It’s quite tricky to write a blog while sitting on a panel. I tried.
Lost in Abundance put me in some rather intimidating company. Joining me on the panel were:
- Michelle Ryan, the new Artistic Director of Restless Dance Theatre Company (Adelaide) Just wow by the way (can’t wait to see what comes out of the company under Michelle’s hand).
- Baba Israel, from his website – Artist. Producer. Educator. Consultant. Basically fabulous. Also the Watershed keynote.
- Kirsty Hillhouse, Artistic Director of Western Australian Youth Theatre Company
- Me. How did I get here? Eek.
- David Finnigan, Independent Artist, writer, theatre maker and festival producer (most recently of You Are Here as part of the Canberra Centenary) and member of science theatre collective Boho Interactive.
Our panel was facilitated by the gentle Chris Brain, who was both a member of the Watershed Steering Committee and Implementation Committee. We were kicked off by Chris asking “What under-used resource would you like to see young and emerging theatre artists connect with better?”
Obvious one. Working with people with a disability. People are worried about saying and doing the wrong thing so they just avoid it. Diversity strengthens our practice. – Michelle Ryan
I want to reaffirm what Michelle said. Diversity enriches the process. Diversity in every way (deliberately). It’s a huge resource. Also, be open to the possibility of people you meet being a collaborator in the future. – Baba Israel
Faith in yourself. It’s really broad and you won’t get a lot out of it initially. – Kirsty Hillhouse
Kirsty touched on how this faith in yourself means something to those who fund you (or invest in you in other ways). Everyone is looking for people with bright ideas – not necessarily with capacity or skill yet, there is a willingness to support and grow from the ideas. Make the most of that and don’t wait until you’re a proven product. Asking inspires people, they want to be part of your awesomeness.
I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I reiterated what the previous panelists had said and touched on the power of our networks with each other and the industry – in particular harnessing the power of tools like social media.
Being a regional artist, I can’t practically pop to and from events to make networks or collect flyers to see what’s on as regularly as I’d like. But what I can do is follow companies/individuals within the industry through their social media profiles and through this have real time access to a wide range of announcements and insights into the industry and work happening across the country (and internationally). I can research and open up a dialogue with companies and people that excite me so that my travel to urban areas can be targeted and well utilized. I can overcome *some* of the isolation I feel through the connections I maintain. Social media has been a fantastic resource for me and has led to offers of paid work and other opportunity’s that I otherwise would not have accessed. Definitely a resource I would encourage other artists from all walks of life to tap into.
David was lucky last and rather than picking just one thing, he reaffirmed everything everyone else had said and shared the following list:
- Using the internet. Accessing opportunities. Heaps of websites. Google opps for young artists. Research.
- Travel. Being out of your space and seeing other work.
- Older artists. Mentors. Asking questions. People whose work you like.
- DIY. Don’t wait for the offer. Ger in there. The benefit is you start making the mistakes early.
- Mistakes. They are a resource. Make them early.
- Seeing more/other work. It’s easy to become a bit insular. See everything you can. Sometimes thing you hate really inspire you to be productive.
- Playing out of your depth. You SHOULD feel scared, and like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. You shouldn’t feel like that every day of course, that’s no good for you. But if it’s been more than a year or two since you felt terrified, go and do it now. Bite off more than you think you can handle.
- Find inspiration from outside your field.
- Networking and collaborating. Provoke people around you to be creative. Even if it’s something small and stupid.
- Talk with funding bodies. Ask questions. They are waiting to talk to you.
I love David. 🙂
The floor was then open to questions. This is where it just got ridiculously tricky to write everything down as I was listening and responding to questions and the other panelists and just couldn’t manage to type at the same type. So sadly I can’t give you a run down of the Q and A in detail.
Many of the questions (though not all) were asked by what I’d consider ‘youth participants’ or ‘aspiring artists’ rather than young/emerging artists. What I mean by this is people actively engaging with the arts through youth theatre and school who in the future want to consider or pursue an arts career but aren’t actually participating in the industry themselves (at present).
I found this a little frustrating, not because they weren’t valid questions, but because the vision for the summit was to be a space for young and emerging artists either completely in or well on their way to transitioning into professional practice. These questions (and the people asking them) were coming from a completely different place, and a place that is valid and important but wasn’t (from the steering committee perspective) a place that was designed to be addressed as part of Watershed. It meant that we were using time (both in this panel and Watershed as a whole) to answer questions that would have been best answered in some cases by Google searches and by attending workshops at school and with their youth theatre company.
Young people engaged with youth theatre, school and other arts as participants is a really important conversation. And one as a result of my personal practise that I am incredibly passionate about, but it is a different conversation to that of young and emerging artists as professional practitioners in the wider industry. Sadly so many people/companies just lump it all in together if you’re under 30 (or 26) which I find really ridiculous. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you want to make work with or for other young people. And just because you love engaging with the arts through youth theatre and school doesn’t mean you’ll move into professional practice.
This issue of specificity was a concern to me across the spectrum of Watershed but I have gone a little off topic from the Abundance Panel, so I will aim to visit this structural issue in a separate blog and take the time to really tease out why it was an issue and why myself and other Steering Committee members felt unsatisfied in certain areas.
Before moving on though, I do just want to make it very clear that the issues I’m talking about are not in any way a criticism of the very hard work of the Implementation Committee. They delivered the content they decided upon very well, it just happened to be content that didn’t necessarily answer the required questions for a National Theatre Summit for Young and Emerging Artists (as opposed to a National Youth Theatre Summit). I’ll delve into this properly when I get to that other blog.
Going back to the panel, there was some great discussion in response to audience questions and I was super impressed (and super intimidated) by the responses of the other panelists. What really stood out to me is the repeated motif of ‘Just ask. Just do. Just start.’
I was also struck by how the fact of being on the panel, somehow made people assume I was further in my own career than I actually am. It’s an interesting observation in terms of how the frame we put around someone shapes how we perceive and engage with them.
I am still figuring out who I am, both as a person and as an artist and I ALWAYS will be, because I see myself as ongoing project and I have a deep hunger to learn, learn, learn. I want to be better each day than I was the day before.
I have NO idea what I’m doing.
At least that’s how it often feels.
Until I remember that my journey is mine and mine alone. I bring my life experiences and professional experiences and the unique combination of the two. I’m not finished. I’m not an expert.
And that’s okay.
I still have something valuable to say.