Category Archives: Arts Funding

4 Days To Go – Clueless and Wuffles are Heading to Glastonbury (and other BIG news)!

glasto

Rehearsals for Clueless and Wuffles: the Case of the Missing Jewels are now complete, with a dress and tech rehearsal dusted over the weekend.  Now it’s just a waiting game before we head down to Worthy Farm for the festival itself.

Wuffles Poster

In case you didn’t know (or you’ve lost the ability to scroll down to the post underneath this one), I’ll be performing as DCI Clueless – a hapless and unbelievably vain detective who, along with his faithful Sergeant, DS Wuffles, must hunt down the stolen Crown Jewels.  The show will be performed at the Panic Circus Big Top on the Kidz Field from Thursday the 26th until the close of the festival.

If you’re at Glastonbury this year, keep an eye on the hashtag #wuffles for show times, pictures and all kinds of random micro-blogging goodness.  I look forward to seeing you there!

I’ll be writing up my experiences and thoughts on the festival for Frost Magazine upon my return.  Keep a weather eye out for that.

In other news, I’ve recently been cast in “Justice”, a site-specific theatrical event being held at Lancaster Castle over the Summer this year.  Work has already begun on the show, with showings taking place on weekends through July and all week through August.  More on that in my next blog post.

Plans are progressing on a funding application for a big show in March 2015.  The project, which I’ll be keeping under wraps until things are a little more firmed up, has a producer, director and musical director attached, with work due to begin on the script and music in August/September.   We’ve finalised an initial budget and our first funding bid goes in this week, with a further GFA bid emerging in July.  I’ll update you on details for the show once we know that it’s definitely happening (fingers crossed!)

And, to round things off, I’m continuing my work as a medical role-player and enjoying it immensely.  It’s a fantastic team of actors to work with and a marvellous team in charge.  I’ll be jetting back up from Somerset for another performance the day after Glastonbury (I know!)

Until next time, stay frosty!

Parklife

So there I was, stood beneath a tree with a cup of tea in my hand. To my left, a great wizard was muttering to himself with an almost insane look on his face. To my right, the Green Knight had just taken his head off and was standing around like a decapitated topiary figurine. He then began texting on his mobile phone. A woman then came jogging over from a Milk Float and nicked King Arthur’s sword and,… no, wait,… wait,… let me explain!

No, I wasn’t at Tim Burton’s birthday party and I swear that no strips of paper went anywhere near my tongue. I was actually on set with the great cast and crew of The Dukes Theatre’s latest show in the park; Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur.

Having missed out on the opportunity to join the cast earlier in the year, I e-mailed Joe Sumsion, the director of the show, and asked him whether I could look in on rehearsals. He kindly agreed and I joined the team on set in Williamson Park for an afternoon on Tuesday the 5th of July.

I was immediately reminded of why I love being an actor: there was a tremendous, warm-hearted ensemble feel to the rehearsal. Even amid the pouring rain, actors and technicians were chatting, sharing idea’s, helping each other with their lines and pulling together to bring the legend of Camelot to life. I came across a couple of old friends (including Ian Brown, the actor who had sadly been forced to pull out from Theatre Uncut) and made a couple of new acquaintances (including the incredibly talented Cristina Catalina). Everybody seemed so dedicated to making this the very best show they could.

Which made it all the more painful to hear that Merlin will be the very last of The Dukes’ famous plays in Williamson Park. Due to heavy funding cuts, both from the local council and from Arts Council England, the theatre can no longer afford to produce plays on this scale.

To me this represents a serious blow to both the cultural wealth of the region and the local economy. The annual Play in the Park has become a nationally-recognised piece of event theatre which brings in audiences from all across the UK. To many, it was the only piece of theatre that they would go and see in a year and it was one of the few large-scale theatrical family shows left in the North West. There can be some consolation in hearing that funds will be diverted into producing a greater number of smaller-scale in-house shows at the Dukes’ main theatre spaces but the cultural impact of such a move cannot be understated.

Once more we are seeing an element of our cultural heritage sacrificed at the expense of the numbers whizzing hither and thither in some unnamed and soulless Whitehall computer. For that’s what we are talking about; numbers. 1’s and 0’s. Ethereal and ephemeral computer code based on guesswork and traded as a government commodity on stock markets far away.

It seems almost perverse that audiences of hard working and, indeed, unemployed everyday folk in Lancaster, who will never see this “money” or feel its benefit, should be deprived of a piece of quality event-theatre to satisfy the needs of such markets.

Enjoyable days out, moments of escapism and entertainment to cherish; these things are needed more than ever during a recession. That these things are targeted first in the drive to “cut costs” so that “the numbers will balance” is truly a tragedy of our times.

Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur will be showing at Williamson Park in Lancaster between the 8th of July and the 13th of August. For more information and to book tickets, please visit http://www.dukes-lancaster.org

Tim Austin is an Actor and Theatre Dramaturg working nationally and internationally from his base in the UK. You can find his Spotlight CV here; http://www.spotlight.com/8218-3497-0502 and read about his work as a Dramaturg here; http://dramaturgtim.wordpress.com

A Very Public Mugging

A Man for All Seasons

 

Welcome back to Actortim! Take a pew.

Now, you may have noticed the comic at the top of the page and, if you have, you’ll probably have a fair idea of where I’m I’m going with this week’s post. If you’re of a nervous disposition you may want to go off and read something else. Something about bunnies or kittens or clouds. Maybe listen to some whale song while you’re at it.

Still with me? Good.

Engage rant mode.

There is a strange rumor going about. Apparently, we’re skint. Oh yes, apparently, the government hasn’t got two farthings to rub together.

Except for the £4000-a-piece missiles it’s shooting at tanks in Libya. But apart from that they’re skint.

Though no-one told Vodafone who have just persuaded the government (who are skint, let’s not forget!) to let them off from paying a multi-billion pound tax bill.

And the government kindly, out of the generosity, kindness and fairness of spirit that we’ve come to expect from them, allowed Barclays Bank to pay tax on only 2% of the profits they made last year; because the government obviously doesn’t really need the multi-billion pound income that this would provide. No, that would be silly; it’s not like they’re skint or anything. Except they are. Or so they say.

All well and good, you say, but what has this got to do with acting?

Well you see, because they’re “skint” the government can’t afford pesky things like paying for public services. They can’t afford to keep all those Police on the streets or to fund school renovations, sustain current levels of nursing or, indeed, pay us actors to “prance about on stage in tights”.

And before you all go running off to the Daily Mail to bemoan “another fucking woolly, liberal thespian crying because his funding has been cut!” just hold your horses; I am not for a moment suggesting that theatre and arts funding should be lauded or protected above and beyond other, potentially life saving, public services!

Of course arts funding isn’t as important as nursing or childcare provision. Given the choice, of course the money should be spent on front line public services to help the disadvantaged, the disabled and the infirm! But my point is this; none of these cuts are necessary; not cuts to nursing, policing, schooling and certainly not the arts!

The current financial situation wasn’t caused by us (and by us I include every man, woman and child in the UK who is suffering the effects of the banking collapse) and yet, breathtakingly, we are the ones who have been told to pay the price. Not asked; told.

And with that in mind, what I witnessed last week, where truly brilliant and inspiring theatre companies like Chol and Red Ladder were either wholly or substantially cut from the National Portfolio of Regularly Funded Organisations (NPO) by the Arts Council in England, was truly heartbreaking.

These companies, with inspiring outreach services that took theatre into deprived areas and spoke up for silent minorities in society, became the victim of a collective mugging. A mugging for money that the government doesn’t need.

Y’see, there’s a silent truth that stalks the halls of Whitehall. It is so dangerous and inflammatory that no one ever discusses it outside those hallowed halls. And here it is (hold on to something!);

If the government collected all of the tax that it is owed by the multinational corporations and banks based in this country, we could eradicate the public debt instantly. Not next year, not 5 years down the line; today.

Take a second to think about that. Let it sit in your mind.

Greedy, irresponsible and immoral banking practices got us into this mess. They effectively stole trillions of pounds of taxpayers money when the bubble burst. But has the government chosen to recoup this money from them? Has it placed significant taxes on them to claw some of this money back? Has even one UK banker gone anywhere near jail for this?

No.

I’m not here to second guess why the government would prefer to make the society that it’s supposed to serve pay for rich bankers to remain rich. I’m not in a position to guess why the profits of Vodafone come before local bus services in rural areas. And I don’t have the training to question why the Arts Council in England was forced to take away £100,000,000 from theatres, galleries, directors, actors, stage hands, arts administrators, puppeteers, musicians and dancers across the country.

All I know is that peoples livelihoods and careers have been put at risk this week. Theatre companies will have to close, outreach services will be struck down, kids who would otherwise have had access to the arts that we have, until now, taken for granted, will no longer get that chance.

And that stinks.

Tim Austin is an Actor and Theatre Dramaturg working nationally and internationally from his base in the UK. You can find his Spotlight CV here; http://www.spotlight.com/8218-3497-0502