We asked a few people to share their experiences of our most recent Think In. Have a read of what Mindy Goose made of it …
This year, Love Arts is taking a break to evaluate what works and what doesn’t work, and to open up the forum to Arts and Minds members to discuss what’s next!
Having attended the first Think In back in January, where we behaved like bees and gathered information about the previous festivals and what we think could happen next, for me, it felt like too many ideas and too many diversions away from what the Festival had been about – whether that is a good or bad idea, I guess is open to more debate.
And so onto Think In number two. The format for this information building session, appeared much more structured and accessible for me. Structure does not mean that we cannot dream big or allow for organic construction, it means that we can make sense of those ideas and build them into the future design of the festival. As such the tables were split into four – with hats to match: Dreamers, Thinkers, Builders, and Creators.
What should the future be? The Dreamers had free reign to dream big, the blue sky projects and ideas that don’t worry about money and practicalities. The Builders looked at logistics and how we can take those wonderful dreams and make them a reality. The Creators sat creating, the ones who fill the walls and rooms with their artistry. I sat on the Thinkers table.
It’s what I do, think a lot. Tom, from Arts and Minds, facilitating the group, provided us with a whole bunch of awkward questions we need to think about, teasing out the problems, and attempting to find solutions.
The first topic we took hold of, was the use of social media, our online presence. The Arts and Minds team is small, and social media is a huge undertaking, we proposed a dedicated team that could manage the publicity, perhaps looking at marketing students from the Universities and offering them a live brief to take the task on. We also volleyed the idea around about funding and corporate sponsorship. There were strong ideas about having events in the lead up, Love Arts on Tour to reach out to communities further afield than central Leeds, live streaming of performances for those who cannot make them.
We talked about curation. We felt that the way the festival is currently set up, as an open call with a theme to anchor the work, that individuals can apply to and curate themselves, worked better than inviting formality in, in the form of a curator – it could lose the individuals who may feel intimidated by the mainstream art scene. We suggested that support could be on offer to those who needed help applying or needed help curating their own exhibitions.
Do we allow artists from further afield than Leeds? My argument is that Leeds has a population of well over 750,000, there is plenty of untapped talent out there we haven’t even discovered yet, whilst we may not refuse an artist applying from outside Leeds, we wouldn’t make any announcement of it. We did decide that if there was a pot of money for a commission or for funding an artist, then it would be for a Leeds resident only.
The connection to mental health. How do we talk about it? How do we focus on it? Whilst removing the stigma is important, there is also a need to talk about symptoms and emotions at a more human level – not everyone with symptoms views themselves as having a mental illness. Perhaps, “Do you feel…. Anxious/worried/stressed?” Language is important here, and there is more work to be done with the direction we set Love Arts on.
Accessibility. My word of the moment! As the festival was built on mental health and wellbeing, are we doing enough to encourage and welcome everyone in? It needs to be accessible to take part in, not a closed shop, and not something that feels old establishment and formal. We suggested private views that are ‘autism friendly’, quieter, less crowded, thinking about the environment and it’s suitability. As mentioned earlier, live streaming of performances, and better online interaction for those who are isolated for whatever reason. There is much more to be investigated with regards to accessibility, with a mental wellbeing focus at its heart.
Love Arts Festival audience reach. Are the same people coming every year? Is that a bad thing? We can encourage repeat attendance, because the festival must being something good if people keep coming back. However, we would like to see new faces too. How do we get out further afield? Do we do something educational? Something attention grabbing, in a busy place? Actually going out to the communities across Leeds? ‘Love Arts on Tour’!!
Although some of what we discussed threw up even more questions, we are beginning to drill down what it is we are hoping to achieve in future years of the festival. And I am excited to see what happens next, as the discussion grows.
By Mindy Goose