Owning The Arts Conference: ‘Making Things Happen’


Making Things Happen: Sustainability in the arts in the 21st Century
Thurs 5 June 2014
9.00am – 5.00pm

The Rocket Entrance,
London Metropolitan University
166 – 220 Holloway Road
N7 8DB 
Nearest Underground Station: Holloway Road
£40 / £20 Freelancers/ £10 (Students and unwaged)

This year’s ‘Owning the Arts’ conference focused on ‘Making Things Happen’ and sustainability in the arts in the 21st century. It was aimed at artists, arts managers, producers, educators, and community activists who wanted to share experiences and best practice. Keynote speakers were Phelim McDermott, Co-Founder of Improbable theatre company and of Devoted and Disgruntled Open Space events and Bobby Baker, Artist and Artistic Director of Daily Life Ltd.

Click here to read the blogs about the event

Conference programme

09.00am    Registration

09.45am     Welcome and Introductions

09.50am    The Rapporteur for the conference will explain the feedback procedures for the day

10.00am   Opening Session: Phelim McDermott, Co-Artistic Director, Improbable theatre company and Founder, Devoted & Disgruntled: “Devoted and Disgruntled: Creativity, Conversation and Self-organisation”

 What can improvisation, devising and the nature of authentic ensemble teach us about the way we organise ourselves and our own sense of agency? Phelim’s session looks at creating an environment of possibility and change and looks at how Devoted and Disgruntled, or D&D, has led to a changing arts culture and simultaneously fed back into creative practice.
Devoted and Disgruntled was born from an invitation Improbable’s Phelim McDermott made in 2006. He envisioned a conference using open space technology where everyone could work fast and effectively on the stuff that really needed to happen in theatre and were courageous about the difficult conversations. Over the years, D&D has become a home for people’s dreams to be nurtured and facilitator of connection and collaboration. The event itself has become a model for many of the solutions people were seeking. Now a nationwide and international event D&D is entering its 10th year.

10.45am    Coffee

11.00am    Morning Breakout Sessions – Choose one of the following:

Session A: Lois Keidan, Co-Founder and Director, Live Art Development Agency: “Do It Yourself the Live Art Way”
A session looking at some of the inventive and resourceful approaches being taken by artists and organisers working with Live Art, and how these could be applied to all kinds of creative endeavours.
A session for anyone working with, or interested in working with, innovative ideas and experimental production models, especially artists at all stages of their career.

Session B: Chris Lane, Academic Leader for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities and Lecturer in Digital Media, Lucy Richardson, Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts and Jacek Ludwig Scarso, Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts and Theatre Skills Coordinator: A practical and creative workshop with London Metropolitan University experts, “Taking Ownership: inside and outside the corporation”

How can creative practitioners negotiate their relationships with corporations (businesses, local authorities, public bodies, NGOs, universities) and engage with their neighbourhoods and communities? The relationship between the corporate modus operandi and creative practice has long been a topic of debate and cultural engagement. Practitioners might view the corporation as:

-an enabler/supporter/funder of artistic practice
-the subject of artistic practice
-the site of artistic practice
-artistic practice itself
-an enemy of artistic practice

What determines whether engagement is enabling, transformative, sustainable and positive? Or are our relationships necessarily conflicted and constrained?
This session will include a performance workshop which will allow these key questions about the relationships between corporations, artists and arts organisations to be explored.

Session C: Sian Thomas, Dramaturg and Director of Outdoor Performance:  “What are the odds?”
What makes the difference between having a brilliant idea in the pub and having a brilliant idea and making it happen? What if your idea is crazy but you know it’s the right thing, how will you convince others?  If an idea is good, there is always a way through to making it happen. But does one compromise the idea for immediacy? Or risk it taking longer than one would like to be sure it remains integral?  Sian will use her experience as a producer and director of outdoor events and shows to explore these themes and give practical advice.

Session D: Shelagh Wright, & John Kieffer (ThreeJohnsandShelagh): “Towards Plan B”
‘Towards Plan B‘ was written in response to the Arts Council England‘s report ‘Towards Plan A – a new political economy for arts and culture?’  ThreeJohnsandShelagh see cultural organisations pursuing artistic and social purposes with direct accountability to, and support from, members of the public. Read their article here:
Their session will look at:
- Moving to relationships rather than transactions with the public
– How to be as creative and innovative in organising what you do as in your artistic endeavours
– Beyond survival – new forms of collaboration

12.15am      Lunch to include time for discussions

1.30pm        Feedback from morning breakout sessions, led by Rapporteur

1.45pm    Afternoon Session: Bobby Baker, Artist and Artistic Director, Daily Life Ltd:
“The DIY Approach to being an Artist”
From Arts and Craft to Punk, a glorious tradition of DIY underpins so much creative endeavour – but just how do artists who have unusual ideas for creating artworks get them made, without compromising their integrity?

Bobby Baker, artist and artistic director of Daily Life Ltd, has been making art for 40 years with notable successes, and a few failures, along the way. Here she will present a selection of her work – including An Edible Family in a Mobile Home 1976 where she made a life-size version of her family out of cake in her Stepney pre-fab; Kitchen Show 1991 where she opened her kitchen to the public as part of LIFT;  and The Daily Life Project, her current exploration of East London accompanied by a virtual cat and dog – to consider what makes things happen, and what definitely doesn’t.

2.30pm    Breakout Sessions – Choose one of the following:

Session E:  Hunt & Darton Café: “Closing The Gap Between Performer and Audience”
A fully functioning café that blends art with the everyday, Hunt & Darton Cafe is a social and artistic hub where spontaneity and performance meet great food and drink. In this session they will be sharing triumphs and challenges of performing in the cafe. They will of course also insist you take part in their much loved game the ‘Not Great British Bakeoff’… they hope you remember what a sugar sandwich is!
This session is aimed at any arts practitioner interested in making interactive performance, public performance, installation and business as art, sustainable art practice and currency of exchange.

Session F: Pen Lister, Web and New Media Lecturer and Practitioner: “The New Consumer Creators”
The greatest challenge today is in how we deal with all the information currently spewing out of the internet from all directions, often ending up in our overflowing inboxes or never opened feed readers. We are drowning in information, much of it unwanted. If we have our own creative work online, it’s a nightmare for other people to find it, as it’s buried in a heap of stuff they aren’t interested in. But this situation is changing.

Pen Lister’s session will look at a variety of digital tools and platforms, and where possible provide hands on experience, as well as talk about how to build a digital personality around our own content using apps like Flipboard, Paperli, Storify and others.

Session G: Russell Thompson, London Programme Coordinator, Apples and Snakes:
“Getting Past the P-word: working with poetry in the 21st century”
Although one of the oldest art forms, poetry is still curiously underground. And yet, with minimal overheads and infinite applications, it is increasingly being seen as a cornerstone of artistic participation. An investigation into how poets’ residencies, commissions and open mics can establish a common language for communities, practitioners and arts professionals.

Session H:  Natalie Wade, Director, Small Green Shoots: “Are You Right For The Creative Industries? It’s not what you know, but who you know…”
In the midst of digital disruption and general upheaval in how creative works are consumed, the old cliché still stands true. Natalie Wade will lead a discussion around the changing demands of today’s creative sector, the qualities needed to succeed and the importance of building personal networks.

3.45pm    Coffee

4.00pm    Round-up session led by Rapporteur to summarise some of the explorations of the day and also look forward – including asking those present to consider what they might do differently after the day, or something they commit to doing with their organisation or in partnership with others.

4.45pm    Conference ends – further informal networking

5.30pm    End

BIOGRAPHIES OF SPEAKERS

Bobby Baker is a woman, and an artist. She lives in Holloway, London. In a career spanning four decades she has, amongst other things, danced with meringue ladies; made a life-sized edible version of her family and driven around the streets of London strapped to the back of a truck yelling at passers by through a megaphone to ‘Pull Yourselves Together.’ Baker’s touring exhibition Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me premiered at the Wellcome Collection in 2009. The accompanying book of the same name won the Mind Book of the Year 2011. Her most recent show, Mad Gyms & Kitchens, was commissioned as part of London 2012 Unlimited for the Cultural Olympiad. Bobby Baker is the Artistic Director of Daily Life Ltd, part of the Arts Council National Portfolio. Baker occupies a uniquely expert professional and personal position in the worlds of both the arts and mental health. Following an AHRC Creative Fellowship at QMUL she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2011. Daily Life Ltd believes in the radical potential of art to transform our understanding of ourselves, and our relationship to the world around us. We promote the abilities of people with experience of mental health issues through the arts, collaborative research and diverse participation. www.dailylifeltd.co.uk

Hunt & Darton are a Live Art Collaboration between Jenny Hunt and Holly Darton. Both have practiced Art since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2003 and been working together for 8 years. Approaching Live Art from a Fine Art background they work across mediums with a sculptural approach to performance, choreographing words and movement in a sensory way and setting up alternative spaces – often creating installations to perform within. Their work derives from their shared celebrations and anxieties surrounding life choices particularly as women, in Britain, now. They have a persistent fetish within their practice to consistently re-assess their relationship with their audience, embracing awkward moments, risk taking and constantly trying to close the gap between performer and viewer opting for a raw, underdone, conversational aesthetic. Hunt & Darton are the creators of the award-winning pop-up cafe– which isn’t just arty, it is ART, a pop-up interactive performance/installation and fully-functioning café where food, service and business are the art with guest waiters, themed days and the sensational signature dish, the roast dinner sandwich. First commissioned by Live Art Collective East for the Cultural Olympiad the Cafe popped up in Cambridge City Centre, at the Edinburgh Fringe and in Clapton, Hackney and is currently touring the UK with the support of Arts Council England Strategic Tour Grant. www.huntanddartoncafe.com

Lois Keidan is a co-founder and the Director of the Live Art Development Agency. She was Director of Live Arts at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London from 1992 to 1997 where she devised a year round programme of new performance and initiated numerous new ventures for established and emerging artists. Prior to the ICA, she was responsible for national policy and provision for Performance Art and interdisciplinary practices at the Arts Council of Great Britain. She contributes articles on performance to a range of journals and publications and gives talks and presentations on performance at festivals, colleges, venues and conferences in Britain and internationally. She sits on a number of Boards and Advisory Panels, including Artsadmin (London) and Performa (New York). In 1999, she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Dartington College of Arts, and in 2009, she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Queen Mary, University of London.  www.thisisliveart.co.uk

Chris Lane is Academic Leader for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities and Lecturer in Digital Media, London Metropolitan University. Chris is responsible for faculty marketing, student recruitment, international recruitment, departmental communication strategy and website and APEL coordination. He lectures in Digital Media in the School of Media, Culture and Communications. http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/faculties/faculty-of-social-sciences-and-humanities/people/surnames-k-to-m/chris-lane/

Pen Lister, ‘Web and New Media Lecturer and Practitioner’ MSc MA MBCS FHEA. After several years freelancing in web and multimedia development, and surviving a previous life as a singer songwriter, Pen now works at London Met – a dynamic and challenging world. She currently works at the university in a variety of roles involving web, social media and elearning. She also lectures in web and new media at all levels of Higher Education.  http://www.penworks.net/

Phelim McDermott is a founding member of Improbable. He has been directing and performing since 1984, when he co-founded dereck dereck Productions with Julia Bardsley. Directing includes Improbable Tales at Nottingham Playhouse, The Government Inspector for West Yorkshire Playhouse, A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the English Shakespeare Company, and Shockhead Peter, with Julian Crouch, a collaboration with The Tiger Lilies for Cultural Industry. He directed the West End Show Alex by Charles Peattie and Russel Taylor at The Arts Theatre and Leicester Square Theatre. Productions with Improbable include the multi-award-winning 70 Hill Lane, Lifegame, Animo, Coma, Spirit, Sticky, Cinderella, TheHanging Man and Theatre of Blood, a collaboration with the National Theatre. He directed the acclaimed Philip Glass opera Satyagraha, in collaboration with the English National Opera and the Metropolitan Opera New York. Phelim also created Devoted and Disgruntled and facilitates all annual events, where a passionate community of people are prepared to support each other to ask difficult questions about theatre, how it is made, presented, received and what we are doing about it.  www.improbable.co.uk

Lucy Richardson’s research interest, which includes both traditional and performance research, is in ‘creative processes and the politics of participation’. She has a particular interest in ethics and subjectivity. She established and directs The Facility: Research Centre in Creative Practice at London Met to champion practice based research (www.londonmet.ac.uk/thefacility). Lucy also continues to work as a theatre director and facilitator. Her most recent projects have been in collaboration with Clean Break Theatre Company. In July 2011 she directed The Quick by Stephanie Jacob at The Tristan Bates Theatre in The West End. She also directed Heart Speak (Arcola Theatre 2010) North Circular (South Bank 2010) and Five Women (South Bank 2011). She is currently developing a new play which explores the treatment of the elderly in our society. Lucy is one of the founding members of Project Phakama, an International arts and cultural exchange programme supported by LIFT. She has directed several projects in Southern Africa and London and launched Phakama in South America. Lucy has worked in India training actors. Lucy has worked extensively as an actress most notably with Debbie Isitt and the Snarling Beasties Theatre Company, taking lead roles in many productions, and acting as associate director on The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband (New Ambassadors, West End). Most recently she performed at the ICA as part of the International Mime Festival for Lightwork. Lucy was Artistic Director of Lewisham Youth Theatre for ten years and founded Camden Young People’s Theatre. Lucy is associate artist of DiverseCity and Lightwork Image Performance. She is on the Board of Goat and Monkey Theatre Company and Playing On Theatre Company and is a trustee of Project Phakama. http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/faculties/faculty-of-social-sciences-and-humanities/people/surnames-n-to-s/lucy-richardson/

Jacek Ludwig Scarso’s main research area is voice and its function in performance, music and communication. Since gaining an MA in Voice Studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama, he has worked as a voice tutor in leading conservatoires including The Arts Educational School, East 15 Acting School, CSSD, the Circus Space as well as, in Rome, Teatro Integrato Internazionale. He has also directed the Mary Ward Gospel Choir and the London Metropolitan University Choir, which he conducted in venues such as the Barbican Centre and the Royal Albert Hall. From 2004 to 2009 he was Lecturer in Dance History and Art Theory at the London Contemporary Dance School (The Place). In 2005, he published in Italy his book on voice and communication skills “Voce per Ogni Giorno” (Armando Editore). He has also written the booklet “Essays made Easier”, commissioned by The Circus Space Degree Programme and currently published in their standard Students Handbook. The majority of his research projects are, however, in performance practice, through his company internationally acclaimed Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre, founded in 2001 – www.elastictheatre.com. With particular emphasis on the combination of vocal music, contemporary choreography and devised texts, his stage productions aim to bridge the gap between music theatre and cutting-edge performance, both in traditional and non-theatrical venues. Since 2006, his projects have developed in collaboration with HALE and The Facility: Centre for Creative Practice at London Met (www.londonmet.ac.uk/thefacility). His stage-works have been presented in a wide range of high profile venues and contexts, including the Riverside Studios, the Battersea Arts Centre, the Arcola Theatre, the Southwark Playhouse, St James’s Piccadilly, as well as Theatre 145 (Grenoble), le Pave D’Orsay (Paris), Teatro Abarico and Teatro Sala Uno (Rome). Vocal Motions Elastic Theatre received four stars reviews from publications like The Times and Time Out and has collaborated internationally with organizations including Arts Arena (Paris), Roma Teatro Festival (Rome) and NOA Contemporary Opera Festival (Vilnius). Their latest project was recently awarded a Grant for the Arts by the Wellcome Trust. http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/faculties/faculty-of-social-sciences-and-humanities/people/surnames-n-to-s/jacek-ludwig-scarso-/

Sian Thomas, Dramaturg and Director of Outdoor Performance
Sian Thomas worked as a dancer, choreographer (with companies including STOMP and Divas) and as a teacher of percussive dance theatre before becoming a programmer of outdoor work and, as such, returning to her family roots in street theatre and festivals. She was the Director of Hat Fair in Winchester for eight years before leaving to return to creating shows. Sian is a creative producer, dramaturg, director, choreographer and advisor on artistic development, specialising in the street/outdoor sector. She is a co-director of Lucid Incident outdoor arts company and sits on the board of the Independent Street Arts Network. In 2013 Sian was processional co-choreographer and finale co-director for the Walk The Plank show ‘ The Return of Colmcille’, part of Derry – UK City of culture 2013, and her company Lucid Incident was commissioned to make an outdoor show for Durham International Brass Festival. She is creative editor for Walk The Plank’s anniversary book.

Russell Thompson, London Programme Coordinator, Apples and Snakes
For the last nine years, Russell Thompson has been London Programme Coordinator for Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation devoted specifically to the advancement of live poetry. As such, he has devised tours, theatre shows and artist-development initiatives, and has helped to launch the careers of such figures as Polarbear and Kate Tempest. As a performing artist himself, he has featured on BBC Radios 1, 3 and 4, and has appeared on the bill of events as diverse as WOMAD and the StAnza Poetry Festival. Since 1998, he and Praveen Manghani have collaborated on the electronic poetry act Project Adorno (ten Edinburgh Fringe shows to date), as producers of the successful Lyrics In Libraries seasons (various London boroughs, 2002 onwards) and as curators of last year’s Holloway Arts Festival. Russell is a keen local historian and has written nine commissioned books for Francis Frith & Co, his history of Bishop’s Stortford proving especially popular. http://www.applesandsnakes.org/

Natalie Wade, Director, Small Green Shoots: Natalie enjoyed more than a decade at the cutting edge of urban music and the wider arts scene before founding Small Green Shoots in 2009. Small Green Shoots’ mission is to enable young people to grow, and the organisation specialises in developing innovative and ambitious arts-based events that bring together artists, community organisations and 16-24 year-olds not in education or training. Some of their recent successes include Chaucer FFWD, the library-based spoken project Tell Tales and the Dream Series – a sequence of performances and events based around the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s iconic speech. Now established as one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations, Small Green Shoots has also piloted a Creative Apprenticeship Programme to help young people gain employment in the creative sector. www.smallgreenshoots.co.uk

Shelagh Wright  works with a diverse range of people and projects around the world on cultural and creative economy policy and sustainable practice. She is a Director of ThreeJohnsandShelagh, a Director of Mission Models Money, an Associate of the think tank Demos and an Associate of the Culture+Conflict initiative. Her publications include: Creativity Money Love; After the Crunch;So.What Do You Do?; Making Good Work and Design for Learning; in addition to articles and papers on sustainable cultural and creative enterprise, skills and investment policy. Shelagh has led programmes of work on policy and practice in the UK and internationally, was a contributor to the Creative Britain strategy and a member of the EU Expert Working Group on the Creative Industries.  She is also on the boards of several UK arts and cultural organisations. www.john3shelagh.com

John Kieffer is a writer, policy adviser, creative producer and consultant. He started out promoting music events in a tiny basement and now has over 30 years’ experience in cultural policy, arts funding, programming, arts management, digital strategies, creative industries development, and the music industry. With John3Shelagh he has edited After The Crunch and Creativity – Money – Love with a new book on medical humanities out in the autumn. He has worked with and for everyone from big ones like the BBC and the British Council to little ones like Touch Music and Artangel.  He is Chair of Longplayer and A New Direction. www.john3shelagh.com

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