Meet The Humans #4: Mike Tweddle

The Biz:

What His Job Is

Artistic Director, Tobacco Factory Theatres

What He Programmes

All genres of live performance that can “tell epic and extraordinary stories in an intimate, atmospheric setting and to reflect, inspire and engage people of all backgrounds” (Programming policy here).

How He Programmes

At weekly meetings with three other staff members, where they review tour packs, videos and things they’ve seen live.

When He Programmes

9-10 months in advance

Do’s and don’ts of talking Mike

Don’t

– Send overly long emails

Do

– Read the programming policy and find out about the venue before contacting.

His Email

mike@tobaccofactorytheatres.com (but you should send show proposals to programming@tobaccofactorytheatres.com )

Fun Fact About Mike
He and his partner got engaged while out rollerblading.

The Waffle

What do you do when you’re too successful? Not a question that many people who aren’t rappers will ask themselves, but one that seems to be on the minds of the Tobacco Factory. The venue draws 80% of its income from its box office, an unheard-of amount for a subsidised theatre. They average 80% of capacity for their shows, which range from the more mainstream to the weirder. They are coming to the end of constructing a new, smaller theatre so that they can programme even more from the weird end.

If I was in Mike’s position, a position I’d wager many venues would do violent crimes to be in, I’d just want to coast. But of course, Mike doesn’t just want to coast. “You only have to walk ten minutes from this building to get to places where educational attainment, life prospects, social mobility are some of the lowest in the country”, he points out. “There are loads of people we want to work with more, and listen to more”. It’s always worth remembering as arts professionals that success for us (usually defined as big audiences and/or plentiful funding) is not always success for the places we live and work – not if the people most in need of a lift are still not getting through the door, as is so often the case. Your average theatre audience (can’t speak for Tobacco factory’s) is 93% white , their average age is 52 and only 10% of actors are from a working class background. Mike is trying to expand the venue’s engagement activity, and make their programme more inclusive (a previous season was programmed almost exclusively by a group of young people). This is one hell of a mountain to climb, especially when trying to fill the void left by the vanishing of the arts in state education –a mountain that, on reflection, makes the fight to sell 80% capacity look mole-hillish. Certainly I don’t have the foggiest on how we get there. But it’s a mountain that we must climb somehow: no matter how well an individual theatre venue or company does, theatre as a whole is in poor health if the faces and walks of life that come with the bums on seats don’t match those that fill up our country as a whole.

This isn’t abstract for Mike, but personal: “When I was a kid, getting involved with theatre saved me”. Me too, actually. If I stopped working in the industry tomorrow, the outlets, the self-belief, the values and creativity that the art form gave me would still form an essential part of who I am. I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of you. So let’s save everyone we can.

Here’s What You Could Have Won #1: A Thousand Years of Grit

[Part of the Here’s What You Could Have Won series, where I take issues from the news and make whimsical fag-packet calculations of things that the £205 billion due to be spent on replacing the Trident programme of nuclear submarines could buy, in preparation for the tour of my show Nuketown]

I write this in the middle of Storm Emma, a rare Siberian weather pattern that has crept its way west like Kutuzov’s armies fresh on the heels of Napoleon. I am snug indoors with the dog, but outside the world is collapsing. Non-essential travel is discouraged. Chatham ski slope has closed due to too much snow. A great yellow penis of frosty doom drags itself over the land, and all the English doth lose their shit. At times like this a uniquely English clash of weather and local politics emerges over the subject of gritting. In Sheffield, the ongoing furore over the private contractor Amey’s destruction of thousands of ancient trees continues to bubble over, with the council apparently prioritising gritting access roads for tree-cutters over important traffic routes. One things for sure – there’s never enough grit and never enough people to spread it. It’s a spicy microcosm of the debate around prioritisation of public resources that I’m getting sticky with in Nuketown.

Grit (which is actually rock salt), helps snow and ice melt faster and helps car tyres grip the roads. It is mined domestically and distributed by local authorities, who are compelled to grit their roads under the 1980 Highways Act. The UK puts 2 million tonnes of it out every year. So if we spent the £205 billion purely on materials, how much would we get?. The BBC recently found out the cost of rock salt per tonne in different parts of the UK, with the priciest being Torbay at £38 per tonne. Setting the cost at that of the fancy, fancy riviera salt of my southern neighbours, we get 5,394,736,842 tonnes. Stacked into cubic metre bags one on top of each other, this would stretch to the moon and back 54 times.  Spread evenly, it would slather the entire island of Britain 173 metres deep. True Grit.

But Jack, you howl from the avalanche-hole you are trapped in: what use is all this grit with no-one to do the gritting? Right you are, these sturdy guardians of our fine minerals must be taken into account. This article put pre-austerity spending on gritting across the UK at £150m per year. I’m not sure if this figure has since been cut, but let’s give it a one-third increase either way and bulk it up to £200m. Ignoring inflation (because that’s no fun), and assuming a steady and unlimited supply of grit from our nation’s mines, as well as ruling out savings from automation by increasingly powerful and hilariously named machines, the new Royal Chartered Institute of Gritters could keep churning grip-dust onto our lanes and byways from now until the year 3043. But then what would we complain about?

 

 

 

Meet The Humans #3: Mair George & Jade Campbell

 [Part of Meet The Humans, a series of blogs investigating how artists and programmers in the theatre industry can talk to each other without anyone screaming or crying. Supported by Unlimited.]

The Biz:

What Their Jobs Are
Jade: Co-Director & Co-Founder, Doorstep Arts.

Mair: Co-Parent & Lead Producer of Platform, Doorstep Arts.

 

What They Programme

Theatre from “national touring artists, emerging local theatre makers and regional young people” in venues around the Torbay area. Most shows that are booked come with some kind of participatory element that is accessible to young people.

 

How They Programme

Mostly through the Collaborative Touring Network, an open-application touring scheme led by Battersea Arts Centre, which programmes two tours a year.

 

When They Programme

In line with Platform, a festival that takes place in spring and autumn, (coinciding with CTN tours), booked 12 months in advance.

 

Do’s and don’ts of talking to Mair & Jade

Don’t

– Talk inscrutable arts jargon at them.

Do

– Make your copy accessible to a general audience.

– Bear in mind that your show will usually be pitched as whole evening’s experience – often with a meal after – at non-theatregoing audiences. “A show can challenge an audience, but it has to also welcome them”.

 

Their Emails

mair@doorsteparts.co.uk

jade@doorsteparts.co.uk

 

Fun Facts About Mair & Jade

Jade is a blue-belt in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. Mair speaks four languages.

 

The Waffle

The more I think about the process of theatre tour booking, the more it seems analogous with the world of dating. You meet, sometimes in the real world, more likely these days on the internet. You try and woo them, usually presenting your best self rather than the reality. Maybe you go on a date (one-night booking). This might grow into something larger (run, commission, co-production) or might not. Some venues are poly, some seek exclusivity (I’m thinking of contracts with the biblical-style “thou shalt not perform within 40 miles for 40 days forsooth” clauses).  This similarity might go some way to explaining why I kind of suck at both (in this part of the Sex and The City episode, I look from laptop to the window as a voiceover goes “I couldn’t help but wonder”…)

After doing some more research, I find that a lot of the common pitfalls of online dating replicate themselves identically in tour booking. There’s “Ghosting”, when someone just stops contacting you completely and without explanation, “Breadcrumbing”, where someone feeds you a minimal amount of attention and correspondence but actually He/She’s Just Not That Into You, and “Zombie-ing”, where someone will disappear off the face of the earth for months and then contact you again as if nothing has happened. I dare say if you’re a theatre maker talking to venues you’ve experienced at least one, if not all three, of these. And while ghosting in the dating world is done pretty much equally by men and women, I’d wager a pack of Tinder Super Likes that artists are more ghosted that ghoster. (Prove me wrong in the comments! Flame war on!).  Either way, ghosting of all kinds is whack. And though it isn’t on the surface a gendered issue, it seems possible to me that it’s a feminist one.

Doorstep Arts describe themselves several times as a female-led organisation in our conversation, and big up other ones that they know as well. I ask them why that’s important to them as a label, and how it differentiates them from an organisation led by the penis-havers. “We value the process of working together, as a web, rather than a hierarchy” says Mair. “Jade is a Director for putting on forms, but on the day-to-day my input is valued equally”. There certainly seems to be a different culture – people are given “parent” roles over projects (like Mair’s) rather than management ones. Staff can bring their babies and small children into the office whenever they like “We have a list of tasks, and we trust that they will get done”. They don’t view these elements as something a male-dominated workplace couldn’t have, but they’re vocal in declaring its uniqueness and its value. “We might have a meeting where Erin is breast-feeding, and some of the men are uncomfortable, but you know what, eat that. We’re going to breast-feed our children and we’re still going to crush the meeting”.

If we work together as equals more, we are pushed to use trust rather than coercion to achieve our aims more. If we trust people more, we communicate with them more, and we develop more empathy. Hierarchies fill the void where trust is absent. The three avoidance techniques above come from a fear we can all relate to – the fear of being cruel. A director friend said a literary manager once told him he didn’t ever like to send script rejections because “I don’t want to be the person that says no to the next big hit”. We all like to keep our options open, and we all find it hard to let people down at times. But we invariably prefer an honest rejection over evasion when we’re on the receiving end. A study in 2012 identified seven strategies people use for breakups, and out of all of them, people who were broken up with ranked “openly confronting your partner, expressing your feelings and your desire to break up” as the best strategy, and “avoidance” as the worst – worse even than “using manipulative tactics” and “becoming unpleasant and picking fights”. I know first hand how much I’d rather get an honest no from a venue than months of being ignored. But in the position of power that venues often are in over artists, and the hierarchical thinking that comes with it, many will opt for avoidance in the belief that they are within their rights to do so. Even venues that make a documented commitment to respond to emails, as the Venues North group did and the new Venues South West group have, can fall short of these declarations. And technology makes it so much easier – ignoring an email carries so much less emotional baggage than binning a letter, hanging up a phone call or blanking someone in the street.

People of the theatre world, whatever your line of work, artist, manager, officer, executive or co-parent, I implore you – answer your emails. You may have hundreds of the fuckers, but “no” is a wonderfully short word, and will be the stitch in time to save you from nine thousand followups. Let us walk, arm-in-arm like Gilbert, Yates and Holtzmann in a film that had no controversy whatsoever, to bust these ghosts once and for all.

Meet The Humans #2: Becca Gill

[Part of Meet The Humans, a series of blogs investigating how artists and programmers in the theatre industry can talk to each other without anyone screaming or crying. Supported by Unlimited.]

The Biz:

What Her Job is
Live Art Programme Manager, Dartington Arts

What She Programmes

Live Art (her definition of this is “all art that is live”, including theatre, music, spoken word, etc) that can “tackle some of today’s very real challenges and explore the ‘big’ questions in an imaginative, innovative and transformative way.” (No current programming policy webpage, but hopefully one is in the works).

How She Programmes

Curated programme of touring shows and residencies by artists she feels meet the above criteria best.

When She Programmes

 9-12 months in advance. No shows in summer.

Do’s and don’ts of talking to Becca

 Don’t

  • Try to trade off your track record instead of focusing on the show you’re touring. “I don’t care how established you are.” 

Do

  • Send videos if she can’t make your shows
  • Be visual – send pictures or information that really demonstrate how the show looks on stage
  • Pitch a show that isn’t made yet if you want to, but make sure it meets the above criteria.

Her Email

Becca.Gill@dartington.org

Fun Facts About Becca

She’s doing a sculpture course, and wants to move to Berlin.

 

The Waffle 

It’s a good show, but we just couldn’t get an audience in for it”. This is the perpetual cry of the programmer. Or at least, it’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot of times in response both to any and all of my touring shows, and many other artists’. This feels deeply frustrating at times on a political level – the public funding intended to allow organisations to take risks seems to stop short before it reaches the artist – the theatre gets a guaranteed income as a recipient of NPO or local authority funding, but the artist must live or die by the market. Socialism for the theatre building, capitalism for the theatre maker.

“But Jack”, says the straw-man I have constructed to try and give this article a false sense of balance. “Why should a venue be responsible for the fact that people don’t like your weird shit? They have financial pressures too. You are the supplier, and if the product was more marketable, and not feature-film-length monologues investigating town planning or grime musicals about the textile industry the 1810s, it would fly off the shelves and the vendors would clamour for it.”

Whether you agree with my hay-based colleague or not, there’s an assumption in his statement that underpins a lot of thought in the small-scale theatre world. Programmers are usually curatorial in their role. This usually means that, like a séance leader or shaman, they channel the thoughts of their potential audience members, their tastes, their interests, their reaction to a piece of art, and the audiences speak through them to give their pre-emptive verdict on the show you’re pitching. Sometimes this voodoo mastery is backed up by genuine audience data, sometimes by anecdotal experience, sometimes by programmers deploying their personal tastes with the confidence that enough people out there will share them. But either way, the logic dictates that this gauntlet of audience astral-projection must be run before the show can meet the public.

But at Dartington Hall, something quite different is happening. In a remote village in south Devon, on the grounds of a country estate, in a repurposed college building, someone is programming weird shit. Belgian game-theatre about banking elites. Seances inside shipping containers. Underwater contemporary dance. Panto at Christmas? Fuck off, get some of this epic fairytale bloodbath with unabashed bestiality in it. Becca is finding the most provocative, challenging stuff she can. And it is selling out. Between November and January, 4000 people have been through their doors to see stuff.

I can’t get my head around how exactly this is happening, and neither, it seems to a degree, can Becca. When I ask her what the secret is, she replies “I have no idea”. Clearly the unique situation of the programme plays a role. It’s funded entirely by the Dartington Hall Trust, meaning some of the constraints of public funding are absent. Becca knows this may not last forever: “In the long term, I’m going to have to prove that the whole thing can break even [on ticket sales or other funding], but at the moment we’re in a real halcyon time”. There’s also clearly something gained from the legacy of Dartington College, a centre of body-painted performance-art weirdness founded in the sixties and sadly closed in 2008. But I’m still in awe as to how much these numbers buck the apparent trend of my industry. I ask her if there’s any audience development tricks she’s using to drum up trade that she could pass on. Her advice? “Just do it, and tell people about it”. Surely it can’t be that simple?

Perhaps it could. Perhaps we’re framing our thought about audiences wrong. What if we viewed attracting audiences less as a perpetual balancing act between high art and the lowest common denominator, between what “we” like and what “they” like? What if instead we view it as our job, our mission, to provoke, to challenge, even to be controversial? What if we provided the weird, and let the market handle the normal? That way, whatever the box office sales, a civic function would be served, conversations would be had. Public funds would be explicitly supporting a non-commercial kind of art, rather than commercially unviable organisations. Is this idea naïve? In one place at least, it seems to be working. And not in north London, in fucking Totnes.

Becca has further radical plans in terms of audiences. She’s going to do the unthinkable and ask them what they want. A big town hall meeting is planned for April with artists, staff, stakeholders and the public to figure out what they should do next. This concept really gets my inner anarchist going. What if every major theatre in the country did this at least once a year, and was bound by its results? What would their programmes look like? They might have even more panto and cover bands and less weird shit than before. But if we learned anything from recent times, it’s that democracy throws up some unexpected results.

 

 

 

 

Meet The Humans #1: Emma Bettridge

[Part of Meet The Humans, a series of blogs investigating how artists and programmers in the theatre industry can talk to each other without anyone screaming or crying. Supported by Unlimited.]

THE BIZ:

What Her Jobs Are:

Bristol Ferment – Producer

Arts Council England – Artistic Assessor

Wivelisccombe Town Hall – Chair of Board / Manager-in-waiting

Move & Gather, Annie Siddons-  Freelance Producing Consultant

The Countryside – Dog & Horse Trainer

What She Programmes

Bristol Ferment – All of these things, plus some performances of finished work at the Studio of the Bristol Old Vic. (no current Programming Policy page on their website)

Wiveliscombe Town Hall- Eventually, a mini-Ferment Festival, more residencies, cinema, ceilidhs and lord knows what else.

How She Programmes

 Bristol Ferment – Curated programme made up of artists she has met and/or seen the shows of.

Wiveliscombe Town Hall- As above

When She Programmes

 Bristol Ferment – Year round – festivals usually booked 3-6 months in advance

Wiveliscombe – When it’s finished (currently in the planning stages of a major refurbishment project)

Bristol Old Vic Studio – No touring work until Spring 2019 (also in major redevelopment).

Do’s and don’ts of talking to Emma

Don’t:

  • Send template / mass emails.
  • Spell her name wrong
  • Get angry or defensive if you don’t get what you want

Do:

  • Show your personality as possible in an email – be informal and don’t be afraid of banter (warning: may not be transferrable to other programmers)
  • Do your research on Bristol Old Vic
  • Ask for introductions to programmers you don’t know, or even to programmers in general who might like your show.
  • Send a film of your show if she can’t make it to any of your performances. It doesn’t have to be super-high production values (iphones and handycams are fine), as long as the action on stage can be clearly seen and heard. Emma, and a good chunk of her programming peers, WILL book something off of seeing a film.
  • Try and set up a chat before you pitch anything.

 Her Email

emma.bettridge@bristololdvic.org.uk

Fun Facts About Emma

Strangers are always approaching her to tell her their secrets. Her dog is called Hobbs.

THE WAFFLE

 

When I was finishing my studies at Bath Spa University (90th best uni in the nation, get in!) I had no marketable skills, no major postgraduate prospects, no work experience beyond ushering in a dark red waistcoat at the Theatre Royal. One of my professors gave a lecture where he said “most likely, you won’t make a living as a writer”. What I had was buckets of White Straight Cis Man Confidence, and a meeting I’d set up with a woman who worked for a thing I’d never heard of called Bristol Ferment who had seen me do some spoken word. We chatted for about half an hour, and she offered me £350 to make something and try it out at the next festival.  I didn’t really know what a work-in-progress was (cheers degree), and I’d never seen that much money before, so I used it to spend the whole summer making a full 45-minute storytelling epic with stop-motion animation and original music. I think my deeply earnest, slightly over-the-top response to this tiny commission made a good impression. This woman was not Emma Bettridge (gotcha good!), but Kate Yedigaroff, Emma’s predecessor as Ferment Producer. The two of them kept giving me small commissions, advice and gigs until I left the southwest four years ago. My career simply wouldn’t exist without them.

When a person hears that two folks who work in the arts are dating or roommates, or have some other unexpected connection, regardless of whether said person is in the art world or not, their comment is very often “gosh, the arts is very incestuous isn’t it?”. I’m always aback a bit: it seems a bit of an escalation to compare two people who work in the same industry going out to The Full Jaime & Cersei. But it nods to a different truth, an open secret: opportunity in the art world is overwhelmingly defined by personal connections.

This is what me and Emma talk about for a bit. As someone who manages a curated (aka closed) programme, she makes an articulate case for this way of doing business. “I have to understand the art to confidently sell it” she says. Theatre is about human relationships, and to help develop the artist-audience one, she has to have to have a relationship with the art herself, and thus also the artist. I sort of get this, but I still think there’s so many unanswered questions there. What if you find chatting with certain people a bit difficult, but are excellent at making theatre? Sophie Willan brings this up in a Guardian article this week. You might feel like too much of an outsider to hobnob with everyone in Theatreland, whether because of class, ethnicity, disability or plain shyness. But I didn’t ask her about that, so more fool me.

We also talk about Development Hell – the limbo brought about when early career artists can access small pots of money from venues to research and develop shows, but not the chance to actually put anything finished in front of an audience. I heard Paula Varjack coin the phrase at a conference in 2016 and I realised I’d been in Development Hell for years: in the 5-and-a-bit years since my explosion of paint and words in a Bristol summer in 2011 I’d made seven shows, out of which only one had been seen by more than a thousand people. I was scraping a living, but who the hell was I working for? I’m always grateful to the organisations who’ve backed me in any way, but the public who were paying for me to make art, through them, didn’t know I existed. Surely the best thing for me to develop would be, y’know, the bit where people look at it?

Emma is not responsible for creating Development Hell, but of course, as a person working in artist development, she is more than aware of it happening. She names several companies that have been in the same predicament. Ferment is a rare exception to most artist development schemes – you can actually progress from there to proper gigs in the Studio (although the Main House is out of bounds – don’t get too many big ideas, you uppity maker you). She’s also usually frantically giving advice, cajoling other venues and making introductions to try and get artists on in their career, whether they’re in or out of the Ferment squad: “I might not be the Yes Guy, but I can often find the Yes Guy for what you have”. And in this world, who could really ask for more than a Fredo of Yeses?

13 Nuketown #4: “No Place” (Finale & Election Day Postcript)

A utopia in four parts, reimagining the UK’s nuclear submarine budget as a new city. Part 4: we finally discover the whereabouts of Alfred’s cat.

Wanna hear more episodes like this? Support the podcast on Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/jackdean

Subscribe on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/fake-town-fables/id1114881723?mt=2

Soundcloud:

or Stitcher:

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/jack-dean/fake-town-fables?refid=stpr

Tracks Sampled:

“Wednesday Morning, 3am”, “The Sun is Burning” and “My Little Town” by Simon & Garfunkel

Usage constitutes Fair Use under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All other music is composed, performed and recorded by the author.

12 Nuketown #3: “What incredible folly”

A utopia in four parts, reimagining the UK’s nuclear submarine budget as a new city. Part 3: the hunt for Alfred’s cat turns complicated.

Wanna hear more episodes like this? Support the podcast on Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/jackdean

Subscribe on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/fake-town-fables/id1114881723?mt=2

Soundcloud:

or Stitcher:

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/jack-dean/fake-town-fables?refid=stpr

Tracks Sampled:

“Don’t You Want Me” by Human League

“Two Princes” by Spin Doctors

“Feeling’ Groovy”, “Kathy’s Song” and “Song for the Asking” by Simon & Garfunkel

Usage constitutes Fair Use under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All other music is composed, performed and recorded by the author.

11 Nuketown #2: “Millions and Millions”

A utopia in four parts, reimagining the UK’s nuclear submarine budget as a new city. Part 2: Alfred continues the search for his lost cat.

Wanna hear more episodes like this? Support the podcast on Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/jackdean

Subscribe on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/fake-town-fables/id1114881723?mt=2

Soundcloud:

or Stitcher:

http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/jack-dean/fake-town-fables?refid=stpr

Tracks Sampled:

“The London I Love” by Vera Lynn

“Little Green Bag” by the George Baker Selection

“A Poem on the Underground'”, “Homeward Bound” & “The Star Carol” by Simon & Garfunkel

Usage constitutes Fair Use under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All other music is composed, performed and recorded by the author.

What would you do with 167 billion pounds?

[Script for a pitch to three venues, who are now giving me some space and stuff to make the show, which I will do if I get enough funding in, or if I don’t I’ll probably just delete this out of shame and regret.]

You could hire the entire of Bangladesh for a year based on its gdp, of half of Malaysia, or two Azerbaijans.

You could buy about 12.5 million five-door Nissan Micra Teknas.

Or you could buy enough weaponry to turn over a million people into blackened, smouldering husks.

Dramatic tea-drinking pause 1

As it stands, none of these things have happened yet. As it stands, all are equally imaginary. They are not real.

In the brisk central european October of 2014, a band of architecture, civil engineering and urban planning students started laying down chunks of concrete and wood in the square of Karsplatz in Vienna. They called the city they made there Hypotopia, and it was planned down to the tiniest detail. They knew it had 102,574 inhabitants. They knew which buildings they lived in, even who lived on what floors. They knew where their waste was incinerated and recycled. They knew where the hospital, the schools and the cinemas were. There were no banks. And they knew the exact price tag of the city. 19 billion euros to a cent. The exact amount given from public funds to underwrite the Austrian Hypo bank’s outstanding loans since the financial crash of 2008. But of course, guarantees of liquidity to holding companies are not like regular money that you could spend on a city. They’re imaginary. They’re not real.

Dramatic tea-drinking pause 2

Nuketown is a city built not on rock and roll, but on 167 billion pounds of imaginary money, a vast quantity of lego bricks and a collective imagining. Like Hypotopia, it will be made with the help of architecture, town planning and sociology experts, but unlike Hypotopia, it will be made with help from the public who are footing the bill for the alternative, the Trident programme of ballistic nuclear submarines which is planned to be renewed this year. In the planning, writing and rehearsal of the show, people will be allowed to drop in, help dream up an ideal part of the city that they’d like to see, then help build it with us, in an activity somewhere between art therapy, group protest and a massive fuckoff game of real life minecraft. Their stories and ideas will breathe life into the project, and give the city the strange collective identity that we know each of our hometowns has. They will inform the storytelling piece I create around the city, where a set of cameras on a live feed will follow individual citizens through the streets, charting their tiny tragedies and triumphs with an original musical score as they make their way across a town powered by the husks of the old Tridents subs buried under their soil, a ghostly remnant of an alternate world that could suck them back into it at any moment.

Dramatic tea-drinking pause 3. Build to crescendo 

Much more than big money and bigger bombs, its cities that fascinate me. When the people of chalcolithic West Asia started to congregate on the Barada river in around 6300BC, in modern day Damascus, they were just looking for a place to drink clean water, worship their gods and raise some cattle and or children. They didn’t know they were becoming part of the larger symbiotic creature of the city, one that would subsume their identities, their ideas and their boundaries into one great cybernetic mass, plant them a million miles from any river or field and fill their air with dust and adverts, scrabble the flesh of mountains into ever taller shrines to strange new idols: Cathedrals in the 12th century, Castles in the 15th century, Banks in the 21st. Cities offer the gift and the curse of namelessness. They are places in which we can be anything or nothing. They are places where any individual can leave their past behind and start again.

Dramatic tea drinking pause 4. Wind down to finale.

Nucleotopia is like that, but a bit different. It is a place where a whole country can start again. It is a place where art and life meet, where we say, but what if we actually, really, genuinely did something completely different? And if it gets bigger, more visible, more complex, that question could inch closer to an answer. But this is just a pitch to a consortium of theatre venues. It is imaginary. It’s not real. It is a non-place, which is what the greek word utopia etymologically means. But imaginary things are what I deal in, and I love them, so that is all I can offer you.

END OF PRESENTATION