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Looking back at this year’s deciBel showcase

  • Date: 25 October 2011
  • Area: National, South East
Letting Go, Pursued by a Bear, 2011

Letting Go, Pursued by a Bear, 2011. Credit: Photographer: Alessandro Evangelista

Last month, six South East artists and companies participated in an international industry showcase of England’s best diverse performing art in Manchester.

The Arts Council’s fifth annual deciBel Performing Arts Showcase took place between 13 to 16 September 2011, spread across seven venues. Delegates from all over the world - promoters, producers, programmers, artistic directors and venue managers – came to see new and developing work from 50 artists and companies, to book acts and to build relationships.

The Arts Council also launched its new approach to diversity and equality in the arts.

‘deciBel is a one stop shop to inspire and introduce the arts industry to emerging artists who come from a diverse background,’ explains Paul Bonham, Diversity in Arts Relationship Manager for the South East. ‘It aims to spark relationships and highlight artists who are sometimes overlooked or marginalised.’

Paul was excited by what he saw this year.

‘The event took an inspiring snap shot of what a range of artists from a diverse background can achieve,’ he says. ‘deciBel was a fantastic chance to delve headfirst into an incredible breath of emerging performance artists based in England.

'In the showcase there was everything from hard hitting theatre exploring one boxers struggle with his sexuality to celebratory fusion of Indian and East African music.’

Abi Reeve, General Manager of Surrey-based integrated dance company StopGAP attended this year’s showcase. The Arts Council England regularly funded organisation presented their tour-ready dance piece Within.

Abi says, ‘The feedback was generally good and the audiences seemed to enjoy the work. The presentation has generated interest in our spring tour, and we are hoping to generate international bookings from the contacts made.’

She adds, ‘The whole event seemed well organised, and there was a real buzz about the place. The main hub was a great meeting space as was the Royal Northern College of Music where people gathered and exchanged ideas on their companies and the work they had seen. The new delegate meetings were a great way of everyone meeting and networking.’

Grant Watson, Associate Director for Film for theatre company, Pursued by a Bear Productions in Farnham, pitched a new work Kabaddi-Kabaddi-Kabaddi.

He says, ‘deciBel was a very well organised, very buzzy experience. There was a lot of expectation and excitement in the room. It felt like a real event. After pitching our piece, we opened up a number of lines of dialogue with various organisations. We have even started to consider going up a scale. The training in pitching was also excellent. I learnt a lot of about branding and company identity.

‘What I’d recommend to anyone who intends to go is watch the pitches and showcases. Talk to other companies - it's not just about selling a show, it's about making connections.’ 

Pursued by a Bear Productions are now showing their current production Kalashnikov: in the Woods by the Lake, which has just opened in London at Theatre 503. 
Southampton-based vocal artist and performer Yvon Bonenfant pitched his audiovisual work for children, Ululalia: The Voice Play Project.

Yvon says, ‘deciBel had an exciting, interesting, and great mix of people. After pitching Ululalia,I had four people give me cards and ask me to keep them abreast of developments and to invite them to the showing. The power of pitching was something I really took away from the experience. What I’d say to anyone going to a showcase like this is to do the training. Take it seriously. The training was fantastic.’

Yvon is now on tour with his vocal multi-media art work Beacon, supported with a £17,682 Grants for the arts award.

British Moroccan singer Noraay, from Worthing, attended deciBel for the first time. She staged a live production of her debut album, From The Darkness to Light with a full band.

‘The feedback after the performance was positive’ she says. ‘We have not had any bookings yet, but I am planning to keep in touch with a few of the delegates I spoke to. One thing I learned from going to the showcase was how far in advance venues and promoters book their acts.
‘What I would recommend to anyone going to an industry showcase for the first time is to be clear on what you want to achieve out of the experience, identify and get in touch with those people who you think might be interested in your work and follow it up with them afterwards.’

Sarah Pickthall, Lewes artist and community producer, pitched a small-scale mixed-media performance called Loyal Enemy alongside collaborator Hassan Mahamdallie.

She says, ‘Pitching at deciBel was an extraordinary opportunity to share ideas at such an early stage in the development of Loyal Enemy. Not only did it give me the opportunity to meet a plethora of organisations and individuals to talk about the project, but I also felt very connected and part of something bigger than myself. 

‘The next steps are to work towards a scratch performance that we hope to rehearse and showcase this year.

Sarah adds: ‘In the light of the Creative Case for diversity that kick started the deciBel week, it felt a particularly relevant context in which to present the possibilities for my project as an artist with a hidden history and a hidden disability returning to production and performance after a long period of time.’