Cultural Playing Field

Open Stages by Robin Simpson
February 12, 2010, 11:15 am
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , ,

On Wednesday I was at the National Operatic and Dramatic Association in Peterborough for a meeting of amateur theatre umbrella bodies where I announced the details of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s ‘Open Stages’ programme. ‘Open Stages’ is the RSC’s collaboration with UK voluntary artists, 2010-2012, and is one of 4 component parts of the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival – a major project within the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The ‘Open Stages’ programme, which was devised by the RSC and Voluntary Arts as a result of the creative planning weekend we held for voluntary arts umbrella bodies in Stratford on 31 October/1 November last year, is intended to bring about a step change in the relationship between the amateur and professional theatre sectors and raise the profile of the amateur sector in the UK. ‘Open Stages’ will consist of 6 strands:

1. A national Shakespeare-themed theatre competition – working with existing amateur festivals and competitions to develop, through collaboration, a national competition. All entries will be performing Shakespeare plays, or devised responses to the themes and stories explored in his works. The finals will take place in Stratford as a major part of the World Shakespeare Festival.

2. Shakespeare festivals: UK multi region – supporting 12 producing theatres across the UK towards the programming of a festival in 2011 including a collaborative co-production working with representatives of the regional amateur sector. Highlights of these co-productions will be showcased in Stratford in 2012.

3. National Shakespeare Challenge – challenging amateur companies nationally, to create new cross-arts, collaborative productions of Shakespeare or works inspired by Shakespeare (such as existing musical adaptations or new commissions). The criteria, developed with national amateur organisations, will encourage the forging of new partnerships within local communities, involving young people and new audience development strategies.

4. Global Digital Shakespeare Project – enabling a global engagement with the World Shakespeare Festival, combining a worldwide online presence with a live-streamed element.

5. Engaging with global artists – linking with international artists from India, the Middle East and Russia as part of the World Shakespeare Festival, so that these visiting artists would be working across the education and amateur sectors, providing skills workshops and introductions to the making of their work for amateur companies.

6. Skills exchanges between professional and non professional artists – a national programme of skills exchanges between the professional and amateur theatre sectors with skills sessions available in each region and nation of the UK.

I think it’s a very exciting programme and it’s wonderful to see how much of it came directly from ideas generated at the creative planning weekend. There is still lots of work to do on the details of each strand and the programme is still awaiting approval from the Cultural Olympiad organisers but it is clearly going to provide a range of inspiring opportunities for voluntary arts groups across the UK.

Robin Simpson.

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