Behind the Scenes: Zara – the new production from Mind the Gap. Blog 2 – Lisa Mallaghan.

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In the second of three blogs looking behind the scenes at Mind the Gap‘s latest production Zara, their Senior Producer Lisa Mallaghan explores their partnership with Walk the Plank and follows the process from the initial idea to the production going on sale.

Behind the Scenes: Zara by Mind the Gap. Blog 2 by Lisa Mallaghan.

In our last blog, Julia Skelton – Executive Director of Mind the Gap – talked about the company, and where the idea for ZARA came from.

In this blog, I’m going to tell you a bit about what happened next.

So, where were we? ZARA Director Joyce Nga Yu Lee came into the office and said:

‘I’ve had an idea – I want to make a giant baby!’

and it fell to me, as Senior Producer, and the team to work out how to make it a reality – no small challenge!

First step

I managed to bag us a coveted slot to pitch ‘Daughters of Fortune 3: Big Baby [working title]’ at the 2015 ISAN (now known as Outdoor Arts UK) Ideas Summit; it was a three-minute opportunity to pitch the project to an audience of industry people who could make our project happen – we had to get it right.

Joyce Nga Yu Lee, Mind the Gap Actress Anna Marie Heslop and I painted our vision for what has since become ZARA: a mixture of Godzilla, the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, and the film District 9.

It worked!

In the following 30 minutes, we had our Co-Producers (Walk the Plank), and our London Location Partner (Southwark Council), on board, and in the ‘Marketplace’ afterwards we added Emergency Exit Arts to our team – we were off.

Next step

Fundraising. – a detailed, strategic and complex budget and fundraising strategy was led by the brilliant Julia Skelton, who has taken Mind the Gap from strength to strength over the years, and our Business Development Officer (and bid writer extraordinaire) Jess Boyes.

Daughters of Fortune ‘phase 3’ not only includes ZARA, but also an updated forum theatre tour ‘ANNA’, a new series of interviews and published research, exhibitions, digital outputs, legacy events and more – a target budget of £850,000 was needed. Over two years a series of successful bids to Arts Council England’s Ambitions For Excellence, Wellcome Trust, The Rayne Foundation, Calderdale Community Foundation and others got us most of the way there and in July 2018 we were green lit.

Of course, between October 2015 and the funding being put in place in July 2018, the majority of the partnership, project development and planning had to get underway. It’s always a nerve-wracking period – knowing you are asking your partners to invest significant time and resources, and to keep large chunks of their company diaries clear, in the faith that the funding will come through. There were a number of bumps along the way, with unexpected ‘clauses’ set by funders, and some unsuccessful smaller bids. But we got there.

Whilst writing this I looked back to remind myself how the relationship between us at Mind the Gap – England’s leading learning disability theatre company – and world renowned outdoor arts specialists, Walk the Plank had started.

It was like this:

‘I’m thinking that a few days of exploration between Walk the Plank and our artists, to see what is possible and try out some ideas might be fun and could help us work out any future potential.’

That starting point of inviting play and collaboration, being gradual and careful, has infiltrated the collaboration between our companies.

We took time to understand each other, how our companies work, our priorities and our strengths. Walk the Plank brought their exceptional skill and experience in outdoor arts, and Mind the Gap brought 30 years of experience in staging world-leading work by learning-disabled performers. From the outset, our challenge was to bring these two forms together; we knew wanted to make an outdoor spectacle that would tell a meaningful story and both move and wow the audience; we wanted the talents and stories of learning disabled people to be centre-stage – not just as performers, but also as facilitators, researchers, directors and producers.

Mind the Gap has trained Walk the Plank in working more accessibly, Walk the Plank has trained Mind the Gap how to upscale our outdoor work – including teaching one of our performers to fly!

This has been a truly equal and collaborative process that has already hugely benefitted both companies.

Final step: pulling it off!

You can be the judge…

ZARA is at:

The Piece Hall, Halifax on Friday 19 & Saturday 20 April

Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park (home to Imperial War Museum), Southwark on Friday 10 & Saturday 11 May

Find out more, get involved and book tickets.

Listen to Mind the Gap on BBC Radio 4 Front Row.

 

OF/BY/FOR ALL: Nina Simon. Blog – launching the movement

Nina Simon
© Nina Simon

The AMA is backing the OF/BY/FOR ALL change network and following its progress through a series of Blogs by Nina Simon.

Find out more and join the movement including how well your organisation embodies OF/BY/FOR ALL outcomes and practices and how your work can grow.

Launching the First Wave of the OF/BY/For ALL Change network

How do you build a movement for institutional change?

That’s the question we’ve been grappling with as we start the OF/BY/FOR ALL initiative. Our goal is to help civic and cultural institutions become more representative OF, co-created BY, and welcoming FOR their diverse communities. We’ve see this model succeed at the MAH and at other community-centered organizations around the world. We want to share the methods and tools that make it work. Not as a prescriptive recipe, but as a pattern. We see OF/BY/FOR ALL as an adaptable playbook for community change.

The challenge is to figure out the best way to share that playbook. Last year, we tested out different formats. We explored opening a training center. Publishing toolkits. Consulting. Building a leadership development program. We even thought about franchising.

The model we landed on was movement building. We plan to fuel a distributed Change Network of organizations growing OF/BY/FOR ALL together. We’ll offer an online program for change, support a global community of practice, and keep expanding the program based on community input.

We want to make the “how” of community involvement clear and achievable. Change Network organizations will make specific pledges to become of, by, and for new communities. We’ll provide tools to help organizations meet their goals step by step. As the network grows, more of the tools and knowledge base will come from participating institutions, with our staff focusing on community organizing and connections.

Our near-term goal is to enroll at least 200 organizations by the end of 2020, collectively pledging to involve one million new people in their work. Eventually, we may build a certification program, like LEED for green buildings, or B Corps for social enterprise. But we’re starting with a campaign to involve one million people – and to build a community of organizations helping each other make it happen.

We’re excited about this movement-building model for three reasons:

It taps diverse sources of expertise. The MAH is not the authority on all things OF/BY/FOR ALL. By building a change network, we will empower diverse organizations to share methods and expertise with each other.

It scales. We want to go big with this movement. We plan to involve hundreds of organizations in the next three years – and thousands in the years to come. We realized that models that rely heavily on in-person training or consulting wouldn’t scale to the extent of our dreams.

It emphasizes action. Talk is good. Change is better. Change Network organizations will make specific commitments to become of, by, and for more diverse people. The program we’re building will help accelerate their progress. But it starts with organizations demonstrating eagerness and pledging to take action.

The Change Network program launches next week in prototype form with a First Wave of twenty organizations (full list at the end of this post). We selected a First Wave that reflects diversity of geography, size, and sector, so we can see who this works best for and why. The First Wave includes 6 museums, 5 performing arts organizations, 3 public libraries, 3 parks, and 3 community centers. Half are led by people of color or indigenous people. We represent six countries and ten time zones. For this prototype, 19 of 20 are in English-speaking countries, to provide as much clarity as possible as we get feedback from participants. In the future, we look forward to taking what we learn from this First Wave to build a strong Change Network with organizations all over the world.

I can’t wait to learn with and from these amazing First Wave organizations. Some are leaders in the field of community participation. Others are just getting started. All are ready and eager to grow of, by, and for their communities.

OF/BY/FOR ALL is one of many projects in a growing ecosystem of efforts to propel more inclusive institutions. Some people are writing toolkits. Some are giving workshops. Some are developing training programs. Some are leading academic studies. Some are funding projects. If we are going to build a more inclusive world, we don’t need just one or two projects. We need an ecosystem of activists, academics, funders, professionals, policymakers, and associations striving together towards common goals.

With OF/BY/FOR ALL, we’re playing a role in this ecosystem as an accelerant for organizational change. I respect my colleagues who are writing, advocating, funding, and researching the nuances of community work. Heck, I’ve spent lots of time participating in those ways myself. But today, I’m motivated to focus my resources and energy on a program to help organizations commit to action and make it happen. That’s what OF/BY/FOR ALL is all about.

As we learn more from the First Wave and build the Change Network, we’ll write about it on the OF/BY/FOR ALL website. So if you want to join us in sharing stories and opportunities to become of, by, and for your community, please consider joining that email list today.

Here is the brave, beautiful, and wide-ranging First Wave:

Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz, CA, USA (host site)

National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM, USA

Techniquest in Cardiff, Wales, UK (science center)

HistoryMiami Museum in Miami, FL, USA

Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center in Niagara Falls, NY, USA

Immigration Museum in Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Te Manawa in Palmerston North, Aotearoa, NZ (museum)

Stedelijk Museum Schiedam in Schiedam, Netherlands

Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI, USA

Oakland Symphony in Oakland, CA, USA

Marfa Public Radio in Marfa, TX, USA

Laundromat Project in New York, NY, USA

ARTZ Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA, USA

Oakland Public Library in Oakland, CA, USA

St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend, IN, USA

Dakota County Library in Eagan, MN, USA

Los Angeles River State Park Partners in Los Angeles, CA, USA

Divis and Black Mountain in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Movement BE in San Diego, CA, USA (youth empowerment)

Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition in Minneapolis, MN, USA

Genesis Centre in Calgary, AB, Canada (community wellness)

I can’t wait to learn and build the Change Network with this First Wave in the months to come.

Nina Simon

First published on the MuseumTwo Blogspot

OF/BY/FOR ALL is a new worldwide initiative brought to you by Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

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