Arts Council Spellcheck

I recently submitted a GforA application to the Arts Council. Being thoroughly conscientious and not at all procrastinating, I hit the spellcheck button to make sure nothing was glaringly wrong.

This is what my application might have said, if I’d followed those suggestions:

I am applying for x amount to run an Introduction to Playwriting Plaiting course. This week-long weakling course will consist of a series of in-depth inept tutorials, allowing writers to explore collaborations with other art-forms earthworms.

This fundraising foundering initiative will provide the means for writers to workshop worship their plays with professional actors and directors. The results will be available to download via podcasts podiatrists from the website.


An invitation to mid*point Open Space Event: Thurs 23rd & Fri 24th June

‘What more can we do to create a better future for theatre in the West Midlands?’

Dear friend

Eighteen months ago Alison Gagen invited us, the region’s independent theatre community, to the original Challenge for Change Open Space event at The Crescent Theatre. The idea and the invitation grew out of collective passions and frustrations with theatre, about how we love theatre but still felt frustrated and dismayed with how it happens sometimes.

The event proved a fantastic catalyst for collective action and initiatives, some of them are obvious, others, equally important, are more subtle and tangential. It spawned a working group which still meets; the 2010 Theatre Pledge; the On Call Initiative and helped prompt the BE Festival. It also enabled meetings and conversations, new partnerships and renewed alliances. Since then much else has changed in the Theatre landscape. We feel it’s high time for the region’s Theatre Community to meet again in Open Space.

Please come and join us for two days in Open Space addressing the above question and ANY related issues. This is a great opportunity for the theatre and performing community to gather and work on what could be improved; the things that we are passionate about and the things we wish were different. The event will be facilitated by Nick Sweeting from Improbable who have pioneered the use of Open Space within the UK’s artistic community.

What is Open Space?

Although OPEN SPACE may be new to you, it has been used all over the world with great success. Unlike other conference formats, it is an exciting open-ended event that enables a self-organising group to use its collective imagination to set the agenda and deal with complex issues through a series of participant lead breakout sessions. This model:

• Allows great results to be achieved in an incredibly short space of time;

• Allows participants to be proactive in establishing and solving common issues;

• Ensures that no-one will be bored by never ending key note speeches!

By the end of the event the following will have occurred:

• Every issue of concern to anybody will have been raised, if they took responsibility for doing that.

• All issues will have received full discussion, to the extent desired.

• A full report of issues and discussions will be in the hands of all participants

• And YOU will have taken part in making it happen.

A strong point of Open Space is its ability to unite groups of enormous diversity, to that end we are encouraging everybody to participate.

Please forward this email to any theatre practitioner who you think would be interested in having their say.

The event will take place on Thurs 23rd & Fri 24th June @ A E Harris, 110 Northwood Street, Birmingham, B3 1SZ. Between 10:00 and 17:00.


In order to feed everyone it would be useful to have a good indication of how many people intend to attend. Please therefore send an RSVP by Friday 17th June to There is no charge for attending this Open Space event.

See you there……

Signed mid*point Steering Group


The mid*point steering group is made up of the following individuals:

Alison Gagen, Arts Council England
Amanda Roberts, mac
Catherine Edwards, Independent Practitioner
David Allen, Midlands Actors Theatre
Ed Collier, China Plate Theatre
Harun Morrison, Fierce! Festival
James Yarker, Stan’s Cafe
Jane Packman, Jane Packman Company
Jonny O’Hanlon, Hamfisted
Laura McDermott, Fierce! Festival
Liz Tomlin, Birmingham University
Mike Tweddle, Be Festival
Olivia Winteringham, Kindle Theatre
Orit Azaz, Independent Producer
Orla O’Loughlin, Pentabus
Paul Warwick, China Plate Theatre
Pippa Frith, Women & Theatre
Raidene Carter, Birmingham REP
Steve Johnstone, Black Country Touring
Thomas Wildish, Foursight Theatre


Arts Council NPO Decisions

Like most people in the arts world, I’ve been glued to Twitter this morning following the #artsfunding stream.

Having been on the receiving end of the 2007 cuts at Script, and the resultant fall-out, it’s hard to see it happening again to people and companies I care about. The whole landscape is shifting, and while it’s good to see the successes, it’s also heartbreaking to see the losses.

In summary, 695 organisations have been successful in their bids. 206 have had their applications rejected and 110  groups have received grants for the first time. You can find the full breakdown on the Arts Council website.

In terms of new writing, there is a discernible shift towards the regional umbrella literature organisations:

Writing West Midlands: New NPO
Writing East Midlands: +35.5%
Writers’ Centre Norwich: +62.3%
New Writing North: +50.1%
New Writing South: -15.4%

Fantastic news for literature, but it seems that playwriting is falling out of favour. New Writing South have a sizeable theatre writing strand (having started out as Pier Playwrights), while core grants to both Theatre Writing Partnership and North West Playwrights have been cut completely from 2012.

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain have just issued this statement responding to the NPO decisions, also tweeting that new theatre writing survives funding cuts. I disagree. While Guild President David Edgar states: “We’re pleased that the Arts Council has not chosen to cut new writing agencies”, it is evident that the axe has fallen on agencies which specifically focus on writing for performance. In addition, thriving new writing theatres such as Theatre Absolute and Foursight have also lost all funding.

Playwright Fin Kennedy gives a useful overview here of what this means for theatres across the UK

The grassroots development of new theatre writing in the West Midlands was cut four years ago with Script, and it now seems that the small producers of new writing are also bring chopped.  Which leads us back to The Rep. It does good work, but can’t be expected to bear the commissioning brunt of the whole region. Wasn’t this review aimed at improving infrastructure, rather than simply falling back to rely on the big guns?  To paraphrase Alex Kelly from Third Angel, a bit pissed off actually.

The good news:

Writing West Midlands
Huge congratulations to Jonathan Davidson and Sara Beadle for their work on Birmingham Book Festival and Writing West Midlands, which will receive £180k in 2012/13. Hopefully this will support a flourishing and sustainable new writing sector in the region over the next four years. In light of other cuts nationally, I hope that its ambition will extend to offering substantial provision for regional theatre writers.

Really pleased to see that the funding for this rural touring company has been maintained. Important and exciting new work, which includes a residential writers’ week in May, and new commissions for 2012 from the recent “We Are Here” script call-out. Great news.

Talking Birds
We Love You City at The Belgrade last year was one of the best new plays I’ve seen in a long time. A recent installation celebrated the history of Coventry’s sorting office. Long may it continue.

24:7 Theatre Arts
Manchester’s annual new writing festival is regularly funded for the first time. A solid event in the calendar.

And, the bad news:

North West Playwrights
A highly successful development agency for new writing, which had planned to expand its remit to support writers and producers in the West Midlands and Yorkshire. Chris Bridgman, the Chief Exec, was recently awarded a Writers Guild Award for New Writing Encouragement. NWP had over 20 years of experience in mentoring and supporting writing for performance. A shocking decision.

Theatre Writing Partnership
Again, a thriving organisation which supported writers in the East Midlands. Supported by all the major regional theatre producers, TWP has an incredibly strong track record in nurturing playwrights. Also runs the annual Momentum Festival

Third Angel
Exciting and innovative company that I’ve raved about often enough. This has provoked the most reaction and anger on Twitter this morning – if there is a route to appeal, expect Third Angel to be first in line for a reprieve.

Theatre Absolute
New writing theatre based in Coventry, recently launched the first ever shop-front theatre in a disused chip-shop. Popular, successful, and also runs a community writing course to support regional playwrights

Foursight Theatre
Female-led devising theatre, based in Wolverhampton. No personal experience of company, but strong reputation for creating relevant and excellent work.

That’s just a tiny snapshot of the overall picture, but one which will directly affect the new writing ecology in the West Midlands and beyond. Commiserations also go to Birmingham companies The Other Way Works and fiction publisher Tindal Street Press. More news nationally can be found on the Guardian live blog throughout the day. Comprehensive listings of organisations in the West Midlands can be found here

Finally, Sam West made an inspiring speech at the March for the Alternative on Saturday 26th March 2011, outlining just why these things are important.