Thursday, January 19, 2012
Sheelah and I went to Brighton on Tuesday for the Caravan symposium on touring overseas. Always interesting to compare notes with other people, and to hear what the funders have to say! The eye-opener on the funding side was, of all things, UK Trade & Investment, which turns out to be willing to support theatre, like any other business, as it "exports" its work into "new markets" - which is one way of describing what we do.... At a time when most government departments and the prevailing economic discourse seems to think of the arts as nothing but a drain on resources, it was very refreshing to hear from a civil servant who was viewing theatre as a way of improving the nation's balance of payments!
This view, like most of the others on display through the day, still regards other countries as places to which existing work should be taken, rather than places where it can be made collaboratively. I was pleased to hear Tim Crouch talking about his own doubts when he first started international touring; how he felt that there was something rather colonial about "exporting British culture", and how this led to his piece called ENGLAND. I like his work very much - The Author is stunning - and ENGLAND deals with so many of the discomforts of cross-cultural communication. Interesting how the artistic work and its business framing conspire together to create meaning.
Of all the funders present, it was actually the EU Culture Programme which seemed to me to offer the most progressive and exciting models. Perhaps that's why they supported our biggest project yet. There are many pitfalls around European bureaucracy, but somewhere at the heart of it there is a trans-national idealism of intercultural collaboration which we have to access and capitalise upon.