Monthly Archives: March 2014

Arts Centre Model is Theatre’s Future

Gavin Barlow, Co-Chair of the National Partnership of Arts Centres and CEO of the Albany, explains the thinking behind the forthcoming Future Arts Centres event. You can find out more about the event here.

This article first appeared in The Stage on Thursday 6 March.

Arts venues of the future are sure to look very different to those of today. The clarion call from those in the political and economic seats of power is for organisations to pursue a far more dynamic model, both in terms of their sources of income, the diversity of their agendas and their output and points of engagement with their communities. In short these are social enterprises, concerned with social impact as much as artistic excellence. Or, more to the point, the coalescence of social impact and artistic excellence.

Theatres are responding to this challenge, as highlighted by Honour Bayes in her blog, ‘Theatres should be our new churches’. She writes about the Royal Court’s ‘Big Idea’ series, with specialist led discussions on a variety of topics widening the range of experiences available to audiences. Other examples include venues like the Birmingham Rep, situated within a shared public space with Birmingham Library, or Contact in Manchester, who place young people at the heart of everything they do.

Much of this dialogue has resonated with the leaders of arts centres. In many ways it feels like what is being proposed as the future model for theatres reflects what has existed within arts centres for a considerable time.  

Arts centres are typically alive with people from early in the morning to late at night. They provide a unique offering to their communities, often with an extensive range of services and platforms for engagement, meaning they attract those audiences the arts usually finds hard to reach. This flexibility of approach combined with the architectural design has allowed them to develop the kind of innovative and responsive business models which many theatres are now exploring.

While this may be easy to acknowledge, what is often missed is that the way arts centres operate has increasingly created fertile ground for artists to find new meeting points with audiences and new ways of creating work. Not producers in the classic sense, arts centres are nevertheless often the starting point now for producing surprising and wonderful work which resonates with audiences up and down the country.

Arts centres are often absent from the public discourse about the arts. They have suffered as a result of the very things that make them brilliant. Their diversity of output makes them difficult to categorise: funders find them difficult to place within their portfolios, and editors find them difficult to place on the pages of their newspapers. Because their impact is felt at a much more grassroots level than, for example, a celeb studded opening in central London, it’s easy for the story of the transformational impact arts centres have daily on the lives of local people to get lost in the national picture.

The National Partnership of Arts Centres, which I co-chair with Clare Connor of Stratford Circus and is formed of nine leading arts centres across the UK, came together to address these concerns. We believe that the experience of our organisations represents a rich, and currently underexploited, resource for the arts community more widely. We’re keen to prompt a wider debate about the role that arts centres can play, and to imagine what that role might be in the future. On 12th May, we are inviting arts centre leaders and others to an ‘open conversation’, Future Arts Centres, where we will explore why arts centres are so important to the cultural, artistic and social life of our towns and cities, and how we can challenge ourselves to go further.

We hope that by so doing we will begin to ensure that the voice of arts centres is properly heard, as we work as an industry to shape the venues of tomorrow.

Gavin Barlow, CEO, The Albany, and Co-Chair of the National Partnership of Arts Centres

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Follow Granny Dumpling down Deptford High Street…

Actress Sui-see Hung transforms into Granny Dumpling, taking us on an interactive culinary adventure through the shops of the high street, fetching ingredients along the way to prepare her signature dish! Yellow Earth Theatre‘s Granny Dumpling- Ba Banh It will be performed this Saturday only at 11.30am,  1.30pm  & 3.30pm.

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Written and directed by local writer Thanh Le Dang, Granny Dumpling follows the best dumpling maker in all of Deptford as she reveals her Vietnamese culinary secrets on a unique trip down Deptford High Street.

Thanh Le Dang grew up in the Vietnamese Chinese community in Deptford and Granny Dumpling explores the idea of ‘home’. It’s about a lost old lady trying to establish a home for herself. With little social benefits, she makes a humble living doing what she knows; making dumplings to sell to the local community network in a street corner and to the local supermarket ‘Lai- Loi’ (this unofficial economy actually exists). The journey is about an old lady trying to find her way home without her only daughter as she talks to her ‘little dumplings’.

This marks the second collaboration between Thanh and actress Sui-see Hung; they worked together previously on a piece called Theef that was developed for Yellow Earth’s new writing showcase Dim Sum Nights, and was voted audience favourite the night it was performed.

Find out more about Granny Dumpling- Ba Banh It and book tickets here. Ticket price includes food at Deli X.

Check out more production images (by photographer Lee Dang) below:

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Deanna Rodger’s ‘London Matter’ Is About to Hatch!

This Friday, celebrated spoken word artist and Chill Pill co-founder Deanna Rodger returns to the Albany as part of Hatched, our programme for supporting artists’ development. She will be presenting her first ever full-length theatre piece ‘London Matter’ this Friday, 7 March at 7pm, which explores the relationship between love and darkness, and ultimately aims to answer the question “why aren’t London’s lights ever switched off?”.

Deanna Rodger

Leading up to the one-night show, we sat down to ask her some questions of our own:

What was your first experience with spoken word?

Attending a workshop at Lyric Hammersmith in January 2007 and seeing Dean Atta and Joseph Coelho perform.

What inspired you to pose the question about London’s lights never switching off?

I was walking around at night a lot in summer 2012, going out and trying to shake myself from myself and I couldn’t. I couldn’t escape seeing myself. I wanted everything to switch off so that I could disappear. I wanted to become part of the universe. It got me thinking about how we connect with other people and how we trust.  I had called quits on a relationship, it was an emotional time.

What do you hope the audience will take out from this performance?

I hope that the story is clear.. There’s loads that I’ve put into this and this sharing will really be about the narrative. And really cool lighting, thanks to Ben! [Ben Wallace, our Technical Manager]

When you are conceiving a new piece, is there a method to your writing?

Madness! And acceptance of all the rubbish that comes with writing every little thing in my head.

If you could meet anyone throughout history, living or dead, who would it be? And most importantly what would you ask them?

Hmm, the first human to ever be in existence though I’m not sure that means I could ask them anything. I think I would like to ask the Queen what she thinks of homelessness in the 21st century.

Find out more about Deanna Rodger’s ‘London Matter’ and book tickets here. As tickets are now limited, you can also see Deanna in Chill Pill Big One on Thursday, 24 April at 7:30pm. 

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Can Theatre Actually Change Anything?

Tom Bowtell, one of the co-directors of Coney, gave a thought-provoking Tedx Talk about the impact theatre can make. We, for one, think theatre can change people both emotionally and in their moral views, which in turn can affect change in the world.

What do you think? Let us hear your thoughts.

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March 4, 2014 · 4:23 pm