This was a merged session between mine on 'Who Are Our Gatekeepers' and Bruce Marriott's session on 'Where Are The Decision-Makers?'; we were later joined by Niamh de Valera's session asking what a fringe theatre can do to help. The notes were kindly taken by Kimberley Harvey of Subtle Kraft Co.
Bruce Marriott of DanceTabs proposed a session on Where Are The Decision Makers?, which led me to propose a complementary session on Who Are Our Gatekeepers? I had intended for one session to lead into the other, but as there were so many other interesting sessions on offer and, more importantly, Bruce had to leave after the first session (Donald's), I ended up combining the two.
I decided that we should start the session on a positive note, so the notes - very generously written by Kimberley Harvey of Subtle Kraft Co - are headed with 'We <3 Gatekeepers'. We were joined partway through by Niamh de Valera's session on how fringe venues can support artists, because of the obvious overlap.
Gatekeepers were very quickly acknowledged as predominantly agencies and 'hubs', although we accepted that we ourselves, as choreographers, producers and more, are also gatekeepers, which personalised our discussions; most, if not all agencies, have had their funding significantly cut, so in what other ways can they and we support (emerging) artists?
The gatekeepers as agencies and hubs often stay regional; we questioned how much dance do these gatekeepers actually get to see? We then questioned the function of regional dance hubs and the apparent choice to reduce support for professional artists, especially when funds are limited and have to be diverted elsewhere.
Having professional dance artists as role models is essential, both for young people and within the community, so if support for professional artists is reduced or withdrawn, so is their potential to reach and influence these people.
A big question - repeated throughout the day - was how to reach the gatekeepers, as this is a challenge for many people.
Venues are usually booking so far in advance, that they can't accommodate the project timeframes of independent artists and their funding applications. Another frustration was the low audience numbers when presenting and touring work, due to the lack of promotion and publicity, leading us to question what the perceptions of contemporary dance are.
In a side note, Kimberley has written 'Incestuous nature of gatekeepers!'
There was the obvious frustration that the same people keep getting the same opportunities. There is a critical need for fresh blood, and for a smaller independent version of BDE [note: that was my plan for Cloud Dance Festival, until a pulmonary embolism got in the way].
The Place could use their position with Resolution to address this situation, but we don't see that happening.
Actions & Thoughts
- As suggested by Niamh de Valera of Blue Elephant Theatre, what about collaborations between independent artists and fringe venues?
- How do you measure success?
- 'The route of the independent artist' - I'm not sure what this means, I'm sorry.
- Acknowledge artists. This is an action point.
- As Donald Hutera urged us in his session, rely on 'polite persistence' to engage with gatekeepers
- Use and expand your networks
- Focus on building relationships
- We need to increase the visibility of smallscale work, and to make it more accessible to critical acclaim.