Theatre in the Mill is many things – an arts venue, an artist support organisation, an opportunity, a shared home – but in its most stripped back daily form, it’s four people in a room trying to make some good stuff happen. These days, we’re not even in the same room. And this rapidly changing state of being can be alienating and paralysing when you’re trying to make good stuff happen.
So while this pandemic is high-stakes and large-scale, me, Hélène, Ivan and Rich are four individual humans trying to come up with the best use of the resources we have. No buildings, no desks, no shared space, but we’ve got some cash and time and heart. Like so many arts organisations, our first instinct was PUT EVERYTHING EVER ONLINE, including performances we’d already contracted, and COMMISSION NEW STUFF RESPONDING TO THIS CRISIS. I think there’s definitely a place for both of these things, and as a commissioning organisation who specialise in technological innovation, this instinct made a lot of sense. But taking a beat, looking around and talking to people about how they’re doing and what they need has proven to be the best thing we could be doing right now. Not everyone’s art belongs in a digital space. Not everyone has the tools to make work online, or access it there. And so, so many artists are experiencing too much panic and whiplash and grief to be able to turn this traumatic moment into a Piece Of Art. It’s true that a lot of art comes from struggle, but it’s not true that we need to demand all struggle is turned into art.
So, we’re looking after our families and checking in with the artists we work with and honouring the financial commitments we’d already made, regardless of Force Majeure clauses. And we’re building flexible, adaptive plans for how we’re going to make this work for us and the artists in our (metaphorical and literal) neighbourhood. And this, this is personal. Everyone is responding differently, because this pandemic presents a unique set of challenges to each of us. So that’s part of this: figuring out how we move forward as a person-centric theatre, in a socially distanced world. The package of care, support and community projects we’re putting together has many strands because there is no single solution – in fact none of this is a solution, just a part of a way through. We know that. We’re ready for elements of it to not work, and need reshaping. We’d like you to be a part of that.
With that in mind, we’d love to see your faces and check in with you. Each working day, we hold an Open Office on Zoom from 10am to 11am (and often keep going after that) – join us for a chat, to ask about our plans, or just to have some friendly chatter in the background as you get on with your work. If that’s not your thing (or you’re already sick of Zoom), we’re excited to share more on our support package next week so keep an eye on our social media.
Jyothi & Team TiM