News Uncategorized

‘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!”

“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.”

“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.”

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:

Subscribe to the 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


Shenice Ellis and Halima Malek: Gloucester women join arts industry leadership scheme

There need to be more women in leadership positions in the arts

There is a gender imbalance in favour of men throughout the arts industry – especially when it comes to leadership roles.

Source: The Guardian, ‘UK report reveals ‘disgraceful’ gender inequality in the arts’

Gloucester is full of brilliant people with huge creative potential

We love seeing more and more of Gloucester’s residents realising what they can do, what they can bring about in the city, through the arts.

So we’re delighted to welcome two women from Gloucester – Shenice Ellis and Halima Malek – as our new Associates as part of the Women Leaders South West (WLSW) leadership development scheme.

WLSW is a training and career development programme that aims to do something about the gender imbalance in arts leadership, by supporting women in the South West to explore it as a viable career option.

Future women leaders, made in Gloucester

Under the scheme, Shenice and Halima will:

  • work on their own creative projects
  • shadow the Strike A Light leadership team
  • see the inner workings of an arts organisation
  • join a residential of intensive learning in April 2021
  • and develop their own skills as future arts leaders

all whilst receiving support through mentoring, the wider network of WLSW Associates – and, of course, being paid for their time.

The hope is this will, over the next 18 months, help them progress their own careers and further their potential as leaders. And, ultimately, that WLSW can be another step towards a world where there is sufficient support for women in leadership that the arts becomes a more equal, diverse and representative industry.

Part of a bigger picture, too

The WLSW scheme is happening with eight fantastic arts organisations in South West England – each supporting two new Associates of their own. So there are 16 women in total, from Dorset to Hampshire, participating in the programme.

Read the full announcement, including all 16 associates across the South West.

Our new Associates

Shenice is a dance teacher from Gloucester who has run Ambitions Dance & Drama group based in Gloucester and Stroud for the past 14 years. She loves to travel and is always up for new adventures. This has led her to give opportunities to the young people she works with, including touring trips to France, Hungary and America, as well as teaching in an American summer camp.

Halima Malek is a Gloucester-based artist and makeup artist whose parents originated from India. Her work has been showcased by the Wilson Gallery and she was one of several women invited to read for International Women’s Day at St Mary de Crypt. She works closely with different communities in Gloucester, including the Indian and Muslim communities, to bring positive change to people’s lives.

News Uncategorized

An open call to the ‘woke minority’

Oliver Dowden (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) has invited 25 of the country’s leading heritage bodies and charities to a meeting on 23 February to tell them “to defend our culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down”.

We’re issuing an invitation to arts organisations and allies to meet on 23 February at 5pm to discuss the “heritage summit” called by Oliver Dowden, our potential collective response as arts organisations and to offer support if appropriate to the heritage sector.

Why are we worried?

This “heritage summit” is the latest in a series of similar actions from DCMS and the Charity Commission (see links below) and we are concerned that:

  1. This is censorship
  2. People’s stories and heritage will not be shared and by proxy will be silenced
  3. Heritage and the arts are intrinsically linked, they both tell stories and often support each other. We want all voices to be heard and all stories to be told
  4. This “silencing” will trickle down and DCMS may start to censor the arts and us as arts organisations

Join us for a quick (we promise) hour Zoom to find out:

  • What we all think about this?
  • What the response already is from our sector (if there is one)?
  • What can we do?
  • Will this affect us as arts organisations?

(There is quite a lot of stuff out in the world already about this but below are some links for more information.)

You can sign up to attend below – we look forward to seeing you on the 23rd February at 5pm.

If you can’t attend but would like to be involved in future conversations, please sign up to our artist mailing list below. We’ll share what comes out of the session on the 23rd and invite ideas for next steps.

Please share this with anyone who may be interested or affected

Strike A Light


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Booking to attend this event has now closed – but you can still register to be kept informed. Please select ALL that apply

“The ‘heritage summit’ will be British culture’s last stand against woke zealotry. Among the 25 heritage bodies whose leaders will meet Oliver Dowden, too many are possessed by a Left-wing spirit that the public reviles… So it is a sign of grace that Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, has invited the leaders of 25 of the country’s leading heritage bodies and charities to a meeting on February 23 to tell them “to defend our culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down”.

Simon Heffer
The Telegraph

Useful links/background reading

governance News

Changing charity leadership #2: who can lead?

This is the second in a short series of rants and resolutions about why charity boards/governance structures are often a pale imitation of what they should be, and what we intend to do to change that.

‘Decisions are made by those who [are able to] show up’

This time, we’ll look at how the practicalities of board membership and logistics can stop them from functioning well.

Common problems of building a board

Collect the whole set

We’ve all seen it happen: what starts out as the crucial responsibility of assembling a diverse, relevant board ends up being reduced to a game of Pokemon (‘gotta catch em all!’)…

‘We need to get a finance person, a marketing person, an artist, a disabled person, a beneficiary, a person of colour, a young person – oh and better make sure there’s some women and someone with friends in high places in there, too…’

How, in a setup like that, are people supposed to feel any more than tokenistic?

Big responsibility, little support

Moreover, typical charity governance structures ask a huge amount from trustees, which impacts on who sits on boards and how they function.

Being a trustee generally requires you to:

  • have lots of free time
  • be able to take on unpaid work
  • be comfortable with legal responsibility, corporate and charity speak
  • provide specialist skills

You’re trying to find people willing to give up their time for free – people who are confident in a board room setting, reading and commenting on business plans and cash flows, and happy to take on ultimate financial and legal responsibility for a complex organisation.

Giving up time for free becomes particularly problematic if you’re asking freelance artists, or asking beneficiaries when you have a focus on people living in areas of socio-economic deprivation.

It’s also not OK asking people who have experienced racism to join your board just to help improve diversity in your organisation. Free labour to improve a systematically racist industry, sitting within a systematically racist governance structure? No thank you.

Local vs national

For Strike A Light, one other consideration is that we are very much a Gloucester-based organisation: we need to ensure we are listening to and answerable to local residents, beneficiaries, audiences and artists. 

At the same time, we have developed rapidly as an organisation and we need support from industry professionals in fundraising, finance and advocacy at a national level. 

Bringing it all together

Trying to include all of these people and then expect them to all be at the same meetings, covering an agenda that is required to be primarily about oversight and due diligence, does not make the most of people’s time and skills.

Recruiting new trustees is a challenge; bring together a diverse, representative group of people who can be/do all of these things, understand Strike A Light, have a commitment to the work we do, are interested in Gloucester… 

Cold calling and open calls haven’t worked for us – there needs to be a relationship and a way of making sure it’s the right fit on both sides.

All of which is why we’ve come up with a shiny new governance plan

governance News

Changing charity leadership #1: activism, the arts and politics

This is the first of a short series of rants and resolutions about why charity boards/governance structures are often a pale imitation of what they should be, and what we intend to do to change that.

Why it matters

Boards should be a big deal. In theory, they’re about the leadership of an entire organisation:

  • they set the tone for a charity’s direction and running
  • they continually push the operation, challenging it to do everything it can to fulfil its stated purpose
  • they represent the communities the charity is working with, and make sure its work is actually serving the intended beneficiaries

In theory. But, too often, boards don’t live up to this billing – instead becoming just a managerial tickbox exercise, to make sure the quota of meetings is met and the accounts get filed on time.

We want to do better.

We’re lucky to have a supportive board who are working with us to do this. They’re not the typical “male, pale and stale” board – but they want to do more, and so do we. Because it’s in everyone’s interest for charities to have strong boards and governance.

‘We don’t do politics’

Let’s start by looking at the problem of quiet, passive, non-disruptive, don’t-rock-the-boat governance – and why that’s about to become an even bigger issue in the UK.

The Ministry of Silence

‘If you want to improve lives through charity, leave political fights out of it, writes Charity Commission chair BARONESS STOWELL’

The Daily Mail, 28 November 2020

There is currently a big push to ‘manage’ what charities say and/or emphasise in their work.

In the past couple of days, this agenda has been spelled out painfully, shamefully openly by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden:

Now, it’s true that charities have legal obligations about avoiding party politics – but this is something else. This is the word ‘politics’ being weaponised to attack charities that are engaging with the real world, accusing them of “starting culture wars about ‘wokedom’”.

Keep calm and stroke my ego

There’s a call for the bygone era of Victorian style charitable giving, where donating to the poor and needy gave a warm glow to those upper class philanthropists. Like Ebenezer Scrooge giving a turkey to the Cratchit family, immediately making up for all those years of forced evictions and extortionate rents for slums. 

The message is basically “don’t question anything the government does, don’t look at the root causes of why your charity has to exist, and whatever you do, don’t mention Britain’s colonial past”.

The fallacy of ‘neutrality’

But here’s the thing: not engaging with the challenges of today’s society isn’t apolitical. It’s not a ‘neutral’ position. It’s an active choice to maintain the status quo and the privileged which it serves.

Telling inconvenient truths

The arts are about telling stories, engaging with people, and exploring and reflecting the human experience. The stories which get heard, who tells them and what they say, will be political – not like ‘vote for Lord Buckethead!’ party political, but political because they will unavoidably touch on questions of how we live and act as a society.

Over the next year, Strike A Light will be supporting artists and communities making work about food banks, the climate emergency and Black history.

Is it possible to do this without being ‘political’? Or should we just stage plays about the upper middle classes, written by dead white men? Is that less ‘political’?

It doesn’t even matter how much substance you cut out from your content, how many ‘touchy issues’ you avoid or how vacuous you make your material: the very act of choosing which stories to tell is itself political. You will always be centring, normalising or privileging one experience over another.

Find us a story that isn’t political. We promise you, it doesn’t exist.

Contradictory demands

AND ANOTHER THING! As if this effort to favourably ‘control the narrative’ weren’t bad enough already, it’s also directly contradictory to other demands also being made of arts charities.

In the 2020 New Year’s Eve fireworks display, the UK watched a sea turtle made of drones swimming through the sky – even as we failed to meet any of our 2020 carbon emission targets.

We paid lip service to Black Lives Matter in the same year that DCMS told cultural organisations that if they want to be funded they should steer clear of talking about “contested heritage”

The Charity Commission can’t say to charities in their annual public meeting that they want to involve people from more diverse backgrounds and then a month later publish an article where they ask charities to pretend racism doesn’t exist.

Except that’s exactly what the Commission did.

This means there’s a fundamental disconnect between public messaging and the structures and funding that accompany them. How can you as an organisation genuinely commit to addressing climate change or lack of diversity – things we are repeatedly asked to do by government funders – without addressing the structures which create those problems and which perpetuate them? Complicit silence is not apolitical.

These are the most significant, pressing issues of our time. Life is political and if charities are to exist in and be relevant to society and fulfil their charitable aims for the public benefit then they must engage with the public and with society and therefore with politics. 

A plan to change the system of industry leadership

We believe if you want things to change, the system has to change – and the leadership in the industry has to change. 

So we’re going to try something different with our governance.

We’re cooking up a new plan. One where you can get involved with Strike A Light governance without a long term commitment, share your skills and ideas, find out more about how the board works and get paid for your time in a workshop format.

We’re focusing on different topics each time and the first we want to tackle is arts charities and politics. 

How do we support artists and communities to make work which is about the world around us, which isn’t afraid to question and challenge, whilst working within the legal requirements of the charity structure regarding politics? 

Over the year we’ll also be looking at finance and fundraising, and what a cultural programme driven by artists and communities could and should look like. 

Get involved

We’ve drafted and shared a plan for how we’re going to change our governance structures.

If you’re interested in being part of this exploration and sharing your ideas and experience to support Strike A Light to achieve its charitable aims, we’d love to hear from you.


I Stand For What I Stand On

We’ve been working with the most *amazing* group of Youth Climate Activists over the last year or so. We went along to their Youth Strike 4 Climate and were instantly blown away by their knowledge, conviction, maturity, confidence and energy. In Gloucester they are a small but vocal minority and carry on with their protests in the face of aggression from adults in the street and public criticism on social media. It started us thinking about what support and resources we could offer them as an arts organisation.

Earlier this year we helped support them to produce a Fundraising event for the Australian wildfire relief funds. They brought together awesome live musicians and activists to perform at Gloucester Guildhall. They also performed a very early extract of a performance they had been developing around their climate activism – ‘I Stand For What I Stand On’.

In February we went to a Youth Arts & Activism Symposium at Battersea Arts Centre. We spent two days with other youth activists from around the country undertaking workshops with brilliant activists like Viv Gordon and Richard Dedomenici. We all then watched the incredible ‘When it breaks it burns by ColetivA Ocupação’ which was phenomenally inspiring.

We went with the group to a climate strike in Bristol to see Greta Thunberg and then went to Battersea Arts Centre for a ‘Youth Arts & Activism’ symposium.

This summer they started working with an *incredible* Director Anna Himali Howard to develop their performance of ‘I Stand For What I Stand On’. They met weekly on Zoom for the first couple of months and then finally in September they could meet together in person.

We were also joined by a wonderful creative team, Munotida Chinyanga (Sound Designer), Will Monks (Lighting Designer), Hannah Churchill (Director Assistant) & Ethan Hudson (Production Manager).

“It’s been so great to be able to have something consistent and certain to be working on in such unpredictable times! We’ve been able to so easily adapt through restrictions and it’s so great to see and hear from everyone weekly. I’ve been able to experience an entirely new platform for how I usually go about activism and having such an amazing group of knowledgeable people supporting us has made so much possible that we could have never done alone.”

“It was a challenge to put this show together during a pandemic, but climate change does not stop for a virus and neither do we, so we took on the challenge and after many zoom calls and social distanced meetups we were able to produce the show.”

They were working towards a scratch performance in October where they could show what they had created so far. We were very excited and grateful to be able to offer them the opportunity to perform underneath Luke Jerram’s Gaia at Gloucester Cathedral. Big shout out to Gloucester Culture Trust & Gloucester Cathedral for their support!

“Being under GAIA felt so important for us. We were able to feel as though we were actively protecting our planet as it hangs from a thread above us.”

“To tell our story as climate activists under Gaia felt amazing. The very image of the world we wish to protect was floating above our heads. This has been such a step up from our previous actions as activists and it has opened up the world of performance art to us and the power it holds to influence peoples’ minds.”

The show was live streamed so it could be watched from all around the world. They reached out to climate activists nationally and internationally and introduced them as part of the show.

“Having never done anything like this before, I don’t think any of us knew what to expect, but somehow we put together this show from scratch and people loved it. We surprised ourselves. I have never been great at performing and never thought I would be able to perform the scratch in front of an audience. However we all did it. We had so much fun in the process creating so many memories and running jokes. This show has been an opportunity for all of us to improve our confidence and continue to spread UKSCN Gloucester’s message despite the challenges faced by a global pandemic.”

Plans are in place for ‘I Stand For What I Stand On’ to be further developed and performed in 2021 and we just can’t wait! If you’d like to find out more about the project or are a young climate activist who would like to get involved, get in touch with us


Hear Me Out

“Because if you believe in something, it’s believable”(C, aged 16)

During lockdown, spring and summer 2020, we worked with a fabulous group of young people, alongside The Venture Project in White City, meeting weekly via Zoom, listening to and watching music videos together, and discussing thoughts, feelings and opinions on music, and life in general. 

“People were always telling me what I should be doing, how I should be acting…when we talk it makes me think about stuff in the past…” 

Over the course of the project, 9 young people participated in 10 Zoom meetings; 2 ‘meet the artist’ sessions with Conrad Murray and Luzzey; 3 face-to-face sessions at The Venture Project; and a trip to the theatre to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at Painswick Rococo Gardens.

The group had the opportunity to meet Luzzey and hear all about his music.

A sense of belonging, trust, positivity and group support rang through the sessions, increasing as the weeks passed. In a world where nothing was certain, social interaction was limited and everything turned upside down, these young people came together on-line to listen, talk, socialise and share. 

They increased their confidence in expressing their thoughts, feelings and opinions in response to pieces of music; learnt to listen to others and appreciate each other’s points of view; to feel that their views were valued by other.

“It’s all the stuff I thought and felt through secondary school. I’ve never had the choice to take the easy path…”

Here is what Caroline from The Venture had to say:

“ it’s been really good to get the young people involved and giving them some structure within their lives … Some really interesting things have come out, we’ve had some sessions where we’ve laughed and laughed, and some where it’s been really emotional. We have had tears and laughter because they’ve felt in a safe place to open up and share. And the understanding which is sparked off a different conversation from another young person that might be having similar thoughts. And just sharing that ‘I’m not alone, there’s other people out there that have these fears and anxieties’.”

And Nicola from Strike a Light:

“It has been a genuine privilege getting to know this group of young people and sharing an insight into their lives and how they have been feeling through this time. The weekly meetings were a joy, and I loved the eclectic mix of music that they all brought to the table – everything from ACDC to Rick Astley, you never knew what was coming up! We had some great chats about music, how it made them feel different emotions, or reminded them of a particular time in their lives. I can’t wait to see how they get on with being involved in producing a community song, and I’m also hopeful that we can take the ‘Hear me Out’ model and work with other community groups in the future”

We are currently looking for other partner organisations to work with on ‘Hear me Out’ – if you are interested in finding out more, please email


Gloucester Future Producer 2020: Polly May

Hi, my name is Polly and I’m a 28 year old neurodiverse queer creative, community collaborator and events producer based in Gloucestershire. I’ve been working in the cultural sector for just over six years now running community programmes, workshops and events. The main artforms I produce and work within are Fine Art (especially printmaking and editing/producing zines), Poetry and Music. You can find out more about my work or get in touch here:

I’ve been following Strike a Light’s work for a couple of years and have attended and enjoyed a handful of shows they have put on. I found out about applications opening for the Gloucester Future Producers Talent Development Programme through their mailing list. I saw that they were doing it alongside Gloucester Culture Trust & Jolt Gloucester (who I had heard lots of great things about).

Dance and Theatre performance, what Strike A Light specialise in, is something that I don’t have much experience with as a Producer. I thought this would be a great opportunity to gain more insight into this particular area, as well as building a stronger network for myself within Gloucester. I decided to put in an application, which was an easy to navigate short form with questions about my experience and what I wanted to get out of the programme.

The group meet on zoom and there was a really great mix of people from different backgrounds, who are at different stages of their career and we all specialising in different areas of producing. I was really nervous before going onto the first call, but the leaders Jess and Dylan were friendly and welcoming, they really put everyone at ease. There is also a facebook group where people can share their work and links to interesting projects they have come across. Having this peer support network and being able to bounce ideas off various people has been really valuable and I’ve gained a lot of different perspectives on areas of the sector I don’t have much experience in.

For the first part of the course, Strike a Light programmed a series of guest speaker talks from various producers and arts professionals. These covered marketing, festivals/outdoor performances, working with artists/managers, health and safety/risk asessments, negotiating contracts with venues, working with local authorities and much more.

Ellie Harris the producer of Greenwich & Docklands International Festival was one of the brilliant guest speakers on the programme.

All of the speakers gave a real insight into their career progression, the experience of projects they have worked on and the highs and lows of being a producer. There was also a lot of really constructive and conversation about being creative when adapting work around the pandemic and the positives/challenges it has posed. Inviting these speakers in expanded my network, as they were very generous with their time and shared their contact details to get in touch for further support and opportunities.

Strike a Light and Jolt also keep us updated and get us involved with projects that they are running, as well as opportunities with organisations they are partnered with, including Of Earth and Sky a public art poetry project with artist Luke Jerram. Since joining the Future Producers programme, I have also become a member of the recently established Youth Advisory Board run by Jolt, which is for 18-30 year olds living in Gloucestershire who love art and culture. 

As well as zoom masterclasses and offering practical project experience, the leaders of the Future Producers programme have given me one-on-one mentoring sessions. Jess has supported me with updating my CV and putting together a website to showcase my freelance work. She’s also offered very valuable feedback on project proposals and pitches. Her insight, support and encouragement has really pushed my work in progressing to the next level. She then told me about an upcoming programme for Women in Leadership and encouraged me to apply, which I did.

When the pandemic started, I wasn’t sure if this programme would go ahead, or what the impact would be on it. I’m really glad that Strike a Light and Jolt worked creatively around the situation and made this opportunity happen. The cultural sector is notoriously difficult to break into and now more than ever, I feel like programmes like this one are needed. Up and coming arts professionals are increasingly feeling the pressure due to loss of work and a decrease in opportunities, but it’s been great to have that support and to use this time for peer to peer learning and reflection.

The Gloucester Future Producers Programme has not only presented me with a toolkit and filled my diary with useful contacts, it’s made me think differently about resilience and how to still make cool things happen by navigating the challenges and utilizing the positives that 2020 has presented to Cultural Producers.

Polly May


Programming Revolution

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking and talking to people about what 2021 and beyond might look like for Strike A Light.

We have spent the last few years bringing exceptional touring work to community spaces in the heart of the city and with the current situation that’s going to look different for a while.

We’re going to focus on programming artists rather than shows and giving them time and space to work with communities here in Gloucester, for those communities to be involved in the process and see what they create together.

Here’s Emma Jane to tell you more….

Event footage by Fluxx Films & Stroma Cairns 🎥

Arts manifesto News

Let Artists Be Artists

Listen to an audio version of this page

It’s actually happening!

We now have 13 partners on board and have raised enough funds to employ 2 artists for the year. We’re having a planning meeting with all the partner organisations this month. Each organisation will be inviting an artist to consult with us to shape the project and advise on the recruitment process.

More details coming soon…

In a nutshell

This summer, we’re contracting 3 artists to work with no ‘targets’, no pre-defined outcome and no pressure for 4 months with 3 different communities in Gloucester. Their brief is simply to work with the community to make people’s lives better through the arts.

We want to rapidly extend this idea of longer-term, deeper-rooted employment for artists to work in and with local communities. So we are reallocating some of our programming budget for 2021. We want to employ artists, full-time, for a year and need other organisations to collaborate with us to make this happen.

We want to run this as a national experiment, to see what difference it would make if more arts organisations were to adopt this artist-and-community-centric model – for it to be part of their ‘new normal’.

How can we restructure our work and re-allocate budgets, to offer artists full-time employment, for 1 year, to simply ‘be’ artists in communities?

To fund these posts, we’ll need others to come on board and are having conversations with organisations around the country to see what happens if they join this experiment.

Over the course of the year, we will share updates and insights on the process with everyone who contributes towards those artists’ salaries. It’s a low-risk way for lots of organisations to test out and see for themselves what this new normal could look like in practice.

What happens when you invest in artists and communities in this way? What was the art that got made? Who participated? What was the impact on the communities involved? Did it reach new audiences? Is it viable? Could it become a regular part of your organisation’s way of working? Would it shake up the current status quo for the better?

Why are we doing this?

We think this moment, where there is no business-as-usual, can 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.

It’s also shaped by what we’ve been hearing from artists themselves – both directly in conversation with us, and through things like Louise Blackwell’s fantastic research into independent workers in the creative industries during lockdown.

The new normal: cultural events with artists and communities at their heart

We believe in cultural events that place artists and communities right at their heart. (We’ve got a whole model for this – check out The Strike A Light Recipe for Great Cultural Events).

A growing, proven movement

And we’re not the only ones – there are some fantastic arts organisations who are already working to similar models: the amazing Co-Creating Change Network, that we’re chuffed to be part of; the incredible Slung Low, the excellent Commonwealth, to name just a few.

We’re big believers in this approach to cultural events: putting in the time and care to bring artists and communities together, investing in them, working collaboratively, putting down roots, producing arts events that are made with the people they’re for. (It’s way better -– for artists and communities – than the the one-and-done touring treadmill, for instance.)

But it’s not ‘the norm’ yet

But, even though some people have been working in this way for a long time – even though there are numerous calls for this kind of approach – it is still far from ‘the norm’. We want to change that.

The plan and the proposal

Our plan

We need to value artists in the way we do administrators, producers and general managers. Why not employ them?

That’s why, this summer, we’re contracting 3 artists to work with no ‘targets’, no pre-defined outcome and no pressure for 4 months with 3 different communities in Gloucester. Their brief is simply to work with the community to make people’s lives better through the arts.

The experiment

We want to rapidly extend this idea of longer-term, deeper-rooted employment for artists to work in and with local communities. So we are reallocating some of our programming budget for 2021. We want to employ artists, full-time, for a year and need other organisations to collaborate with us to make this happen.

We want to run this as a national experiment, to see what difference it would make if more arts organisations were to adopt this model – for it to be part of their ‘new normal’.

Your part

To make this experiment happen, we’re inviting arts organisations to work with us. We’re having conversations about how we can do this so it’s meaningful for everyone taking part and we can pool resources. We’re exploring regional and national collaborations. Together, we can make it happen.

We know from initial conversations with organisations that the research and case for funding that comes out of this will be important, as will sharing the learning around co-creating with communities in this way.

An animated GIF. A group of people dance in a community centre while the lights fade through different colours.
People up on their feet dancing at the end of one of our past community-artist collaborative events

1 experiment, 2 ways to get involved

For organisations

Join our pooled experiment. Work with us to develop a model, join the conversation and share resources towards the full-time salary of artists working in and with a community. 

For artists, practitioners etc

Help us spread the word and build momentum for this idea. Work with us to develop the model and tell the organisations, venues and commissioners you know to get on board!

Want to be part of it?

Artists, practitioners

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How can my organisation take part and support?

  1. Email to find out more, or to sign up to participate.
  2. Spread the word! Share this page via your organisation’s social media, talk to colleagues about it, invite us to networking events – it all helps make this happen!

Who will the artists be? How will it work? How will you decide how much they will be paid?
We are intentionally keeping this really simple- what happens if you employ an artist for a year? How does that affect their work, their engagement with communities, their relationships with organisations? The detail of who, what, how, how much etc will be worked out in consultation with artists and the organisations involved and will address all the immediate questions around diversity, accessibility, quality, autonomy etc.

Why this approach?
We have had hundreds of conversations with artists, organisations and communities about the arts – and the same things come up again and again. We all know them:

  • Not enough time
  • a project treadmill
  • things taking place in silos
  • inequality between artists and organisations
  • struggling to reach new audiences
  • who art is made by and who it’s for.

There have been endless zoom meetings and webinars about the new normal and we believe that if we’re all trying to do something different, we can’t do that using the same structures we’ve always used.

So this a deliberately open question. Let’s turn some of those structures on their head and see what happens.

What will Strike A Light’s role be?
We will share the progress and learning throughout the year both online and through events where government guidelines allow, with additional opportunities for the organisations who have supported the project to discuss and benefit from the evaluation. We will be a support for the artists- how this works and what they might need will be worked out in consultation with artists- and this support role could be shared with other organisations. We will undertake the HR administration and on-costs of employing the artists.