(Sara Clifford and Saskia Huybrechtse in Belgrade 2005)
Partnership has been a buzzword for sometime; without a list of partners, funders are reluctant to invest – it has become a sine qua non. But partners are not badges to be collected glibly and genuine partnership takes investment both in terms of time and in opening an organisation up to peer scrutiny. However, strong partnerships can be a fantastic way of extending both organisational capacity and reach – particularly vital in lean times.
At Theatre Is… I worked with Stuart Mullins and his team for two years as Executive Director and a further twelve months as Strategic Development Consultant. Stuart has a strong vision about using theatre and particularly forms such as hip-hop, which are accessible to young people living in culturally mixed and economically deprived areas – to create not only the theatre artists of the future, but also a different kind of cultural leadership.
During that time I worked to build partnerships In Luton and Thurrock as the company strategically focused away from its previous base at The University of Hertfordshire. In Luton this involved developing relationships with The Hat Factory, supported by the local Borough Council, and The UK Centre for Carnival Arts, supported by The Arts Council, England.
In Thurrock the arrival 8 years ago of The Royal Opera House and the construction of The High House Production Park provided a regional focus for what was recently dubbed the most miserable place in the country. The National Skills Academy has further strengthened that Purfleet location, but Thurrock also has a robust community arts provision rooted in passionate locals who have quietly been getting on and doing for years. I brought Theatre Is… together with The Port of Tilbury to support the evolution of Tightrope. My main legacy was the consortium I built of Theatre Is…, The Gateway Academy in Tilbury, Royal Opera House, Thurrock Music Services and Southend YMCA to work together with partners in Cambridge, Brighton and Northern France. Under the leadership of The Orchestre de Picardie, they then now worked as A Common Territory (ACT) on a 30 month €2m programme of work with funding from the Interreg Channel EU Fund.
More recently I have been working as part of the Crossing The Line project. In my role as Project Dramaturg, part of my work has been to support the partnership and its growth. Initially comprising Mind The Gap (UK). Moomsteatern (Sweden) and Compagnie de l’Oiseau-Mouche (France) between 2014 and 2017, this partnership is now extending to also include Hijinx (UK), Blue Teapot (Ireland), RCTH (Netherlands) and Theatr 21 (Poland)