This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit disabilityarts.online.

Disability Arts Online

> > > Gary Thomas

State of the Arts 2012 Conference Sessions (Blog 2)

Probably the most interesting session for me was the first session about the audience. It certainly presented a different way of thinking. The main speakers were Alastair Spalding from Sadlers Wells and Helen Marriage from Artichoke, who produced the Sultan’s Elephant outdoor spectacle as well as The ‘Spider’ in Liverpool in 2008.

Alastair was interesting in that he started by talking about the iPhone, saying that no one could really imagine 10 years ago that there would be a phone like that. 

Alastair focussed on William Forsythe, choreographer. He showed two clips of work taken 25 years apart. He spoke about taking radical steps, which is key, and challenging perceptions of contemporary performance. 

Keeping audience actively informed is a challenge, but a must for his theatre. There were also some interesting thoughts about audience:

  • Audiences generally have no complaints about complexity.
  • They are still drawn to narrative – no matter how complex.
  • But they are also happy when there’s no narrative.
  • They also respond to intellectual versuosity – exploring the nature of performance.

As audience become increasingly multi-national they are drawn to work that reflects diversity. 

He did mention reviews – and how to respond to negative ones – put on more of the same work. He presented a ‘Forsythe Season’, and the audience became more informed, and the work became more validated. 

Helen spoke about her work – large scale outdoor pieces. As a producer she knows that lives can be better from seeing art, and it’s her job to imagine the impossible and make it happen. 

The greatest communication tools for Helen were secrecy, timing and surprise. This was interesting for me - and if you have the support of a venue like Sadlers Wells that will put on your work every year then great. But what of those artists struggling to find such a venue and / or producers? 

The session certainly raised questions for me. I’ve now made eight films. What do people expect from me next? Do my 800 + twitter followers really care about what I do next? 

How many of them would buy a DVD of my films if I released one? (800 x £15.99 = £12,792). That’s quite a lot. 

So again, it goes back to the audience. For me as a filmmaker, that’s simple and something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and as an artist, it actually hasn’t changed my thinking. I think essentially we simply want people to turn up and see the work.  

Though for my next steps, it may be more to do with my writing than anything I’m currently doing at the moment. But with the element of surprise in mind, that’s all I’m saying at the moment. 

Posted by Gary Thomas, 29 February 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 March 2012

State of The Arts Conference, 14th Feb 2012 (Blog1)

I was selected as one of 50 bursary winners to attend the State of The Arts Conference in Manchester, on 14th February. You can read the twitter stream by looking up the hashtag #SOTA12 and podcasts will be available soon.

OK. Lets start with the really obvious thing, that shouldn’t have been obvious at all.

Throughout the conference, even on the film, there were no subtitles, and no BSL Interpreters. What were ACE thinking? Has it been like this for the past three years?

This was my first year attending the State Of The Arts Conference, and maybe I’ve got used to being surrounded by disabled artists, each of whom have their own access needs. But it was a little shocking for me to be at an arts conference where no access issues had been considered. Please think about this next year.

That’s that out the way.

The actual conference itself was interesting, and definitely worth going to. After the keynote speeches, a lively discussion took place (titled 2012 And Then What?) which drew one blank look from Ed Vaizey MP & some interesting points from others. Key issues were about local councillors not understanding how relevant the Arts are (Ed Vaizey agreed to write to all local councillors to tell them) and (perhaps more obviously) what’s going to happen after the Olympics. I won’t mention the numerous Valentine’s day puns because they were awful.

Kirsty Wark did a brilliant job with the panel, (and throughout the day) particularly with Vaizey, who at times seems to agree to nearly everything people were saying. The sticking point though, was with the issue of Visa’s for international Artists coming to the UK, which proved to be a hot topic for a number of organisations in the audience.

Over all, attending the conference was a good experience, one that I’m glad I went too. I shall be posting about the other sessions in the next few days, so watch this space. 

Posted by Gary Thomas, 16 February 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 17 February 2012