In partnership with Live Art Development Agency and ArtHouse Jersey.
Participants: Ben Price, Beth Sitek, Daljinder Johal, Jen Smethurst, Nur Khairiyah Ramli, Roxanne Carney, plus Ashleigh Bowmott and Laura Sweeney.
This 3-day remote retreat was for 6 producers, curators and arts administrators who had had to undo their present and future work because of COVID-19. It was a guided staycation which allowed space for those who ‘support’ Live Art, to reflect on “business as usual”, get some much deserved socially-distanced nourishment, and develop some collective radical terms and conditions. Each participant was given a stipend of £140 to take part.
Day One - Doing
The first day focused on reflecting on the groups’ practices pre-COVID, and involved contemplative walk and talks and collective screams. Through small group and whole group discussion they explored notions of Value and Sustainability.
In order to understand individual situations through a collective lens, each participant spoke of their frustrations about their practices and through active listening created a word cloud to highlight the shared themes.
Day Two - Undoing
This was a compulsory day off. In order to facilitate this, we posted some ‘shiny ass care packages’ beforehand to each participant. This included a suggested day-off timetable; a podcast, YouTube rabbit hole, and Netflix list; cookie mix; face masks; clay; aromatherapy roll ons; and shower steamers.
The group on Zoom sharing mementos of their day off including items made with clay, a hoover denoting time dedicated to cleaning, and a selfie with a face mask on.
Day Three - Doing Again
This final day was broken down into three sections about Boundaries, Money and Work/Life Balance. It involved a gameshow, an unexpected hour off, group conversation and the development of new Terms and Conditions for working.
At the end of the three days, each participant said goodbye to one another in the form of a promise to their practice. These included:
- Not working unpaid again, at the risk of undermining themselves and others in the workforce.
- Valuing their practice as much as those that they work with.
- Setting clear boundaries.
The group on Zoom, in the middle of a statistic based Higher-or-Lower gameshow.
“I think the best thing about this DIY is that it was for a job role that is very cloudy, and it was useful because the process was about demystifying. I don’t know any other job roles in the industry which face this as much as producers” Workshop Participant
“I think the 3 day staycation was really valuable, well planned and there's nothing I could think of that I want more of. I honestly didn't want it to end, and wish we could repeat what we experienced next week. So every Tuesday-Thursday I get to check in and just have that space to talk and listen.” Workshop Participant
“I felt totally seen & it was a very comforting process that I definitely needed.” Workshop participant
We made it clear that we needed this DIY as much as the participants did. As such it was structured as a space of careful reflection, discussion and appropriate rest. We wanted to ensure it was lighthearted and warm, at a time where everyone has lost much of their work and self-care has given way to self-preservation.
We were involved in a recent survey of independent producers which shared a report available here, demonstrating the lack of opportunities specifically for those in supporting roles, and the inconsistent training and networking platforms which become barriers to progression. There are so few networks, funding streams and support networks aimed specifically at those who ‘support’ live art, directly leading to the sense of loneliness, lack of value and burnout that is cited in the word cloud produced on Day One.
We believe this is mostly preventable, and that targeted learning and development opportunities for producers, curators and arts administrators is key to ensuring that some of this talent remains in the industry.