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’?

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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. 

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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 programming@thealbany.org.uk 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 linda.bloomfield@thealbany.org.uk

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Clowning Around: Tweedy Talks Slapstick Symphony

Tweedy’s Slapstick Symphony
3-4 April 1pm and 3pm

£7 / £24 family ticket
Best for 5+


 

Can you describe the Slapstick Symphony in 3 words?

No. Ok I’ll try (Ahh that’s three words, can I try again?) Crazy, funny, noisy.Tweedy (2 of 66)

You’ve been a clown for many years, what’s the best thing about your job?

“The best thing about my job is making people laugh and more importantly everybody laugh;  my show caters for the whole family so when I have three generations all laughing that to me is the best thing bringing families together with laughter.”

 ‘The brilliant Tweedy, a circus clown and true genius had the audience crying with laughter.’  –The Sunday Telegraph

You explain in a 2009 interview, you became a Clown because you filled-in for a clown who was stuck in traffic. What advice do you have for aspiring young clowns or comedy theatre actors, these days?Tweedy (12 of 66)

“It’s a lot easier now as when started there was know internet to find out about clowns etc, now there’s lots of workshops you can go to or circus schools but you can only learn so much in a workshop situation the most important thing is to get out in front of an audience and find out what’s funny about you.”

“The most important thing is to get out in front of an audience and find out what’s funny about you.”

Clowns have been getting bad-press lately with the horror film, It hit the theatres, how do you feel about the Clown community and representation in current culture?

man-person-red-white.jpg

I don’t wear big clown make-up as I take my inspiration more from the likes of Norman Wisdom

“The word clown these days has got very confusing with horror clowns and people believing they can just dress up like a clown and that’s all there is to it. It has almost lost it’s true meaning of an innocent comic character. I don’t wear big clown make-up as I take my inspiration more from the likes of Norman Wisdom;  some people think I maybe shouldn’t use the word clown but that’s what I am and I like to hold onto that in the hope that people will realise what a real clown is like. So many times people come up to me and say I never liked clowns till I saw you (including Ade Edmonson)”

Additional comments:

“A day without laughter is a day wasted” -Charlie Chaplin

Catch Tweedy on stage 10 April,
£7 / £24 family ticket  Best for 5+

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Lewisham Live: Getting to know you, with AYC’s Assistant Artistic Director Omolara Oyeneye

As part of Lewisham Live, the Albany Young Creatives are going to be presenting We Didn’t Start the Fire? an evening of music and dance with acts which raise burning questions of the youth of today. We’ve been talking to the Albany Young Creatives to find out more about themselves and their opinions on identity, today…

Name: Omolara Oyeneye
Age: 17, 18 at the time of the show
Fun fact about you: I can name all the Kings and Queen from William the conqueror to our
current Queen in order.

What is your role on the Young Creatives team?
Assistant Artistic Director

What is your favourite part about it?
I enjoy working with the other producers and getting to see new pieces by Trinity Laban.

 

Lets talk about the topic of the event now, what is identity for you?
Identity for me is how you choose to present yourself to others. You may see yourself a certain
way but Identity is an external thing as that is how people ‘identify’ you.

If you could choose a destination to best describe your identity what destination would be
and why?
Peckham High Street.

Do you think identity is defined by the country you were born in?
I believe that the country you were born in should be a part of your identity but you should not
make being proud and patriotic your entire identity and it may appear like you’re forcing your
nationality in someone else’s face.

How important is identity to you?
Identity is important to me because although I believe in community and unity I strongly believe
that everyone in a group should have their individuality and be allowed to express it.

If you could, would you change your identity? Why?
No, because I’m proud of my Nigerian roots and also my British identity because I feel that I am the
person I am because I have two nationalities and can look at things from two different points of
view.

 

Lewisham Live! We Didn’t Start the Fire?
Saturday 24th March at 7.30pm. Ages 16+.
To book tickets and find out more, click here. 

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Liz Aggis: Slap and Tickle

10 April 1.30pm and 7.30 pm.
Info and booking  here

Born on Nanny Goats Common, Dagenham, Essex, a post war baby, into a repressive era in the suburbs, where parents were truly in charge and children were seen and not heard, Liz Aggiss never had a clue who she was or what she wanted to do, she just knew she would like to be seen and heard. After cantering into the sunset, as soon as was decently possible, she accidentally stumbled into the arts and started moving in a mysterious manner and shouting………rather a lot.

slap and tick gif 2 w txt

From her days in the early 80’s supporting punk legends The Stranglers with her visual cabaret troupe The Wild Wigglers, to her classic solo Grotesque Dancer (1986), to her dance/opera duet Falling Apart at the Seams (1994), to her BBC TV award winning dance film Motion Control  (2002), to her Guerrilla Dance interventions (2008), to her unconventional Performance Lecture Survival Tactics  (2010), to her cross disciplinary performance The English Channel (2014), Liz Aggiss has, for the past 40 years, been re(de)fining her own brand of British contemporary dance performance and blurring the boundaries between high art and popular culture.

“With the spit of punk and the polish of ballet, Liz Aggiss transformed into a singular provocateur.” -Lorna Irvine Exeunt Magazine

She received the Bonnie Bird Choreography Award 1994, an Arts Council Dance Fellowship 2003, is Emeritus Professor in Visual Performance at University of Brighton and has an Hon. Doc. in Interdisciplinary Practice from the University of Gothenburg Sweden and an Hon. Doc. in Dance from the University of Chichester.

Liz Aggiss has been described as: maverick, challenging, anarchic, indomitable uncompromising, dangerous, subversive, fearless, funny, powerfully disturbing yet vulnerable.  Liz Aggiss simply says…..I am Liz Aggiss.

slap&tick gif 1 swirl

“Slap and Tickle is a pointed and bawdily funny exploration of what it means to refuse to act your age.” -Lyn Gardner, The Guardian 

 

For more information and to book tickets click here. 

To check out the trailer.

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March 15, 2018 · 4:37 pm

Lewisham Live: Getting to know you, with lighting designer Bernadette Ward!

As part of Lewisham Live, the Albany Young Creatives are going to be presenting We Didn’t Start the Fire? an evening of music and dance with acts which raise burning questions of the youth of today. We’ve been talking to the Albany Young Creatives to find out more about themselves and their opinions on identity…

 

Name: Bernadette Ward
Age: 23
Fun Fact about you: My favourite colour is pink!

Role in Young Creatives team: Lighting Designer
Favourite part about the Young Creatives: Working with a wide variety of people from a range of backgrounds
Works at:  Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance as a production intern

 

  • What identity means to you.
    Identity to me means who you are in relation to society, family and work. We are all different but we are all important and all have valuable skills and ideas which make us who we are.
  • If you could choose a destination to best describe your identity what destination would be and why?
    The destination which best describes me is the village I grew up  – Rustington which is on the South Coast. It is a lovely little village and I have fond memories of growing up there. Its also right next to the sea which is where I used to spend most of summer holidays. I’m quite a calm peaceful person and I feel that growing up in this village helped influence that.
  • Do you think identity is defined by the country you were born in?
    I don’t think it’s defined by the country you were born in but I certainly feel like it has a big impact. If you spent a lot of time in a particular country when you where young you are going to grow up to the rules and social climate of that country, but who you are yourself ultimately defines who you are. As you get older and travel more and meet new people your identity changes, who you are changes and you might no longer be a ‘stereotypical’ person from the country you were born in.
  • How important is identity to you
    Identity is fairly important to me, I am my own person and don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I’m happy to stand out from the crowd and not follow the rule book. I think everyone should be free to be who they are, to dress the way they want and to believe in whatever feels right for them without constant judgement and discrimination. We are all different and all have our own identities.
  • If you could, would you change your identity? Why?
    No I wouldn’t change my identity. I am who I am, why would I want to change that? In a world populated by billons of people it’s important to remain who you are.

 

Lewisham Live! We Didn’t Start the Fire?
Saturday 24th March at 7.30pm. Ages 16+.
To book tickets and find out more, click here. 

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Rachel Nelken, Head of Creative Programmes: Our new Artistic Policy

Hello

Today we are really delighted to be publishing a new Artistic Policy statement for the Albany. It’s the first major piece of work I’ve led on in my first few months here as Head of Creative Programmes. At the Albany we are excited by what might look at first glance as something which isn’t hugely ground-breaking in the arts world – but for us it’s a great step towards further defining what this brilliant and much loved arts centre puts on its stage(s).

The reason behind developing this artistic statement was to try and take a more strategic approach to how we programme our work here at the Albany. I started thinking about it last year as I was going through the recruitment process for the role. I talked to many people, both in and outside of the arts world, both local to the Albany and not. Overwhelmingly I found that there was a lack of understanding as to the type of work we put on as a venue.  People didn’t really know what we stood for artistically, or what they were likely to find on at the venue. This was despite the same people having a real sense of the Albany as a place for the community and a general ‘good feeling’ about it. Then, when I started working for the Albany, I was overwhelmed by the volume of programming proposals that came in on a daily basis and how to go about choosing which ones were a good fit.  I felt a clear strategic rationale would help with both those things in time – making deciding between proposals clearer, and making it clearer to the public what kind of things they could expect to see in our programme.

So, following on from that ‘informal’ consultation (basically – me chatting to people) we had some more formal conversations at the Albany. I asked staff members and our Board and people that we work with what they felt the Albany did best (and what didn’t work so well). What we eventually came up with is the statement that you can go on to read now.

The other important thing that we wanted to do was manage people’s expectations about what we could offer to them as artists or partners. We are really committed to being as transparent as we possibly can about the type of support we can provide, and about not making those offers in unintelligible ‘arts speak’. We want people to understand our financial situation and to make sure that we understand and are supporting theirs too. We are also keen to make sure people understand the type of information we need to have before we can make a decision about giving them an opportunity.

I hope that we’ve gone some way to doing that and that if you are an artist or an organisation who wants to work with us, this information is useful . Please have a read here and tell us what you think!

 

Rachel Nelken

Head of Creative Programmes

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