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Gloucester Presents… Communities in Conversation

What happens when you team up a group of local residents with a pair of incredible artists to come up with their own creative event?

Well, this…

The end product: Communities in Conversation 🤩
A panel show discussion about life in Gloucester
Launching 30 November 2020

Watch the trailer now!

the community

Michelle Macfarlaine
Community producer: Michelle Macfarlaine

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the artists

Gloucester artist: Valerie Simms
Touring artist: Yomi Sode

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the idea

A filmed panel discussion, where the guests are all Gloucester residents – sharing their stories of what life is really like in the city.

See more ‘Gloucester Presents…’ events

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Gloucester Presents… SheSpoke

What happens when you team up a group of local residents with a pair of incredible artists to come up with their own creative event?

Well, this…

The end product: SheSpoke 😍🎉
Poem performances and hand-sewn textiles
Launching 3 December 2020

Until then, check out some of the amazing work in progress 😮

the community

Community producer: Aysha Randera
Local Gloucester women

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the artists

Gloucester artist: Halima Malek
Malaika Kegode
Touring artist: Malaika Kegode
Photo credit: Chelsey Cliff

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the idea

A series of workshops for a small group of women to find their voices and express themselves in poetry – which will then be turned into a hand-sewn textile banner.

See more ‘Gloucester Presents…’ events

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Gloucester Presents… Fashion Show

What happens when you team up a group of local residents with a pair of incredible artists to come up with their own creative event?

Well, this…

The end product: Fashion Show 🤩🎉

the community

Ambitions Dance
Local young people and volunteers

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the artists

Dani Harris-Walters sits on marble stairs looking down the camera lens.
Choreographer Dani Harris-Walters
Designer Valerie Simms
Producer Philippa Smith

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the idea

A choreographed fashion show using dance, wearable art and music to tell a story of a journey through time – beginning with the Windrush and ending with life as we know it today.

See more ‘Gloucester Presents…’ events

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Meet the artists helping us to shape the process

We wanted artists to be involved in every stage of our Let Artists Be Artists experiment. We are working with four fantastic artists to help us develop and shape the recruitment process. You can read more about how these artists were selected in the notes from our initial Planning Day.

Ania Varez

Ania Varez is a Venezuelan interdisciplinary artist based in Bristol. Their work changes all the time and moves across different mediums (from theatrical experiences to postcards, from interventions in the public space to poems, and many things in between) but it’s just an excuse to explore ways of co-forging a sense of kinship with different people. They often address experiences of migration, queerness and grief. Ania believes that making art with people is one of the nicest ways of learning about being together, changing the world and sharing hope.

Photo: Paul Blakemore

Conrad Murray leant against a wooden box wearing a red and white baseball jacket and red cap.

Conrad Murray

Conrad Murray is an actor, writer, director, rapper, beatboxer, singer and theatre maker. Based in Mitcham, South-West London, He is passionate about making work through hip hop and beatbox theatre. He uses his mixed Indian heritage to address issues such as race and heritage.

Darren Pritchard

A native Mancunian, Darren is a director, producer, choreographer, and vogue house mother. Darren has 20 years of experience in the fashion, theatre, television and performing arts industries. In addition to his leadership in the infamous House of Ghetto and pioneering efforts in Black Pride MCR, Darren is also the co-artistic director for the Manchester-based arts organisation Black Gold Arts.

Gemma Alldred

Based in Bournemouth, Gemma is a theatre maker, producer, writer and community artist with a specialism in arts and wellbeing practices. Gemma is a co-director of CoCreate, an arts and wellbeing CIC, is a member of the Lighthouse Poole supported writers collective Portal, and creates semi-autobiographical solo performance works for fringe spaces.

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Update: discussion and planning day write-up

Listen to an audio version of this page

Once we knew we had enough partners on board to make our ‘Let Artists Be Artists’ experiment a reality, we held a planning day to start working out the practical next steps.

On Weds 14 October 2020, 13 artists and 16 people from partner organisations took part in a day of discussion (in person and online) to help shape those steps.

To give maximum visibility on the process, we’ve written up the conversations that were had.

This write-up includes all the themes and common suggestions that came out of the discussion and an outline for how these could be applied. This will directly inform the next steps of the project.

Read the whole thing in this page (warning: it’s long!)

Let Artists Be Artists

Discussion and planning day write up

13 artists and 16 people from partner organisations took part in a day of discussion (in person and online) to start planning Let Artists Be Artists

The topics for discussion came from all the questions we had been asked by artists and organisations, as we shared the original idea.

The artists were nominated by organisations involved in the project using this brief.

The write up below includes all the themes and common suggestions that came out of the discussion and an outline for how this could be applied. This will directly inform the next steps of the project

The headings below are the areas where the group felt decisions were needed to move things forward and where practical suggestions were made for how to approach the next steps.


Parameters

It’s important to be really clear and transparent about any agenda or criteria from Strike A Light or the partner organisations. No opportunity can be for everyone- there will be some people this opportunity is right for in terms of their career, their work etc, and some people it will not be right for and that’s OK. 

What is important is that artists can decide if it’s right for them based on their career and their work and the opportunity on offer, not rule themselves out because there are barriers to access in the process.

Who are these roles for?

  • Artists who recognise that the way the arts industry works needs to change and what we do and how we do it is going to develop and change dramatically over the next year as we negotiate the COVID/ post-COVID world
  • Artists who are excited about the possibility of developing their work in this brave new world, trying new things and would relish the chance to have a year to explore what works and what doesn’t
  • Artists who work in artforms that lend themselves well to a collaborative process, both in the creation and sharing. For example someone who creates a performance piece, seeking feedback or involving communities and audiences as it is made and then shared, rather than someone who writes a script in isolation and then submits it to an agent. For example a visual artist who creates installations or participatory work which responds to the people of a place or involves a community, rather than someone who paints alone in a studio and then a gallery shows their work. 
  • Artists who have an idea of who their work speaks to, is for or is created with. Artists who are interested in working with communities as part of their work. This can be communities of geography, interest or other common factors and how, when and why this engagement happens is decided by the artist. 
  • Artists who work in artforms that the partners could provide effective support for e.g. partners have knowledge of networks, support, opportunities etc for the artforms they themselves programme or produce. See full list of partners
  • Artists who want to base their work in Gloucester and/or Bristol. This does not mean that the artists cannot work elsewhere or work nationally over the year, but this opportunity is for artists who are excited about working in these places and want to focus their work there. 
  • Artists who work in a self-directed way, create their own projects and have a clear creative vision and practice. This vision and practice can still be developing but the artistic work of the year will be driven by the artist.
  • Artists who are interested in the research/ documentation aspect of the project and are happy to share and articulate their experiences. This does not mean they have to take on all responsibility for documentation (see evaluation for more details)
  • Artists who want to use this year to build things which can support the sustainability of their career in future
  • Artists who feel that Strike A Light’s 7 principles for ways of making work are a good fit with their own ethos, values and way of working
  • Artists who are excited about the possibilities of this way of working, have a commitment to the process and are excited about working with us. 

What do the partner organisations want to get out of it?

The partners want to try a different way of working. They want to understand what experiences the artist has over the year, what works for them and what doesn’t, how they make work (or don’t) in a COVID/ post-COVID world. 

This can then support organisations to think about how they work with artists, employ, commission, programme etc in future. This is NOT about the artist providing a solution for the organisations but IS about their experiences and ideas being listened to by the organisations and the active research process this experiment provides being of interest to and useful to the organisations. 

The partner organisations understand that the artist is not working for them in terms of delivery or programme. Instead the partner organisations benefit from seeing how this process works and what doesn’t work. The partners need to be comfortable with experiment, risk and failure. 

The success criteria is that artists are employed and everyone involved learns from it. Success is not measured by output of work, projects, engagement or product. The focus is on the ‘how’ not the ‘what’. (See ‘Evaluation’ section for more detail)


Recruitment

The recruitment process should be devised by artists who are paid for their time to do this. It cannot be a traditional recruitment process and shouldn’t be a written application. It could involve workshops and conversations. 

The recruitment process should include:

  • Conversation and two way relationship building- is this artist right for the project as well as is this project/ these organisations right for the artist?
  • Creating selection criteria which reflect the parameters above and which are about the artists’ values, way of working and artistic work, not about their ability to do an interview or fill in a form
  • Opportunity for artists to share their ideas and creative vision- this does not have to be a sparkly project but more what they would like to explore or how. 
  • Payment for artist time for applicants in the recruitment process
  • Access and diversity considered throughout in the process and the make up of the panel. This should be reviewed by artists and by those who have experienced barriers in recruitment processes. 
  • Transparency in the process- be clear about what the process is, publish questions, panels etc in advance
  • Possibility of a two stage process, to save a large investment of time from artists at the first stage
  • Open calls and nominations
  • Community members and artists on the panel
  • Reassurance on a process which focuses on care, respect and wellbeing

Contract

There will be one full time and one part time role (2-2.5 days pw) and a part time role for a multidisciplinary artist to document the process (see evaluation). 

  • The roles will be offered as PAYE roles, one fulltime and one part time, but the specifics of the contract will be created with the artists and tailored to them e.g. if it needs to be a different kind of contract, if the number of days needs to be adjusted. There are possibilities for job share or reducing the hours to extend the role over a longer period of time, or 12 months of pay which can be non-consecutive rather than 12 consecutive months. Flexibility and a bespoke contract are key.
  • We are interested in the potential of the experiment- “what happens if you employ an artist full time for a year?” because it’s different to what normally happens where roles are very short term, limited time, not secure etc. Flexibility to make this work for the artists is important but we do not want to turn this into a standard bursary or residency where it is seen as a project and is one project of many- this is about what happens if artists have enough paid time and brain space to work on their own practice. The contract needs to be mutually agreed to allow for them to have that space and for this to be a priority.
  • The artists will have the same benefits as SAL staff on PAYE e.g. holiday pay, pension, expenses reimbursed, IT, HR support and can use the office space as wanted.
  • As with all PAYE staff, all working time e.g. planning, creative thinking, meetings etc are paid work. If you’ve had a busy intense period you take back time in lieu or take it more gently following this. 
  • As with SAL staff, the artist will be trusted to manage their time and their hours. The full time role is about being able to focus your working time on the role of being an artist. It does not mean if you work 35 hours one week you have to make up 2.5 hours the following week. As with existing SAL staff this will be a 2 way discussion, commitment and trust e.g. the artist dedicating themself fully to the role, making the most of the time available but not having to do timesheets or account for their whereabouts on a minutely basis. 
  • The job description will be created with the artists and follow a similar format to a job description for a development role e.g. it is not task orientated but about exploring, developing, testing and sharing ideas and/or work. It will be based on the parameters above focusing on their own practice and exploring what works and what doesn’t in the current context.
  • The artists will have a line manager. This will be someone from Strike A Light for all three artists or for one or two of the artists could be someone from one of the Bristol partner organisations if that was the best fit and could provide the best support for the artist and could be offered by the organisation. The line manager’s role is one of support and facilitation for the artist to be able to deliver their job description. Like good line management should be, this is not about checking up or micro-management. The line manager’s role is to work with the artist to create and deliver their support structure and to be a sounding board for them to do their work to the best of their ability. (see working practice for more detail)
  • If the role isn’t working for the artist, or the organisation feels the artist isn’t engaging with the role then the first step is to identify whether this is to do with the format of the role. Learning what does and doesn’t work is a focus of this project and so it’s fine to adjust, change, try different ways of working to try and improve the situation. Projects not working, risk and failure are all part of this experiment and so these things in the activity over the year are not a failure of the artist to do the role. We will explore the idea of a probation/ opt out period with the artist at contract stage. The artist is entitled to resign from the role as with any other post and equally if the artist is not doing the work of the job description i.e. they are not working on their own creative practice this could be addressed as a management HR process if the process above doesn’t work. Trust, respect and communication need to underpin this way of working. 
  • The contract needs to be easy to read and any terms used explained
  • The contract needs to include that the intellectual property of any work created remains with the artist
  • The start date should be flexible to allow people to finish other projects or prepare
  • The contract will include an agreement between the artist and SAL about what work can be completed under this contract. The role is for the artists’ own self directed practice, within the parameters above. As with other PAYE contracts the artist would be free to do additional work (whether PAYE or freelance) on top of this if they chose and it didn’t impact negatively on this work. We would be flexible to incorporate existing commitments as mutually agreed while the contact is being put together. The intention is that this role is about the artists’ own practice and therefore would encompass what they would normally do and for which their time might normally be funded through grants or commissions. It’s not a separate project from their practice. Most work then would fall under this contract. We would need to work out with the artist if they could apply for funding to increase their own fees/ salary, if they were applying for funding to deliver a project or offered a commission and how this would work. If the artist was offered work through another organisation and it was part of their own practice or would be good CPD this could fall under this contract. If it was a different/ separate kind of work e.g. non-arts with no linked development benefits or not within the parameters above e.g. taking 2 months off to film adverts for Specsavers, then it could be negotiated whether this was turned down, undertaken whilst on annual leave or whether there’s a secondment or break in the contract. 

The aim would be to find an artist where they could make the most of and focus on this opportunity, but we acknowledge that over a year life happens!

  • Salary will be £27000 per year (pro rata for part time role). This was benchmarked based on a combination of: roles within partner organisations, union rates, Joseph Rowntree Foundation research on income standards, average salaries in the South West and average artist freelance day rates in the South West adjusted for PAYE benefits and regularity of work. 

Working environment 

  • The artist can’t be answerable to numerous partner organisations. 
  • SAL will manage the relationship with the partners and work with the artist and organisations to create an effective way of communicating updates to the project and also for the artist to be able to build relationships with the partners where relevant. 
  • The organisations, including SAL, should approach it from the perspective of how they can support the artists’ work, not the artists working for them.
  • The artist should be included in SAL team meetings and where relevant meetings with partner organisations so that they can feed into the organisations and their perspectives are valued and included.
  • As outlined above the artist will have a named person at SAL (or a Bristol organisation if agreed) as their line manager, point of contact and support. They will work with the line manager to create a structure of check ins, meetings and a plan for their work and time which the artist feels will best support and facilitate their work. No structure at all could lead to inertia and therefore a tailored, relevant, useful structure will be created and continually reviewed by the artist with their line manager. 
  • We will work to create a basic resource budget for things like room hire for meetings etc to support the development of work and projects. Projects and artworks themselves would need separate funding which the artist would be supported to apply for. Partner organisations could also share funding opportunities, commissions etc with the artist. SAL and partner organisations will support this with introductions, facilitating partnerships etc as wanted by the artist. 
  • The artists will have a separate, independent artist mentor who can provide a sounding board and pastoral support that is separate from the partner organisations
  • One point to clarify would be how the artist could apply for ACE project grants in their own name if they were employed by SAL.

Evaluation

  • We would like to be transparent and generous with the process and findings of this project. We will document and share as we go along, including this write up, with the aim of encouraging change in how artists work and are valued in the industry
  • We will document both the artists’ work and their journey
  • There will be a paid role for an artist to document the project. The full time and part time artist roles and their job description will include sharing and recording their work and journey but this will be supported and facilitated by the artist documenter so it doesn’t become onerous
  • Strike A Light will structure and deliver a project evaluation using material from the artist documenter and the artists involved in the project themselves. This will include working with the partners to disseminate to the wider industry, ACE and funders. The documentation, sharing and evaluation will be a continuous process
  • This will need to include input from artists, partners, communities
  • There will be a focus on sustainability- what comes out of this project that could support more artists being paid to be artists?
  • The artists can work with their mentor and with other partner organisations who are artist led and have offered to support evaluation, to evaluate their own experience. This will facilitate honest feedback
  • There is not a predetermined outcome, aside from a genuine evaluation of what worked and what didn’t about this project and about paying artists in this way, and for the artists’ what the impact was- if any- on them, their work and practice. One approach could be to think about ‘most significant change’- so rather than evaluating against particular outcomes, documenting what happened and then evaluating where change happened and what it was. This allows for the unexpected, for revolution, for no change etc.

Notes compiled and prepared by Christina Poulton, Strike A Light, November 2020.

Or download the notes as a PDF:
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Agency Scale

This is an extract from David Jubb’s blog for Battersea Arts Centre about the development of a tool for assessing whether a project is co-created. Kindly reproduced by permission from the Co-Creating Change Network. The full blog post is here.

You can download a blank version of The Agency Scale here. This is used as an internal tool by the Co-Creating Change Network for guidance but can be an effective starting point for thinking about the balance of agency in your project.

Blog extract:

Who has agency in any project?

The person or people leading a project have often conceived some of the project’s parameters and may have decided how aspects of the project are structured. They may have secured money and space to make the project happen – and they are likely to define the nature of any invitation which welcomes more people to the project.

In other words, this individual, group or community, who have been involved in setting aspects of the project up, are likely to experience high levels of agency – they are likely to feel that they can take action and successfully affect change in the project. They have a high level of control and power. (This is what the Kings University report on Cultural Democracy calls “social freedom”.)

Of course, many projects in the subsidised arts sector are not set up by individuals, groups or communities – they are often initiated, set up and run by artists, producers and / or cultural organisations.

So perhaps a useful question we can ask ourselves, when it comes to projects which begin in this way, is how much agency does the individual, group or community have in the project? And how much does the artist, producer or cultural organisation have?

Of course not every project model neatly fits in to having people you can define as the “individual, group or community” and the “artist, producer or cultural organisation”.  Some of the most exciting work happens when these boundaries are blurred, when people’s identities cannot be simply defined, and when there are multiple partners.

However, many projects still fit these profiles, at their inception. For example, even when there are multiple partners, often those partners tend to fit, at the beginning of a project, one of the two profiles I am suggesting – i.e. either “individual, group or community” or “artist, producer or cultural organisation”. So I am going to go with this split, for now, as a working assumption.

An agency scale

We have been wondering whether it is possible to have some kind of scale or spectrum to understand how much agency either party has in any specific project? So at one end of the scale you might have projects where the control and power sits, largely, with the individual, group or community – and at the other end of the scale there will be projects where the control and power sits with the artist, producer and / or cultural organisation. And some where it is somewhere in between.

I did say this was going to get geeky!

The idea of having a scale like this would not be to say that one position on the scale is better than any another. Because work and partnerships exist for different reasons and can be successful in very different ways. So an agency scale would not exist in order to make a value judgement on practice.

But it might ensure that when we are debating and developing practice, we can be clearer about whether that practice exists in the same territory or not.

I often think that discussions about participatory work (or work with communities or socially engaged practice or whatever you want to call it) are dogged with this particular challenge. Because we often bring together a vast umbrella of participatory practice and expect to be able to draw parallels and share learning. But sometimes we’re comparing apples with pears. Because the work is set up so differently and with such different motivations. Sometimes we end up arguing about those motivations rather than having the intended conversation about how we work together to grow this area of practice and support each other to further develop it.

So perhaps something like an “agency scale” could ensure we are clear about the nature of the work we are discussing?

For Co-Creating Change we are especially interested in work where agency is shared. And just to re-emphasise, this is not to say that work where the agency sits either with the artist/producer/organisation or with the individual/group/community is any less valuable. We are simply trying to be clear about a particular kind of co-created practice which we are interested to support and promote.

We are especially interested in work in which agency, control and power is shared because we think this approach encourages a particular form of collaboration which can change the practice, outlook and future of both parties – which we think is interesting.

So if there was a tool to enable us to, roughly, assess a spectrum of agency, control and power, in any project, we think it might help identify what is a good fit for a Co-Creating Change commission and what is not – in a more transparent and open way – using an assessment tool which can be conducted by the person who is actually proposing the commission.

So we have been developing and testing a model for this which is described below – it’s a scratch of an “agency scale”.

Of course the proposed tool will not straightforwardly apply to every project – because there are so many different elements and layers to every project. I guess our question is whether this assessment tool could apply to enough projects to be helpful? Or not?

The draft tool asks you ten questions and shouldn’t take any more than five to ten minutes to complete. [Please remember, this is just an idea for how we might inform the selection of commissions – no need to fill this out now – we’re just interested to get your take on whether this is an interesting or a terrible idea.]

The sections are divided in to two sections.

  1. Set-up. The first section asks five questions which relate to your project framework – about the way your project is initially set up. In some cases it might be best to apply these questions to your project methodology. Or in other circumstances (where, for example, the organisation is the project) it might be about applying these questions to how your organisation is set up. Either way, these questions are basically about the project set-up – whatever that means for you.
  2. Activity. The second section asks five questions which relate to the actual work itself – this is less about the set-up and more about when something is actually being made. In most cases it will be best to apply these questions to the project activity – this can, of course, include the process you’re using to make stuff, as well as the actual product or thing is made – whatever that means for you.

Not every project will fall neatly in to “set-up” and “activity” so the table gives some room for notes. Each question asks you to assess whether the artist, producer and cultural organisation (A/P/CO) has more authority to make decisions or whether the individual, group or community (I/G/C) has more authority to make decisions – by using a broad percentage split.

Here’s a blank of the table with completion instructions beneath. And below are a couple of examples which I have filled for projects which happen at Battersea Arts Centre.

Completion instructions:

  1. Answer each question by giving a % score for “Artist/Producer/Cultural Organisation” and for “Individual/Group/Community”
  2. Most answers will add up to 100% unless there is a third party involved. Perhaps just use – 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% to keep things simple.
  3. Don’t spend too long on each question – just answer it instinctively with what you think is a true reflection of the relationship.

And then, if the overall weighting works out as more than 60% one way or another then perhaps we could say the project is led by that party and if it’s somewhere in between then it is shared?

I have done two examples for two projects which happen at Battersea Arts Centre to give it a go.

Homegrown show – a participation project where we invite young people to come and make a show with an artist

The Agency – a project which invites young people to set up their own project or business

What do you think? Is there some value in having something like this Agency Scale – self-assessed – as part of the commissioning process?

Just to restate, there is no value judgement here. For example, whilst the power and control of the Homegrown terms sits largely with BAC, I think these projects have massive value and can change lives. The idea of the Agency Scale is simply so we can be more honest about what we are actually doing and how we are going about it and have better conversations.

So when we ask people to pitch for funding in the Co-Creating Change network – should we ask them to check where their project sits on this Agency Scale? Or a better version of this? Let us know your thoughts.

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Track & Trace Privacy Notice

To support NHS Test and Trace (which is part of the Department for Health and Social Care) in England, we have been mandated by law to collect and keep a limited record of staff, customers and visitors who attend our events for the purpose of contact tracing.

By maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors, and sharing these with NHS Test and Trace where requested, we can help to identify people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

As a customer/visitor of Strike A Light you will be asked to provide some basic information and contact details. The following information will be collected:

  • the names of all customers or visitors, or if it is a group of people, the name of one member of the group
  • a contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people

We will be responsible for compliance with data protection legislation for the period of time we hold the information. If that information is requested by the NHS Test and Trace service, the service would at this point be responsible for compliance with data protection legislation for that period of time.

The NHS Test and Trace service as part of safeguarding your personal data, has in place technical, organisational and administrative security measures to protect your personal information that it receives from the venue/establishment, that it holds from loss, misuse, and unauthorised access, disclosure, alteration and destruction.

NHS Test and Trace have asked us to retain this information for 21 days from the date of your visit, to enable contact tracing to be carried out by NHS Test and Trace during that period. We will only share information with NHS Test and Trace if it is specifically requested by them.

For example, if another customer at the venue/event reported symptoms and subsequently tested positive, NHS Test and Trace can request the log of customer details for a particular time period.

We require all visitors to our events to pre-book tickets via our online booking system. There will not be the option to pay on the door.

Under government guidance, the information we collect may include information which we would not ordinarily collect from you and which we therefore collect only for the purpose of contact tracing. Information of this type will not be used for other purposes, and NHS Test and Trace will not disclose this information to any third party unless required to do so by law (for example, as a result of receiving a court order). In addition, where the information is only collected for the purpose of contact tracing, it will be destroyed by us 21 days after the date of your visit.

However, the government guidance may also cover information that we would usually collect and hold onto as part of our ordinary dealings with you. Where this is the case, this information only will continue to be held after 21 days and we will use it as we usually would, unless and until you tell us not to.

Your information will always be stored and used in compliance with the relevant data protection legislation.

The use of your information is covered by the General Data Protection Regulations Article 6 (1) (c) – a legal obligation to which we as a venue/establishment are subject to. The legal obligation to which we’re subject, means that we’re mandated by law, by a set of new regulations from the government, to co-operate with the NHS Test and Trace service, in order to help maintain a safe operating environment and to help fight any local outbreak of corona virus.

By law, you have a number of rights as a data subject, such as the right to be informed, the right to access information held about you and the right to rectification of any inaccurate data that we hold about you.

You have the right to request that we erase personal data about you that we hold (although this is not an absolute right).

You have the right to request that we restrict processing of personal data about you that we hold in certain circumstances.

You have the right to object to processing of personal data about you on grounds relating to your particular situation (also again this right is not absolute).

If you are unhappy or wish to complain about how your information is used, you should contact a member of staff in the first instance to resolve your issue (christina@strikealightfestival.org.uk).

If you are still not satisfied, you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Their website address is www.ico.org.uk.

We keep our privacy notice under regular review, and we will make new versions available on our privacy notice page on strikealight.org.uk. This privacy notice was last updated on 16 September 2020.

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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