TSOTF are currently visiting Strike A Light Festival (SALF), an organisation that works 'to make Gloucester a city with a vibrant culture for all’. Their Charity Fundraising Gala (the first event of the 2018 festival) aimed to bring together the communities who participate, facilitate and have enjoyed the impact of their efforts to energise and sustain culture for residents of Gloucester - to generate support to ensure it can continue to build on the successes of its 10-year history.
In 2017 SALF became the first Gloucester based organisation to become an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, and have also been awarded support from the Esmée Fairbairn and Barnwood Trusts. This event however served as a reminder of the precarious nature of arts funding in the UK, and that a firm following, giving what they can, if they can, is incredibly important to a festivals ability to flourish and sustain its offer.
Directors Sarah Blowers and Emma-Jane Benning greeted attendees as thought they were being invited into their home, coming in to share their excitement and meet the artists and teams involved. There was also a more serious mission: the chance to bid on auctioned items to supplement their fundraising and directly support their programme. The promise was that every £1 raised was to be match by the Arts Council.
In introducing their first guest artist Viv Gordon and describing the terrain her work explores, Blowers said, ‘like Children In Need and other charity events we are not afraid to talk about difficult subject tonight’. This is the kind of work that is important to SALF, and artists they champion through their programming, producing and participation strands. Gordon’s work illustrated this as an artist & arts and mental health campaigner whose work discusses her lived experience of mental health, trauma and childhood sexual abuse.
Gordon presented work-in-progress material from her new piece, MasterShit, currently in development with theatre makers Tom Roden, Alice Roots and Vic Llewellyn, which takes the dystopian frame of Master Chef as its starting point. The result, even at this early stage, was an affecting cacophony of ideas and textures presented as fragments of music, movement and text. The care and respect given by each performer to the material was palpable. This was something Blowers also highlighted as a key consideration in supporting the making of work dealing with difficult, real stories, considering care across the artists, producers and audiences involved. If the audience felt triggered in anyway they were assured they could leave the sharing and it was important that they did. From this glimpse of MasterShit, audience members saw that something powerful was being ‘cooked up’ by Gordon and team through the support of SALF. It served as an example of the need and appetite of SALF to not just present the easy but tackle the necessary.
After dinner there were conversations with artist and festival team hosts, including the Directors of GL4 Sarah O'Donnell and Naomi Draper, an arts organisation running from the Matson Estate. They are now their own organisation and Strike A Light's sister festival, programming, producing and supporting incoming and local artists and developing audiences around the estate where they live. Young beatboxers 5 Mics gave a flavour of their talents and a glimpse of new material from the company who are making their first theatre piece with support from SALF.
The night was celebratory and in the asking for support shone a light on the need for those who can to support in ways they can, whether volunteering, buying tickets or donating. They say nothing is certain, especially in regards to funding, but what was clear is that SALF are certainly making an impact in Gloucester.
- Tracy Gentles
Links relevant to this diagnosis:
Strike A Light
Arts Sponsorship and Funding Pressures - Guardian