CEO Weekly Blog – w/c 28 Jan

ARC & The Civic’s 2018 family co-commission – Stella by Filskit Theatre

One of the things I love most about my job is the variety of things I get to do, but admittedly sometimes it can feel like you need to shift your thoughts from one thing to another at the speed of light. This week I’ve spent two days in London with Future Arts Centres colleagues, focussed on strategy and two days meeting and talking to artists and programmers, with a day in-between of one to one meetings, including with our two key funders. Not all weeks divide quite so neatly…

The week began with a conversation with Future Arts Centre colleagues about scaling up. We explored how and why scaling up can benefit arts centres, and what working together could unlock in terms of opportunity, expertise and resources. On Tuesday, we spent time with Mark Robinson of Thinking Practice looking at how we can best evaluate some of Future Arts Centres’ work, reinforcing my New Year commitment to more reflection time. Having Mark as a critical friend to the network has been hugely beneficial in introducing an outside perspective to our work – you can read some of his early reflections here.

On Thursday, I hosted a Venues North meeting at ARC. Despite the weather, nine artists and companies, each nominated by a Venues North member, shared their work with 35+ programmers. Venues North is a network of venues across the North of England who share a commitment to supporting artists and companies making new work. It grew out of conversations with colleagues at the Carriageworks, Theatre in the Mill and The Lowry way back in 2012, about how we could help artists we were already supporting in our venues get their work seen more widely. Nearly seven years on, Venues North has grown to 40 members who meet three or four times a year to share best practice and meet new artists. As a programmer I value the opportunity to learn from others, and to meet artists and companies who are new to me. It was great to explore how we could pool our collective resources and influence to better support artists, as well as increasing the diversity of artists able to access development opportunities.

We also launched the latest version of Routes In: A Guide to Getting New Work Programmed in the North of England, which you can download free here. It’s a real labour of love to pull together and keep it up to date but artists tell us it is a great resource. It includes contact details, artistic policies and support for artists available from many of our members, as well as some advice for artists which draws on the collective experience and expertise of Venues North members.

The week ended with more meetings with artists; this time in the company of Ian Morley from The Civic in Barnsley, as we selected our family co-commission for February half-term 2020. The partnership, now in its fifth year, has been a fantastic way of supporting and influencing work made for families and ensuring we have a fantastic show for half term that is relevant to our audiences. On Friday we met six outstanding companies, all with brilliant ideas and a real commitment to involving children in the development of their work, ensuring its relevance. We now have the unenviable task of choosing one to support…