Kressana Aigner, Director of Findhorn Bay Arts summarises what BRAW has meant to her as a promoter and what she hopes others might take away from the process.
Written by – Kressana Aigner in August 2019
Since 2012 Findhorn Bay Arts has been a creative producer of award-winning cultural events and activities rooted in the rural communities of Moray. Driven by a passion to celebrate and promote high quality creative experiences we aim to produce high quality events, encourage participation, support artists and inspire audiences – both local and visitors alike.
Through our work we have forged strong connections, developed our audiences, and built partnerships across the arts and local communities.
When I heard about the project BRAW I felt this presented an excellent (and rare) opportunity to work closely with artists and their producers from the outset of the creative journey in developing work for touring rurally.
BRAW provided a framework in which producers, artists and promoters could:
take a closer look at what inspires us and what drives us
the challenges we face when presenting / touring work in a rural context
the role of the artist in rural context
test and evaluate an artist-led process to developing work for rural touring
create new work that helps engage new audiences /participants
engage audiences with the process of creativity, rather than a just the end product
BRAW has brought together artists, producers and promoters in order that we could start to explore how could we create a deeper and richer impact through the work we create / present in our rural communities. I order to do this we first needed to understand better
who are our audiences
what are our challenges and barriers to audience attendance we face and define what is our risk
consider why and what excites a person to go see a show
discuss the impacts we aspire to make within our communities – what is our core purpose for doing what we do
It was clear from the outset that each of us promoters participating in BRAW are fully committed to our local communities – it is where we live, send our kids to school and work. We are passionate about bringing high quality creative experiences to our communities and we go above and beyond the ‘call of duty’ when promoting events in our communities.
We each come from very different contexts in terms of population, economics, environment and cultural opportunities available locally. Although the responses varied to the above enquiries there were some resounding overlaps and feelings that resonated with each of us, including:
“creativity brings a shared experience that brings people out of their homes and away from the everyday world”
“Lack of knowledge about the work, resistance to the unknown and the associated perceived risk are significant perceptual barriers to attendance”
“For trust, between audience and promoters to be established and sustained, promoters need to make informed choices and set appropriate expectations. This can only be achieved if they have deep knowledge and understanding of the work.”
“Unlike the anonymity of staff and audiences in urban performing arts venues, promoters are more likely to be recognised by their communities and will know audience members personally. This can leave promoters feeling exposed and vulnerable, especially when taking programming risks.”
There were practical considerations discussed too, such as:
“Please don’t send us 100 posters – we only have one shop to put it up in and if we are lucky they will take an A4 size too” – ask us how many posters is helpful to us
Clear publicity information (copy, media release etc) that informs the audience what the show is about, what they can expect to experience is essential and who it is for is essential.
Generally rural promoters are presenting in a range of venues, including; village halls, community centres, schools, bar lounges etc. It is important, in developing to work for rural venues that the design is one that can adapt and change according to variations of venues and ideally bring your own tech too – most importantly be clear from the outset what you need from us.
We have very tight budgets ‘sigh’ … only some rural promoters have funding to underwrite, while others rely on every penny of ticket sales, biscuits sold, raffle tickets and coffee sales to cover the cost of show and hall hire.
Many rural promoters are doing this on a voluntarily basis or involve volunteers in putting up posters, setting out chairs, box office, ushers, bar etc … this also means varying levels of experience it is essential that artists / producers work with promoters to ensure it is the best experience for the artists, audiences and all the volunteers who contributed to make it so too.
Together, throughout the BRAW project we have considered how might we open possibilities, collaborate and find solutions to some of the challenges we face. Open and honest communication from the outset has meant we are able to better understand each other’s perspectives and in turn has meant we can work to find solutions to overcoming challenges.
We all share the ultimate goal which is to develop / present work that delivers the desired impacts we each aspire for in our local communities. It has been overwhelming clear that each of us are doing what we do because we are 100% passionate and committed to bringing creative work to our communities and this passion is the core starting point –nurture it well.
In September we will present Bodies of Waters – created by Saffy Setohy, Aya Kobayashi, Nicolette Macleod and Joanne Young.
Bodies of water is a multi-sensory performance and participatory installation, drawing together various ideas about water, the element which connects all living things. People and environment are at the heart of the work.
in developing their initial outline concept, Saffy and her creative team considered what connects us all and identified water or more specifically bodies of water connecting all communities of people in Scotland. And from here their creative journey began …
Throughout the creative development the artists have remained in contact with myself and the process embedded visits to the local area which has included open invitations to the local community to come see, play and experiment with water, interactive walking events along the coast and a pop up event as part of the Forres Toon Market in a High Street Shop. Combined the events have provided an opportunity for the creative team to test, explore and connect with local people and informed the development of their work.
The results of our combined connections and conversations will be seen in September – we hope you can join us too.
Photo taken by Kate Wieteska