Past event: New Writing Platform supported event: In Battalions

Dear Colleague,

We are very pleased to invite you to “Devoted and Disgruntled: How should the theatre industry engage with the new Government?”

On 7 May, Britain goes to the polls for what is widely acknowledged to be the most uncertain General Election in living memory. The make-up of the Government which emerges is anyone’s guess.

The previous five years have not been easy. In the coalition Government’s first autumn statement in 2010, a cut to Arts Council England of nearly 30% was announced, followed by further in-year cuts of 1% and 2% in 2011 and 2012. The 2011 Arts Council round of funding decisions saw 206 arts organisations cut completely from the portfolio.

In 2013, Fin Kennedy and Helen Campbell Pickford’s In Battalions report found theatres slashing development spending on new plays, with regional theatres, writer development agencies, theatre for young people, and small scale touring being disproportionately badly hit. The net effect has been, and will continue to be, a diminishing of opportunities to access the profession for those from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds, which will inevitably result in a narrowing of representation on our stages.

However, In Battalions also had some unexpected success. The two reports clocked up almost 30,000 downloads, received broadsheet press coverage and had questions tabled in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. In a speech in December 2013, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey even credited the campaign with having been an influence on the Chancellor’s decision to announce a tax break for new plays and regional touring, proving that individuals can galvanise the industry and influence government thinking. Imagine what might be possible if we work together?

This is an issue which goes deeper than debates merely about why and how to fund new British theatre. It goes to the heart of the arts’ place within society; as such, it is ultimately about what kind of society we want. One which values creativity, diversity, equality and truth – or one in thrall to a narrow-minded selfishness in which market forces are the sole arbiter of value?

That’s why we’re holding this crucial post-election meeting of theatre-makers of all kinds, politicians and arts lovers from across the UK to plan how best to engage the new administration. In particular, the In Battalions authors will be making an appeal for supporters to join them in helping to design, fundraise and take part in a new study, looking at how access and representation on British stages is being affected by the ongoing reduction in state investment. You can bring other projects, plans or visions for the future arts industry that you want to share and work on too.

Devoted and Disgruntled uses Open Space Technology to allow the group itself to determine the topics and flow of the discussion, and to take action on the urgent issues. Nothing is censored, and all participants are free to call sessions, attend whichever are of interest, or meet informally over a coffee. It will be facilitated and archived by Improbable who now have a ten-year history of running great events like this; conferences which have helped change the way the arts community communicates with itself. The event is supported by the MA Dramatic Writing at Central Saint Martins’ new New Writing Platform series, dedicated to exploring fresh ideas going on in dramatic writing in partnership with the industry.

We look forward to seeing you on June 17th to help shape the future of political lobbying.

Fin Kennedy (Artistic Director of Tamasha, Playwright and co-author and coordinator of In Battalions)
Helen Campbell-Pickford, (PhD Researcher and co-author, In Battalions)
Phelim McDermott (Artistic Director, Improbable)
Jennifer Tuckett (Course Leader, MA Dramatic Writing, Drama Centre London at Central Saint Martins)
– See more at: http://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/events/dd-inbattalions/#sthash.g6t58WWL.dpuf

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