Brexit and the Arts

The one things everyone’s mind at the moment in UK and around the world is what has become known as Brexit, the UK’s exit from the European Union. Every channel you turn to you can hear how Government has turned on themselves with ministers resigning left, right and centre. But what does this mean for our industry, what does it all mean for the arts?

It is known that the arts industry is one the largest proportions of stay voters through the campaign. For the industry to survive it needs policies like freedom of movement for people and equipment, the current set up also allows access to further funding that would not necessarily be otherwise available.

So what happens when Brexit deal is reached and article 50 is triggered, what will this mean for our industry?

  • Well the price of tickets will go up or the number of production will go down
  • Restriction on funding
  • Delays to projects where equipment is shared cross boarder
  • Worker rights may be affected cross boarder

So what are industry representatives and unions negotiating to be part of the deal? Well it looks something like this:

  • The continuation of free movement
  • An immigration system that works for both members and their families
  • Tariff free movement of equipment
  • Democratic oversight of negotiations
  • A voice in any negotiations regarding tax and state aid rules
  • Continued membership of Creative Europe
  • EU regulation on copyright to be brought into UK law
  • A continuation of European Employee protection in UK law

The organisations are working hard, there is no better time to join a union in the creative sector as now, the more people they have to back this, the better the outcome.

Remember, the UK was Hollywood’s choice of location to film blockbusters like Solo: A Star Wars Story, Mission: Impossible – Fallout and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. All of which contributed £1.7bn to the UK’s economy. But film makers are worried that recruitment of industry specialists will become harder if the deal on Brexit is not right.

Lord Puttnam, who produced Chariots of Fire and is president of the Film Distributors’ Association, has said more investment in home-grown films “with a distinctive British voice could help to deliver a form of national re-branding”.

Carnival Theatre

It seems appropriate that I write about Carnival today as it is my local town’s annual Guy Fawkes carnival, the largest night carnival of its kind in Europe.

But what is carnival? Where did it come from? Whose brainchild was it?

Well like most forms of early theatre that have survived the test of time, Carnival comes from the world of religion. The origins of carnival is about celebration which took place in Italy just before the lent period, on what those in the UK call Shove Tuesday and what’s known as Fat Tuesday in the Caribbean.

So it all starts in Italy spread through Europe and spread farther afield with the discovery of the New World some of the best parties happen on the Caribbean islands now. Today most towns around the world have some form of carnival in celebration of something or other.

In some places it is a hot competition, like in Bridgwater, Somerset, UK. A tradition that dates back to King James I. Everyone knows the story of Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators who failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament. But did you know that the annual celebration to commemorate this was not just by chance, it was a decree by the king that the people should party on the 5th November.

Bridgwater’s night carnival takes place in November every year, and takes the lead as the carnival moves from town to town through Somerset. It takes the whole year to make the floats or carts, people team up in up in clubs to make their creations for the parade through the town, ending with an amazing display of squibbing. This is very unique firework display through the town, and it something that can only be fully appreciated in person.

Let us know about your carnival, what you celebrate and if the competition is stiff for the best floats.

 

Mental Health and the Arts

It’s so good to see that mental health in the arts is finally making its way up the industry’s agenda. Across the social spectrum as well there are so many organisations and a campaign trying to break the stigma that surrounds what is often a delicate and sensitive issue.

I briefly touched on this in June 2018 as I write about GPs in Wales putting the arts ‘on prescription’. You can read that post click here. But with an ever increasing strain on an underfunded health service by a government that has put money higher on their agenda then the people they serve, it quickly becomes apparent that industries need to find ways to look after their own.

Mental health is so important, it can either make or break a person whatever industry they are in. The creative arts are one of those industries that can be very isolating at times especially in the current economic climate where jobs are not guaranteed, and almost by irony the same creative industry can be a help.

So wouldn’t it be good if venues themselves had an in house service or at least someone that staff, cast and crew could all use whether they are resident or not. I am not saying that each theatre needs to employ a specialised doctor and councilor, but just have appointed resident staff that have the appropriate training and can be available.

Wiltshire Creative has published a guide for venues to use when working with artists with Mental Health Problems: Click here to see guide.

The guide lays out exactly what Mental Health is and how it sits within the UK laws and regulations. It also gives a list of charities and organisations that can be of help, as well as recommending the ‘Mental Health First Aid’ Course which is very quickly becoming widely available across the UK.

As a venue or theatre having this information is so important, you may not be able to deal with the immediate situation, but you should be able to support an individual by being able to point people in the right direction and that can only be effective by having the right contacts.

We are not just looking to make theatre accessible to more artist, we need to be open a wider audience. How about becoming an autistic friendly theatre? While autism is not a mental health problem statics have shown that those with autism are at a high risk of having mental health issues.

A lot of venues are now creating ‘safe spaces’ for those with dementia, while this again is not a mental health problem, those who care for loved ones with the disease can feel isolated, and it is this feeling that can lead to mental health problems.

Opening your venue to become a hub for individuals with mental health issues to use the creative arts as a means of support, while allowing them to socialise and gain confidence in a safe environment. Of course nobody is expecting a creative team to organise a support day or group as experts in dealing with mental health issues, but by taking the advice of Wiltshire Creative about building those contact of organisations that can support that is the first step for a venue when it comes to stamping out the stigma surround mental health.

Remember any charity or organisation will be more than happy to help and support a venue that wishes to reach a wider audience while supporting those artists who work for them. If any industry can be the driving force behind removing stigma about anything in society the arts can, but first they must lend that support to their own.

Are the arts being systematically destroyed?

It seems unsurprising that as young people absorb and begin the new chapter of their life after receiving exam results, that we hear of a drop in entries for GCSE Arts this year.

School is the starting place, the birth place of decisions made by young people to with the rest of their life. It has always been said that individuals can only make an informed decision about anything if the all the information is there to look at. Putting the Arts on the side lines in the curriculum forcing schools to invest less money in the subjects is not fair way of ensuring its survival.

The arts are one of a handful of subjects whereby individuals can potentially start their career at school, the subject is almost like the job during education. As they progress through the years of education they learn to perfect their craft and as they graduate they have something that has been part of them for 20 years before they are thrown out into the ‘real world’.

By the same token many who have taken the arts in school have seen as a ways of improving their confidence for their own chosen career which may have nothing to do with the arts at all. No other subject can be used to improve communication skills and ways on handling certain situations.

There is no other subject in school that can give someone life skills that are inter transferable to any job and career. English only teaches you to read and write, maths teaches you the numbers, but neither will teach you confidence or communication skills needed to make a successful career.

In Wales GPs are putting the arts and social gatherings on prescription. With mental health issues coming more and more to the top of the social agenda it is so important that we teach our children how to communicate and express themselves as that is one of the best way to fight mental health.

Communication and confidence to be around people and be in new situations are key to fighting the increasing crime rate, the increase in teenage pregnancies, the increase in bullying, the increase in violence, the increase drug addiction, the increase alcoholism, the increase of those who are workaholics, the increase in self harming, and the increase in teen suicides which are all rooted in mental health.

The arts are about self-expressions, when words cannot be found then maybe draw, write, paint, dance, or compose music. But unless it is encouraged from a young age it may not come easy to some later in life. Having the arts as a hobby is just like having sports or the outdoors, it helps to calm the mind, everyone is different and will be take to different things to help them see things from a different perceptive, that everything is ok and everything is fine.

As one poem on Pinterst says:

Theatre is science,

Theatre is mathematical,

Theatre is a foreign language,

Theatre is history,

Theatre is physical education

Theatre is business,

Theatre is technology

Theatre is economics

Theatre is taught in schools

Not because you are expected to major in theatre

Not because you are expected to perform all through your life

Not so you can relax

Not so you can have fun

But

So you will recognise beauty

So you will be sensitive

So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world

So you will have more love

More compassion

More good

In short

More life

Of what value will it be to make prosperous living

Unless you know how to live?

That is why theatre is in our schools.

To Adapt or Not to Adapt

‘Adaptations’ of current or new works is like a Tribute Band, it is a good way to keep the work the alive and reach a wider audience but it is a terrible waste of someone’s talent. But unlike the tribute bands adaptations can just be ways for the creator to cash in on their work.

But really, do we need something to be adapted from book onto the stage and film? (It’s a question, not a statement). Is this not just conforming to Burger Kings slogan of ‘Have it your way’? In an age where we are supposed to be encouraging children to read and campaigning to keep local libraries and theatres open, is this really helping the cause? Surely it would be time better use of creative time to make something new rather than keep copying what the consumer already knows.

I understand that creators want their work to be seen by the biggest audience possible, but surely by creating something just for theatre or writing a book that is authentically good, then reviews and conversations it brings would  bring an audience in, if people want to view the work then they need to get out and purchase the book or buy the tickets. It seems that we are just making it easier and easier to access the hard work that our creators by making their projects cheaper so that people can just pick them up at the price which can so often make the creative industry a cheap charity, which it should never become.

I am not talking about this because of the adaptation concept is new, the whole idea came from the ancient Greeks when they would act out stories from manuscripts to encourage understanding in time before reading and writing was compulsory. It’s the sear amount of works being adapted today, it seems to be more popular to adapt than risking new works, especially when the adapting is often work that has only just hit the market, I often ask myself would some works stand the test of time? Will it still be that popular in 100 years from now or would most people have forgotten about it?

Some of the oldest works that still inspire us today like Shakespeare, his work has been adapted into every form of the arts over the years and sometimes it’s to help interpretation where the language was very different 400 years ago in England. But people seem to continue to find new things within it and that is what I wonder about some of the newer works that are adapted today, its only then that you know you have work that is it truly special.

Another example of the best form of adaptations used to inspire is that of PT Barnum, known as the Greatest Showman that America ever produced. There are films that portray his life, but there are also stage and screen productions which take snippets of this work or just one aspect of what he stood for. The latest production on screen The Greatest Showman centred on inspiring and encouraged people to chase their dreams regardless of their backgrounds, those who wouldn’t normally get the chance to enjoy society.

Remember that adaptation can be hard when bringing a book to life on stage or screen, because writers are given so much freedom in creating the world, so getting an exact replication of someone’s (or even readers) imagination is hard to recreate on stage, if bits are missed out or not quite up to expectation then disappoint for the overall work can come and that then can puts a down on the creator’s future hard work. This is not to say that there are some amazing adaptations but like the work inspiring the desire to adapt, the end result needs to be pretty spectacular too.