Whilst it is unusual to review a conference, this event felt a little different. After all when it is an inaugural conference about theatre,full of passionate, vibrant people, it transcends into an engaging and challenging discussion about how exactly in crippling financial times can theatre continue and more disturbing is the notion that if it did “go” how would anyone be able to revive it?
Luke John Emmett and the Theatre Bath team without question excelled through the organisation of the event to the quality of the keynote speakers and the access across social media and live streaming for those unable to be in the grand surroundings of The Guildhall in Bath.
Keynote speakers were taken from the very best of Bath’s creative minds compered by Jon Monie, who kept even the most confrontational moments under great control.
Highlights of the speakers came from the energetic and engaging Andy Burden, a freelance director and development director at The Natural Theatre Company who discussed The Artist, The Organisation and The Industry – sharing the worse news that sometimes the good intentions do get crowded out in order to please the funders.
Ian Mcglynn currently Artistic Director of the south west trail blazing Rondo Theatre, rapidly becoming the regions home of new writing. Ian simply explained how and what to do if you are trying to get your show booked into a high quality small scale touring venue; a great moment for anyone embarking on such a venture.
Alongside these local prominent figures was Greg Ingham the founder of Creative Bath and Equity representatives Martin Brown and Phoebe Kemp. Whilst Steve Henwood and Wendy Matthews discussed the humble beginnings of the now much respected Bath Fringe Festival, offering opportunities of getting involved to curate new work in different venues across the city.
Many had attended to see the twitter phenomenon WestEndProducer who dutifully appeared in his latex persona to deliver an impassioned speech from a fun warm up to a jazz hands finale which raised at it’s heart the profound message as to what does happen if the arts disappear? how will they be revived. In his highly respected opinion the key to this is collaboration and continued with a very persuasive argument into making the National Theatre truly national, encouraging collaboration with other venues and producers.
The issues considered reached far beyond the confines of Bath. These are issues facing every city from their local council funding through to what is programmed and why in their local venues. Highly relevant, challenging and without question a vital opportunity for like minded people to meet, network and truly explore answers to the crises currently facing all creative people, regardless of genre.
All keynote speeches are online http://baththeatrematters.co.uk/westendproducers-keynote-speech/
This was a highly thought provoking day, rounded off with a big debate about what really makes theatre matter followed by performances from local amateur companies to share their passion and talent.
It is already suggested that this will become an annual event – and so it should be. If an inaugural conference captures the attention of so many then there is definitely a home for future discussions of this nature.
Without question a rewarding day for Theatre Bath; according to the visitors comments and subsequent twitter feeds recorded, social media excelled and found a home in its support of such a vital and essential occasion, reaching miles beyond the boundaries of the Georgian buildings watching over everyone.
By Petra Schofield