The Talking Shop – What Now?

The talking shop…….. A conversation about the Performing Arts in Wales

 What Now?

On 21 November WAPA and Creu Cymru hosted a conversation. We wanted to understand how we could best support the Performing Arts sector going forwards. What was needed? What was useful?

41 people attended from across the sector; producers, artists, organisations and presenters were all represented and this is some of what they said. We have picked out the key areas and themes that came up across the day and the WAPA Executive will be meeting in January to discuss the issues and come back with a response and plan to move things forwards.

Training

The need for Training that was affordable and relevant was highlighted. We know that there many good quality training courses provided by UK wide industry bodies, such as ITC or UK Theatre but there was much discussion over the cost, location and content of this training. It was also felt that a membership organisation like WAPA could work with the membership to share resources or create platforms where people could get peer support and work together on problems or challenges.

It was felt that there was a need for an organisation like WAPA to provide training and information that was:

  • Local or digital so less time and money was spent travelling
  • Relevant to small scale companies and individuals
  • Provided mentoring or support for emerging artists/producers
  • Was Wales focused
 Membership

For WAPA to be relevant it needs to be representative. The sector is changing and WAPA needs to be inclusive. There was recognition that WAPA needed to generate income and that membership fees was one way to do this but it was also important that individuals who could not afford to join should still have a way to interact and be part of the work WAPA is doing.

WAPA’s independence was seen as valuable so being able to keep the core of WAPA self-funding through income generation was important.

Developing the membership is a key priority for the Executive going forwards:

  • There needs to be a clear vision for WAPA, what it is, what it does
  • The membership must be diverse and representative of the sector as a whole
  • WAPA needs a sound financial model
  • There must always be an equality of voices in the membership as there was at the Talking Shop
 Networks

Facilitation of networking opportunities wasn’t seen as an important role for WAPA. Overall the consensus in the room seemed to be that there were existing networks that people already participate in.

There could be a role for WAPA in:

  • Publicising networking events so that networks are not closed and events are open to a wider range of people
  • Hosting more focused events or conversations around specific issues
  • Supporting volunteers who currently run or administer networks
 Website

It was felt that the WAPA website could be developed to be a Key communication tool.

  • Could we use an existing digital platform such as BaseCamp to create a mechanism for the membership to share and interact more effectively?
  • Can we use the website to disseminate information ?
  • The website should be a resource that can direct people to useful information especially those new to Wales or the sector
Advocacy/Lobbying

We had plenty of discussion about advocacy and lobbying. There was a sense that individuals and organisations need to be doing this on a daily basis. The potential for WAPA would be to amplify this work and also to support the sector with information, tools and resources.

  • Having one voice is important but that voice needs to be representative
  • Central advocacy can amplify what people are doing locally/regionally
  • We need to think about the question “Who Speaks for Us?”
  • We should celebrate more
  • We could create stronger links with organisations such as ITC and UK Theatre to benefit from their experience but to provide local knowledge and intelligence
Other points

This list in no sense captures the whole conversation. It is only representative of the key issues that came out of wider ranging discussions. There are a couple of braoer points that it will be important for WAPA to reflect on:

How do we define Performing Arts? Should we widen the WAPA umbrella to include all Live Arts? How does WAPA relate to the wider sector, visual arts, creative industries? We will need to consider these interactions.

WAPA needs to think about the future, the changing landscape and try and plan effectively. With less funding will we have less companies and more independents? What will be the new ways of working? What will be the new ways of participating in arts and culture in the future?

Should WAPA and Creu Cymru consider merging or working together more closely? Are the needs of theatres and arts centres different to that of producers? How do the two organisations and the aspects of making, presenting and participating come together.