and stage it. And all we did was to arrange a time for people to meet with the right people and enable this to happen. It truly is the simplest thing in the world to do and I hope someone grabs the idea and runs with it.

For any Bristol artists reading this if you want to bring a show to Bath get in touch and I will put you in touch with the right people at the right venues. I will help promote your show via the Theatre Bath website and I will also put you in touch with people who know about flyer distribution and marketing of shows in Bath. We welcome you with open arms and will do everything we can to help support you and your work. Drop us an email: info@theatrebath.co.uk

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Session 4 – Bristolian / City Dwellers – how can we share more with the regions that surround us

This was an inspired session discussing creating a smaller inner-cities version of the Rural Touring framework to help link venues from the outskirts and regions together.

A few key points:

“Neighbours not community” i.e. people that pass us by on the way to work.

Collaborating more with tours to surrounding areas. Creating satellite suburb towns.

The power of rural touring is word of mouth – value of audience from communities spreading the word about shows. How can we capitalise on this free publicity? Longer runs of work?

Transport to venues for audiences and practitioners a real issue to regions. Lobby to help change this and get councils etc to see the importance of good transport links.

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Day 1 Conclusion

A real mixed bag. I’m exhausted. I’m inspired. I’m definitely fired-up for day 2.

See you tomorrow!

 

Contact / Social Media:

Personal Twitter: @LukeJohnEmmett    –   Website: www.lukejohnemmett.co.uk

Theatre Bath @TheatreBath    –   Facebook: www.facebook.com/theatrebath

Theatre Bath Bus: @TheatreBus

 

Email: info@theatrebath.co.uk    –   mail@lukejohnemmett.co.uk

The Lonely Refugee (work in progress)

I’m not entirely sure if this is a poem or spoken word or a song. It’s a work in progress at the moment whatever it is.

It’s about refugees and being displaced from your home.

Words and music by Luke John Emmett.

   

  

Lyrics:

Running away from all they know

Each new day a new war zone

Piles of rubble, pools of blood

Death is raining from above.

Streets of terror, human debris

What remains of family?

Nothing left of the place they called home.

  

  

Chorus:

Searching for a place to call home

Travelling down the roads unknown

Hoping that the world will begin to see.

There is nothing different between you and me

Just another lonely refugee.

  

  
Home is more than bricks and mortar

As they make their way across the water

Young Aylan lying dead on the beach

Shipwrecked signs of humanity

Leaving all they know behind

History and piece of mind

Struggling for the right to be free.

  

CHORUS

   
A whole life, condensed to a rucksack

Give them the strength, they need to get back

Keep on going, down that lonely road,

Never knowing what the future holds

Will they make it, to sanctuary

Or will they be drowned on the ferry?

Put on show for the whole world to see.

   

CHORUS:

  
Just another lonely refugee

Just another lonely refugee.

  

  

  

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW MCCONNELL / PANOS