Artist & Producer collaboration blog
In October 2016 I started working with director Agnieszka Blonska on an experiment, supported by Theatre Bristol, to explore the artist/producer working model. Aga and I had met in 2015 when I toured produced her show Once Upon A Time, we got on well and over the following year had various conversations about how we could continue working together. Aga identified her need to work with a producer consistently across all the projects she works on and I wanted to improve my skills and knowledge in long-term artist collaboration. The problem of course was how you find money for this kind of working relationship, when there isn’t an obvious output for a funder to see. We discussed options with Theatre Bristol, who being the brilliant people that they are came on board to support an initial period of collaboration and six months on, I’d like to share some thoughts on the process.
1) It’s amazing the conversations that you can have when the pressure of delivering a project or consistently fundraising for work is removed. Aga and I were able to invest in time to talk and research together, we went for walks, we sat in pubs and we talked about the kind of work we’d like to be able to make. The connections with venues and promoters that we’d like to build and crucially it gave us time to get to know each other better. At several points during the experiment I’ve likened it to dating, where you’re getting to know the person, seeing if you like each other and are excited by what they offer before deciding to commit. Aga and I were able to professionally ‘date’ for six months and at the end of that time we’ve made a commitment to continue working together, knowing a lot more about each other’s practice and the direction we want to work in.
2) After six months it feels like we’re only just getting started. The time flew by and we now find ourselves in a similar position to before, fundraising for projects to continue our working relationship. There are moments of frustration because, for me, the focus on projects for most funding bids can be tricky and overlooks a huge amount of work that is done towards a project before funding is secured. The experiment, however, did buy us some time to start researching the most appropriate funders for us to apply to and crucially to make contact with organisers and venues who we might want to work with in the future.
3) I’ve learnt a huge amount about the European theatre landscape during my time working with Aga. She works across the UK and Europe directing work and we have often discussed the different ways of making theatre in each country. Aga & I have just returned from IETM in Bucharest with Theatre Bristol and this was an amazing experience and helped me to start joining the dots between UK and European working and collaboration. I’m still not a European theatre expert, but now have more of an idea of the challenges Aga faces when she directs work in the UK versus working in Europe.
So what happens next? Well, we don’t know exactly and that’s part of what has been so enjoyable over the last six months is that there hasn’t been defined parameters or a goal to work towards. We have just received funding from the Arts Council and FEAST in Cornwall for a new project Polish Vermin which will explore the lives of EU nationals living in the UK in the wake of Brexit. We’ll be sharing some initial ideas for the piece at Bristol Ferment and at the Newlyn Art Gallery in July. Do join us. Aga is also currently readying herself for the premiere of Mefisto at the Powszechny Theater in Warsaw in the autumn. To coincide with this I am also planning a further European research trip (or two) to Poland to continuing building the links between Aga’s work in Europe and the work she presents in the UK. We are excited to see what comes next. N.B. I’d like to say a big thank you to the Jerwood Charitable Found for awarding me a Performing Arts Micro Bursary to attend IETM in Bucharest.