I have just had a very hectic week attending conferences/gatherings including the Federation of Scottish Theatre (Dundee), Culture & Business Scotland (Edinburgh), Producers’ Pool (London), and What Next ? (online). Add to that some great theatregoing and the fabulous 10th anniversary party of the Production Exchange (London) and I feel I have had much rich input from friends, colleagues, and leading global experts.
At the FST yesterday there were discussions around diversity and inclusion where we were invited to reflect on how open our doors were to those who might partake of our services. It set me thinking around a challenge I seem to be facing. Other discussions at the C&BS conference focussed so much on developing People and Place for arts organisation. CGO Institute is based in Blackness and we have a deep joy in being in this community of 150 souls in Scotland….but.
Over the last 3 years of running the Diploma programme we have ‘released’ 32 producers into the creative world. Whilst, across all the protected characteristics, we will always have much to do in terms of diversity, our cohorts have wonderfully celebrated their global heritage, their sexuality and gender identity in their own being and/or in the work they are determined to make and the audience they wish to reach….but.
Despite being based in Scotland we have so far only attracted two (6%) aspiring producers from Scotland through the door. We have had a few more who were at Scottish universities but I don’t think of them as rooted here – and they are now returned to London for their careers.
I came back to live in Scotland very specifically to start an MA programme at the Royal Conservatoire for creative producers. I spent 2 years developing the course with amazing championing from producers and experts in the cultural sector. I was picking up on an identified need across the Country for producers. Indeed yesterday the gathering of 100 theatre/arts folk were talking of producers being ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’. Despite all efforts of RCS folk that course was scuppered by some external ‘experts’ and then covid. I presume it went into the far too hard pile when all the efforts of every academic institution was on survival. So I invented the CGO Institute in my small lockdown spare bedroom. At its heart my vision for the DipCP was still to serve the needs of the Scottish theatre and cultural community for more producers. So far that bit of my mission has failed.
I have been honoured and cheered by having producers from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Scandinavia, Italy, Estonia, France, Ireland, England, Australia and the USA joining the course….but too few from Scotland. The FST/Scottish Theatre community needs aspiring creative producers of other people’s work who intend to build their skills and career in Scotland – more ‘made for Scotland’ than ‘made in Scotland’.
So I know who is not coming through the door. My challenge is to understand why. Is it because the gatekeeper is an old white English guy? Is it that those who might aspire to be producers feel the need to head to London where the contracts are made with gold ? Is it that people are just getting on being SPAs (self producing artists) here because of the focus on August/EdFringe ? I don’t know whether I am missing an obvious one.
There are currently no dedicated theatre creative producing courses here in Scotland to my knowledge. There are a number of combines arts/festival management programmes which may attract those who will become producers. There is a massive demand for experienced freelance producers of theatre, and there are amazingly overworked highly skilled producers out there who will welcome them with open arms. The DipCP or any other mentored skills gaining course is there to move the ‘aspiring’ to the confident/ready-to-go. It is there to help match next generation producers with opportunities and mentors.
At the end of the FST Conference we were encouraged to make a pledge to take one action, and then to voice it to someone else in the hall over a welcome glass of locally brewed beer. My first action/pledge is to set up a Zoom to gather a few of the experienced and wise producers across Scotland (some of whom already teach and mentor for CGO Institute). I will ask them to help me look at my open door and see whether it is in the right place, the right colour, the right size, and how to make it visible so that we can attract interest in producing from those who wish to stay in Scotland and produce other people’s work. Am I getting in the way and do I need to lay a few welcome mats or paths to get to the door.
I am immensely grateful to those I spoke to over my beer at the end of the conference. Everyone said they’d be up for helping. It is an amazing community of creatives and business leaders, solo artists and small companies. FST benefits over England’s management bodies in that it serves all the theatre sector bringing the largest producing houses into the same discussions and spaces as independents and emerging creatives – there is only one gathering, not three for England.
Thank you Fiona and all your team, and especially Lesley-Anne Rose and the OpenRoad team for managing the ever changing ebb and flow of a conference. It was packed with provocations and delights.
And PS – Delighted on Mon 6th November to be welcoming our 5th CGO Institute cohort of producers from Ireland, USA and England for the next course. Applications are open for the Feb 2024 Essential Creative Producing course where I hope we will begin to see an array of producers determined to be part of the theatre and cultural scene in Scotland as well as others from around the world. Click for more information on CGOInstitute or just get in touch chris [at] chrisgrady [dot] org