Devoted & Disgruntled at Brighton Dome

Talking Point: Shall we create a European Union of artists?

Ahead of our upcoming Open Space conversation, Devoted & Disgruntled, Phelim McDermott, Improbable Theatre, and Tanya Peters, Director of Artistic Planning, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, kick off the conversation with their own post-referendum responses….

Tanya Peters, Director of Artistic Planning, Brighton Dome & Festival:

Here in Brighton, we have the UK’s only Green MP, a demographic rich in graduates, high numbers of young people, and we value the creative industries; many are proud to live in such a liberal and opinionated city. Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival’s programmes are outward looking but with a strong sense of place. We choose artists to perform or to commission because they have something to say and we deliver engagement projects that hope to connect with individuals who wouldn’t otherwise engage with the arts. Our programmes represent different cultural perspectives, tell human stories from around the world through different art forms, with platforms to debate difficult issues. No other city better illustrates the arts as its beating heart.

But, on June 24th, we woke up with our bubble broken. Having voted in large numbers to remain (69%/31%), many Brightonians were in disbelief at the result. We always felt Brighton was a special place, yet now it feels like we are out of step with the rest of the country. How can we stop preaching to the choir and reach out to hear different voices, different opinions..? Perhaps until now people have been excluded from the conversations, or perhaps we just haven’t been listening to each other.

Trying to gain understanding through exploring different perspectives is a big part of what we set out to do in the arts, yet I find myself worried that we’re working in an echo-chamber. It’s said that as many as 96% of people involved in the arts voted to remain in the UK. That’s a lot of people with the same opinion. Do we shy away from talking to people whose opinions make us uncomfortable? It seems greater understanding through talking and listening is needed – but how, and where do we start?

Please join us at this open space event to talk and listen and maybe we will find inspiration and solid ideas toward progress, whatever that looks like.

Phelim McDermott, co-Artistic Director of Improbable:

As the referendum crisis unfolded I posted a question on Facebook: 'Shall We create a European Union of Artists?'

It was posted on an impulse and got a big response. It was prompted by the feeling that whatever was to happen in the coming months as an artist I did not want to do nothing! I do not want to lose connection with the incredible network of European artists, producers and collaborators I have worked with in Europe over the years. If barriers are to go up then I want to connect now. I was already mourning the work that might be lost in this still unfinished story. I was already worrying about how the artistic community might be impoverished for younger artists and my own children. I also want to reach out to all the Europeans who are working here in the Arts and may be feeling confused or isolated at the moment.

I don’t really know what my initial question means. You might agree or disagree with it but it’s a useful focus and umbrella theme for lots of other questions. It’s a way to bring people together to work on all the concerns, questions and ideas we might be having about what our next steps are. Please bring all your issues whatever your feelings about the outcome of the referendum.

Maybe you are angry. Maybe you have some great ideas about how we proceed. Maybe you need support about your current situation here in the UK. Maybe you think Leave is a good idea. Maybe you are concerned about the rise in racist incidents that are being reported. Maybe you are simply fed up of just interacting on social media and need deeper dialogue. Times are chaotic and our response needs to be collaborative and imaginative.

Please come to this opportunity for artists and those who work and support the arts to do what we do best: Envision, collaborate and take action together about what we can do next. Let’s ask some important questions, share information about how we proceed and make our next steps for what the arts can do post the referendum.

We can find a way through this together.

Devoted and Disgruntled is at Brighton Dome Corn Exchange on Saturday 1 October, 11am to 6pm. For more information, visit the event page.