Food For Thought, Tuesday 24th June 2014

Written by Maddie Wilson 
Maddie is the Assistant to the Artistic Director’s Office at Battersea Arts Centre. She co-ordinates diaries, meetings and projects, and follows the cat around the building, trying to make it like her.
Food for Thought, Tuesday 24th June 2014

Arts organisations spend a lot of time and energy talking about themselves. That’s fine. They have to. Otherwise nobody would know about what they are doing. But at Battersea Arts Centre we’re interested in discussing the bigger picture, too. We want to talk about creativity in all its forms – and to have that conversation with anyone who’s interested.

So in June we scratched an event called Food for Thought. We invited members of the public to join us for dinner and a discussion, so that we could talk about creativity, arts and culture, theatre, education, government: whatever our group thought was important.
24th June 2014 – the facts

  • In attendance were:
    Abigail Arnold-Ochs, Performance Studies student
    Chris Davies, Art Director and senior graphic designer for London Fire Brigade
    Tim Goldman,  actor, teacher and drama therapist
    Kristen McGorry, videogame writer and content creator, and playwright
    Chichi Okonwo, art teacher and potter
    Lesley Strachan, Arts Correspondent for Wandsworth Radio and theatre director
    Marianne van Abbe, retired photographer and  businesswoman
    Jonathan Wakeham, Co-Founder & Programmer of the LOCO London Comedy Film Festival
    Silvia Ziranek, artist
  • The conversation was chaired by David Jubb, BAC
  • Katie Elston and Maddie Wilson also attended from BAC
  • The conversation ran from 7pm to 8.30pm
  •  Between us, we ate two very large bowls of chili and a pot of rice
  • We sat in BAC’s outdoor Courtyard, with an exciting relocation mission to the (indoor) Waiting Room halfway through the evening, thanks to an unexpected downpour of torrential rain

Here are just a few of the things we talked about:

Accessibility of theatre and the arts

Everybody had a lot to say about how to make the arts, and theatre in particular, accessible to all. The arts belong to everybody – they’re not something you have to join a special club to understand or to get involved in. So how can the arts sector become as inviting and welcoming as possible to everybody? Suggestions included:

  • more arts and theatre in outdoor, public spaces – removing the ‘barrier’ of a theatre building, which can seem intimidating. Why can’t we have theatres in our gardens?
  • arts organisations and theatres collaborating with community sports clubs
  • relaxed theatre – relaxed performances are designed to accommodate audience members with special needs, and don’t adhere to the usual ‘rules’ of theatre. Why not apply this to everybody, and hold performances where people can talk, text, and interact with each other – making theatre less of a jump from the way people live the rest of their lives?

Creativity in education

One of the reasons there is so much discussion to be had around making the arts accessible is that so many people believe that being creative and engaging with the arts is not “for them”. We talked about the enormous amount of natural creativity found in small children, and the way that education can either nurture that creativity, or train people out of it. Ideas for a creative education included:

  • helping children to focus on the journey rather than the finished product: the creative process is just as important as, if not more important than, the output
  • involving young children, perhaps the most creative sector of the population, in programming our arts centres!
  • making sure children and young people have access to as many creative opportunities as possible – not only for them, but because it can impact and influence their parents and the rest of their families too

Coding and gaming

Designing, creating, and playing video games is a creative process. Coding is creative too! We were lucky enough to have somebody from the games industry in our conversation, who talked to us about game jams – where lots of people get together to design, test and play games over a relatively short period of time, often including employees who aren’t usually involved in the creative/design areas of the company. How could we apply this idea to other art forms, including theatre? Could we host some kind of ‘scratch jam’?

If you were one of the people who joined us for Food for Thought in June, is there anything else important that we’ve missed off that list – or is there anything else important that we missed on the day? Do leave a comment below.

We’ll be holding more Food for Thought discussions this autumn. We’ve got a waiting list of more than 50 people, and we’d like to talk to all of them. This means if you came in June, we can’t invite you back to the next event (for now!), but please do stay in touch with us. It was fantastic talking to you.

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