Convener: Julian Rudd
Participants: Clive Lyttle, Dave Reeves, Karen Poley, Debra Reay, Tanya Ashdown, Mark Morreau, Hannah and Tilly from Pleasance Theatre
Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:
We asked the question does it need to be curated or could it be run by a “creative janitor”? The French models are curated, normally attached to a Festival in a town or city. Often they are sited in areas of deprivation and have social and community roles. There was broad agreement that we should look at European models of creation centres and funding.
There was a consensus that space would need to be curated in some way. Some in the group felt strongly that the space should be curated by a strong artistic director making the decisions; others that the role was a combination of facilitator, producer and collaborator.
Jeune Talent was suggested as a possible model to use for selecting companies to use the space.
There was a proposal to have a percentage of time allocated to new and emerging companies. There was consensus that the space should pay an active role in commissioning and developing new work.
One possible model in London is that the centre could collaborate with Outdoor Arts Festivals such as Thames and Greenwich and Docklands Festivals. Each Festival could have a period of time around their dates to programme companies into the space. This has the advantage of filling the space during the quieter summer months; most companies would want to use the space during the autumn, winter and spring as they would be touring during the summer.
There was a discussion about how much space was needed – there was an assumption that space were needed all around the UK and that the space would be totally oversubscribed.
Artists wanted the space to be accessible, warm, and flexible. Good facilities are essential – 24 hour access, large/small versatile spaces, indoor and outdoor, catering facilities, accommodation, wifi and office space would be ideal. The staff that facilitate the company’s stay should have technical knowledge of the facilities and be able to assist with problem solving and warm and welcoming. The whole atmosphere of the building and the people running it should be focussed on facilitating the creative process for the visiting company.
What artists don’t want is a space that’s too precious to use – ie polished floors that can’t have paint spattered on them with negative gatekeepers that’s overstaffed and overly bureaucratic.
There was a consensus that the centre should be light on its feet in terms of staffing and make use of an existing building if possible, rather than being a purpose built facility.
We realised that the business model of the centre would also have a major impact on curating the space. Some felt that the space would need to earn its keep by hiring the space out commercially for a portion of the year. Once the group considered the conflicts involved in this business model ie that commercial hirers could/would have priority over the companies using it not commercially most people felt that this model wouldn’t work. Having said that, theatres such as the Pleasance successfully generate income from commercial hires whilst subsidising “associate” companies; this is also an approach which could be considered.
We considered pairing the centre with a higher education institution like Central School of Speech and Drama – this could potentially unlock resources for running the space. Central regularly rents rehearsal space and looks for placements for students to gain experience – both of these functions could easily be accommodated by a creation centre. This partnership would be much more comfortable than relying on commercial hires.