PR, Films and Fantasies

“There’s a quiet revolution taking place in our leading cities. Places that were once the engine room of the industrial revolution, employing millions in mills, factories, ports and shipyards, are learning new ways to create wealth in a global economy where brain has replaced brawn.” Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, 2004

As culture has been the cherry on (mostly all) my cakes for the past 4 years of academic feasts, I decided to carry on sharing my ‘a la carte’ findings aka school papers, in the event that someone, somewhere, might actually find them useful. Considering that my top blog post is “Bourdieu and The Aristocracy of Culture” with viewers from as far as Myanmar or Sierra Leone (wow!), I find myself obliged to share my ‘vast’ and ‘incredible’ knowledge with the world!

Today’s topic, in case the title and the little quote didn’t give you any clue, is cultural regeneration and post-industrial societies. For the past 30-40 years, city councils, academics, business men, maketeers and many others with a strong voice in city/area planning have been using it excessively. But is it really the panacea for al the issues of ex-industrial communities? Please click and read more… oh, and let me know what you think 🙂

Voila: essay final!

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Yesterday I went to an amazing event on festivals and their evolution, organised by LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation at The Southbank Centre in London.

There were loads of points covered in a full day of talks, group discussions and presentations by both artists and festival organisers/producers (plus a delicious lunch with a brilliant view of the Thames and The London Eye). This is broadly what the event covered:

The last decade has seen a rapid growth in the number and popularity of arts festivals in the UK. No longer is the UK arts festival calendar solely dominated by Edinburgh: from Spring to Autumn across the UK there are increasingly popular grass roots festivals that celebrate local culture, large-scale music festivals that now include theatre and dance programmes, new city-wide festivals that promote place-making and civic identity and mainstream cultural institutions wrapping up their existing programme within a festival format. And in addition we are also witnessing the rise of a new type of arts festival led and programmed by artists.

Many of these festivals emerged and grew in the economic boom of the last decade, fuelled by public sector spending, corporate sponsorship and the disposable income of audiences. Now, in different economic times, how many will survive? What strategies will festival organisers need to adopt to make themselves more sustainable? Are there now opportunities for new, more collaborative festival models? What unique role do festivals play in the development of an artist’s career?

Keynote speakers:

Jude Kelly Artistic Director of The Southbank Centre

Simon Mellor Executive Director, Manchester International Festival and newly appointed Executive Director, Arts at Arts Council England.

Key contributors:

Mark Yeoman Director of the Noordezoon Festival in Groningen in The Netherlands, one of Europe’s most innovative and popular performing arts festivals

Stefan Kaegi Co-founder of the German performance collective Rimini Protokoll who recently established ‘Parallel Cities’, a mobile artist led festival taking place in cities across the world

Andy Field co-Director of Forest Fringe at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Faith Liddell Director of Festivals Edinburgh, a new organisation working on behalf of Edinburgh’s major festivals

Jennifer Cleary Head of Creative Learning, Manchester International Festival

And including a new, especially commissioned performance byTim Etchells Artistic Director of Forced Entertainment

It’s impossible to summarise the 8 hours in a few bullet points but until the videos and podcasts will be uploaded on the LIFT website, I’ll put down some ideas that kept repeating themselves throughout the day:

– it is essential that more festivals focus on the “making of new work“, give more freedom to the artists and trust them to produce something original and specially designed for that specific festival

– try to help the artists develop, collaborate and create new audiences through festival participation

– the support of the local councils is more than essential as it can completely revolutionise a festival; this doesn’t necessarily mean more funding, but networking, access to essential city stakeholders and facilities, links with the tourism department etc.

– think medium to long term when planning festivals and have a bigger impact on the city as well

– become more and more environmentally friendly, even if it means increasing costs

– know very well what your USP is and why you are putting it on (is it for the local development, for economic reasons, for artist development, for audience needs?)

– try to change things (socially, artistically…) not just reflect them by bringing same old ideas and acts

– a festival doesn’t necessarily have to become bigger every year as that doesn’t really mean better; more acts and more money in doesn’t imply more satisfied audience members

In the end, do check this amazing project: Ciudades Paralelas. Incredible idea of a festival that can be transferred to every city in the world without the hassle of set design, artists and loads of funding.

It’s been a while since I posted something valuable here but my MA, my super-active social/cultural life in London and all the travelling kept me quite busy.

To carry on from where I stopped before the holidays, here is the actual essay I wrote on arts-based learning. Please feel free to click on the document to read the entire 4000 words 🙂

The first publication of Oscar Wilde’s controversial novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, in 1890, led to an avalanche of outraged criticism due to the interpretation of its content as immoral by various Victorian critics who believed that art’s role was to educate. As a reply to the public’s reaction, Wilde rewrote some of the passages as well as added more chapters to justify his characters’ actions and to simplify the moral and philosophical messages. However, devoted to the aesthetic school of thought and therefore believing in the intrinsic values and the beauty of “art for art’s sake”, he also added a preface to the novel in which he defended the freedom of art by claiming that, as an object, it is “quite useless” because it is not meant “to instruct or to influence action in any way”, but simply to be admired and “create a mood” (Oscar Wilde, 1891:1).

In the practical, productivity oriented, industrialised world, “useless” is one of the most abominable adjectives as anything that serves no functional purpose is generally condemned by a society lost in the pursuit of capitalist value. Its association with “art”, leads therefore to the outcasting of works that have been created without a specific, practical aim and which form a field meant only to entertain through “beauty” by revealing its message to the educated viewer “but by concealing its artist” (Oscar Wilde) and especially the path to its production. However, despite the stereotypes circulating in the judgement of the twenty-first century, corporate driven world, in the “creation” of “a work of art” lies a lot more than simply scribbling words on a piece of paper, dipping a brush in coloured paint or playing an instrument. Complex thinking, planning, trial and error as well as continuous improvement through rehearsal are just a few steps of the artistic process, usually ignored even by the artists themselves, if the finalised piece fails to impress its audiences. All these could be easily deconstructed and successfully applied in a variety of other circumstances, like they have been, for example, in science, where figures such as Einstein, Feynman or Feigenbaum “have credited the arts as a source of their inspiration” (Root-Bernstein, 2000:61). The process of “making art”, rather than the works of art themselves, can help in the development of a variety of skills, feelings and thinking patterns which lead to the improvement of both the results of any daily action and the steps taken towards them.

To address the question of what exactly “art” can “teach” and what can be “learned” from it, a clear definition of what it stands for is required. Furthermore, in analysing the relationship between art and “managing”, the extensive meaning of the verb needs to be addressed as well because it can be applied to everyday life but also be associated with certain individuals within social or organisational structures. Last, but not least, to understand the extent to which the two can be linked, a discussion of what “better” management refers to and how art interacts with it is also mandatory as it can be the first step in giving directions and determining the outcomes of such collaborations.

And here is the rest: essay final

Any feedback will be highly appreciated!

 

A word cloud from my “Art of Management and Management of Art” module essay for this term.

It’s storytelling in its most majestic form: fairytales turned into stage productions with original music, amazing choreography, incredible talent and a dazzling capacity of making the audience completely forget they are still sitting in a theatre.  The 30 years old Cornwall based, worldwide travelling company is my idea of perfection!

I came across Kneehigh while performing on one of their scripts last summer (Tristan and Yseult) and from my first lines (a song in Hungarian 🙂 ) it was love at first sight! I was captured by their style, their courage and most of all the mind blowing references to so many symbols across all areas of arts and culture. Then, in September, I had the chance to finally see them live in London with their latests production: Wilde Bride

“In a stunning elemental world of dust, clay and fire here is a red hot story with a brutal edge and a beating heart…  The story of what happens when your father accidentally sells you to the Devil.

Betrayed by her father, our heroine has those ‘cross-road’ blues. She chooses to walk into the wilderness rejecting not only the Devil, but also her home and trusting heart as well. In the wilds she meets a Prince and becomes pregnant, but when he is called to war, her heart breaks as she finds herself at those pesky cross-roads again.

In the cool green of the forest, she brings up her child, and – wonder of wonders – her broken heart grows back. Perhaps this is happily ever after, perhaps there is even more joy to come…

This epic and poetic wondertale is classic Kneehigh stuff. Charting a life from child to adult, you can expect instinctive storytelling, devilish humour and a heady mix of live blues music and devilish humour. The Wild Bride is a grown up, spring bud, dustball of a romance for brave children and adults alike.”

And today, I just found out they are putting together a new show based on my favorite story ever – A Very Old Man with Enormous Wingsby Gabriel Garcia Marquez!!!  It’s on at The Little Angel Theatre, 14 Dagmar Passage, London N1 2DN between Sat 19th November – Sun 29th January! 

If you ever have the chance to go to any of their performances DO IT! You will definitely NOT regret it!!!

During my induction week at King’s College, back in September, we were given a short task in order to get used to the house style of writing essays. The question is very broad and there are a billion ways of approaching it, but apparently I did quite a good job so I thought about sharing my answer with the world. As this is my first essay in a long time (my BA was mainly fcused on research reports and media/PR portfolios) any feedback will be truly appreciated!

What is the value of culture?

In your answer you should clearly outline:

i) what you mean by ‘culture’;

ii) from whose (or which) perspective(s) you are primarily answering the question;

iii) relevant arguments or debates concerning the nature of ‘value’ and ‘valuing’; and

iv) what makes your approach to the question a valid response?

“In a time of global recession, international public spheres, virtual realities and online societies, defining “culture”, already famous for being “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language” (Williams, 1983:87), and especially determining its “value” seems to still be creating many difficulties. This not only concerns scholars and practitioners but especially policy makers, who, above all, must govern the public funds which are directed towards this unknown “concept”. Although the tendencies of the moment are either to avoid the term by any means (Lewis, 1990) or simply assume that its definition is common sense for those involved in the conversation, “it is difficult to deal seriously with the subject of art (or culture) without saying what you mean by it” (Lewis, 1990:3). As “culture” is one of those “concepts (…) that we simply cannot do without, because it is used everywhere” (Willis, 2008:xxi), in my attempt of referring to the controversies around its “value” I will start by analysing previous research and discussions around the term itself in order to reach a definition that could be applicable in the field of public policy and funding.” 

Click here for the rest of it: The Value of Culture

A few days ago I wrote about Phantom of the Opera and my “musical” going experience, one which was not as thrilling and rewarding as I thought it would be. So yesterday I decided to give the blockbuster shows another chance and went to see Wicked. For those who don’t know anything about the story, here’s a short synopsis:

When Dorothy famously triumphed over the Wicked Witch, we only ever heard one side of the story. Gregory Maguire’s acclaimed 1995 novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, re-imagined the land of Oz, creating a parallel universe to the familiar story written by L. Frank Baum and first published as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. WICKED tells the incredible untold story of an unlikely but profound friendship between two girls who first meet as sorcery students at Shiz University: the blonde and very popular Glinda and a misunderstood green girl, Elphaba.

Following an encounter with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, their friendship reaches a crossroads and their lives take very different paths. Glinda’s unflinching desire for popularity sees her seduced by power while Elphaba’s determination to remain true to herself, and to those around her, will have unexpected and shocking consequences for her future. Their extraordinary adventures in Oz will ultimately see them fulfil their destinies as Glinda The Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

From the beginning one expects to enter a fairytale land with spells and charms, witches and fairies and the Apollo Theatre in Victoria was perfectly decorated for it (all green, doh!). I like to be impressed from the first moment I enter an auditorium and the big dragon above the stage as well as the emerald glittering stones on the curtains worked just fine. I must mention that after the Phantom experience we went for a 2pm show instead of the eternally sold out evening performances so the venue was decently filled. Also, compared to the city centre theatres, the Apollo is huuuge so there was plenty of space to breathe and enjoy the show. It obviously didn’t offer the “cosy-ness” the old venues do, but the spectacle is so big and bright that the audience might feel claustrophobic in a smaller place. And since I mentioned audiences, this time there were no noisy, annoying tourists and I actually enjoyed the amazement in the voices of all the school kids around. Also, due to the openness of the venue, it was very easy to forget about the people around and be part of the story on stage.

The show was absolutely brilliant! Honestly, I loved being a kid again and just enjoy the fairytale. Also, it had some nice, intelligent jokes and references included. I really didn’t mind the flashiness and the “in your face” factor this time as I was expecting it from what the show presented itself to be. I guess, from my perspective it really depends on the story for a stage musical to work… Phantom was too much of a “drama” and all the stage tricks and shiny costumes covered the sadness and tragedy of the story which are so much better in the film.

 

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