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The Strike A Light Recipe for Great Cultural Events

A recipe learned over time

Since 2013, we’ve been working in Gloucester to create great cultural events: experiences that can bring communities together, make life vibrant and exciting – and change things for the better.

In that time, we’ve learned loads about what works and what doesn’t. We’ve learned it from first-hand experience: from trying things and seeing what actually happens. We’ve learned from successes and from failures; from big ideas that flopped spectacularly and from things we tried that instantly took off…

Our thinking has also been inspired and informed by the practice of others working in a ‘co-created’ way (like our fellow members of the Co-Creating Change Network) – and there’s quite a lot of overlap with things like Marcus Faustini’s ‘dangerous notes for co-creation’.


7 ingredients

Based on what we’ve learned so far (and are still learning), we tried to identify some key ingredients in a ‘recipe’ for amazing creative experiences that bring artists and communities together.

We’ve seen for ourselves that these ingredients can make for powerful, relevant cultural events. And we believe this way of working will do more to build the fair, adventurous, inclusive world we want to see (rather than perpetuating the current, not-good-enough status quo).

We think that if arts organisations genuinely bake these 7 things into their commissioning and programming processes, it will produce incredible cultural events that are better for artists, better for organisations/venues and better for communities.

We’ll be following this recipe for our autumn 2020 Co-Created Programme and our year-long Let Artists Be Artists experiment. And we’d love to talk to others in the arts industry who are thinking about working in a similar way.


1. Work ‘with’, not ‘to’

Change the dynamic between your organisation and the communities it exists to serve. Become co-collaborators, creating together. Not ‘supplier and consumer’ or ‘provider and recipient’. Real, live human beings interacting with each other and making (shaping, developing) cultural events together, side-by-side. Events should happen with your community, not ‘to’ them.


2. Put in tiiiiiime

Invest in this process of co-creation – make it a long-term thing. It takes time to build relationships, to put down roots, for work and ideas to grow. You can’t shortcut those things. Expect to think in terms of months or even years, not ‘nights’. And remember that this time with communities isn’t just a means to some single ‘payoff’ at the ‘end’ – the time itself is part of what you’re creating together.


3. Invest in artists

Artists are crucial to our recipe: it’s all about bringing artists and communities together. Artists are the experts in creativity – and in opening other people’s creativity. You can’t do this without them. So value them. Back them. Pay them! Give them the stability and the space to express themselves and their expertise.


4. Amplify underrepresented voices

The creative case for diversity is real – culture is just better the more perspectives are in the mix. But it’s also a point of principle: culture is where our collective stories get told. So it needs to tell all our stories. And, currently, it doesn’t do that equally. So, if you have a platform, use it to help redress this imbalance: find stories that are going untold, voices that are going unheard, perspectives that aren’t adequately represented and amplify those. (This goes for staffing and team composition, too: who are your producers, your directors, your executives? Diversify your workforce!)


5. Do it in unexpected places

Geography matters. Place is a part of community. So celebrate those places; reimagine them; bring them alive in ways that get people talking. Most importantly, go to them. Take it to the streets. Dance on a car park roof. Stand on a bridge. Walk through a farmyard. Run around a housing estate. Go to the places where community is already happening – don’t force people to come to you.


6. Be open, responsive and flexible

Go on a journey with people – don’t insist on the destination before you set off. Remain open to possibility and changes of tack along the way. It’s where the unexpected, the exciting, the adventurous, the unimaginable can happen. And it means that you end up in a place where people want and have chosen to be – and you’ve all been on the walk there together.


7. Share power in the process

This is the last one cos it’s the biggie – it underpins everything else. Sharing power is the way of making sure you’re handling all the other ingredients properly and authentically. You have to genuinely give all the participants in the process power to shape that process. Not sure how to tell if you’re doing that or not? You can use The Agency Scale to literally measure it. We know this one can be scary – so many of us have been conditioned to get hold of and exercise as much power as possible. But real change happens when power is shared – for the good of all – not grasped for ourselves.


Want to try it for yourself?

1) If you’re interested in seeing what could come from this way of working without having to change your entire programming budget overnight, you can join our pooled experiment. We’re going to pay artists to work in this way, full-time, for one year and share the learnings with other organisations who participate.

2) If you want to explore implementing this sort of approach in your organisation, get in touch with us. We can provide consultancy and advice based on our experiences working to this recipe.

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Katy Costigan: ‘Stella’ Activities for Kids

Having brought our family show ‘Stella’ to Gloucester Cathedral last Autumn, we wanted to use this original story as the basis for a number of online activities aimed at children and their families.

WISH UPON A STAR – A simple instructional craft activity. Create your own star, make a wish and share it on social media channels, with the additional option to receive Star letters in the post, like a Star pen pal!

HOW TO BE AN ALIEN – An interactive session with Stella, our very own girl on the moon.

STELLA STORY TIME – The story of Stella told online by Ivy from the show. Features original illustrations and an original musical soundtrack, with the aid of green screen software to transport the audience into the world of Stella.

About the artists

Filskit Theatre was formed in 2009 with a mission to ignite the imaginations of children and their families whilst developing artists, accessibility and hard to reach audiences. Filskit are committed to building future young and family audiences and a more inclusive, diverse and sustainable sector by developing the art form and the skills of our collaborators.

filskittheatre.com

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Hannah Whyte: art radio

This project is a community art radio show, focusing on the broadcast of local/emerging music, poetry, audio-based artworks, and writing.

Hannah says:

Live radio transcends space and borders, connecting people across towns, regions, and even countries, which is why I think it’s an ideal format for art-sharing during a period of social isolation. Tuning in at a set time each week, with the knowledge that other people are hearing exactly what you are, is ultimately uniting, and could serve to bring people together during this isolated time, as well as providing a platform for little-known local artists.

Tune in at 8pm on Wednesdays by visiting www.tincanradio.co.uk. To get involved, submit your music, poetry and audio-art to tincanradio.glos@gmail.com.

About the artist

Hannah’s work revolves around community and collaboration. She is interested in books, zines, events, experiences, spaces – and their radical potential for bringing people together, forming alternative structures outside of the gallery format.

@han.whyte

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Danielle Salloum: ‘Sisterhood’

Sisterhood is a photography and mixed media project highlighting ten women from the Gloucestershire region. The portraits and artwork have recently been exhibited at The Wilson (up until the temporary closure of the venue). These uplifting stories of diverse, extraordinary women from the local area celebrate and pay tribute to the multi-dimensional beauty of women, and the value of that beauty in this time of crisis.

Each woman will share her thoughts on aspects of COVID-19, encouraging the audience to look at the current scenario from another perspective – to interact and connect with other people in this unprecedented time.

The project will be placed on a variety of online platforms including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as well as Create Gloucestershire’s website.

About the artist

Danielle is a young photographer, filmmaker and artist who is passionate in raising awareness of issues she feels strongly about, from human rights and social equality, to the struggling environment and the rise of veganism.

www.daniellesalloum.com

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Soozy Roberts: ‘The Covid Covers’

The Covid Covers is an online project by Soozy Roberts, where you are invited to dedicate a song to someone who deserves a shout-out during lockdown and social-distancing. The idea developed out of a series of self-portraits she created in 2017 that had songs as titles – the challenge being to create your own song cover using yourself, household members and objects.

The dedications will be played on BBC Radio Gloucestershire and a special one-off show on deepbedradio.org. Song covers and dedications will be exhibited on the website gallery and the top 10 images will be printed, framed and presented to GRH as a thank you for their amazing efforts. We hope to hold a concert in Gloucester when things return to normal. Get involved over at www.thecovidcovers.com!

About the artist

Soozy Roberts is a socially-engaged artist working in a range of disciplines and with communities to bring art into everyday environments and site-specific spaces.

www.soozyroberts.com
www.robbinsandroberts.com

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Collected poems – from Halima Malek

Halima is a Gloucester-based poet and long-time friend of Strike A Light. During lockdown, she worked with her local community, encouraging people to write and record their experiences. This is what she collected.


In The Corners Of Minds

Rizpah Amadasun

Restless with no sense of time, for what once was. 
In denial that we might never get it back again. 
What if the future is better then what is desired to be repeated. 
Wonder on what can be done in the present. 
Than cast gloom on all we knew. 
There are simple ways to laugh. 
Kinder ways to journey through memories. 
Now is important to find a joyful way to live too.


Lockdown

Abdul Huq (age 10)

Everything had closed down like: schools, shops, markets, swimming pools, everything and it’s because of a virus called coronavirus. This virus is new and it’s taking over the world and it’s ruining everyone’s life and a lot of people are dying from it. So the government had decided to force people to stay at home from this, because they are worried about us and because of the virus, you have to keep the social distancing from others because they might have the virus and you don’t know about it. When you cough you must put your hand and cough as well when you sneeze. This is really important for your safety so you know that the whole of the world are collaborating to find treatment for this pandemic so we start the normal life like before so we have to remember the good times. We have missed going to a party or going to the park with your friends and swimming with your family so much. So you should forget about the bad Pandemic that is making us feel sad and scared, but don’t worry one day everything will change and everything will be like before and your dreams will come true.


Our Guest

Sajida Kathrada

You came uninvited, and you decided to stay
No red carpet or banquet was prepared for your way.
Although no transport by sea, road or air
You still managed to enter planes no one would dare.
No restrictions, no rules, you were free to roam the world.
From China you set forth, no baggage or passport, no visa required
You came alone.

Travelling from one country to next, you enjoyed and rested well
No immigration laws of Brexit could stop you on your way
Nor the walls or barriers of Trump’s USA
No missiles of Putin’s Soviet could deter your track.

No race, religion or colour do you have,
Yet you still enjoy the freedom of your travel.
You prey on your host, making them weak.
You do not choose rich or poor.
Your aim is to control and leave the world in despair.
Your presence caused “a lockdown” –
A word we never knew…
Families distanced, prisoners in our own homes,
A life so unreal in this modern world.

Yet you made us reflect, made us think.
The value of ‘life’ –
Kindness, care, helpfulness, appreciation were
No longer just words but the actions we took.

However a small request now:
It’s time for you to depart
Please, “guest”, leave us now
So we may love, laugh and huge once again.


Words by Lina

With this situation, I feel calm most of the time and optimistic that the end of this situation is close to the end, and that I take advantage of being with my children for a long time, but this feeling does not last long.The study of children is what worries me most, and my husband work as well, and I wish everyone the best.


Poem

Halima Malek

What has happened to the world?
Why is it crying out in pain?
What have we done so wrong?
Who has caused this pain?

I feel a numbness, around me
I smell fear in the air
The deserted streets
No sound of laughter
But children crying in fear

What has happened to the world?
Why is it crying out in pain?
What have we done so wrong?
Who has caused this pain?

The flowers all still blooming
The birds still sing their songs
The bees buzz all around me
The butterflies spread their warmth.

What has happened to the world?
Why is it crying out in pain?
What have we done so wrong?
Tell me who caused this pain?

Humans now all dress in masks
Walking away, without a hello
No good mornings
Or ill see you soon
No come round for tea
Or a pop in and how are you?

What has happened to the world?
Why is it crying out in pain?
What have humans done so wrong?
Who really caused this pain?

Blossom has now been and gone
Just like the daffodils of spring
Tulips now colour the ground
And lavendar has spread her wings.

What has happened to the World?
Nature is pushing us far away
Humans are not wanted anymore
Mother nature is screaming out in pain

Nature is still around me
The sun still shines the same
The grass is green
The sky still a vivid blue
The stars are still twinkling and talking to the moon
Everything looks familiar in my garden
But the world outside my front door has changed

But nothing is the same
My heart isn’t the same
I dont feel safe
I dont feel safe
I fear people around me
I yearn for a hug
A touch
A warming embrace

I wish that this was but a dream
I’ll soon wake up to life as I’d known it before this began
Where I walked, and said hello to my neighours
And could Hug and kiss my Nan


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Creative support

We love supporting young people to develop their artistic skills and careers. We can help you put on a show, find training or work opportunities – or we’d happily just have a chat with you!

Drop us a line, any time: strikealight.org.uk/contact-us/

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Made at Hawkwood: Friday Reads

About three years ago, Alicia from Hawkwood and Emma Jane, our Co-Artistic Director, cooked up a cunning plan to offer artist residencies in the beautiful setting of Hawkwood, with producer support from Strike A Light. 

Like all residencies, working for a week at Hawkwood provides invaluable time and space for artists to develop their shows, write or rehearse. Unlike other residencies, it comes with the bonus of being in the beautiful Cotswold hills, and the BEST food. In fact when we’re talking to artists about how it went and how we can support the next stage of their work, we have a hard time getting them off the subject of the food. But we caught up with a few people who’ve been at Hawkwood recently to find out how it went, and- other than the daily home made cake- what their highlights were.

Vinnie Heaven

We’ve been working with the amazing Vinnie Heaven since the beginnings of Strike A Light. We like to support new ideas and new voices getting to the stage and Vinnie wanted to use their show to make a change in the world. Vinnie worked at Hawkwood with director Emma Williams to create their show She’s A Good Boy. The show then went on a very successful national tour and you can read more about that journey here.

“Your first exploration and draft is raw, its messy, frustrating, painful at times. At Hawkwood you get three meals a day at set times that force you out of your head and away from your words and allow you designated time to chat to other artists and makers. The food is phenomenal, that’s just a fact. The head space meals provide is integral. That’s a fact too.  You can sleep there! you can completely escape life and have a week in picturesque gardens and light studios to just – make!”


Dani Harris Walters

Last year we did a call out to local and national artists in partnership with Everyman Theatre and Hawkwood to commission a brand new piece of Black led theatre or dance. The recipient was the brilliant Dani Harris Walters. Dani and his team spent a week at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham and a week at Hawkwood developing a brand new piece ‘Nanny’ before performing a scratch at the All Nations Community Centre (a highlight of our year that you can read a bit more about here). The finished show is coming to Gloucester too so watch this space.

Check out this video of Dani and the team during their residency. 👇


Saili Katebe

We regularly have open calls for artists to share work in progress at our Scratch Nights (find out more). In September 2019 we were lucky enough to have poet Saili Katebe share some of his new spoken word at our scratch night. We were really excited by Saili’s work and wanted to continue our support. Saili applied for a residency and worked at Hawkwood in December alongside other spoken word artists Sean Mahoney, Katie Greenall, JPDL & Grove.

“Day one of the residency was an amazing reminder of how much there is to pick apart and build, and what that time was able to give me to pull apart and bring back together. Having shared a scratch of my work a few times and received some notes and feedback, the time to consider the feedback allowed me to really shape and reshape the project as opposed to piling things on top of what I already had.

“I am excited about where I am with the project and hungry to tuck into it and bring it to life. I’m excited for the team to see the next sharing of the work and I look forward to sharing this creative journey with Strike A Light.


Bootworks Theatre

Bootworks’ new show NINE will star nine local nine year olds, sharing their thoughts, at the midpoint between birth and adulthood. In summer 2020 they’ll be working with young people in Matson, Gloucester, to create the show and in January 2020 had a week at Hawkwood to develop the ideas.

Here’s Andy, one of the Bootworks artistic directors, to tell you more about that week…

If you are interested in finding out more about how to apply for a future residency then you can keep an eye on our opportunities page or sign up to our artist mailing list.

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Scratch night call out

Have you got an idea for a new show or something in progress you’d like to try out?

We’re inviting artists from Gloucestershire and the South West to showcase new work at one of our scratch nights.

A great opportunity to try out ideas and gain feedback from a supportive live audience. Performances can last from two to twenty minutes and our scratch nights are open to any performance discipline. We provide basic tech, facilitate feedback from the audience and can cover your travel costs.

If you have something you’re keen to share and get support on then drop us an email on info@strikealightfestival.org.uk so we can chat. We’ll confirm a date that works for interested artists, as part of our summer season, May-July 2020.

(Due to the current world crisis dates are a little up in the air. However if you are interested in sharing something in the future we’d still love to hear from you).