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tess r&d
recruitment, engagement & developmentstrategy 2024-25

1. tess r&d

To recruit & mentor 6 Coventry-based young artists (18-22) from low socioeconomic backgrounds & who are looking to start a career in the theatre industry, through co-creating an adaptation of ‘Tess’. 

 

WAC have previous experience of recruiting young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds e.g. for their Youth Leadership Collective, which involved referrals from local partner organisations. We will be working with the Creative Learning Manager (Lynsey Cullen) to recruit applications for the Tess project, who has experience of recruiting young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds e.g. referrals from partner orgs for their Youth Leadership Collective

Open calls will also be encouraged applications from areas of Coventry with low/improving arts engagement as identified by evaluations from Coventry’s recent City of Culture as well as those identified as having a high index of multiple deprivation. 

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1. A 1 Month Open call out

  • This will be a coordinated approach, initiated by BO & supported by WAC, The Belgrade & Open Door to advertise the opportunity through their own networks (open calls & referrals) that will target the young people we are looking for (low socioeconomic, limited arts exposure due to life barriers).

  • BO will offer free taster-introductory sessions w/ orgs WAC work with to get referrals, following a similar model trialled in BO's successful pan-Yorkshire 'Arthur' R&D project

  • Clearly offer what the program entails as part of the recruitment materials (commitment expectations as well as support provided to attend the workshops) and keep an open dialogue with potential applicants for any questions/queries.

  • Clear instructions about how to go about applying to be a part of the Tess cohort once a referral is made. The application process will be accessible in terms of formats we accept (video/audio/written etc).

 

2. 24 Applications in

  • We will spend a week looking over applications and shortlisting applications as a team of 4 plus 1-2 external members (from WAC & Open Door).

  • We will especially try and audition applicants who are from or based in areas of Coventry with a high index of multiple deprivation to ref Tess’ character’s background: https://bit.ly/4erfDuX

 

3. 18 Applicants selected for remote/in-person auditions

  • We will spend 2-3 full days interviewing candidates (remotely or in person), with flexibility around candidates' needs and availability.

  • We will spend a week looking over interviewees again and shortlisting applications as a team of 4 plus 1-2 external freelancers (from WAC & Open Door) or freelancers.

 

4. 6 Tess Cohort selected

  • Although we include our partners and previous artists to select the interviewees, Barrel Organ chooses the final artists.

  • Our goal is always to consider who would benefit the most from the programme and see how best Barrel Organ can support them during, outside and beyond the project (access support & mentoring).

  • We are also ambitious to make something new and relevant, and experiment with this new way of making theatre, and so given our experience of working in rehearsal rooms and making theatre, our auditions helps draw out those who will thrive and learn from our process. We do not rush our selection process and so, if we are delayed in making decisions, we let applicants know with updates, and continue our discussions until we are in agreement as a team.

 

5. Remaining applicants are responded to within 2 weeks

  • We will collect notes along the recruitment process and finalise constructive feedback as a team prior to responding to unsuccessful applicants.

2. LIVE

To recruit & mentor a further 5 underrepresented artists/ companies through LIVE (a ‘new works’ showcase) & share their own original work at WAC.

We regularly and successfully use social media to recruit artists & companies (e.g. for our Youth advisory Panel & the annual BO&Co mentorship program), and given their established networks and audiences we are also able to lean on the kind support of venues and service providers we collaborate with to help with the recruitment of suitable artists. 

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1. A 1 Month Open call out

  • This will be a coordinated approach, initiated by BO & delivered by WAC & The Belgrade to advertise the opportunity through their own networks, through other local networks & using a targeted social media campaign to reach underrepresented groups.

  • Clear offer of what it entails (commitment expectations as well as support provided e.g. roundtables, mentor support, rehearsals and the final performance)

  • Barrel Organ has put on 20 nationwide LIVE events and so we have an excellent network of artists and venues who can signify to Coventry artists how worthwhile to their further development it would be to apply to be one of the 5 artists/companies on the line up. To reach LIVE artists, BO & WAC will create specific call-out based on these previous LIVE's. 

  • The application process will be accessible in terms of formats we accept (video/audio/written etc). 

  • We will include a digital slot for those who are interested in creating something remotely for Coventry audiences, online and/or through an alternative digital process (e.g. projection) in line with mentors we have in place (Imitating the Dog).

 

2. 25 Applications in

  • We will spend a week looking over applications and shortlisting applications as a team of 4 plus 1-2 external members (from WAC & previous Live artists).

 

3. 5 LIVE Cohort selected

  • Although we include our partners and previous artists to select the interviewees, Barrel Organ chooses the final artists. 

  • Our goal is always to consider who would benefit the most from the program and see how best Barrel Organ can support them during, outside and beyond the project (access support & mentoring). We are also ambitious for them to make something new and exciting for audiences, and so given our experience of working in rehearsal rooms and making theatre, our interview process helps draw out those who will thrive and learn from LIVE. 

  • We do not rush our selection process and so, if we are delayed in making decisions, we let applicants know with updates, and continue our discussions until we are in agreement as a team.

4. Remaining applicants are responded to within 2 weeks

  • We will collect notes along the recruitment process and finalise constructive feedback as a team prior to responding to unsuccessful applicants.

3. audiences

To introduce Coventry’s public and young audiences to Barrel Organ prior to Tess & Live showcase.

In January 2024 we undertook a social media consultation with our Youth Advisory Panel and in April 2024 we undertook a Social Media review with a Workplace Insights intern from Sheffield University. Building on previous social media campaigns, we now regularly notify our audiences  of what Barrel Organ does e.g. events taking place (National Student Drama Festival & Campfire book launch) and fundraising (Big Give’s Kind2Mind campaign). As a result of this we have increased our followers on instagram and on twitter, and have managed to raise an awareness of the work we do. 

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Marketing & Comms prior to performances

  • Barrel Organ has put on many LIVE events and so we have a good network of artists and connections to other venues who can signify to Coventry artists & audiences how interesting and fun it would be to attend a showcase and provide feedback to works in progress and be part of the performer's journey. 

  • BO will work closely w/ WAC's Marketing Dept to nurture & market to audiences for Tess R&D & emphasise the celebration of WAC's 50th & BO's 10th Anniversaries. Clear comms about the Tess WIP sharing, and what the new work showcase (LIVE) will include and who is involved. 

  • Invites to programmers and other potential future touring patterns will go out ahead of time to attend the  Tess WIP sharing. 

  • Clear comms about the ability to attend LIVE remotely via livestream, for those who cannot attend in person.

  • Weekly social media updates about upcoming events and updates about the Tess cohort and adaptation process, and Live artists. 

  • Theatre & Performance Students at UoW will have taken part in professional masterclasses w/ alumni professionals, and will be able to communicate the sharings to them along the way via email, whatsapp and in-person. 

  • LIVE will be an opportunity to signpost to the upcoming Tess WIP sharing.

 

To support audiences access good quality performance and theatre work through PWYD ticket offers. 

Marketing & Comms at performance and post-performance

  • Clear comms that these are PWYD to reduce the financial barrier to attend. 

  • We will include a BSL interpreter and support LIVE artists by incorporating BSL into their performances (with a roundtable focused on access). BSL will be clearly communicated in the marketing of the sharings. 

  • We will also notify audiences that the showcase can be attended in-person or remotely online if they are unable to come in person, even for those who are local. 

  • Audience feedback is an essential element of Tess and LIVE, and so their engagement will continue post-performance as a form of reflection and interaction. 

  • Audience involvement will be celebrated & thanked on social media and by artists

4. DEVELOPING ARTISTS DURING TESS & LIVE

To develop the creative and professional skills of young artists across 6 week-long blocks with individual mentoring & professional development, supporting them towards their first professional performance credit

  • Delivered & mentoring by collaborative theatre makers at Barrel Organ: Rosie Gray (Co-Artistic Director) and Ali Pidsley (Co-Artistic Director) at WAC, with talent development activity and career support from Dan Hutton (Associate Director) and Jameela Khan (Company Producer), with an additional masterclass per block that is bespoke and responsive to the interests of the cohort.

  • Writing will be undertaken by writer Rosie Gray with notes from the young artists, and workshopped/updated with the cohort during the blocks with RG & AP. This allows the group to focus on performance and collaborative theatre making in-person, without the pressure to write and create a rehearsal draft. 

  • The blocks will culminate in a sharing in WAC, with a WiP performance in November 2024 & April 2025.  

  • The inherent creation of a new show as a new company - an adaptation of Tess - will signify the cohort’s performances skills, collaborative making skills and creative potential to industry professionals and the public, in-person and through our communications to a wider public. 

  • Barrel Organ aims to give the cohort an excellent first credit to move into the industry with confidence.

  • This new model will also allow the cohort to imagine and be a part of an innovative way of working that supports their creativity and celebrates collaboration without it feeling tokenistic. 

  • Theatre & Performance Students at UoW will also take part in 3 professional masterclasses w/ alumni professionals and given an insight into our practices and real-world theatre making from the perspective of a collaborative, touring theatre company.

To develop underrepresented artists from Coventry as part of a platform showcasing new work. 

  • LIVE includes 3 roundtables focused on access design (with Kate Lovell), environmental sustainability (BO), and technology (With Tom Robbins); mentoring support from BO and additional mentors sought depending on needs and interests of the artists selected, for example, Imitating the Dog has already indicated their ability to mentor the digital artist. In the past we have had Chris Thorpe, Rash Dash, Forced Entertainment, Frazer Flintham & Neeta Music as mentors, who are friends of BO and who are compensated for their time (£50/hr, for 3hrs).

  • BO will liaise with WAC for rehearsal space for artists to rehearse prior to a LIVE showcase in April, and tech support will be provided by long-term Barrel Organ collaborator, technical stage manager Tom Robbins. 

  • The artist will have the opportunity to showcase & test 20 mins of new material in front of a live audience. 

  • Feedback is a big part of LIVE which allows audiences to support artists develop their work and encourages continued support in terms of keeping up with progress of shows and artists. 

  • Artists are given a 1-2-1 debrief to reflect post-LIVE and for BO to offer guidance about next steps (i.e. leveraging work & performance taken) and improve the LIVE format. Similar to the Tess cohort, mentorship and guidance will not only exist during LIVE, but also beyond the showcase and as part of our work at Barrel Organ to support under-represented groups and connect them with partner venues. 

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