Blog: Summer 2015 – New Writing, New Horizons, New Thinking from Cambridge to Montevideo

The summer is over and a new focus is upon us…A heady mix of theatre, training and teaching.

Following the success of Hotbed, our New Writing Festival in July with excellent new work particularly from Craig Baxter with Pictures of You, a play developed in alliance with Martina Simplicio. This was presented as part of What’s Up Doc? Series where playwrights are paired with Academic Collaborators.

Inspired by the ‘mental imagery’, emotion and the study and treatment of bipolar disorder, Pictures of You presented the intriguing meeting of two friends after many years apart. Full of unexpected lightness, warmth and love, the play explored the challenge of recalling the past and picturing the future…

The partner was Dr Martina Di Simplicio of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge

The best work from HOTBED in Cambridge was then transferred to London’s SOHO theatre where it ran for a week alongside the brilliant play from last year: bloominauschwitz.

Following bloominauschwitz’s award as the best new play at Brighton Festival it is now heading to the National Theatre Festival of Czech Republic in Brno. The play is now fully matured and ready for National Touring next year. We also hope to perform at The Edinburgh Fringe next year … watch this space. See the awards – we are in at 25 minutes:

and here’s the new video trailer of the play- hope you can catch it next year (or in Brno!)

Meanwhile we are focussing back on training too this autumn including developing new programmes for CEDAR and the Judge . At the Judge I have been made a Fellow in The Arts (Creative Engagement)…

Following its awards as Entrepreneurial University of the Year Anglia Ruskin has been going from Strength to strength and in particular the centre ran by Professor Lester Lloyd-Reason at CEDAR .

This unit remains a beacon in Enterprise thinking and projects and I get such a kick being around these guys. There is always a crazy project around the corner.

This week working with CEDAR I have been delivering Creativity and Curiosity workshops to Managers of Incubators from Montevideo in Uruguay!

Working with Peter Taylor from TTP group, we delivered a workshop about how to bring creativity into the workplace

Four great managers from Uruguay included “Good Cop” Paola Rapetti and “The Rule Man” Sergio Delgado.

Here’s twelve great stories of entrepreneurs in Uruguay Great people – great ideas and looking forward to heading to Uruguay to meet them again soon and more colleagues.

So, many projects on the go, will get inside them all in the blog over the next few weeks.

Here’s a reminder of what we do and how we do it;





What lies Underneath?

So a quick catch-up blog which will have to cover December…

At the end of December I had two key events – Creative Team building training in Zilina (Slovakia) and visiting Limerick to see a new piece of theatre …

Zilina was the residential training event supporting Akademia Zilina.

Working with Peter and Suz of NaPerone Theatre Company of Kosice.

The training was for 25 secretaries from a German automotive firm. Most of them worked as PAs and all were female…It was an interesting dynamic!!!

Peter and Suz were the Actors and the task was to work with the secretaries on their communication skills. We did some fun role-plays which mostly seemed to involve the girls abusing Peter (the boss) or instructing Suz (the PA) to abuse him!! Mostly I think they used the opportunity of training to say and do all the things they wish they could in the real world.

It was fun when the girls instructed Suz to give the boss an annual review on his own management style and skills  – it was very funny and very harsh… and who knows maybe some of the fun stuff will seep through to have an impact on how they work in a challenging environment when so much is expected of them?

Our training partners Akademia Zilina provided the translation and support for me and I worked with the actors to bring the whole thing to life in a dynamic way – and they were very good.

Peter and Suz also ran exercises – which included two classic moments. Firstly we went outside  of the hotel onto a terrace (it was a Ski Resort) and did some vocal training which included projecting our voices towards the mountains. After ten minutes of throwing voices we heard a voice come back from the other side of the mountains “Help!” – maybe they were training too???

The other classic moment was also outside when Miro (one of the other trainers) was trying to do a creative thinking exercise – with eyes closed “imagine yourself doing… so and so..” but the whole time we were doing the exercise we had one of the other trainers shouting “Kubo” “Kubo” “Kubo” as her dog ran madly in between 25 bemused (and hung-over secretaries).


Overall less about art and creativity and more about team-building and dog handling but an interesting challenge.

And most importantly I trained up actors to deliver this type of training – this is now an income stream for them as we build up Arts and Business Connections in Slovakia as part of Creative Kosice.

As 2015 evolves I will be training more and more artists to use their skills in Arts and Business cross-over activities which we hope will expand with international projects galore – watch this space!

The end to the Zilina trip was a three hour wait on the train station  to get the train back to Kosice – very cold … but i did feel like i was in a European Art Movie … stuck in a station in the middle of nowhere…



In December I was also in Ireland for the premiere of Underneath by Fishamble Theatre of Dublin.

Limerick is … well… who knows I spent the entire time in bars or in the hotel spa!!

But I am sure the rest of it is very nice!

Pat Kinevane was the actor starring in Underneath a one-man show he has penned about life death and judging (or not…) the book by its cover.

I love Pat as a performer (and writer) having produced his last two solo plays Silent and Forgotten at Hotbed Festival over the past couple of years:

One first viewing I was not totally convinced by Underneath. It appeared to be covering familiar (similar) ground in terms of both subject and particularly style,  as the previous piece Silent.

However I got sucked into it enough to care and to be challenged by the notion of how we see each other –particularly physically. And to be honest it has been a slow burner for me – watching it on opening night is always a little difficult and material needs to settle, but the material has stayed with me – now six weeks later I am still with the heroine as she battles societal ‘norms’.

Pat is a truly mesmerising performer and the material is strong and relevant. My only true criticism is the insertion of jokes which don’t come directly out of or feed into the story. They are unnecessary and really break the rhythm. This aside, Underneath is a modern parable brilliantly told that will challenge the way you view ‘beauty’ .

I hope to grab it for Hotbed – and I know it will be in Edinburgh at the fringe in 2015 – so definitely catch it before it gets its Fringe First!

OK, travels since Limerick include Czech Republic, Germany and Holland – more to follow… let’s see what lies beneath…

Blog: Thinking outside the Box Office (Part Three: Wroclaw)

So onto Wroclaw…

25th October 2014

This is an audience development project for the European Capital of Culture 2016

There are a number of experts on panels and in workshops, all focused on Audience Development.

In the marketing materials I am described as “oraz” Paul Bourne.

Which is essentially “also” Paul Bourne…

Clearly not the key draw here!

The journey on the train from Warsaw is five hours. We have a single carriage – old school European train travel always reminds me of the really great play we did a few years back “Correspondence” by Clare MacDonald – a brilliant journey piece about a couple traveling through Europe and their lives;

A man and a woman board a train together. She pours coffee. He drinks brandy. She smokes for the first time in years. He smiles. Through the night, they exchange memories, stories and secrets. When the sun rises, everything has changed forever…

I have always loved European train travel. As predicted by my colleagues, two hours into the journey the other member of our carriage, an elderly Polish gentleman, opens up his kanapka (sandwich) – foil wrapped – and enjoys his essential food for a Polish train journey.

I make the mistake of asking the tea-lady for a complimentary tea and a biscuit “ JUST ONE item for you”…oops I was hungry…at this stage I am seriously contemplating jumping our fellow passenger for a bite of his kanpka…

We make it to rain sodden Wroclaw – dinner is in the hotel due to, well, … rain sodden Wroclaw. The next day sees us prepare for our sessions.

This time Paul Bogen is doing the opening speech – very different to mine. Paul is very much into organisational strength and clarity of mission to support vibrant and imaginative audience engagement. This is his background and as he covers all the essentials of placing the audience at the heart of what you need to do, I feel that the artist is missing somewhat in the process. However maybe I am swayed too much towards the artist and robust business frameworks are of course essential.

Paul’s big thing is arts organisations not being heavily reliant on funding as this makes organisations vulnerable and potentially lazy. Many of the organisations represented in the audience have 80% funding and so where is the incentive to drive marketing and audience development? Paul’s argument is well founded and of course fundamental to so many questions of funding; who we fund and why we fund them. Certainly arts organisations that are significantly funded need to think about their future business models and this includes how they develop audiences.

Another factor for this particular audience is the challenge of being a Capital of Culture, which can be a poisoned chalice. Being capital of culture has its potential pitfalls – not least that people become saturated with Art and Culture throughout the year, and by April no one wants to go to yet another festival or to see another bloody play.

Paul finishes his speech with a fun YouTube video showing a public engagement project by Carnegie hall – hilarious and interesting in the way it engages audience but also empowers the orchestra (a great team –building project I think).

The rest of the evening is panel discussions about the programming for 2016, the programming approach a successful cinema space and the results of a survey about 2016 and what the people of Wroclaw think of being a capital of culture.

What I learned from the 2016 research was that the people of Poland in general and Wroclaw in particular love festivals, love them to be outside and love them to include food… this information can certainly guide and support specific audience development.

In our workshop (Agata Etmanowitz and me) on segmentation the next day food also plays a part. Agata and I are looking at how we can divide up audiences to target marketing towards them to fit out product or extend or engage with new audiences… There has been lots of research on audience segmentation and research is important but we can also take a research-free gut-feeling towards audiences and see what we can conjure up in terms of Types. I like the grouping of people that are probably, likely and unlikely going to come to events. In all of the groups we come up with for Polish people food, plays a major part.

Key audience development includes the Audience Atlas.

I go back to my assertion that just putting on an event, printing a flyer and face-booking is not enough.

I go through our recent Hotbed Festival at the Junction and how we start thinking about the audience from the moment we start programming through to the next cycle of programming, where we listen to audiences, watch their patterns and gain their confidence.

My Wrap-up session is of course interactive and hopefully memorable as we take away key learning…

Placing people at the heart of programming, marketing and customer experience seems obvious, but we don’t do it enough, but  if we do it right, our audiences will educate us as much as can educate them.

Blog: Thinking Outside the Box Office (Part Two)

Warsaw 23rd October 2014

I am in Warsaw with colleague Paul Bogen, former director of The Junction;

We are delivering Masterclass workshops on Audience Development for Polish Cultural organisations.

We meet up with Agata and Aga from Impact Poland, which makes us Paul, Paul Aga and Agata…

Impact is an audience development agency

Since 2011, Impact promotes the audience development concept in Poland organising conferences, workshops and individually working with art organisations and institutions in Poland. We have published 2 books in Polish about audience development concept and tools including good practices from Polish organisations.

I am first up on day one with a Key Note speech on Audience Development. I have 90 minutes to inspire and engage a room full of Polish artist and Arts Administrators…

My trick of course is to be interactive and I win my bet with Paul Bogen as I was told that I couldn’t make Poles laugh or say/do anything other than complain… I manage to get them to laugh (mostly with me…) and interact and… complaining is kept to a minimum. (although I note now a week later, that the feedback on my session was great including the line… you were a star… of course some people walked out of your session, but this is not a problem…!!!)

Despite the overall success of the session things don’t start well…

I introduce my brilliant and hilarious title to my talk with a fanfare which goes down like the proverbial lead balloon …

” yes folks my talk is called… Thinking Outside The Box Office”.. “

Brilliant!.. total silence…

Oops .. it is only two days later that Agata tells me no one knows what Box Office is… must research more next time

One minor incident (ok.. . accident) during the session as the head of a cultural organisation takes a tumble off a chair whilst balancing on it during one of my demonstrations about Instinct vs. Logic in thinking processes – oops- she instinctively hit the floor!

Well that was memorable – audience development bruises are I feel a fine lesson…

Lecture/Keynote focuses on challenging the audience over the notion that people will come to their event because “Art Matters” – not good enough.

I focus on who are our audiences/ who might be our audiences and who will never be; analysing who and why?

I adapt Aristotle…

If you want to avoid criticism

Say nothing…

Do nothing…

Be nothing…


To a Paul Bourne-ism…

If you want to avoid audiences

Say nothing…

Do nothing…

Be nothing…

And one PB original:

“If no one comes and sees your work… its not a performance… its a

rehearsal… and Life is not a rehearsal”

For me Audience Development is about capturing Hearts and Minds – understanding your product and organising your audience  – with great programming, great marketing and buckets of engagement opportunities – whether through education, access or inspirational activities and opportunities…

But mostly it is about an awareness that programming what you want and then assuming audiences will come to it,  is not enough…

I go through case studies; starting with The Greeks at the festival of Dionysia which saw pretty well the whole of Athens involved in Theatre contests through to:

Open Studios in Cambridge, an artists co-operative which opens up studios and houses to the public to engage with art in the artist’s home turf:

London’s Orchestral Marketing Consortium. Which collaborated effectively on cross – marketing initiatives through interrogating shared box office data, and combining their experience and know-how, learning how to work together effectively with collaborative approaches for growing audiences.

Our Menagerie production of Stand By Your Van (where we added audiences by offering the prize of a real vehicle to audience members) in Florida

And how we sold 100% of our tickets (one Performance member to one actor).

And some interesting thoughts on what audiences want and what audiences don’t know what they want. This is a nice article from Steve Waters in The Guardian about our Hotbed Festival and encouraging audiences to engage with new work:

Through to National Theatre Live as an example of bringing new audiences in (3.5 million new viewers)

And on to my favourite piece of programming where Street Artist Banksy takes over The Bristol Museum – boosting the museum audience by tens of thousands:

Along with Apps for museums, street marketing campaigns and all that lies in between I explore and challenge the notion that it is not enough to simply programme an arts event then put it on…

What do all of these have initiative have in common… thinking outside the Box Office of course!

A day of workshops is followed up by Paul Rex Bourne warm-ups and then a classic Wrap-up and Evaluation where the audience makes promises, give statements, find objects do performances and give feedback…

 After a day and night in Warsaw (including the litre beer specials) we head to Wroclaw for thinking outside the Box Office Part Three…



Moscow 16th June: Coffee with that Tea (chai)?

This morning I start with a cup of tea – stirred with a spoon that had stirred coffee yesterday… I can taste the two not quite mixing.

It is a disturbing off-kilter start to the day.

My friend and colleague Tanya Harrison (Titch) Production Manager at the National Theatre in London could always tell when a spoon or cup had not been 100% washed after being used for coffee. She liked her tea pure! “ I can taste the bloody coffee!”

She worked with me on our national tour of Egusi Soup

She came on as an Assistant Stage Manager, but ended up being defacto Production Manager. The Production Manager we had employed was a nice guy but had some disorganised thinking and one thing you cannot be is disorganised in production management – time is money and disorganised is a waste of both. Tanya is in her mid –twenties but looks about 15 (!) she is tiny ,.. in fact she is known by everyone as Titch.

To say she was a powerhouse would be an understatement.. never judge a book by its cover etc.. Tanya was a master carpenter, strategic thinker, list-a-holic who after ten minutes would have any hardened crew of techies running around doing anything for her. She was without doubt the best Production Stage Manager I have ever met. Reason… she was talented – really good with tools, worked to plans, worked to timetables and lists and never let them get out of hand and most importantly she was a plain talking people-person who saw solutions not problems…and infected this feeling in everyone. If you worked with Tanya you had a job to do and you better do it and do it well or else … no tea for you!

Today I was supposed to be going to see a dance rehearsal for one of the choreographers on the Meyerhold course but it has been cancelled so I have a chance to plan and plot other projects…

I am seriously interested in us bringing our play bloominauschwitz to Moscow. Bloom is a new play by Richard Fredman which we developed for Hotbed last year and are working on again in advance of touring next year. It is a one man show featuring my colleague Patrick Morris. It tells the story of Leopold Bloom

Ripped from the pages of Joyce’s Ulysses to project forward in history. It is a brilliant play and performance, which we are hoping to tour nationally and internationally…

Performances on 12th July 2014 in Cambridge

here’s a snapshot video of the production as a work in progress:

So I explore some possibilities. For Moscow for 2015 production of bloom.

I have to make it happen. It is important that I use my new contacts and networks to get our work seen here. I think between The Meyerhold and Moscow Arts Theatre School we can get this done. However the space I would love to get the show is the brilliant Gogol Centre –

This a really inspiring space that broke the old Reparatory Theatre model to produce work that is fresh and dynamic.

The Gogol Center hosts four resident companies — Serebrennikov’s Seventh Studio, the Dialogue Dance Company, originally from Kostroma; Vladimir Pankov’s SounDrama ensemble; and the so-called Gogol Maly, or Little, Drama Theater, comprising actors from the old Gogol Theatre troupe.


The theatre scene in Russia is changing and this type of space is doing great things. However there are also some disturbing developments with new rules coming into place which are essentially censorship including banning certain words, sex acts etc. More on this when I have more information.

The Theatre leaders at Meyerhold were telling me how challenging this was going to be and how depressing…

Back in the USSR..?

Chai anyone?

Photo on 6-15-14 at 8