Archive for the new writing 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.

Open Court, and presenting innovative work in risk-averse times

Posted in artist development, new writing, producing, venues on August 11, 2013 by danbaker83

The Royal Court’s Open Court Festival – a programme of work programmed, curated and developed by writers – saw a variety of different styles of work presented, in many ways different to what we have come to expect from the Court. Along with the change in the Bush Theatre’s submissions process to accept a wider range of work, two major new writing venues are showing a willingness to embrace the desires of writers to create the work they wish to, rather than that which venues traditionally programme. But will this lead to a change in the type of work produced, or will the safer, more traditional work win out in the end?

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Falling Headlong – and how we can make theatre trailers work

Posted in digital, journalism, networking, new writing on April 30, 2012 by danbaker83

Headlong recently released the trailer for their upcoming season; a glitzy, sharp looking affair which is in many people’s eyes a piece of art in itself.  However, within all the fanfare regarding its high production values has been a sense that the trailer has been embraced as some type of cause celebré as far as theatre’s relationship with social media is concerned.  Is this fair on Headlong, and does this undermine what they are trying to achieve?

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Producing Equality

Posted in artist development, new writing, producing on February 13, 2012 by danbaker83

Originally written for ArtsProfessional

Agent 160 Theatre rehearsalsI’ve recently been swamped with work for a new company I’m working with as producer.  The reasons for the company existing and the sense of excitement and community within the company are invigorating, but in many respects I’d rather the company didn’t need to exist; the fact that it does suggests there are serious issues of inequality within the theatre industry which have yet to be properly addressed.

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The ‘write’ person for the job?

Posted in new writing, venues on November 4, 2011 by danbaker83

With the announcement that Michael Boyd will be leaving his post of Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (alongside Executive Director Vikki Heywood), thoughts have turned to who may take one of the most high-profile posts in British theatre.  Articles, blogs and social media have thrown a range of names into the hat, many of them the respected directors you would expect to be linked to such a post – but should companies and venues be thinking beyond the expected norm?

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The Audience Agenda

Posted in interactive work, journalism, new writing on August 22, 2011 by danbaker83

Although I’ve yet to trek north of the border myself, one of the apparent talking points of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe seems to be regarding Ontroerend Goed’s Audience, and its treatment of audience members as participants.  As divisive as the show is (Laura Barnett hated it; Philip Fisher implores you all to see it), this direct engagement with audiences reflects a growing trend in performance to do away with the fourth wall and to challenge audiences to become directly engaged in what is played out in front of them.

Stories emerging from Edinburgh tell of audience members shouting and swearing at the actor involved in the systematically bullying of a young girl singled out in the audience (genuine or plant? – there are conflicting stories), where the actions stir them from being passive and independent to becoming connected and supportive of their fellow patrons; even after being reminded of the ‘rules’ of being a theatre audience in the opening minutes of the piece, they have in fact been drawn into breaking them.  The methods are crude and justifiably perceived by many as unacceptable, but the perceived notion of what is acceptable behaviour for an audience has been subverted for the purpose of this performance.

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Online presence

Posted in blogging, networking, new writing, producing, venues on May 16, 2011 by danbaker83

Originally written for ArtsProfessional

I’ve spoken here before about the benefits of the internet in bringing creative communities together, but how can we directly engage with the platforms available to us to make the most of them – and how do we get the balance right to ensure we engage with audiences, and don’t ignore their input?

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