Case Study – Bedtime Stories – supported by Appetite’s Kitchen Programme
Interviewed by Sarah Nadin (Creative Evaluator for Staffordshire University)
For this case study I interviewed two Upswing Directors, Artistic Director Vicki Amedume and Executive Director, Camille Bensoussan.
“Upswing is a London based contemporary circus company who create cross-artform productions. Founded by Director, Vicki Amedume in 2006 it has grown from a self-funded enterprise to become a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) from April 2012 and a registered Charity in October 2012. The company develop work through a process of participatory research periods and experimentation with future audiences”
In 2014 ‘Bedtime Stories’ was supported by Appetite’s ‘The Kitchen’ programme. Having never previously produced a family show they required support to research, develop and test out ideas with their target audience. In 2015 Upswing facilitated a series of family based participatory workshops, over 3 weekends, at The Mitchell Arts Centre. The outcomes from these sessions informed the direction and development of Bedtime Stories.
Vicki Amedume & Camille Bensoussan’s story –
Upswing had heard about The Kitchen Programme via the New Vic Theatre – a partner organisation they had worked with previously. When Upswing applied to the fund, Bedtime Stories was a developing idea that Vicki states, “had some vague creative ideas but no content”. However they knew that participatory involvement was necessary in informing the development and shape the performance.
“We found that The Kitchen was about engaging people and involving them in the creative process. This was a natural fit for the project. Upswing don’t have a building or the contacts so for us, Appetite were essential in connecting us with people and spaces” – Vicki.
“Appetite was the first support we received – it sparked things off and kickstarted the project. Bedtime Stories may not have happened if we hadn’t had the fund”. – Camille
Following the workshops Upswing held a sharing event at The Mitchell Arts Centre which was attended by the participants, members of Appetite and representatives from Creative Black Country (CBC). CBC later became a co-commissioner of the show, quickly followed by further support from other organisations and funders.
“The Kitchen gave us time and space to set clear targets and objectives. It allowed us to develop our ideas into something that we could clearly articulate to other funders. We have gained support from Creative Black Country and created strong links with a venue in Walsall – this is becoming a long term partnership.” – Camille
During our conversations both Vicki and Camille talk about ‘risk’ and ‘trust’ in relation to Appetite and The Kitchen fund.
“Having the support to try something new, to take the risk is really important . The great thing about Appetite is that was about exploration and not product driven.” – Vicki
“We felt trusted from the very beginning” – Camille
They both attribute this trust and risk taking as contributing factors in producing a successful and credible performance. As Bedtime Stories was their first family production, this ‘freedom’ gave them the time and space to respond to the research and create a show that was authentic and appealing to its target audience.
“The show has been hugely well received. We set out to create a show that would appeal to parents and children. From the feedback we’ve received, this has proven to be the case. It was wonderful to work with families, they got a insight into the journey of creating new work. We felt it was important to show them that we didn’t know what was going to happen – this gave them a real taste of what it is like to create a new performance, to explore and develop new ideas in an unpatronising environment.” – Vicki
“There was a real sense of ownership from the participants.
We couldn’t have produced the work without them.” – Camille
From the conversations with Camille and Vicki it was clear that Upswing had developed a strong connection with the families during the workshops. When mentioned, they both talk about ‘ownership’, ‘collaborative working’ and ‘immersive experience’ when discussing the participatory process.
“The kitchen gave us the financial support to leave London and come to Stoke. This immersive experience allowed us to better connect with who we wanted to work with and get us out of the London mentality. There is a sense of trust and honesty with the people who we work with, you don’t get that in London.” – Vicki
“We have a responsibility to the participants to show them what we have produced.We wanted to bring them to Stratford Circus in London to see the opening in May, but it didn’t happen. I didn’t feel right not to have the participants there. – Camille
Upswing are currently developing a strategic touring and engagement plan and are wishing to reconnect with the participants and invite them to see Bedtime Stories. It’s evident that Upswing have made a strong links with Stoke-on-Trent, Appetite and the participants, and as such wish to return in the near future.
“We want to make more work in Stoke, we would like to build upon the steps we have made. Stoke is a place I don’t want to forget, quite the opposite”. – Camille
As mentioned, The Kitchen gave Upswing the support they needed to fully immerse themselves in Stoke-on-Trent. Consequently Upswing’s network, partnerships and audiences have strengthened as a result. They are in currently in conversation with Appetite and Stoke City Council’s Cultural Development Team to develop new opportunities for them to bring existing work, and develop new work in the area.
“In London we have an office, it’s an address and we can access the relevant networks here, however we are constantly travelling all over the country and create work nationally. We feel that Stoke is one of our homes.” – Camille
Finally, to have had the opportunity to develop high-quality work for new audiences, Vicki states “has allowed us to be more diverse and credible. It has consolidated our identity”. Camille adds, “[The Kitchen] didn’t just support the piece, but the development of the company”.
What themes would you use to categorise this case study?
Audience Building, Capacity Building, Risk taking, Creating new work, Support, Catalyst for new work, Trust, Partnerships, Communication.