“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” Haruki Murakami, from Kafka on the Shore
We have been very quiet since the start of the year. Exhausted by our Christmas show and then Hamlet: Rotten States, we took some time to recalibrate. And then the Covid-19 crisis happened.
A lot has taken place. A lot of personal change has occurred. Our world is markedly different. Not to mention our industry has been brought to its knees.
As a touring theatre company with the bulk of our work taking place each year over the summer months, and a large portion of it at outdoor events, this crisis has taken away our most productive period of work. This represents not only a huge loss for us as a company, but a significant loss of income and opportunity for the wide pool of artists and creatives we engage throughout the summer who look to us for opportunities. It similarly represents a loss of engagement with audience members – we connect with thousands across the country through our outdoor shows and interactive projects at festivals. And to top it all off, we were just starting to solidify our workshops and begin rolling them out.
With all this in mind, it goes without saying that Arts Council England’s Emergency Fund could not have arrived at a better time. We feel incredibly lucky and grateful – not to mention extremely humbled – to have been awarded the funding. It marks an important moment in our activity, one that we embrace with open arms.
We do not write this to boast. We are painfully aware of all those brilliant and fantastic companies and artists who are now in a position of financial ruin. It is a bittersweet moment.
This cash injection is a real lifeline for us, and we do not take it for granted. Below is a summation of our activities that will be taking place over the next 6 months.
What are we doing with the emergency funding?
The funding is being directed into various facets of the company. We are a small organisation – Nigel and Jake as co-Artistic Directors make up the sum and core of the company, and we are supported by our wide pool of creatives who we call upon from project to project. It has been a slow and steady journey since our inception in 2011, and various personal life events have occasionally derailed our intentions, but we have never lost touch with our ethos and our collaboration.
One of the main uses of the fund is to invest in organisational development. This is crucial. It includes strategic planning of our aims and vision, enhancing our business plan, refurbishing our website and social media output, and undergoing specific training that will allow us to run the company more efficiently.
Another portion of the fund is being used to develop and deliver the education arm of the company with our core facilitators. These will establish and further explore the 6FootStories practice into key workshops we have identified as being central to our activity including Shakespeare, Interactive Theatre, and Devising. There will also be exploration and establishing of workshops in Voice in Shakespeare, and Vocal Care at Festivals/Outdoor settings, drawing on personal research and practice conducted by Jake through his life as a voice practitioner, integrating this work into the company in a more centralised way. We will be going into more depth with each of these workshops in detail in a blog post coming soon.
And then of course, there are our public facing projects…
Unless you’ve been in lockdown in a remote part of the world with no internet connection, you almost certainly know that festivals have been cancelled this summer, but they, and we, are adapting to this new Covid world. Digital spaces and platforms have become rife, and we are entering the fray.
Potato Puppet Playground is going online! We will be making and releasing a fantastic “How to make a Potato Puppet” video soon and partnering up with some of our festival partners to deliver a virtual version of our Potato Puppet-led storytelling extravaganza for families. Details of these virtual events will be released soon on our social media channels, so keep your eyes peeled (potato pun absolutely intended)!
If that doesn’t whet your appetite, we are currently beavering away at moving our revue of new work – Shattered Fragments – online. We will be commissioning artists to create pieces that will be shared in a live-streamed event hosted by key venue partners.
And finally, we will be presenting The Decameron Revisited. Inspired by Boccaccio’s 100 tales told in quarantine, this project is shaping up to be an ambitious digital project to find 100 tales from our time. We will be working with venue partners and community organisations to virtually “tour” to 10 localities, to provide storytelling workshops with participants from those locales, and to collect videos of 100 stories from across the nation, all archived on a new mini-site that we will soon be creating. We are incredibly excited about this project and cannot wait to see what we unearth.
In the coming weeks more detailed blog posts will be published outlining specific timelines and delivery dates of these projects, and of course there will be lots more activity on our social media platforms. We have already in the last few weeks done a lot of preparatory work, laying the foundations for what is to come. We wonder if, for us, this forced lockdown has indeed been a blessing in disguise…
In closing, lockdown itself has been an unusual event, and has thrown up a series of quite difficult conversations from all sections of life as we know it. At the time of writing, lockdown measures are starting to be relaxed and parts of the BC (Before Covid) world are perhaps waking up, though we are all asking ourselves if it is too early, and indeed if we even want those parts to wake up. Ever heard the apocryphal Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times”? Well, we certainly do, don’t we? Who knows how this crisis will develop. We hope to see our audiences soon, but for now we take our work online. So join us. Let us journey through these extraordinary times together. And let’s keep our stories alive.