Witch Of the Week

This was a mini interview I did with the brilliant Women in the Arts team! Please go and check out all of the amazing work that they do here. I strongly suggest connecting with them if you are making any form of art in the East Mids. The original interview can be found here.

How did you get into your creative field?

Sometimes you just fall into it! I started out as a performer, through and through. But I think my passion (modest need for control) and drive took over and I carved out a role for myself. I’m now a theatre producer, with some performing on the side. I really had no idea what a producer was a few years ago. The best definition I’ve come across is someone who simply ’gets shit done’. Sometimes it’s difficult on the outside to see why it’s a creative role, but it absolutely is. I think there is a lot of creativity in problem solving, relationship building and collaborating with artists to make a vision come true. Plus, I have some very beautiful spreadsheets. 

What are you working on at the moment?

In Lincoln i’m currently working with Lincoln Performing Arts Centre. I’m the creative producer for One Hundred, a project that celebrates and marks 100 years of women’s suffrage. It’s been a huge learning experience; it’s the first time I’ve led on a project solo, but luckily we’ve formed a super team of local women as a steering group to really guide where the project goes. So it’s been a great balance. The most enriching and empowering part has been meeting so many women doing fantastic things in Lincolnshire, often under the radar! I’ve met with countless artists, engineers, politicians, commercial businesswomen, charity directors… I’ve become really interested in where the arts intercepts with academia, or with local businesses for example. There’s a lot we can learn from outside our own bubble.I think what the suffragettes and suffragists has taught me is that there is power in sisterhood, in diverse skills and a collective aim. One Hundred has really felt like an homage to that. 

What are your plans for the future?

I’ve been working for lots of companies and projects since I graduated, which is brilliant as every day is different! But, I’m hoping to be in a position where I can spark my own projects too; One Hundred has definitely built my confidence to do that.  Long, long term I would love to be running a venue, supporting artists and to be in a position to make positive change in the industry. 

How have you been involved with WITA?

I’m a big fan girl. I haven’t been part of it as much as I’d like, but I got along to the last showcase and was just astounded at the performances, the energy and vibrancy in the room. It was electric. I’m so impressed by the powerhouse of Team WITA and all the women that make it so brilliant and life-changing for artists in this city. I look forward to taking part more and more next year. 

A local artist who’s work you love?

Through WITA and One Hundred I’ve come across the amazing work of Jayne Cooper who is based in Louth. I’m a sucker for simple, bold and unapologetic artwork; Jayne does that in spades. It’s powerful stuff. Please check her out! I’m chuffed to bits that she will be running a workshop as part of One Hundred on 25th Nov, you can book a free place on the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre website. (www.lpac.co.uk)

How can we connect with you?

For quips it’s Twitter @pheebs_wp, for pictures of my dog it’s Instagram @pheebs_wp and you can get in touch via my website: www.phoebewallpalmer.co.uk If you are interested in being part of the One Hundred Project, or to find out more, just email me on onehundred@lpac.co.uk. or join the Facebook Group

Scratch Nights Are Dead.

I have just come back from another brilliant Check In Festival – part of In Good Company‘s annual programme, at Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester.

I was asked to present a provocation during an artist/producer discussion on Feedback Culture. This is something we creatives live and breath; we give and we receive it every day. Feedback; it’s such a bugger.

I talked mostly about scratch nights and how odd I think they are. How it seems impossible to get the timing right as a presenting artist; you want the exposure, but could it be to the detriment of your progress. They can be awkward, a bit cold, a bit cliquey or just unhelpful.

As audience you attend, you often pay, you are given minutes to jot something down on a feedback sheet, on your lap, with biro nib punching through the paper. You write a sentence that equates to “this bit needed development”. Go home. Then realise how unhelpful you’ve been.

This seemed to be the consensus in the room.

Some key takeaways:

When is feedback useful? When the person offering it is invested in you and your work.

When is feedback good to hear? When you have asked for it.

What is the right way to give feedback? Something not so short in answer. Louise White, Jack Britton and Tina Hofman were also on the panel, chaired by Ed Boott. Amongst many other brilliant things, one thought that was brought up again and again was consideration for the feedback you give. Louise spoke in a wonderfully crafted manifesto entitled Feedback for Wellbeing, describing the impact of ‘bad feedback’ on the artist’s mental health. Largely though it was highlighting the sheer frequency of receiving this unhelpful, unconstructive and often savage feedback (and what a waste of paper/conversation it is).

As the floor opened it was a real hotbed of discussion; thoughts from other artists, producers, venue programmers, collectives…

Little Earthquake were tremendously interesting on their experience. The company now 14 years old, I absorbed their wise words on this. It was a relief to hear Phil say (something like) “There’s no point serving someone an undercooked chicken and asking, ‘what do you think?’ Wait until you’ve added the sprig of parsley before offering it up. Otherwise you are just asked audiences to poke it with a knife while pink juice spurts out”. It was a pretty perfect analogy. “Stop doing scratch nights if you don’t want to do them.”

Brilliant, I thought. Thank God. Because i’ve never known them to be helpful for the work, i’ve only thought about it in terms of exposure, not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to be seen etc etc.

So if we take the analogy, and the consensus in the room, it feels like this format could be less popular than we think. I’m not sure it’s the end (not like my catchy title suggests), and rightly so if scratches are perfect for artists who find it helpful. But I am going to stop pushing the artists I represent into them quite so eagerly. We’ll show our work on our own terms. We’ll invite in who needs to see it at each stage of the process. We’ll apply for showcases or previews or festivals when it’s right. That suits us.

It was a brilliant room to be in – the East Mids network is something to be bloody proud of. Please check out what else In Good Company do if you haven’t heard of them, they are the glue that hold us together.

Phoebe x

Taking the leap…

This is for anyone considering taking the leap – whether that’s changing career paths, moving city or quitting to go freelance like me. It’s some things I’ve learnt and some thoughts i’ve had…

Freelance producing full time was always a scary prospect to me, and something I really thought I was decades away from. But, a few months ago, I knew something had to give.

I had a particularly busy and demanding Autumn in 2017. For the first time since working in the arts professionally I would say I well and truly burnt out. That is not to say that what I had been working on wasn’t joyous, rewarding and worth the feeling after. What became the problem was the day job – the money job – the thing that meant regular income, security and being able to buy really good coffee.

I dithered for a while, desperately looking for something else but part time instead, something flexible but standard. A safety net. I was certain I couldn’t chance it and I felt a lot of guilt as I thought about leaving my current job. For a long time it was so much more than a day job; this was working professionally within a theatre, with a salary, in the arts! I didn’t want to take it for granted, but I knew I couldn’t sustain it much longer.

It takes a bit of time to know what you’re after. Whether that’s producing like me, or performing or directing etc. If you no longer have capacity left to say yes to what you want to say yes to then something has to go.

So, long story short, I handed in my notice in February, and this is what i’ve learnt:

  1. Cherish Your Support Network. Never have I valued my network more than now. The day job i’m quitting from is managing the Box Office at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre. They are my second home. Craig and the rest of the team have undoubtedly been the reason i’ve been able to do what i’m doing. He gave Flickbook it’s first professional opportunity, and that was the first rung of the ladder for us and me as an individual. My Flickbookers are my second family – we laugh, we cry and sometimes we disagree but they are so special to me and we are incredibly supportive of what each other are doing. Boy, do they have my back. And if I were to try and name all of the rest this would get very long indeed, but my point is; nourish your network, be supportive and you will always get support back.
  2. Tell People. This has taken me a while! It wasn’t until September last year that I would have said “I am a theatre producer” – I still find it  bit alien to say it now. But I learnt that if I tell people i’m pursuing producing work then they can start recommending me for things, and that has equaled more work. I thought I was going to get looks of dubiousness when I first decided to go freelance, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead, I got “Finally!”
  3. Leap But Avoid Falling. Before I handed in my notice I had made a very sexy spreadsheet. It’s a financial forecast for the coming year with confirmed and expected funds, cash flow and a breakdown of my previous self assessment figures. etc etc. It’s genuinely one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever created. This was what made me see I was ready – I calculated I can live (cheaply) until January 2019 IF I quit LPAC so I can say yes to a couple of other things. I would have only done it if I new I viably could. So i’m not being reckless, but I am being brave, I think that’s the difference.
  4. Gut Instinct. On that note, I have a very good relationship with my gut! I use it from whether to say yes or no to a project or whether to have Cheese Ploughmans or Egg Mayo. It is vital to my decision making process and means that the process itself is usually quite quick. I know if this is the right thing to do, and for me, right now, this certainly is.
  5. Everyone Gets Imposter Syndrome and everyone is making it up as they go along. It’s the moment of thinking “when are they going to find out I have no idea what i’m doing?” I get a moment like this at least once a day. I have learnt to embrace and enjoy its novelty.
  6. Know It Will Be Hard. I am a very practical and realistic person, and I think I know what I have let myself in for… We’ll see. But I know it will be hard work, but that’s definitely what I enjoy most.

Thanks for taking a look at my ramblings. It was good to get that out.

Art Outside the Ordinary

Pop-Up Theatre is theatre than can happen anywhere, for anyone. It might be a venue, or street-theatre, or a travelling circus act. It could be in a bus shelter, a playground or in a former Woolworths (more on that later).

The most important thing is that it gets out of its box. It throws open the doors or infiltrates (politely) into public spaces. It bangs drums or pulls you in to a moment. It’s not sitting there waiting for audiences to come along. It’s being open and inclusive so that anyone can experience art, theatre & performance.

I have always been very proud of Lincoln Performing Arts Centre and it’s goals with POP OUT Festival; finding new and innovative ways to connect with more people across Lincolnshire and beyond. Collaboration and strong partnerships with our community and other venues have been really important in strengthening the cultural ecology of our region. So when the opportunity to pop-up in an empty shop unit, right in the heart of Lincoln’s bustling shopping centre, we couldn’t possibly turn it down.

Coming on board as Associate Producer for the project, my first port of call was speaking with Sarah Sharp; Producer and Artistic Director of Theatre Delicatessen in Sheffield. Until very recently, they set up shop in a former Woolworths. The space was massive, and Sarah’s role was to find brilliant theatre, performance and workshops which often had very little technical requirements and on a shoe string budget. But perhaps the most positive outcome was the community that came together to make Theatre Delicatessen a joyous, welcoming space. Knitting circles, ‘Death Cafés’, reading groups, students, theatre companies – they all used the theatre as a space to feel safe, comfortable and creative. This was my inspiration for Waterside Pop Out Theatre.

So, after a couple of months of research, lots of meetings and phone calls, our programme is now complete. It’s packed with drop-in craft activities, street theatre, workshops, community group take-overs and small scale studio performance – it will be so much more than just an information desk.

Very importantly, all of our events are free. We wanted to make it accessible for anyone to just drop in and try stuff, and find out more about getting involved in the future. It’s 100% risk free for our potential audiences and participants, and that’s really important to us.

This is just the start, I’m sure of it. This partnership is such a tremendous step in bring arts and creativity to more people in Lincolnshire. It’s breaking down those barriers around theatre venues, that lots of people feel they can’t cross. This is a space for them, for everyone. I can’t wait to throw open the doors and see what happens.