An Ode to the Pub: The True Home of Inspiration.
When I say that the pub is ‘the true home of inspiration’, I don’t mean at the bottom of a pint glass. However, nor am I saying that a little tipple/cuppa can’t do wonders to lubricate our creative engines and the bonhomie essential in forging fantastic ideas and partnerships.
The Inklings, The Bloomsbury Group, The Resistance, Dumbledore’s Army… all met in pubs to discuss their plans, to overcome obstacles together, and to put their beliefs into action with like-minded individuals.
From reality to fiction, from politics to philosophy to art, many of the world’s most important revolutions and ideas started with a group of friends, pint in hand, in a pub. Or perhaps a coffee in a café – Les Deux Magots if you’re in Paris. The point is, these social hubs are the perfect place for creatives, revolutionaries even, to meet and make decisions that could lead to something extraordinary… depending on the quantity of pints consumed of course!
Bearing this in mind, and with our monthly ASF Artist socials now underway, I’m very excited about our new team. I learnt so much from our inaugural show, Damsel/Wife/Witch – collaborating with writers, a singer, composer and pianist – and I’m very excited by the prospect of learning even more about different artistic genres including opera, music, movement, scenic arts, and what we might create together. No doubt something much more powerful, meaningful and affecting than if we all just work and existed separately. Sort of like the EU… and it is even more important in post-June-2016 Britain that we are collaborating and pushing the boundaries of our artistic comfort-zones to make work that unites companies and audiences around the world.
Whether you were remain or leave, no one can argue that the pub is a very British institution that symbolises traditional British values. Community and camaraderie for example. Sometimes, however, pubs can be a little too ‘traditional’ – a certain scene from Withnail and I springs to mind: a middle-of-nowhere pub with of lots of old white men in flat caps drinking pints and eyeing up newcomers with deep suspicion.
Whilst in the capital, although more ethnically diverse, everything, including the locals, seems to undergo some sort of ‘gentrification’ at some point. Pubs are being revamped into hip, trendy bars with expensive craft beers and wine lists. It may be more multi-cultural than your local pub in Yorkshire or Shropshire, but instead of flat caps, it’s Tom Ford suits and Mulberry bags. Your average ‘struggling artists’ are priced out of many central London’s gastro-bistro-pub-eateries, or even cafes, and forced to meet up at a friend’s living room in zone 52 or suck it up and pay through the nose for a Caffé Nero Chai Latte or £4.50 a pint for the privilege of a noisy, not-very-spacious table, with not enough chairs, and free wifi.
I can’t help but draw a parallel here between the state of British Pubs and British Arts.
Not only talented young emerging companies, but also long-standing pillars of the artistic community (Northumberland Theatre Company and Théâtre Sans Frontières for some Northerly examples), are struggling to keep their funding or attract new funding opportunities due to ever greater cuts, pressures and changes in the Arts Council’s budget. They are forced to strip back, and even though these long-running companies will have strong support from their local communities, this is unfortunately not always enough, and that community loses out on original and innovative theatre as a consequence.
This is happening all over the arts industry, particularly when it comes to training: for example, the extortionate fees drama schools charge, making it impossible for many talented young actors from working class backgrounds access to training.
With this in mind, and our latest ASF Artist social approaching, it is more important than ever that we come together, collaborate and find a way to keep making the art that we want, and need, to make. As James Greive, Artistic Director of Paines Plough says, if you have a story you need to tell, you must ‘force it into existence’. And the best way to achieve this and find solutions to the often-drastic financial difficulties is together.