Arts of the UK 2020: HighTide’s Lighthouse Programme excels as it supports freelance artists in lockdown
LONDON – In these uncertain times, HighTide, as an artist-led National Portfolio organisation, are committed to supporting artists and have already engaged with over 150 artists through their Lighthouse Programme. Over the last three months, 53% of the company’s expenditure (excluding staffing) has gone towards the creative fees of the 30 freelance staff engaged during the lockdown period, 32% of these being artists of colour. HighTide have prioritised their commitment to new work by developing innovative free schemes and partnerships; including a groundbreaking online workshop programme with Guildhall School of Music & Drama that has seen a further 15 of the UK’s leading writers and freelance directors have the opportunity to develop new plays with third year acting students.
Suba Das, Artistic Director of HighTide, comments: “As the country begins to adjust to a “new normal”, so we at HighTide also turn our attention from the immediate programmes of support we announced in the first week of lockdown in March, to new plans for the medium term. It’s humbling to take a moment’s pause and look back on what we have already managed to achieve, thanks to our supporters but most especially the incredible network of freelance artists who are the lifeblood of our sector. We’re a small company but together, we’ve reached thousands of audience members and hundreds of vulnerable young people, creating moments of joy and learning in dark and troubling times. That’s absolutely what HighTide stands for and we will continue to do all we can to keep artists and audiences creative.
Orla O’Loughlin, Vice Principal and Director of Drama at Guildhall School, comments: “Working with HighTide has given our students a unique opportunity to experience the development of new work during this time of lockdown. Our actors have benefited enormously from taking part in online rehearsals and workshops of new and contemporary plays alongside leading writers and directors, and we’re hugely grateful to HighTide for enabling this crucial training as part of our online teaching this term.
Freelance director, former Artistic Director of the Bunker Theatre and now HighTide Associate Artist, Chris Sonnex adds: “Theatre is in such a precarious situation and the world seems like it is burning but It’s been a privilege to play the tiniest of parts and watch Suba and the HighTide team react to all of that with kindness, innovation and gently holding the artists and audiences alike. The world needs art and artists desperately and the programme of work HighTide are creating is vital to it.”
As part of their Lighthouse Programme, HighTide invited six writers already under commission – Sonia Jalaly, Dawn King, Debris Stevenson, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Ben Weatherill and Aisha Zia – to create their Love In The Time of Corona online monologues, supported by Principal Corporate Sponsor Lansons. Today BAFTA nominee Dawn King’s will be presented by Shobna Gulati (Coronation Street, ITV). Creating an artistic document of the lockdown, the series has had over 2,300 views already.
With HighTide alumni mentors, 12 of the UK’s leading emerging writers including Travis Alabanza, Sophie Ellerby and Martha Watson Allpress are now supported by the Playwright Crisis Support Programme to explore and create the future of new writing.
HighTide have also supported deprived young people in their home region of the East of England throughout the pandemic, creating home-schooling storytelling resources directed by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Ruth Pickett, starring Diana Quick, Anna Koval and Amanda Wilkin for primary schools across the region. One of 12 “Opportunity Areas” in the country, this Government initiative seeks to increase educational attainment in the least socially mobile districts in the country.
This is in addition to the digital youth theatre HighTide have created with Company3 and 4YP (the Health Service for vulnerable young people in Suffolk) led by leading local theatremaker Kirsty Tallent; and the 60 emerging writers that participated in a free ten-week playwriting course with HighTide Writer and BAFTA Nominee Dawn King.
40 new plays that were due to be produced across the country during quarantine, have been included on HighTide’s Cancellation Catalogue, with the company pledging to support the production of as much “lost” work by emerging British voices at the next HighTide Festival.
More than 150 plays have been received in HighTide’s two script-reading submission windows. In an innovation to normal submission practices, playwrights are able to select the HighTide Associate Artist reader for their plays to help demystify the script reading process and remove invisible barriers. Writers who have participated in HighTide’s programmes during lockdown have also been invited to join their new Playwright’s Network. This has connected writers with industry leaders through regular Q&As.
HighTide were the first NPO to launch comprehensive support for the sector through their Lighthouse Programme, with support from their sponsor Lansons. Offering a range of programmes to help artists, its strands reflect the values that sit at the heart of HighTide: to introduce audiences to new work that speaks to the times we live in by the most exciting and diverse writers in the UK; to support emerging writers on their journey; and to engage communities in their home region in Suffolk.