Back at the start of The Brixton Project I did an interview for IdeasTap for an article about empty shops and it went live on Friday. If you don’t know IdeasTap it’s a website that has many, many goodies (including information, advice and even money) for people who are twenty five or under and interested in working in the arts. And now some of my “wisdom” graces the site. Currently (though this is changing) you can only read the content if you’re a member so I’ve put my part of the article below. To give you some context, the article consists of some really cool people like Dan Thompson from the Empty Shops Network, Hannah Hooks from Space In Between, Emma Rice from Kneehigh (given that I wrote a study of Kneehigh for part of my Masters degree I’m quite happy to be in Ms Rice’s company) and, erm, me talking about the good, the interesting and the difficult about puting art/ performance into unsual spaces:
“Licensing issues can be a real pain,” says Corinne Furness, co-founder of Write by Numbers who last month staged Ovid Reworked in a disused shop in Brixton. “Very few empty shops will have a performance license so you’re in the position of either going through the paper-filled and expensive business of applying for a permanent license or using a temporary license which lasts for a maximum of four days. There can be a lot of administration that you don’t have to consider if you take a show to a traditional theatre.”
“For me, empty shops are quite literally a blank canvas,” says Corinne. “The only limit is your imagination. It makes you engage with the building, the area and the community. With shops it’s quite accepted that you can step through the door and have a peek, they’re inclusive spaces. There isn’t a barrier that says ‘this is a theatre, and this is how I must behave’.”
Over the course of Ovid Reworked I did end up talking to a number of people who were interested in the ‘how’ of the process and – though we’re taking baby steps compared to someone like Dan Thompson – in putting on our first production – or rather festival as it turned out – we had to learn a lot very, very quickly. I’ve got lots I want to say (and maybe help others to avoid some of the holes we fell face first into) so in the coming week’s I’m going to do a post/ article for either this blog or the WBN website talking about some of the practicalities of specifically putting theatre into an empty shop. As a warning I will most likely feel the need to excessively use capitalisation to display trauma levels.