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‘Let Artists Be Artists’ – 3 artists appointed

Here we go – it’s actually happening! What started as a wishful idea back in summer 2020 is now a reality.

Together with a group of fantastic partner organisations, we’ve been able to appoint 3 artists – 1 full-time and 2 part-time – to ‘just be artists’ for one year.

It’s an experiment in a new way of working and it starts now. From nearly 400(!) applications, we are DELIGHTED to announce that the three artists will be:

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Tom Marshman

Tom has been making theatre for 21 years, actively encouraging dialogue with participants through socially-engaged processes such as ‘Tea Parties’ – telling engaging, poetic & unpretentious stories. An overarching theme of that work is that of the outsider & their story, particularly regarding the LGBTQ+ experience: stories that have been omitted through archival silence. (Photo by Andre Pattenden)

Florence Espeut-Nickless

Florence is a working class artist from Chippenham in Wiltshire, a town with no theatre and limited access to it. She’s a writer, performer, facilitator and theatre-maker. She makes work for both stage and screen about / with working class communities in the Southwest, in the hope to make the arts more accessible to everyone, regardless of background and geographical location. (Photo by Ned Espeut-Nickless)

John Pfumojena

John Pfumojena is a Zimbabwean actor, musician and composer with practice focused on Mbira and Marimba music cultures. He has won several awards, including a Zimbabwe Young Achievers’ Awards UK in 2019 for contribution to Theatre and Music. John is interested in the globalisation of the Mbira instrument of Zimbabwe and cross-cultural collaboration. (Photo by Byung Gun Jung)

“I have been working as an artist for over 20 years but I felt like this was the kind of opportunity that should be more widely available for artists so they can have the time to experiment, and be their true selves.

I want to be the guinea pig for a new way that we think about how we pay artists and I am absolutely f****** delighted to be that guinea pig!”
Tom

“AHHHH! It’s huge! It’s hard for me to put into words how much this means to me as an artist but also as a person. IT’S MEGA. MASSIVE. SICK. I’m actually still in disbelief really.

It makes me feel valued. Like what I have to say is of value. That the stories I wanna tell and the communities I wanna work with are valued within the arts and wider society.”
Florence

“This is an exciting opportunity for me to share the ancient culture of Zimbabwean Mbira in a contemporary and modern context, as well as explore new contacts, connections and collaborations with artists and communities in Bristol and Gloucester.”
John

We’re so thrilled to be working with, supporting and learning from such exceptional people. It was incredibly difficult to narrow the selection down to just three, and we’re sad not to be able to work with all the brilliant artists who applied – but we’re so excited to see what comes from this year.

What will the artists be doing?

That’s up to them! From the start, we’ve been clear that a crucial part of this experiment is giving artists the freedom to work with no ‘targets’, no pre-defined outcome and no pressure.

We set out the types of artists we thought this would be well-suited to, and the principles that we use in our work, in our initial recruitment call-out.

As part of the experiment development process, we also held a planning day with partner organisations and artists which expanded on that thinking in greater detail.
» Read the notes from the planning day

How were the artists appointed?

We ran a three-stage application process, beginning with a simple expression of interest and concluding with flexible, in-depth interviews. The whole thing was run and developed in collaboration with the partner organisations and artists who helped us shape the process, and the interviewees were paid for their time.
» Review the full recruitment process

Why this experiment?

For too long, there have been massive inequalities in terms of who benefits from ‘The Arts’ – both as audiences and professionals. Artists go underpaid, under-heard and under-supported. And it’s not truly open to everyone. We want to change that.

We felt that this moment, where there is no business-as-usual, could be an opportunity to build a new normal for the arts industry. A new normal that gets us closer to the world we want to see – where everyone can access amazing cultural events. Where the systems are:

💥 fair
💥 adventurous and
💥 open to everyone.

You can read the full background on our thinking in the original Let Artists Be Artists proposal.

What happens next?

The artists are starting work now! We’ll be sharing updates on this whole process over the course of the year, through a series of reports and events.

If you’re interested in receiving these updates or attending any of the events/workshops, please sign up to our Let Artists Be Artists mailing list:

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Future opportunities for artists
If you’re an artist and interested in finding out about jobs, training, support and other similar opportunities in future, you can also sign up to our dedicated Artist Support mailing list – a monthly email newsletter.

Funders and partners

We’re so grateful to all of the organisations who are joining us to make this a reality:

Action Hero | The Arts Development Company | Bristol Ferment | Create Gloucestershire | GL4 | Gloucester Culture Trust | Jerwood Arts | MAYK | Pound Arts | Theatre Bristol | Theatre Orchard | Travelling Light Theatre Company | Trinity Bristol