Photo Same Circle Productions
Same Circle Productions - thoughts about Contradicktion
Luke Dankoff from Same Circle Productions, Artists Respond winners in 2021, talks about what the company got up to as part of their research and development for a new show.
With support from the St Hugh's Foundation for the Arts, Same Circle Productions held a research and development phase for our new LGBTQI+ show Contradicktion, a new devised theatre piece which focusses on toxic masculinity, gender bias and other damaging cultures in the LGBTQI+ community. The process was split into four weeks.
Our first week was an opportunity to spend crucial time with seasoned Hull professionals to provide invaluable support in the creation and support of our company. This included sessions on marketing, company vision and mission, artist bio and finance management.
Our second week acted as our engagement week which would form the basis for our show. We worked closely with The Warren Youth Project’s Shout Group - a group of 16-25 year old LGBTQI+ individuals who come together to share a safe space in the city.
Our third week revolved heavily around rehearsal room-based activities which would create the sharing material.
Our last week was the rehearsal and sharing of our R&D material.
Aims & Objectives:
- Develop new audiences across Hull and beyond.
- Create the foundation for a high-quality LGBTQI+ sharing.
- Represent and reflect the voices & opinions of the LGBTQI+ community.
- Develop the company model to be more rigorous and sustainable.
Summary of the success:
Throughout our company development week, we spent time with local theatre makers which provided vital time to develop our company model, ensuring that as we continue to grow, we are robust and sustainable. We have now formed a sustainable company structure which allows us to be responsive to the uncertain times for theatre companies as a direct result of Covid. Furthermore, the work with artists in the city has meant we are able to develop and grow our voice and brand to enable us to reach new audiences across the city and beyond.
Our focus groups provided a safe space for many people in the city to create the foundation for a high-quality sharing. The measure of success with these focus groups was seen in our sharing where many who came found that they were able to talk openly about their sexuality and question some of the cultures within the LGBTQI+ community. Starting conversations about how we could, as LGBTQI+ members, make the community more inclusive from within was a main artistic foundation for the development of this piece. We felt that this was met when we were sent a lengthy document after our focus group from a member of the Warren Youth Project.
This informed the high-quality work that was demonstrated in the sharing. Although there is learning to be done, the feedback from the group shows that as a company, we are serving historically underserved communities with high-quality work which is deeply rooted in the voices of the local LGBTQI+ community.
Finally, reflected in our demographics data we engaged far more heterosexual identifying people. We found this to be a good measure of success because we were able to inform and educate people from outside the LGBTQI+ community to create a new understanding of why we need projects such as this to develop more inclusivity and representation in Hull.
Impact on increasing the community’s knowledge, understanding, participation and enjoyment in the arts:
The time spent with our focus groups was invaluable to developing a strong framework for our piece. Although there was originally a lot of interest in taking part in a focus group from the Hull & East Riding LGBTQI+ forum, this was not taken up at the time. Therefore we opened this up to our own personal networks in the LGBTQI+ community, which was received well and allowed us to experience different and useful insights from people across the spectrum of the community. Our time spent with The Warren Youth Project was crucial to the formation of our piece, and the young people had a great interest in the piece at large as they felt it reflected their viewpoints and opinions. Furthermore, they felt that during the focus group we had created a safe space, of which they felt there were few in the city. The people with whom we engaged through the piece felt that because we were directly reflecting their voices and opinions, they were more likely to engage in the arts. Furthermore, because we aimed to do this in non-traditional settings and in a conversational way, many felt that a barrier had been lowered to engaging in the arts; they didn’t have to act a certain way to enjoy the performance.
Our pop-up spaces were originally meant to be at The University of Hull and The Warren Youth project. Using this time to develop our networks we got in touch with the Hull Artist Research Initiative and developed the beginnings of a useful long-term relationship with them. This meant that we were able to put our pop-up space in Hull City Centre. We felt by moving the space to the city centre, where very little engagement happens currently, as well as, at the weekend when footfall is at its highest this offered a much richer opportunity to develop new audiences.
The pop-up engagements garnered an overwhelmingly positive response as we ended the weekend with over 200 engagements. This is largely due to creating a performance spectacle using Andy Train’s - Sasha at the Disco where he performed LGBTQI+ songs throughout the day drawing people in. In the context of our project being reflective of the communities of Hull, we classed engagements as speaking to people either about: i) Same Circle and its values, ii) Contradicktion and its themes or iii) both. We did not classify an engagement as greeting somebody or giving them merchandise.
The feedback as reflected in our social media and engagement figures meant that we were able to educate, inspire and inform people about the LGBTQI+ community and the necessity to create appropriate representation in the city.
Working with Paul Smith from Middle Child we spent time developing a robust and sustainable company model. As Covid has shown the need for such company models is crucial with many companies having to halt production. Furthermore, we have also developed a cogent and succinct vision, mission and artist bio which we can use when we are trying to market ourselves in the future.
Working with Sarah Penney a seasoned producer on our marketing and social media strategy has helped us develop a strategy for short- and long-term social media goals meaning we can develop a much larger presence even when projects are not happening.
We have learned the most from our engagement work. Having engaged such varied audiences and collected significant amounts of demographics data. We can utilise this data to demonstrate the audience types that we have engaged. Using our future engagement strategy with the data we have collected we can identify key groups and postcodes where there are gaps and programme future events to develop new audience relationships in this area.
Working with an actor in an R&D to develop a script has created a process for co-creation that has set a methodological basis for future work. The R&D has provided an invaluable experience for us to develop our practice as theatre makers which is rooted firmly in community voices. We will continue to explore how community can inform the creative process and be brought in over a much more sustained period of time in order to make a piece that feels authentic and truthful in voice, especially using the opinions and lived experiences of LGBTQI+ people.
Luke has gained valuable insight on how to handle shifting timelines, budgets and communication with Arts Council England.
All the learning from this process has been evaluated and will form a strong basis for the continued life of the show. This will be invaluable when programming the show in its second phase with regional theatres.