Guest Blog: Artistic Director Jack McNamara On New Perspectives' Early Career Artists Programme

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Guest Blog: Artistic Director Jack McNamara On New Perspectives' Early Career Artists Programme
Jack McNamara

At New Perspectives, we are nothing if not varied. One month we're opening a Nigerian play in the West End, the next we're touring a Finnish film adaptation to rural villages, working with seaside communities in Lincolnshire, making live art with a Belgian painter, or staging the centrepiece for the London Literature Festival.

The wide mix of our work reflects the breadth of artists we're lucky enough to work with. Those making up our recent and current programme of work (debbie tucker green, Thibault Delferiere, David Rudkin, Sayaka Murata, Aki Kaurismaki, Janet Frame) come from all over the world, but they have one main thing in common: that the language and vision they have developed is entirely theirs.

These are artists, across cultures and disciplines, who have taken what they do to its furthest possible point. Our great joy as an organisation is to be able to share the integrity and singularity of these artists with audiences all over the country.

This passion for artists extends to our work in developing newer talent from our local area. The East Midlands has been historically overlooked by the dominant culture, but it is a fascinating, varied and inspiring region. Its marginalisation, whilst no doubt a frustration for those living it, has only added to the value and distinctiveness of its voices.

The theatre artists in the East Midlands have things to say and are endlessly finding new ways to say them - not only on stages, but in found spaces, schools, libraries, galleries, street corners and online. We wanted to provide a professional development programme that embraced this variety and championed a distinct pool of artists in all their idiosyncrasy.

The New Associates scheme is a year-long programme that we set up last year to try and be as useful as possible to artists at crucial stages in their careers. In the past, we explored more ad hoc training projects, but these never felt substantial enough. We discovered we needed to offer artists a year of support at least, so that they could take the time to discover what they wanted and how we might support them in realising it.

As a relatively small organisation with no theatre space, there are things we cannot offer. But what we can offer is our time and our promise to draw on whatever knowledge, skills and resources we have to help these artists take the steps they want to take. Rather than fit them into an existing programme, we wanted their needs and interests to shape how we engaged with them over the year.

For the inaugural programme last year, we brought in artists from across the five counties from disciplines including theatre-making, playwriting, directing, spoken word, dance and everything in between. We were lucky to have found nine exceptional people, each so distinctive, generous and eager to absorb.

We engaged with them on a one-to-one basis and sometimes as a glorious collective. We gave them sessions on funding, on tour booking, we brought them in to our workshops, rehearsal rooms and board meetings. We honed in on what burning creative project they each had and vowed to help them with all we could.

Through the course of the year, many of them achieved milestones with our support, from ACE grants to commissions and paid work, but this was never our main focus. We wanted to encourage ambition but also alleviate the pressure artists can feel to continually demonstrate their success. It was about offering space, time and proper attention.

And now we find ourselves at this strange point of shutdown, the impact of which, not least on our creative industries, can hardly be imagined. Like many organisations, we have had to consider what areas of our work to cut back on. Yet this opportunity at this point felt too necessary. In this industry, freelance artists have taken one of the largest and most personal hits of all. Whatever decisions we are forced to make at this time, we can't leave more artists in the dark.

The support we will offer over the year for our New Associates will not solve the complex situation they have found themselves in, but I hope it will offer them a creative sanctuary and some continuity in uncertain times. Whatever the world looks like for the next year, these artists will be with us, we will help however we can, they will meet other creative minds, and new art will be made. As the writer Raymond Williams once put it, "to be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing".

To apply to be a New Associate, visit Deadline for applications is Monday, 30 March, 2020

Last year's New Associates were: Gloria Lowe, Scarlett Turner, Ravelle-Sade Fairman, Kieran Spiers, Hazel Monagahan, Grace Cordell, Louise White, Ryan Leder and Christina Tsoutsi

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