Archive for the blogging Category

Stand and Be Counted (A 2015 Election Special)

Posted in blogging, new writing on May 7, 2015 by danbaker83

28583_387643753386_2125978_nToday is polling day. Thousands of registered UK voters will be marking boxes to show their political allegiance in the name of democratic process. This year’s General Election promises to be closely fought, and will probably end with a result that creates more confusion than clarity – but that’s politics.


Now seems like a good time to revisit an old project I produced.


Back in May 2010, I was invited to produce First Time Voters­ – an event hosted by the Bush Theatre and presented in partnership with nabokov and Drywrite. The event featured new pieces specially commissioned and developed to mark the 2010 General Election, focusing on the eponymous First Time Voters and their potential engagement with the political process. This event took place on Wed 5th May 2010 – the day before the polls opened.


The names involved in the project speak to the quality of the work created; writers included James Graham, E V Crowe and Joel Horwood, and Joe Murphy, Hamish Pirie, Vicky Jones and Phoebe Waller-Bridge were amongst the directors. You only need look at the British theatre landscape to see just how brilliant those people are, so to have them all working on one project is insane in hindsight.


But, with all due respect to them, they weren’t the most important people involved. That honour belongs to the young people and first time voters we engaged with to help develop the pieces. The Bush’s then-Project Assistant Sade Banks worked alongside Kirsty Patrick Ward and then-Artistic Director Josie Rourke to create a piece about how she was denied a voice by not being old enough to vote, despite being more passionate and politically engaged than a lot of eligible people (you can even watch this here on YouTube). E V Crowe and Hamish Pirie worked with a group young people from the local Somali community to explore their desire to be represented and have a true voice in the political process. Young artists from the Bush’s Young Activist programme and the likes of the National Youth Theatre were invited to participate, actively developing pieces and performing them on stage.


Seeing this work develop was incredibly powerful. Seeing Sade get so frustrated at not being able to vote when wanting to spoke to me of a system failing its people because of arbitrary restrictions; sitting in with the Somali group and hearing them find their voice, watching them enjoy the feeling of being engaged and to speak of what mattered to them, was moving. Sitting in an audience made up of largely young, politically engaged people showed that, despite any suggestions to the contrary, young people really are engaged in politics.


However, what happened following the 2010 General Election distresses me. Those very people we engaged with – the young, the outsiders, the refugees – have suffered due to ideological policies which completely disregard their interests. We’ve seen a Coalition Government which has increased the burden on young and working-age people whilst protecting the wealthy and the pension pots of the older generation. We’ve seen the rise of a so-called ‘legitimate’ right wing party who want to close our borders to those in need, and who not only house members with extreme views but give them a platform to spread their message. We’ve had to sit back and watch as any attempts to engage with a younger demographic are considered “a joke”, whilst getting business leaders to sign letters in support of your policies is fine – even if they’re not all business leaders, and didn’t all actually sign your letter.


My political leanings are perfectly clear for you all to see here, but that’s not what this post is about. This is about encouraging young people and first time voters to have their say. We did something back in 2010 which, although relatively small scale, did something to engage these people and encourage them to find their voices. This year, amongst other election-related events we’ve seen Theatre Uncut develop Apathy with Chris Goode, and offer that to people rights-free to develop performances from; China Plate and the Unity Theatre, Liverpool are presenting U-Decide, a series of works with political messages; and Theatre Delicatessen are presenting a night of alternative election entertainment and debate, along with live streaming of the Election Night results.


Oh, and a couple of people called James Graham and Josie Rourke have developed a play called The Vote for the Donmar Warehouse, which is also aired on More4 on the evening of Thu 7th May 2015. They did something similar for the last General Election…


Please. Make sure you use your vote, be you young, old or somewhere in-between. Every vote matters.

The Alternative Theatre Charter

Posted in blogging, venues on August 4, 2014 by danbaker83

This Theatre Charter thing is annoying me – it only seems to serve a small, privileged section of the audience. In response I’ve drawn up an alternative which I’d be much happier to see people sign up to.   THE VENUE/COMPANY

  • We will welcome you to our spaces with no prejudice. You don’t have to wear a top hat and tails to get in, and if you want to have a laugh and a joke with your mates in the bar then we’re cool with that
  • We will do our best to engage and entertain you with our performances and events. Sometimes we may not be completely successful, but we’re going to try bloody hard.
  • We know our bars are usually massively overpriced. If we can’t keep these prices down, we’ll at least try to make them a nice environment to hang out in
  • Yes, the ice cream is also overpriced. And the sweets. We’re sorry
  • Because most of our Box Office and Front of House staff will be people who are keen to work in our industry (and lots will be students or jobbing artists) they’re typically lovely people to chat to. They’re not well-paid, but they’ll probably be up for a chat if you fancy it
  • We can’t compete with Michael Bay – but we can do spectacle. And bigger isn’t always better – some smaller shows are AMAZING
  • If we’re doing a show that’s not at a traditional space, then we’ll give you as much information as possible about it. Nothing sucks more than going to a show in a muddy, rainy field wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt (festivals excepted)
  • Our seats are probably uncomfortable. WE KNOW. If you need to fidget a bit to get comfortable, then go for it (and if you want to bring a cushion from home, then that’s cool too)
  • We will respect you and your opinions. If you think our work wasn’t great, then we’ll not claim you “didn’t get it” – instead, we’ll work harder at making what we’re trying to achieve even clearer


  • Let us know if you have any problems. We’re not going to get any better at making theatre more welcoming if you don’t feed back to us, and we’re genuinely keen to know what you think
  • If you want to laugh or applaud at any points, then go for it. There’s not a wrong time to react – despite what some people will tell you – and it lets us know what you think
  • You’re welcome to leave if you want to. This isn’t Guantanamo Bay – you don’t have to wait until we let you leave
  • You might be able to help us in being better with new audiences. If you think you know a group who may be interested in coming who haven’t been before, then get in touch and we’ll happily do what we can to make the experience enjoyable for them
  • If you’re bringing a family to a show, then we’re really excited by that. We hope they enjoy it, and tell us anything we can do to make it better. Theatres can be really bad at dealing with families sometimes
  • If there’s anything we’re failing at as a venue, then TELL US. Best thing to do is put something in writing (even a tweet) and then we can respond and do something about it.
  • And try not to be a dick, eh? We’re really keen for you to feel welcome, but if you keep doing stuff like shouting “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” at Sir Ian McKellan during Waiting for Godot or threatening to punch out an old lady because her sweet wrappers are too loud, we’ll probably ask you to leave

And remember – you can absolutely sign up to this charter. Or not. It’s completely your choice.


In case you’re interested, Amber Massie-Blomfield from The Albany and Annabel Turpin from ARC in Stockton have also blogged about why their venues aren’t signing up to the Theatre Charter (the original one, not mine). They’re both good reads.

You Me Bum Bum Train – a bum deal for performers?

Posted in artist development, blogging, interactive work, producing on July 31, 2012 by danbaker83

Upon its return to the London scene as part of the London 2012 festival, You Me Bum Bum Train has again found itself being questioned about its reliance on large numbers of unpaid volunteers.  According to The Guardian, Equity is considering taking legal action against the company on the grounds that cast and crew are unpaid for a show which charges £20 a ticket.  But is the situation as black-and-white as it appears?

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Nurturing the blogging community (A response to Jake Orr)

Posted in artist development, blogging, journalism, producing on March 1, 2012 by danbaker83

A couple of weeks ago Jake Orr at A Younger Theatre asked why the UK theatre blogging community have fallen so silent – and referred to my own blog when pointing out the lack of consistency in posting.  It’s only fair that I offer up my own personal reasons for a lack of consistency – some of which I imagine also apply to other blog writers.

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‘Long Player’: A Response

Posted in artist development, blogging, journalism, producing on November 9, 2011 by danbaker83

Jane Scott’s recent entry on the Guardian Theatre Blog addresses so-called ‘long play’ theatre, and suggests that the very concept of such pieces is riddled with problems which can undermine their purpose. However, her entry seems to cover a multitude of diverse issues which are tenuously linked under this heading, and I feel strongly that further exploration of some key points is needed to flesh out the debate.

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Beached – A PR Disaster

Posted in blogging, journalism, producing on August 2, 2011 by danbaker83

The recent furore over Opera North’s proposed cancellation of Lee Hall’s Beached – provoking allegations of homophobia against the local education authority – has now seemingly died down, with the show now set to go ahead after an uneasy truce has been called between all parties.  However, the way in which the story broke and developed sheds a great deal of light on how PR works within the arts.

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The Blog List

Posted in blogging on June 24, 2011 by danbaker83

Having recently attended Improbable’s Devoted and Disgruntled satellite session regarding theatre criticism (hosted by The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner and A Younger Theatre’s Jake Orr) I was keen to read more theatre blogs – with the question being raised in the build-up to the event about the difference between reviewing and criticism, I thought it would be interesting to try and discover a wider range of blogs to see for myself what people are writing about.

I already feature a blog-roll (in the right-hand column of this page) which features a list of people who I already read, but I was keen to open myself up to reading people I would not necessarily have discovered myself – with so many voices online covering various topics and incorporating various styles, it’s difficult to know where to begin.  It’s impossible to have a comprehensive list of blogs, but the benefit of social media is that allows you access to huge numbers of people in ways which can benefit you at times you are looking for advice and information.

So, I put a call-out at on Twitter – asking people to post links to their blogs appended with the hashtag #theatreblog.  Below are the responses I’ve had, with Twitter handles below of who suggested them (not necessarily those who run them!) – dive in and read some of them:

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