Last week, the Big Imaginations network came together for a Meet the Artists day – engaging with artists and companies from the North interested in developing theatre for children and families. It was a jam-packed afternoon, filled with inspiring presentations and passionate discussions, all focused on artist development. With 13 venues and 20 artists in attendance, the room was “positively crackling with creativity!” as Liz O’Neill (Artistic Director and CEO of Z-arts) described it.


Venues were challenged to share what they can offer to artists in 3-minute presentations. Support ranged from residencies and R&D commissions to space and mentoring. Associate artists spoke about their fantastic shows and projects which are being developed and supported by Big Imaginations venues.


“It’s not about moulding artists, it’s about supporting and nurturing” (Chris, Kirkgate Arts)


As well as sharing our experiences, we wanted to hear from artists who haven’t worked with Big Imaginations before- what support do they need? What can venues provide? What can we do? Breaking off into smaller groups, attendees were encouraged to further discuss how Big Imaginations might support artists moving forward.


Learning new skills, residences, help with funding, and developing an artist network were key ideas that came up.


“We want a space to create, play and fail – without the pressure of a shiny product!”


Having the resources to support work in the early stages of development was an important aspect as well, with many highlighting that older artists often don’t have as much access to support as younger artists. Clarity over what can and can’t be offered was another important need that was identified by artists – it’s important to be honest and realistic.


After feeding back from the smaller breakout groups, everyone moved towards the drinks and snacks to continue the discussion in a more relaxed environment, giving attendees a chance to talk to the venues and supported artists.


Meet the Artists was an afternoon full of bold, bright ideas which will influence how we continue to empower artists moving forward, helping to further develop their practice and create work with the support of Big Imaginations. Watch this space for more artist development opportunities coming up in the future!


Check out our Twitter moment below to see what we got up to: