Yesterday I was supposed to be swanning about Edinburgh seeing shows and catching up with old pals, but an airport bomb scare threw things off so all I managed was to go to the iF Platform launch and British Council Showcase opening party and give myself a hangover before leaving. Should have had more cheese nibblies. Today; actual work, in the form of the If Not Now, When? conference, attended by the great and the good, and the new and wide-eyed.
As a rookie producer also pretty green to Disability Arts I am conscious of my potential role within a community seeking to amplify and develop it’s own voice, and how best to sculpt my skillset and knowledge to best serve it.
‘Producer’ is a pretty nebulous job title, defined by individual relationships and techniques, and by the specific artistic and practical requirements and ambitions of the project.
Back in 2013 I attended an event hosted by Theatre Bristol called ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’; a day dedicated to examining some of the permutations of the artist/producer relationship, and a day on which I rather starrily-eyed met the fabulous Jenny Sealey, who’s relationship with producer Hetty Shand was the strongest and most pragmatic of those expressed by the panel.
Their working relationship seemed to fit my just-forming ideas of a role where I could be a critical friend, a cheerleader, an opener of doors and a charmer-off of powerful pants for the development of subversive and radical ideas, ideally all wrapped in a powerhouse package of strong personalities, unique vision and unrelenting hard work. (Yes, I do think producing is a bit of a buddy movie. What of it? Cue montage!)
I’m not there yet- speaking to one of the delegates on the British Council ‘Emerging Producers Platform’ at the swanky Showcase party last night I realised that I am not yet even an emerging producer. I am a pupil, a larvae, pupal, but the time to learn FAST how to play the game and change the rules at the same time is NOW.
Our final panel today asked ‘Where Are The Champions?’ and I want to say, I’m right here. My track record is shorter than my mini-dress but inch by administrated inch I am learning, and my commitment to the possibilities and politics of this avant garde scene deepens every day.
Amongst the leading voices in ‘Getting Shit Done In Disability Arts Today’, almost everyone referenced the repetitious and historic nature of labels, access, perceptions and opportunities. Well, I’m part of the new guard, and whilst I want to know the heritage I am becoming a part of, I also feel that my freshness and relative lack of ties to the movement can work in my favour.
I think it’s time we 18-30s in Disability Arts had a little shindig and figured out our place in all this, and what we can manifest as the next chapter in Disability Arts. Colin Hambrook has told me that there has been a huge resistance amongst younger disabled people to be identified by or associated with the Disability Arts scene, and I think that a large part of that is the increasingly individualistic culture we have grown up in.
‘Community’ means ‘available resources/influences’ to someone who had the internet from age 14 and sought out people from across the globe who could take me away from my rural prison. My community is an international one, one of diverse people taking what they need to learn from each other to add to their ever-growing collection of influences. We rarely meet, if ever, but that makes it no less real, and we’re generally really good at things like change, persuasion, branding, marketing and mass communication. Most of all we’re good at not accepting what we’re given and instead forging our own paths, making us ideal leaders and allies within artistic and social movements.
As a champion I will:
1. Find ways to bring the disability arts avant garde the proper recognition it deserves from the point of conception through securing easily accessible development money, and not waiting for invitations from venues to suit their agendas and responsibilities. Art is happening all the time, and to be satisfied with the opportunities available from a few dedicated platforms and funds is not enough, although a wonderful place to start from.
2. Use my marketing and persuasion skills to forge influential mainstream connections and pitch work at the highest possible level- leading by example in terms of scope and standard.
3. Be ever-inquisitive about how conditions for artists can be improved, and how best-practice can be most effectively shared between producers and programmers to benefit them.
4. Get my ass out of bed every day I can and keep learning.