Hello,

My name is Lee Marable and I am a third year Architecture Student at Cardiff University's Welsh School of Architecture. I was wondering if I could get some of your opinions...

Our current project is to create a theoretical masterplan for an area of the City of Brecon. I am very interested in National Theatre Wales, particularly the stated approach to education,
and was wondering what benefits a company like this could provide a
community like Brecon, where there is both a private and state
schools, how can it aid community cohesion?

One of my initial ideas for the area is to create a series of buildings which could act as both a satellite theatre for
the existing Theatre Brycheiniog, largely for community
rehearsals/small scale productions, (for use by both Christ College
and Brecon High school) and as a centre for NTW; a
place where sets can be made, possibly with community help, plays can
be rehearsed, and theatre troupes from around Wales could come and
reside for periods whilst rehearsing and to interact with both
students and the community. Is there anything else which you feel cold be of benfit?

Brecon is a city in the centre of Wales, so a good position for the NTW, and with a strong arts background - a
jazz festival, baroque festival and fringe festival, perhaps a
theatre festival could also be suggested.

On the website it says: 'We will centralise learning and participation in all of our activity. When we make work for young people it will be part of our
core programme. Community engagement and participation will be a
feature of every single piece of work we make. We aim to forge
partnerships with learners, educators, schools, colleges and
academies on the broadest scale: from making work for babies to
co-sponsoring a PhD.'

I was wondering if anyone has any ideas on this, the way performance art and theatre can impact a community and education?


Is there the capability of people such as drama graduates to participate in this kind of scheme as people running the facilities?


Just to reiterate this is a purely theoretical project.


Any information or feedback you could give me would be invaluable.

Many thanks :)

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Hi Lee. Interesting post. When we were doing our production of The Persians in the Brecon Beacons we did one of our Assembly projects in Brecon - where we find a question that seems to be of local significance and invite local people to explore it with us through debate and performance. Theres's a lot of info on here about it - search for Brecon Assembly, or send a message to our Creative Associate Mathilde Lopez.

The wider question of theatre and regeneration is a really interesting one. Traditionally theatre has been used for regeneration in terms largely of architecture - building theatres (including very big ones like the Wales Millennium Centre) as part of a scheme of economic stimulation.

However, these days building huge venues is not really on the agenda any more, so the relationship to community and education in relation to opening up new perspectives and chances becomes highlighted. The big challenge here though is that impact is much harder to measure. The confidence gained, say, by a 17 year old who takes part in a drama project may not have an economic impact until many years down the line, and even then it will be hard to say exactly what the impact was.

However, in my experience, creative activity does stimulate new ideas and confidence in a community - and as long as that is combined with real opportunities going forward then a lot can be achieved. You might also want to look at our Bridgend project on here - where we worked primarily with young people. There was a Bridgend Assembly, online projects including ourbridgend.com and a great scheme developing young people as theatre critics. A lot of this work is now being continued by local people.

All the best for your project, John
Thanks for such a quick reply John, I will look into the searches you suggested. It seems that the NTW are doing a lot of good work.

Anymore opinions or suggestions? :)
My personal experience is that communities either buy in or the projects are value to the providers and no-one else. A good ground-based community project can have beneficial effects for years, as John says about Bridgend, and a provision-based project disappear in a puff of smoke. If the members of a community are trained, educated, empowered (horrid word) then they can continue the work whereas providing anything merely reinforces a passive frame of mind.

In the current economic climate it is vital that people are given the chance to discover their own talents and skills which will enable them to set and achieve their own goals and objectives. The barriers between the arts sector and the community need to be smashed. The arts sector is part of the community though its' mindset can often be adversely affected by the elitist nature of arts recruitment, education and training.

Rather than "suggesting" a theatre festival or any other externally imposed idea, why not research what it is that the people of Brecon want and use the arts to enable them to achieve that desire? A drama centre would be a good idea if there weren't one about to become vacant in Abergavenny due to cuts. Why get drama graduates with little life experience to run the theoretical facilities? Surely mentoring local people would be more in tune with cohesion aims? Please remember that sustainability does not just apply to greenness but economic, social, engagement and many other aspects.

If you want an example of how not to do it then visit West Bromwich where the mass of the community hates The Public because it has cost them housing, home-helps, bus subsidies among much else. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jan/28/public-arts-centre-west-br...
http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/2010/11/04/we...
Hey, thanks for your responses.

'Why not research what it is that the people of Brecon want and use the arts to enable them to achieve that desire?'

I agree, and this was largely the reason for finding this website, it is very difficult to find what local people need when based in Cardiff, without a car and with very little time.

'Please remember that sustainability does not just apply to greenness but economic, social, engagement and many other aspects.'

Again, this exactly what I am looking to achieve with this project, and the suggestions of metoring local people are helpful, and I was really intending the project to be solely focussed on the community around it, not something like the west bromich project which attempts to create an icon with no real substance. I really do not wish to create something of this nature.

'In the current economic climate it is vital that people are given the chance to discover their own talents and skills which will enable them to set and achieve their own goals and objectives. The barriers between the arts sector and the community need to be smashed. The arts sector is part of the community though its' mindset can often be adversely affected by the elitist nature of arts recruitment, education and training.'

This seems very interesting, and really sums up what I was trying to articulate, perhaps not very successfully, in my earlier post.

I don't think anything can be gained by creating an expensive and alienating facility, perhaps something more akin to a series of multi-use sheds for school/community use would be more helpful, although you seem to suggest that providing any facility at all has a negative and alienating effect.

I cannot find any articles relating to campaigns against the jazz festival, and having visited Brecon several times it seems to be thoroughly appreciated by locals and businesses alike.

I am sorry if I have appeared ignorant at times, my depth of knowledge on this subject is obviously not at your level, but this is my reason for asking for your help and input.

Thanks, Lee.

Hi Lee,

 

It's an interesting piece about place and doing activities in a place and not in another. My viewpoint the idea represents a subject approach to work and in a way a traditional silo approach. I think Ken Robinson's viewpoint of things might be able to be a bit more eloquent than mine.

 

What I think would be great it to look at how things already exist and how they can be improved to create impromptu meetings/events etc, as apposed to making new.

 

Just a thought

Julian

 

Hi Lee Just a very quick response to selected areas of your inquiry. More a further set of questions

I am Bill from Small World Theatre in West Wales. We work with Theatre for Development and so often people look for the indicators of regeneration solely from architectural solutions. We seek real regeneration of communities via cohesion; self-empowerment and we achieve this through theatre projects, often with scant funding but with tangible results such as paths to education and accreditation, training and jobs. Not always jobs in the arts and theatre area but also using skills acquired through our projects that lead to confidence building and other transferable skills. The trick is to also make that theatre intervention of high quality, be accessible and if possible locally generated. We have found that after 30 years of peripatetic work having a purpose built building has consolidated this process.

Remember there is a fine balance between participation and vision.  

It also seems that the education and theatre benefits you are looking for should be coming from Theatr Brycheiniog or enshrined in their mission statement. They should also have the space you need and the infra structure to support graduates and community. If you seek to construct an alternative building where could you find the funding? Why is it not already on their priority list? What would be needed to work systemically with the existing structures and encourage them to fulfill your goals and fulfil theirs? Does ACW need to look at its remit for this sort of work so it can support this re focusing? Are we all lobbying hard enough for this outcome across Wales? Are we letting the agenda be hijacked and a divide and rule strategy force the " Pure Artist" and the "Community Artist" even further apart, each jealous of the others funding and support? 

SWT has a long history of Arts and Culture for Development in Wales, Africa, Asia and the Middle East that could be found on our old web site. Our new site is consuming a lot of time re entering this international data but in a few weeks the 32-year history should enter the archive. Examples where theatre changes lives and policy are many with SWT's work and also many other companies. I hope it is of interest.

Go Wales used to support graduates getting this experience of work; it may still be doing so.

good luck

Bill

www.smallworld.org.uk

 

Thanks for the responses, it's an interesting topic, and it seems clear that you are all very passionate and knowledgeable about this area, ultimately people like yourselves will make a much bigger difference than any new building.

 

I think this says a lot about architectural education, and the lack of real clients in the process. Your input has been invaluable to me, and, although the project has finished now, I think this kind of consultation has taught me a great lesson. 

 

Thanks again for the help.

 

Best regards,

Lee

 

 

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