Arts Council Assessor

Sorry my blogging has been non-existent this year. I don’t seem to have had any time at the home desk…but I will get better (sorry Tom).

I’ve just started being an Arts Council Assessor and I thought I’d take a moment to share the experience. I’m one of two people who are charged with going to see Musical Theatre work which is either by or with organisations that are funded by ACE (or I guess might be in the future).

We are there to be provokative informed members of the audience. We’re not there to be critics or to heap praise or to suggest how we could have done it better. That last one doesn’t count for me because my role is always as an audience member. However the whole tribe of assessors include directors, musical directors, poets, visual artists, dramatugues and lots of people will be seeing work they might have created differently.

What feels good about this system is that there are no score charts. The reports aren’t secret. They are not there to be used specifically for grant decision making. They are there to be shared with the client organisation and then used in dialogue between the ACE artform officer (sorry they have a new name and I can’t remember what it is…and I realise I’ve also just dropped a “the” in conversation and they have been banned from use by Arts Council and other organisations like ex-the National Trust. Sorry back to blog.)

I’ve just done two reports – and as is the nature of the Musical Theatre world I knew the theatres, the people involved, and the works already. So I come along as a very “informed” member of the audience and one who could (if not careful) be a real interfering pain in the but.

The challenge is that we are asked to have an informed opinion, but we only really have the background knowledge to the process as delivered in the programme and from what we see on stage. Its therefore very easy to write something which could be damaging through a lack of understanding of the process or the intention.

I hope (and I have yet to know what the two arts organisations think) that my criticisms were fair and my thought processes were clear as to why I reached the reactions I did. In both cases I had a good night, as did the audience. In both cases I felt there was stuff which could have been done differently which could have given an even better event and experience for the audience.

I come to realise from doing this how delicate the role of the theatre crituc is. How easy it is to say something which could damage unintentionally or upset the creative juices which you want to encourage and cheer. Its meant to be a personal view (quite rightly), but it was really useful first time getting my co-audience member to have a read of it and see whether I was in the right phrasing and emphasis.

It is a privalege to be doing this and I am looking forward to being surprised – seeing something I don’t know, and something which rocks my boat.

In the meantime I await my next summons and see where they send me next.