Monthly Archives: April 2018

Being Head of Creative Programmes, Q&A with Rachel Nelken

From the 9th to the 12th May the Albany will be hosting 8 performances by young people as part of The National Theatre Connections festival. They will be performing plays that were commissioned by the National Theatre specifically for young people to perform. This festival is all about putting young people centre stage and giving them access to a professional experience of the theatre industry.

We know how difficult it can be to break into the arts industries, there are few paid entry level positions and the competition is high. Therefore during the lead-up to NT Connections we will be interviewing individuals holding some of the most senior positions within our organisation who will hopefully be able to provide some insight into this world, tell you about the wide variety of careers available, and show how they managed to get where they are. Our first interview is with Rachel Nelken, Head of Creative Programmes at the Albany…

How would you describe your job?
I am a senior arts manager, who manages a team of producers at a busy arts centre. We work with many artists and companies to put their shows and projects on at the theatre.

How did you get into the arts, and this particular career?
I trained originally in music but after my music degree realised I wasn’t cut out to be a musician! I went and studied a post-grad diploma in Arts Management and decided to get involved in making art happen instead. I have done lots of jobs in the arts particularly in arts funding (I have worked at the Arts Council and the PRS Foundation for New Music) and I also worked as a fundraiser too. I’ve worked in community/local authority arts and as a freelance producer. I landed a freelance contract which then became permanent at the Roundhouse in  Camden which took me in a slightly new direction working in a venue as a Senior producer there and that led to this role in 2017 which seemed to really encompass everything I have done

What do you like the most about your job?
Loads of things – working with artists to bring great shows to the venue, working with great colleagues here at the venue to make those shows happen, thinking about ways to make our programme distinctive and  reach more people, thinking about ways to engage audiences…it’s all really interesting

What is the trickiest part of your job?
Having to make difficult decisions as we can’t support or programme everything  and there are some worthwhile things we can’t say yes to.

Do you have any advice for others who want to pursue similar careers?
Try and get as much different experience as you can, particularly in arts funding and fundraising – and learn as much about the wider arts sector as you can. Knowing how organisations make money and learning to make grant applications yourself gives you an extra skill that many arts organisations are looking for even if you’re more interested in the creative side.

Thank you Rachel! Watch this space for more blog posts.

To find out more about NT Connections at the Albany click here.
To find out about some of our other work and opportunities for young people click here. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Music and Mindfulness

The City of London Sinfonia is starting a new series called, CLS Minis, holding two performances at The Albany on the 17 of April. Here is a blog post from the London Sinfonia on the meaning behind Music and Mindfulness.

Strings at the Albany: Relaxed Performance 1.30 pm. 
Strings at the Albany: Music and Mindfulness 7 pm. 

Music and Mindfulness

In today’s world, we need time to stop and focus. We need time that doesn’t involve being bombarded with the deafening noise of work and noise pollution; to have a break from social media and other things that are supposed to make our lives better, but quite often make our minds overly busy and stressed and tired.

CLS THumbnail 2

In our Music and Mindfulness concerts, CLS violinist and mindfulness practitioner Ann Lovatt (referred to as Ann Morfee elsewhere) and the musicians of City of London Sinfonia are there to give you a “magic hour” of peace and calm.

The musicians of City of London Sinfonia are there to give you a “magic hour” of peace and calm.

Previously, audience members at Modern Mystics: The Fruit of Silence experienced a mindful meditation with Ann before listening to the beautiful music of Arvo Pärt and Peteris Vasks performed in the tranquil surroundings of Southwark Cathedral. We also took Music and Mindfulness to a place of work, to help city workers start their day with positive and focused minds.

The inclusion of a short mindful meditation within a live performance aims to enhance the listeners’ experiences of the music being performed, bringing an immediate sense of well being to compliment that which comes through the music alone.

How do live music and mindfulness work together?

Mindfulness is a practice that encourages you to step out of autopilot. It allows you to reconnect with your body and your breath; becoming aware of stress and it’s causes. Meditation is a proven method of reducing stress, and music is also proven to have therapeutic effects. Music has the power to excite, calm, and reach the myriad of emotions in between.

When preparing for a mindful music session, Ann looks in depth at the music – for example, the structure, context and how the instruments might be used. In each session, she hopes to highlight aspects of the music which allow some insight or reflection appropriate to the practice of meditation. Throughout the mindfulness session, Ann bears all the musical factors in mind and references the chosen piece of music before it is performed live by CLS musicians.

Where can I experience Music and Mindfulness?

In April 2018, our strings, brass and woodwind sections will take it in turns to perform lunchtime and evening miniatures at various venues in our CLS Minis series. These include three Music and Mindfulness concerts in Deptford, Mile End and Marble Arch.

Catch the two performances at The Albany, April 17th: 
1. Strings at the Albany: Relaxed Performance 1.30 pm. 
2. Strings at the Albany: Music and Mindfulness 7 pm.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Inclusive Orchestra: relaxed performances

The City of London Sinfonia (CLS) is performing at The Albany, the 17 of April, with the first of their new series called, CLS Minis.

These minis are small concerts performed during a lunch-break and evening in a relaxed setting. The following is a blog post from the City of London’s  Development manger, Zak Hulstrom on the company’s approach to accessible theatre and what it means to be ‘relaxed’. 

CLS is holding two concerts at The Albany in April 
The first, a lunchtime performance on 17 April at 1.30pm
Secondly, an evening mini on 17 April at 7pm. 

Written by Zak Hulstrom, CLS Development Manager

City of London Sinfonia (CLS) prides itself on having a ‘seriously informal’ approach, which means we play high-quality music, but we think people should have the freedom to enjoy the concert as they please: grab a drink, use their phones, cough, or clap between movements. Our approach works and has grown in popularity. Young people (aged 16-25) made up a surprising proportion of our audience at our Modern Mystics concerts in autumn 2017 (25%).

We’re beginning to realise that this approach works well for anyone, including people living with dementia, who would enjoy having the freedom to get up, talk, clap, or enjoy a break in the quiet space outside the concert hall.

What makes a concert ‘dementia-friendly’?

CLS gif

I often get asked this question, and it’s not a complicated answer: it’s no different to a regular concert. When we are putting together a dementia-friendly concert, we are primarily focused on accessibility around the venue. Can audience members find the toilet, the café and the concert hall with relative ease? Is there a volunteer nearby who can answer questions?

When we are putting together a dementia-friendly concert, we are primarily focused on accessibility around the venue.

In December 2017, we presented our first ‘dementia-friendly’ concert at St John’s Smith Square. In preparation for the performance, we sought answers from other like-minded organisations who already have experience engaging people living with dementia: The Alzheimer’s Society, Southwark Dementia Action Alliance, Dementia Friends, Shakespeare’s Globe, Royal Academy of Art and The Young Vic.

One of the important steps was having The Alzheimer’s Society audit the concert venue. They showed us all the many ways we could improve access to St John’s Smith Square, and we were delighted by the sheer number of considerations. We were “delighted” because addressing the issues meant we could be more confident about promoting this concert as dementia-friendly. For example, some of the issues they discovered were dark patches on the floor, which, to some people, can appear as holes in the ground or wet patches. Likewise, colours on signs, the chairs and tables must be carefully selected so that the contrast is highest and objects can be differentiated more easily. Signs must also be clear in content and within line of sight as you navigate the venue.

Our team in the office and many of our musicians are trained as Dementia Friends. We’ve participated in a taster course to better understand the many kinds of dementia and how they can affect people in different ways. From losing memory, which is what most people associate with dementia, to visuo-spatial difficulties and emotional changes, there is no such thing as one dementia. We can’t recommend it highly enough to become a Dementia Friend, so that you can learn small ways to help other people.

How are we putting our learning into practice?

Our concerts should be as welcoming as possible. Our first dementia-friendly concert could have been better, as it was held in December, on a dark, windy and rainy evening. We have already considered some solutions, and so our next round of relaxed concerts will be held in CLS Minis in April 2018 – in a much warmer month, and during the day.

CLS is holding two concerts at The Albany in April 
The first, a lunchtime performance on 17 April at 1.30pm
Secondly, an evening mini on 17 April at 7pm. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Five Steps to a Fairer Deal: The Albany’s commitment to artists

by CEO & Artistic Director Gavin Barlow

Independent artists often talk publicly about the inequities of touring in the UK, the unfair pay, the reluctance of venues to take risks, the lack of communication. It seems that venues rarely respond or contribute to the debate. Where they do make statements, artists often detect ‘a disparity between what is said and what is done’, as artist Scottee comments in a recent blog.

Venues and artists should be on the same side on this one but it obviously doesn’t feel that way. I’m tempted to point out the system is broken and venues (some of us at least) are trying to make the best of it. I wanted to explain what we do at the Albany to try and make it work. I probably will another time, but it just feels like self-justification right now.

Instead, I’ve tried to think about what we might do better as a venue. Even if the difference it makes is marginal, it feels better to take practical steps than issue another ‘manifesto’ of broad aims. So here goes, five new commitments we can make:

1. Transparency – we’ve recently published a new Artistic Policy at the Albany which aims to explain where we’re coming from and to make it easier for artists to connect with us. We’re inviting comments and we will respond, changing and adapting it as we go along. However, it often comes down to money and the decisions you choose to take, so perhaps we could go further? Funded venues, as charities, are required to publish their annual accounts, but they don’t usually publish an explanation of the spending decisions they make. We’ll give that a go and blog about how our business model works and the how and why of making decisions about where the money goes (though give me a few weeks on this one).

2. Dialogue – most programmers I’m sure feel overwhelmed by the volume of requests they get, and struggle to reply. As Scottee says: ‘a usual response from a venue you are trying to work with is… nothing’. We can surely aim to do better and reply to every direct enquiry we receive, providing clarity at least?*

3. Do less, pay more – like most funded organisations, we feel the pressure to continually do more for less. Artist fees inevitably get squeezed. It seems like ‘standard’ fees haven’t changed much since I was last regularly touring work back in the early 2000s. We can make a conscious decision to reverse this, focus on working with artists more closely and paying them more realistically. Of course, this means accepting that we will probably have to work with fewer artists overall, but that feels like a risk worth taking?

4. Always pay fees – or at least always offer a guaranteed amount if there’s a split of box office receipts. This might not sound so radical but I suspect most venues, certainly in London, don’t actually do this. Of course, the amounts we can offer will probably still require artists to get additional funding in many cases. But we can take account of the circumstances of each artist and the funding they can access, or help them get some. It’s a small step but acknowledges that when we’re ‘sharing the risk’ with an artist, venues are in a better position to withstand any losses.

5. Share the power – now this is a big one. We’ve tried in many ways, but it feels increasingly like it’s time to make a big shift in how we programme, ensuring artists have a much greater voice in the decisions that are made. We’ll commit to making a change. We don’t know quite what but we’ve got some ideas, and we’d like to make that decision collaboratively. So this is an open invitation for any artists who have worked with us to join us for a conversation**.

I hope artists will tell us what they think of our efforts, but it would be good to also stimulate debate within venues. What else should we be doing? How can we work together? To quote Scottee again (from another time), all of us… ‘Must. Try. Harder’.

* You can contact us at and check the programming section of the website. If you’ve contacted us recently and haven’t had a reply – sorry, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

**We’ll be setting up some dates soon. If you’re interested, please contact

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized