Guest producer blog – Professional development for Artists AND Producers at GDIF & Xtrax 2017

By 30th July 2017Uncategorised

In May 2017 Damian Kerlin, an independent Creative Producer based in Wales attended the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival 2017 and Xtrax Professional Showcase along with 250 outdoor arts practitioners from across the UK and Europe.

He was part of a record breaking twenty five Wales based artists, venues, funders, and producers who attended funded by bursaries provided by Articulture, Creu Cymru and the Arts Council of Wales (picture above), to network, pitch, and see the best of new international outdoor arts work. Here an account of his experience, and his wider reflections on his practice.

As a Creative Producer I look to reform preconceived ideas of the producer-artist relationship, exploring a model that encourages openness and reflection on our practice; which leads us towards practical, collaborative and artistic producing. I do not work a hierarchy system. I put the producer and the artist on an even footing.

So you can imagine my frustration that when it comes to professional development opportunities organisations tend to favor the ‘artist’ offering little to no opportunity for the budding producers out there.

Articulture, is NOT one of those! This year they offered me a bursary to attend Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (GDIF) and XTRAX Professional  Showcase. What a delight it was!

I visited GDIF with a view to catch the festival’s renowned international outdoor arts programme, as well as undertaking some useful networking for future work. The festival takes place in the heart of Greenwich, London during the months of June and July.

The event started with a programme of discussions aimed at professionals and programmers. This included short presentations from GDIF and activity partners as well as guest artists. The programming was varied; the circus joy of Sur Mesure’s Fillage; a spectacle of intrinsic skill accompanied by a live band that just oozed charm and (hilarious) sophistication. There was then the not so good, drawn out works that needed the eyes of a dramaturgy and slashed by half (maybe two thirds).

There where many wonderful and bizarre acts and two large scale events, one of which was commissioned by GDIF focusing on their relationship with South Korea, which was not to my taste but one can not please everyone.  

The works produced expressed ambition, scale and more than not were performed to stunning effect.

It was great to catch up with organisations who I met last year while on tour with Corey Baker Dance and rebuild those connections. Since the festival, I have been approached by two organisations and one independent artist. I have meetings scheduled over the next two weeks, both in person and over Skype, to discuss the possibility of producing for them. I don’t mean to brag but…that’s not bad for a £300 bursary, is it?

I am yet to make contact with those delegates who shared their contact details with me and asked that I make contact. I hope more discussions will lead to further opportunities.

The showcase has also given me the confidence to pursue further training in festival producing and management. I have applied to the Festival Academy in Merano (Italy) for a weeks course in November, where I will network further and build international relations (I want to travel with my work, if I am accepted onto the course that is!). I have applied to Arts Council Wales Professional Creative Development scheme to fund this activity accompanied by a lovely supporting letter from Articulture. Thank you! *fingers crossed*

My personal highlight was the XTRAX shorts; for those who are not familiar XTRAX showcases bring together UK and international promoters and professionals, to see high-quality performances providing opportunities for artists to sell their work, tour more widely and extend their reach.

The shorts are 5 minute presentations by artists and organisations selling their latest outdoor works to promoters, programmers and festival organisers. What a varied bag! I always find it intriguing that an artist could perform, expressing themselves all day. Give them five minutes to talk about the show, they have made and many, well, struggle!

What I found so interested was the range of organisations present. Many where NPO’s and have been in the business for years, yet there they stood, selling, pushing and telling anyone who would listen about their new work.

Please do not see this as me being detrimental. Let me explain.

I am labelled emerging, not a name I have put on myself but one put on me by others (here comes that hierarchy). I am not 100% sure what that means. Emerging. Not emerged or submerged or established. I’m on the move, taking in my surroundings, forever digesting and constantly progressing. I’m adaptable and think quick on my feet. Hey, it’s hard being this awesome.

The truth of the matter is we are all emerging and in times of such uncertainty, *cough* BREXIT, it is vital that even the most “established” of us need to think of new models of working, new collaborations and become adaptable as structures that may have worked in the past, will more than likely, not work in the future.

Articulture gave me the opportunity to experience the wealth of the outdoor arts sector and how it is leading the way in showing no adversity to change.

An accessible application format plus a personal approach equaled an incredible weekend. As a Creative Producer the time to talk to other artists and arts professionals; it is this confidence, that acceptance that is priceless especially to those emerging artists that might not be following the norm. Overall, it’s given me much needed career refreshment and I am looking forward to the future and building an eclectic portfolio across Wales and further afield.

I can not recommend the bursary programme enough. To anyone who is thinking of applying, just do it!

Keep on emerging, you might surprise yourself.

Photo: ‘Wales crew GDIF 2017′ – Credit/Rosie Strang

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