How to fundraise

Written for Ideastap

How to fundraise

Finding sources of income has never been more important – or daunting. Honour Bayes talks to top arts fundraisers to find out how best to ‘make the ask’…

“Turn critical needs into attractive propositions”

This advice – from Head of Development at Bristol Old Vic Alan Wright – is a good place to start when tackling fundraising: in order to get anywhere, you need to communicate clearly why any donation is an attractive option. Director of Corporate Affairs at the British Museum Sukie Hemming agrees: “What you’re asking someone to do, i.e. part with their money, is actually really irrational.” To encourage people to invest in you, she adds, “you need to ensure it is a sure and viable project” that warrants such investment. Read more

Thoughts: Get Stuff Break Free

Written for Exeunt

Wow there’s a lot going on this year. THE DIAMOND JUBILEE! THE OLYMPICS! THE SHARD! “It’s good the Shard opens before the Olympics begins. I was worried we wouldn’t have enough hubris in London this summer,” tweeted Andy Field and boy is he right.

According to a dictionary definition of hubris it means ‘overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance.’ That seems to fit the bill 2012 is an unusually preening twelve months isn’t it. Celebrate! CELEBRATE!

If you detect a note of sarcasm in my tone you’d be right. Who are we kidding? We liberals feel rather grumpy about all this money-sucking, altar-to-capitalism building, royals-on-a-boat style celebration.

The idea of hollow celebration is key to Made In China’s new show (although it is powered by something much more hopeful than that). Get Stuff, Break Free highlights society’s penchant for ‘bread and circuses’ – keep us diverted and distracted and we’ll play nicely. The piece involves party poppers, cucumber sandwiches, jugs of Pimms, balloons, sparklers, a dance and fireworks.

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But what is it actually about? I have spoken to them about this; I should know this.

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Tim: “We’re being cagey about this because it’s a bit like if you say that [earlier show] Stationery Excess is about superman…”

 Jess: “It ruins the show.”

Honour: “Absolutely. Yes. But so….how do I write about it?”

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Made In China are Tim Cowbury and Jessica Latowicki. They are passionate, involved, politically aware artists; ‘Look at this world you are so willingly a part of’ they challenge ‘Just notice it in all it’s problematic and grotesque glory.’

Get Stuff Break Free has been called a helpless acknowledgement of societal appeasement. But I think it’s too engaged for that. It’s a state of the nation piece.

It takes the form of a Q&A with a band who’ve seen it all. Maybe they are London; maybe they are society; maybe they are revolution; maybe they are a failed revolution; maybe they are human; maybe they are us.

Get Stuff Break Free is not a resigned shoulder-shrug to the schlock filled opium of the masses; its a clarion call to open your eyes and break out. It talks about large scale events from the capital’s past and present; riots, fires, weddings, funerals.

It’s Jess and Christopher Brett Bailey again (We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie)) but this time it’s also Nigel Barrett and Sarah Calver. Four figures looking like a folk rock group standing on a roof top of the National Theatre. I’m told people can see them when crossing Waterloo Bridge.

They look secure in clumpy ox-blood Doc Martens but also vulnerable, precariously perched on a platform so exposed the wind could lift them up at any moment. Safe and unsafe, I think it’s a metaphor for life – but is it?

It’s definitely both cocky and fragile; they’re like revolutionaries who’ve lost their way but still have flames in their eyes. “The world is explosive and full of greed. It won’t encourage questioning and it won’t give you space to be different.” It says. “But fight for that space because it CAN BE DIFFERENT.” It also says.

My use of capital letters here is not ironic. Made In China never are. Though they satirise the greed of the world, they are earnest in their call for the possibilities of change.

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So, sorry, what is it about again?

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I can’t stop thinking about the first of the Twelve Steps. ‘The first step is, admitting you’ve got a problem.’ That’s what Get Stuff Break Free is about.

Once we all do that, just think of what else we can do.

Exeunt Critics’ Picks of 2011

LOTS of fabulous picks here by some people who really know their stuff including some expected and not so expected pieces. Wish I could have mentioned London Road, wish I could have seen Mission Drift…

Originally published on Exeunt

Of course we are wary of the arbitrary nature of these things, the artificiality of seasons, the ordering of experiences into peaks, the hierarchal maps they reproduce, the dangers of placing Fabulous ones next to Those who have just broken a vase.  However at some point you have to be practical.  Our critics have valiantly seen a metric stage-tonne of theatre this year, so what better to relive with sufficient context their most notable moments? And from here it looks like they have produced a list unrivalled for its scope, depth and surprises.  So without further ado-ing, and in no particular order…

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Response to Earthquakes In London

Earthquakes In London is a sprawling mess that parades its wears like a fashion show but lacks heart.

Whilst I need to preface this response as one that’s been taken from a preview performance, I can’t get away from the thought that Earthquake’s In London is a mess.  By attempting to tackle apocalyptic environmental and societal issues whilst reclining uncomfortably in a dysfunctional family saga Mike Bartlett seems to have hit some massive stumbling blocks.

The fragmentary structure certainly gives a sense of fast car urban existence but with characters coming in and out of focus like bored commuters, its hard to care about any of it or them.

We follow three daughters all careering around London trying to make sense out of their jumbled lives as both their environment and time itself disintegrates around them.  It’s a massive departure for Bartlett, known for doing pared down, razor sharp indictments of modern life with a minimum amount of actors.  Here he turns his eye to generational responsibility.  It’s a promising and meaty conflict but one that gets lost in the whirl of a confusing narrative structure that attempts to hurtle in all directions at once without having tied itself to anything solid from which to fly.

And whilst you have to admire its epic ambitions, Earthquakes boasts a cast of 17 taking on 50 roles and incorporates the ambitious stylings of Enron director Rupert Goold, you can’t help but feel it’s actually a very slight piece of work.   It’s all too easy to get fed up of the same old naturalistic dross and ‘economic’ castings that so suit our current financial predicament but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and become nothing but spectacle either.

Because at its heart, Earthquakes In London seems so concerned to not lecture its audience with its central theme that it has avoided having one at all.  At 3 hours long it’s tiring not exhilarating.  I hate to sound boring but the whole thing could have benefited from someone cutting through all the theatrical bullshit and saying something much simpler, but with some actual weight behind it.

It’s a great first draft (and I’m not intending to patronize when I write this), there are some moments of spine chilling poetic beauty in Bartlett’s dialogue and Goold’s direction delivers the expected visual punch.  But whilst Bartlett has said ‘I wanted to see whether you could throw everything at it and still maintain a structure and coherence.’ I think on this occasion the answer has to be that he couldn’t.

Razzle Dazzle ‘em. And they’ll make you a star!!

At the beginning of the year I headed to the National for the highly acclaimed Broadway Production of August: Osage County in which Tracy Letts dissects the good old American staple of discordant family life.  This is a show which truly dazzles and true to Steppenwolf’s vibrant, energetic and ‘in yer face’ acting style, the whole thing is carried off with an amazing energy which would put the most zealous British actor to shame.   Indeed I and my companions came out of the theatre all bursting with enthusiasm and near gone idol worship for this melodramatic play which when, one thinks of it, is simply a very good soap opera on a wonderfully detailed set.  Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, and so you are right, but is it really worth all the hyperbole that we and even countless professional critics have heaped upon it?

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