As part of the North area Creative Case for Diversity work, Liverpool-based 20 Stories High were asked to organise and lead a series of seminars to enable National portfolio organisations to convene sector-led discussions around the programme.The project focused on North West producing theatres and aimed to enable an inspirational and open debate around the issues raised by the Creative Case work. It was hoped that it would inspire new networks and develop partnerships between organisations committed to the Creative Case and who would work to effect change.
The seminars took place during February 2013 and were led by 20 Stories High, with artists facilitating each session. Representatives from The Bluecoat, DaDaFest, Contact Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres, Bolton’s Octagon Theatre, Oldham Coliseum, Sustained Theatre North West (STUN), Theatre by the Lake, The Dukes, Home, 20 Stories High and Homotopia took part in the seminars along with Fittings Multimedia, Hetain Patel and Vital Xposure. Each session was recorded and a short edited version is available here.
While the seminars covered all cultural identities, they had a deeper focus on disability, race and ethnicity and LGBT culture. The sharing of the performances and films acted as a catalyst for discussions, highlighting issues and inspiring people.
The works shared included two Unlimited films. The first by visual artist Rachel Gadsden and the Bambanani Group which explores the psychology and politics of HIV/AIDS in Global Alchemy. The second, Rhapsody for Clarinet and Wheelchair Basketball Team, an audio-visual collage which uses the sounds and imagery of a game to make a musical backdrop, over which a live clarinetist performed a specially-composed solo. Others works included were WHOLE by Philip Osment and 20 Stories High, Master Juba: The Wonder of the World, an interactive deaf friendly dance musical developed by Fitting Multimedia with performer and educationalist David Stickman Higgins and Hetain Patel’s visual arts performance Be Like Water at Contact Theatre.
Julia Keenan, Relationship Manager Diversity in Arts Practice, Arts Council England said,’I was overwhelmed by the commitment and enthusiasm of the North West theatres and our diversity sector of artists and organisations. This programme of conversations, alongside pieces of inspiring work, shone a light on the North West theatres’ concerns and sparked debate on diversity, creativity and the roles we play in opening up opportunities for talent development, networking and new collaborations. I am looking forward to seeing more collaborative working and sharing, not just in the North West but across the North of England. A big thanks to 20 Stories High for making all this happen.’
A regional round-up session in March 2013, hosted by the Royal Exchange Theatre and facilitated by Roddy Gauld from the Bolton Octagon, was attended by representatives of each of the theatres, STUN and the Arts Council and resulted in a set of clear actions. Key proposals for further action include the option of sharing audience development activity, the proposed establishment of a regional producer associates/trainee initiative, the mapping of pathways/signposting for artist development across the region, a practical day focusing on creating short term strategy relating to the diversity agenda and a regular forum for ongoing dialogue. An evaluation report of the project is available on request from firstname.lastname@example.org