Tag Archives: arts

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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CW Blog Reimagining the Classics: Tom Thumb

 

Tom Thumb Facebook Event PictureTom Thumb is the classic story of a small boy with a big personality and imagination and creativity big enough to take on any danger of the world.  A fun rendition of this tale is coming to Canada Water Theatre in a one-man-show format this week. Presented by Lyngo Theatre, Cbeebies Patrick Lynch answered some questions about the show, providing insights on acting thumb-sized, honouring a traditional plot, and being solo on stage. Continue reading

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

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The days have grown shorter and a chill is in the air, but we are very excited this December. Our biggest season ever is soon finishing off with a bang and to get you pumped up, our Marketing Assistant, Allison Gold, lets us know what she is most looking forward to before the Christmas holiday.

This Autumn season has been huge, jam-packed with a rich assortment of art. Some highlights were our first BOLD Festival celebrating arts and older people, the biannual festival of South African culture Afrovibesand who could possibly forget that we were the national home of Fun Palaces, celebrating Joan Littlewood’s centenary as well as arts and sciences? With our friends, we even created our very own Deptford Fun Palaces for all to enjoy on Sunday 5 October. It has really been a whirlwind, but it’s not over just yet. We’ve still got one more month to ring in a New Year properly. Here are three brilliant events yet to come this month:

1) We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Of course, most of the Albs is absolutely buzzing about our upcoming family Christmas show, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Little Angel Theatre’s take on the classic Michael Rosen book is just too cute to resist. The charming puppets just leap off the page in search of a bear. If you stick around after the show, you just might be able to play a little dress-up with our Bear Hunt Corner, including a grumpy bear costume!

Wednesday 10 December – Tuesday 6 January 2015. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

 

2) Snowflakes & Snowballs & the Deptford Bear Hunt

Another seasonal event to warm your toes is Deptford Lounge’s very own winter wonderland Snowflakes & Snowballs, a free day of festive family fun. As it’s rather nippy outside, head on inside for a warmth of the Lounge where there will be craft stalls, performances, activities and even some Christmas film screenings. What better way to celebrate this time of year? And if your little ones are a bit more energetic, they can join the Deptford Bear Hunt – pick up a list of clues and spot the bears around Deptford for a chance to win a Family Ticket to We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

Snowflakes & Snowballs is Saturday 13 December, 10am – 4pm at Deptford Lounge. No booking required. For more information, click here.

The Deptford Bear Hunt is happening the week of Saturday 6 to Saturday 13 December. Pick up a form with clues at the reception of the Albany or Deptford Lounge.

 

3) Chill Pill: Christmas Special

To end the year off just right, we had to include a dose of our favourite spoken word collective, Chill Pill. Come chill out for a Christmassy night of poetry and a dash of music with four-piece South East London band United Vibrations. Even I would come out of my winter hibernation for this.

Thursday 18 December, 8pm (doors). For more information and to book tickets, click here.

 

I hope to see all your smiling faces before the New Year at the Albany!

Allison Gold, Marketing Assistant, The Albany

 

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What Next for Arts and Culture in South East London?

whatnext_mainWe believe that arts and culture are the thread that binds humanity together, what shapes us as people, and what makes life that much more enjoyable. Imagine a life without arts and culture. There would be no television shows, no music, no theatre and nothing to fill art galleries and museums. The world would certainly be bland and uninspired. So, we ask: Does creative stuff matter in South East London? We want to hear from you – anyone working or living in South East London – if arts and culture are important to the area.

What Next? Lewisham and What Next? Southwark are hosting a free Open Space meeting on Wednesday 12 November, 6.30pm at our sister venue Canada Water Culture Space. We’re inviting anyone who lives or works in South East London to join in the conversation about the role of culture.

What Next? is a national movement that has sprouted up all over the country, asking arts and cultural organisations to come together and strengthen the role of culture in our society, working with individual volunteers who are passionate about the role culture plays in our everyday lives and want to ensure its prominence in society for future generations.

The conversation will be a facilitated Open Space event. The essence of Open Space is to bring people together around a shared question and to discover priorities which can be taken forward into action. As to the outcome, that will be up to you!

We’ll begin with the basic question: How can we (individually and together) ensure decision-makers know that creative stuff matters in South East London?

All participants then create an agenda by calling breakout sessions on topics they feel are important to this theme. In Open Space, everyone is encouraged to suggest a subject for discussion and to contribute in whatever way they feel comfortable.

So, does creative stuff matter in South East London? If you think it does, join us for What Next South East London: Does creative stuff matter in South East London? to explore how we can ensure decision-makers know that creativity matters to local people.

For more information and to book your place, please click here.

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Stella Duffy on Why the Albany is the Perfect Home for Fun Palaces

Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, Image by Tom Parker

Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, Image by Tom Parker

Fun Palaces is a free, nationwide celebration of arts, sciences and culture, taking place on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October in 130+ locations across the UK and internationally. The event celebrates the centenary of cultural innovator Joan Littlewood and brings to life the vision she shared with Cedric Price for the creation of a ‘Fun Palace’. We are proud to be the national home for Fun Palaces, and also to be part of the Deptford Fun Palace. Ahead of this momentous weekend, Fun Palaces Founder and Co-Director Stella Duffy explains why the Albany is the perfect home for Fun Palaces.

I’m 51. I’ve been working in the arts since I was 18 when I got my Equity card. For many of us, perhaps especially those from my generation – those of us for whom not getting a ‘proper’ job (before you could at least get degrees in non-‘proper’ jobs) meant saying no to an office, no to a desk, no to a set place to work – for many of us, saying yes to the arts meant saying no to a home. We didn’t think we needed or wanted a home. We wanted to be ‘free’.

And free is all very well, but it doesn’t take long to realise that free is also scary, tiring, and that sometimes what we really want, as well as free, is a home.

A base, somewhere to work from, somewhere that understands the kind of work we’re trying to make, somewhere that understands the kind of artist we’re trying to be, that can hold us while we’re trying to be the kind of artist we might become. And it doesn’t matter what stage we’re at in our work, EVERY artist needs this kind of support, every artist is emerging to some extent, every time they make a new piece of work. We all need support.

I’ve been lucky, as a novelist and short story writer, to have this in the publishers I’ve worked with; I’ve been lucky as a performer and director to have this in a couple of the companies I’ve been part of – they are the companies I still work with. But I can count on the fingers of one hand the theatres and arts centres where I feel truly welcome, as either a writer or a theatremaker – where I honestly feel they ‘get’ the work I care to make. (Interestingly, for those of you who think being published might rid you of all your outsider feelings – none of the ones I feel particularly welcome in are those that consider themselves “writers’ theatres”. Maybe that’s why I call myself a theatremaker not a playwright …)

I don’t think we look for THE home, as artists, as makers, I think we look for A home. A place that gets the work we’re passionate about now, a base that can support us to reach further than we’ve reached before, a space that will let us run with an idea, even when it’s slightly (or very) excessive, even when we don’t really know what we’re doing (and neither do they), just in case it works. A place that is, perhaps more importantly, brave enough to say yes, knowing it might not work.

The Albany is that place for Fun Palaces. Crucially, it calls itself an arts centre. It is not only interested in theatre, it is interested in arts. And it is right in the middle of a vibrant, bustling community – it is part of that community, truly part of it. It’s no accident that Sarah-Jane Rawlings, my Co-Director in Fun Palaces, had been working at the Albany last year on Meet Me at the Albany when I asked her to work on Fun Palaces with me. Meet Me at the Albany is a creative arts club for older people – it’s the antithesis of a traditional day centre. Every Tuesday the café at the Albany is full of vibrant, busy, noisy, LOCAL people, who happen to be older people, making the Albany their home. Not being looked after, or catered for, but creating by and for themselves. It’s a Fun Palace. While we were getting Fun Palaces off the ground last year, across the UK and beyond, the Albany were already making a Fun Palace for older people in their own café.

Stella Duffy, writer, actorSo when we needed a home – and fast – earlier this year, the Albany was the obvious place to turn. And because the Albany gets it, because they were already doing it, they welcomed us in. They’re us, we’re them – two of our team are working for Fun Palaces and the Albany at the same time; the Albany are also part of the Deptford Fun Palace; brilliant people from Meet Me at the Albany feature in the new film on our website.

When Sarah-Jane told Gavin Barlow (Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Albany) that we needed a home, he immediately offered us a home there. And yes, we have a formal letter of agreement, and yes, our finances are carefully ring-fenced, and we’ve both done all the correct due diligence we need and want to be doing as publicly-funded bodies … but much as we needed a home for the business side of making Fun Palaces, for the funding side, we also needed a home that got it. That understood not just what we’re doing, but why we want to do it. Why we would be prepared to work so hard, for so long, on a dream. Because it’s the Albany’s dream too, and has been since it’s inception as The Deptford Fund in 1894. Access that is real, not just lip-service. Engagement that is about working with people to enhance our community, not just to tick boxes. Making a difference where we live.

The Albany was the right place, because it was already doing it.

Just as every Fun Palace maker is, right now, in the final lead-up to the weekend, already being a Fun Palace –working with their community, being artists and scientists in doing so, doing the work to make their weekend happen – so too, do we have our home at the Albany – because they were already a Fun Palace.

Stella Duffy, Founder & Co-Director, Fun Palaces

Fun Palaces takes place nationally & internationally on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October. For more information and to find your local Fun Palace, click here.

The Albany is part of the Deptford Fun Palace taking place at various locations and with an assortment of organisations and individuals in the Deptford area. For more information, click here.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Mark Williamson is the director of Action for Happiness, a movement for positive social change, bringing people together from all walks of life who want to play a part in making a happier society. As part NOW Live Events’ residency at our sister venue Deptford Lounge, Mark is giving a talk on the vital keys to happiness tonight, Monday 23 June at 7pm. We hope this video will shed some light on the value of tonight’s talk and even just spread some happiness and positive thinking.

Part of the London-wide Anxiety Arts Festival, a new festival exploring anxiety, looking at causes and how it affects our lives, including how it can as a creative force, NOW Live Events offer a sort of solution to anxiety by championing unique ways to savour the moment and live for the now rather than dwelling on the past or future. NOW’s residency at Deptford Lounge began today and runs all week with free workshops and talks until Saturday 28 June – click here for the full list of events.

For more information on Mark Williamson’s talk tonight and to book, click here. For the full listing of Anxiety Festival in Deptford, click here.

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