Lee Griffiths and Ian Abbott are the founders of Producing Heads, an initiative aiming to build skills and connections between those producing Hip Hop dance theatre. In November 2019 at The Barbican, the network was supported by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy funding to run a day of fundraising seminars and round table discussions.
Most Hip Hop dance theatre producers are young in experience, often lacking in confidence and clarity, and overwhelmed by the lack of access to insight and resources that are available to them. We have Hip Hop dance theatre makers flourishing nationally and the provision to develop the next generation of choreographers is evident, but we are stunted as an artform by the lack of producers who are able to help strategise and build on the momentum of dancers and choreographers.
There is an exciting next generation of stakeholders and innovators within our artform. For this generation to thrive, we need to nurture this cohort and provide training in basic skills, such as how to use excel; negotiation skills; peer observation and self-evaluation.
As a producer collective, we need to not only upskill and support producers and self-producing artists, but also to create an inclusive portal that provides access to information, mentoring and peer support.
This lack of skills, resources and connections motivated this event, delivered in partnership with Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy, which has since started the process of building resources and upskilling our network.
The day offered transparency from leading Hip Hop producers, giving an insight into the mystery behind the ‘successful’ companies. Of course, for these companies the challenges differ in scale and depth but are the same in terms of socio-political and cultural positioning.
There is an additional need within our network for awareness of challenges and solutions to be shared and for intra-network dialogue to begin, in order to make way for a more coherent community, a more equipped generation of producers and ultimately a more resilient art form in the future. Because of this, we also knew it was important to have geographical representation in the room. A London-centric discussion would not include the full breadth of challenges in our sector – something I knew as an independent producer living in Wales!
The Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy support meant that we were able to offer travel and dependency bursaries for those wanting to attend the sessions. Advertising this alongside the event meant that people could come to the session who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attend.
“The dependency bursary is fantastic - it should be the norm for us on arts jobs/courses… but I have NEVER had that offered...appreciated!!”
Because of this offer, 40% of people in the room were from outside London. As the Hip Hop Theatre scene is still growing across the UK, strengthening a network through which we can find peers, spend time with them and problem solve together across fundraising and partnership working, is incredibly valuable for us as facilitators and for the community at large.
We hope that practitioners working in other cultural forms will learn from the success of offering travel and dependency bursaries, and recognise the additional value that supporting geographical representation will add to any work you are doing. In times of stretched resources, it can seem like an easy aspect to cut, but ensuring that experiences from across the county are given a seat at the table will make each of our sectors more resilient in the long run.
In the room during our event, there was a clear desire for knowledge, a hunger for growth and a willingness to learn about alternate funding arrangements and partnership working within different cultural contexts. Leaving the event, it is clear what the needs are within the Hip Hop theatre producing community, and clear how we should follow up and develop the network in the future.
“I learned how important it is to understand who you are talking to and to balance the language accordingly – some funders are more interested in the mission and some of them are more interested to find out what partners and support you already have (‘name dropping’). What are my ‘must-says’?”