Society for Theatre Research offers free online discussion

On Wednesday 20th October at 7.30-9.00pm BST, The Society for Theatre Research invites you to attend a free online discussion entitled “That Other British Asian Theatre: British East Asian and Southeast Asian Performance”, focusing on British East and Southeast Asian representation in theatre.

British East Asian and Southeast Asian theatre and performance are perhaps less well-known than theatre and performance created by British South Asian companies and artists. How are British East Asia and Southeast Asia represented by theatre-makers?  So, how has Asia been represented on the contemporary British stage? Increasingly more plays about Asians and on Asian themes have been produced at the National Theatre, the Arcola, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Court and more.  There are a wealth of stories, histories and voices that are yet to be explored and told. Join theatre artists Kumiko Mendl and Kwong Loke in conversation.

Kumiko Mendl trained at the Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris. She is a founder-member of Yellow Earth Theatre Company (now New Earth Theatre), which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020. Yellow Earth’s work includes Asian-themed work as well as new versions of European classics such as Miss Julie. Kumiko Mendl is Artistic Director of New Earth, whose work encompasses performance, community engagement and professional development for emerging actors.

Kwong Loke trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and is an actor and director.  He was a founder-member of Yellow Earth Theatre Company and of Stone Crabs Theatre, focusing on intercultural performance. Kwong Loke has appeared in The Great Wave (National Theatre), and Pah-La (Royal Court).  He teaches acting and directing in London, Hong Kong and Tokyo, as well as directing at drama conservatories.

To book your free ticket to this Zoom event, please find booking and further details here


Watch Now: New Cultural Conversation focuses on culture’s economic impact

The final discussion in this season hosted by The Lord Mayor of the City of London and the Genesis Foundation is the sixth Cultural Conversation, focusing on the economic value of culture and the arts and it power to aid our ailing economy. The New Future: Art and Culture in the Making of a Vibrant Economy took place online on Monday 20 September, with a live and virtual audience contributing to the Q&A section at the end of the discussion. And what a praiseworthy and interesting talk it was, with great audience interaction in the Q&A too.

The Cultural Conversations series has been a sequence of focused debates around Arts and Culture in the City of London, and are always worth watching. This sixth conversation was chaired by Will Gompertz, in conversation with Alderman William Russell, John Studzinski CBE, our Founder and Chairman, Kully Thiarai, Creative Director, Leeds 2023, Claire McColgan MBE, Director of Culture, Liverpool City Council and Nina Skero, Chief Executive, Centre for Economic and Business Research.

A further series of Cultural Conversations is scheduled for next year.

You can watch the recorded discussion here


Watch Now: Cultural Conversations focuses on the next generations

You can now watch the recording of this fascinating and insigthful discussion.

The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of the City of London and the Genesis Foundation invited us to join them for the fifth in the series of Cultural Conversations: ‘Young People and The Arts: Making Space and Opening Doors’ which took place online on Monday 26th July.

The Cultural Conversations series is a sequence of focused debates around Arts and Culture in the City of London. This fifth Conversation was chaired by Gemma Cairney, in conversation with Cherry Eckel, Artist and Advisory Group member at Boundless Theatre; Neil Griffiths, Chief Executive at Arts Emergency; Montana Hall, Founder of Run the Check and Trustee at The Photographers Gallery; Renee Odjidja, Curator: Youth Programmes at Whitechapel Gallery; and Abdul Shayek, Artistic Director at Tara Theatre, and Lemn Sissay OBE, Poet, Playwright and Broadcaster.

Please click here to watch the recorded discussion


Not Lost In Translation: Foreign Affairs offers three new online discussions

East-London based theatre group Foreign Affairs describe themselves as “bringing stories from around the globe into unconventional spaces”. Rooted in a collaborative approach, they work with international playwrights and translators to bring award-winning world drama to English-speaking audiences with an eye to exploring topical social and political issues.

To celebrate their 11th anniversary, they have kindly shared three interesting discussions via their YouTube channel. The discussions all concern translations of works, language, perceptions of value and cultural and social issues, as well as the realities of collaborating with playwrights and across cultures.

Discussion One – Are distinctions such as ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ becoming irrelevant in a globalised society?

In this talk, English – Polish literary translator Marta Dziurosz talks to translators Anton Hur, Lúcia Collischonn and Valentina Marconi about “non-native” and collaborative translation, the bias towards/surrounding bilingual translators and the notions of ‘language ownership’ and ‘collaboration vs chaperoning’.

Discussion Two – In this talk, writer, editor and translator Daniel Hahn talks to playwright Marc-Antoine Cyr and his English translator Charis Ainslie, and playwright and translator Caridad Svich about working between cultures and the playwright-translator work relationship.

Discussion Three – In this talk, academic and translator Margherita Laera talks to translators Almiro Andrade and Jeremy Tiang and award-winning playwright Hannah Khalil about the role of translated theatre within an anglophone context, and the underrepresentation and marginalisation of migrant voices and communities on stage.

These conversations last around 75 minutes each and are certainly interesting for their experienced speakers and ideas which are examined.

Please note: These discussions are available online until Monday September 20th.


“Persistent” buildings and persistent people – How heritage buildings can revive our High Streets

Those concerned for the future of the nation’s historic high street buildings were treated to a lively and informative online presentation from Heritage Trust Network and Locality on July 1st.

Can historic buildings save England’s High Streets?

In a lively discussion, expert panelists discussed the potential new uses of historic high street premises and the role of culture in town centres’ revival.

Speakers were David Tittle – CEO of Heritage Trust Network, Owain Lloyd-James – Head of Places Strategy, Historic England, Carol Pyrah – Executive Director, Historic Coventry Trust, Joe Holyoak – Trustee, Moseley Road Baths, Diane Dever – Chair, Urban Rooms Network and Claire Appleby – Architecture Advisor, Theatres Trust.

The mainly heritage-based audience were treated to much impressive factual information from regeneration projects around the UK, together with practical steps and advice when furthering their own high street heritage projects.

The discussion put the High Street in context, starting as a community focus, then often rebuilt to become more retail-focused, and now as retail is on the decline, accelerated by Covid, towns need to find new creative offers to encourage people back to their High Streets.

Owain Lloyd-James of Heritage England reminded us that High Streets are areas of greater footfall, which is why so many theatres, cinemas and other cultural buildings are on them or very nearby. He also noted that retailers were waking up to the idea that they had to offer “something extra” for people to visit High Street stores. This new form, dubbed “experiential retail”, has prompted awareness amongst retailers that historic and heritage buildings can add something special to a shopping trip. This has fueled an increasing amount of interest in repurposing older buildings to create stores with character and interest, as opposed to the bland Lego boxes that infect most of our Hugh Streets today.

Carol Pyrah of Historic Coventry Trust told us about the successes achieved by her group including participating in City of Culture this year, and how they have positively shifted visitors expectations of the appeal of the city through their many placemaking and arts-based projects.

Joe Holyoak, a Trustee of Moseley Road Baths, told us of this historic building’s impressive plan for renovation and renaissance as an arts centre and studios. He also, helpfully, reminded us that the word “monument” stems from the word for memory. And finally, he reached back through time to remind us that buildings which survive down the ages have often been called “persistent” buildings, which seemed a very apt title; and he celebrated not only the persistent buildings but also the persistent people who help to bring them back into life.

Diane Dever discussed the projects arising from the Urban Rooms project in Folkestone. Sadly, for me, her presentation slides were so dense that they became unreadable and undermined the detail of what she was trying to tell us. It was, however, heartening to see Folkestone’s creative quarter emerging, and to hear that the income from shop and flat rentals in the area were helping to fund creative events.

For me, the best was saved till last, as Claire Appleby of the Theatres Trust brought out the convincers – the financial figures. As well, Claire underlined the architectural importance of theatres, their memory-link to the local communities around them, and the wide social benefits of theatres and the activities that can be housed within them. Also highlighted was the flexibility with which theatre companies had lead the way in Covid help, being outreach workers, community hubs, food banks, vaccination centres, and so much more- theatres really showed their value to their communities.

An Arts Council of England survey found that theatres were highly valued, with respondents stating that they were willing to pay £13 a year per person to retain their local theatre.

Theatres’ effects on the local economy were great, with people coming into the area to see a show and usually spending more while they were in the locality. In the last, non-Covid year of research, UK Theatre found there were 34 million visits to theatres across the UK bringing a value of over £1.38 billion, that figure without the extra benefits of restaurants, bars, hotels, etc.

As mentioned on this blog, another survey found that theatre’s wellbeing impacts on audiences contributed to a saving of over £102million to the NHS annually, with 60% of theatregoers more likely to report good health than non-theatregoers.

Finally, Claire quoted a number of recent or nearly-completed projects, with Chester’s Storyhouse (a redevelopment of their old Odeon cinema) bringing a million visitors in their last year. Bradford’s newly refurbished ex-Odeon cinema is projected to bring over a quarter of a million visitors in the first year, with a projected boost to the local economy of £10million. The newly-refurbished Globe Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees projects 170,000 visitors in their first year, bringing an £18million boost to the local economy. (And just another example from my own experience- Walthamstow’s refurbishment of their Granada cinema into a mixed-use theatre space is projected to bring over £100million into the local economy over its first ten years of operation.)

A lively Q&A followed, and the event was brought to a close by David Tittle. Thanks to everyone involved for a highly informative, positive and optimistic view of heritage buildings’ futures on our High Streets.

Watch a recording of the event, which you can find here