Navigating change – a new dawn

So, we are facing a new dawn. With Jonny, our longstanding Artistic Director leaving after seven years to pursue new ventures and Lizzie, our Creative Engagement Producer securing a full-time role, and both announcing their departure in the same week, I’ll admit, I panicked. I thought ‘I can’t do this on my own’.

But of course, these things aren’t impossible, and we all sat down on a dedicated ‘Strategy day’ to sketch out the next steps. Could we look at this as an opportunity for Attic?

COVID-19 changed things for everyone, not least Attic. We built a successful hybrid working model and as so many of our outreach activities address those emotional and social needs exacerbated by the pandemic, the number of our projects has grown and has only in the last year now back to land on a more realistic number for our scale.

Should we focus more closely on our participatory programme of work? Now with 12 regular projects and balanced against the lack of returning theatre audiences, a significant drop in arts funding and the difficulties around the increased cost of living it seems that participatory arts activities with a social impact which can support both mental and physical wellbeing may be a preferred strategic priority for us.

So, we asked ourselves a series of questions:

What is our purpose? Who are we reaching? Wo do we want to reach?

Are we doing it well? Are people benefitting? How can we do it better?

How can we optimise this period of change?

Should we give more priority to fusing our artistic programme with our community programme? Can they exist separately and be distinct? Is one more important than the other? How can we ensure that we do justice to both and where we do fuse, we invest in both elements appropriately?

And whilst all these questions needed to be asked, we found it hard to find the answers.

Arts Council England’s Let’s Create Strategy for 2020-2030 sets out its priorities for culture and our work aligns closely: Inclusivity; relevance; dynamism; place-making…

But at our heart, we are a theatre company, born out of a desire to produce plays and make new work, championing new and emerging artists and giving a platform to creatives as they move up through the industry.

So, it seems that we have gone full circle and returned to a place we were before, where we maintain our two distinct strands of work but seek to build on our knowledge of participatory arts with a new team member who is actively facilitating and a new artistic director that considers community, placemaking and social impact within the essence of their work.

In a world where people are talking about the redundancy of the artistic director role, we are bucking that trend. Holding fast to the idea that in order to deliver our work well and serve the needs of both our communities and audiences we give equal measure to both our artistic and our community programme, using both as a benchmark of our quality, diversity and impact and championing the inherent need for arts organisations to give equal priority to both artistic and business decision-making.

Watch this space. The new Attic looks exciting!