Likely Story are developing our new project through Wales Lab - it's very exciting and we'll be blogging more about it, there might even be some videos and photos... We've been busy sorting it all out and in the process of doing that I stumbled across something that I wrote the evening after we had our first Wales Lab meeting. It's been lurking in the depths of my laptop and I thought I'd like to share it. I've been having lots of conversations with people about artist support, what shape it takes. There are lots of schemes and offers to support emerging artists and nurture new ideas but how many of them are all about the work, rather than the status and profile of the supporting organisations? I've heard some horrible stories about ownership of work, crediting and creative interference. So I wanted to share my experience at the start of Wales Lab, I'd love to hear about what you think artists need to make work.
I’ve just spent the morning perfecting my West Country middle Billy Goat Gruff for Likely Story’s next venture out, a family show at Machynlleth Comedy Festival. We break for lunch and head off for the National Theatre Wales offices for discussion about Wales Lab – a programme that we’ve just been accepted onto. We’re excited, it’s a great opportunity to begin our new project, working title Bridport Ladies, but not really sure how the scheme works, full of questions and uncertainty. And a little distracted by the best way to make goat beards and horns that will easily go on and off.
It’s the usual, slightly strange way in to the quiet hum of activity that is the NTW offices. It’s really great that NTW is so accessible but it always feels a little odd to walk straight into the offices without any sort of gatekeeper. A national organisation that want you to come in and say hello – how many of those are there? A friendly face spies our shuffling introductions and before long we are settling down into sofa’s with Matt to start our conversation. I start saying that we have lots of questions, which turns out to be a lie – we have one – what do we need to do next? I’m assuming that it’s going to be the usual; project plan, budget, maybe an equal opps statement or a marketing plan. I’ve been securing funding and partners for projects for about 13 years – in Wales, Ireland (north and south), England and further afield. I know the drill.
Well, says Matt. You tell us what you need and then we’ll sort it out. (These aren’t the exact words, I’m afraid those are lost forever in a moment of stupefaction) Slackjawed I look across at my fellow company members. Their expressions – like stunned fish – match mine and confirm that I wasn’t hearing wrong. It takes about 3 different lines of questioning before I’m willing to believe him. He’s clearly very nice and effective but surely he’s got it wrong. We just get to be artists? Makers? Not project managers, producers, administrators, marketeers as well? And in return you just want us to strive for excellence and to say that this project was supported by Wales Lab. Nothing else?
We emerge giddy and giggling into the arcade. Slightly stunned by all the possibility, disorientated by this new way of working. As a small company that receives no regular subsidy we are all used to working a range of jobs, some creative some not, fitting the planning and organising of the work we are trying to make into evenings and weekends. Going straight from the rehearsal room to the spreadsheet, from a funding application to a dramaturgy conversation. This feels like a step forward. We know how important it is to get the organisation, planning and management right but it’s hard to pull yourself away from the creative challenges, hard to divert energy out of the creative process to rehearsal room booking or contract negotiations with an agent when all you want to do is make the best possible work that you can.
We need to find a producer, we know but it’s hard with a small budget and a precarious existence. Right now – having someone else, a whole organisation, committed to making our idea happen feels like a total win. We go back to our rehearsal room, work hard and have a great afternoon. We discover that the Three Billy Goats Gruff are actually end of pier entertainers. Who’d have thought it?
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