We are a group of audacious creatives hailing from many different lands, mountains and rivers. In the running of Basement Theatre, we lead with imaginative risk-taking and a whānau-based relational practice. Together we question assumed ways of doing things, we push into the cracks and crevices of possibility, and we work to propel the live performance industry toward an equitable, buoyant and dynamic future.
As the arts ecology still reconciles with the irreparable hardship of the last few years, our contribution to its revitalisation doesn’t let up. We are committed to catalysing ‘systems change’, weakening the rigidity of the old ways, and manifesting soft spaces for our independent artists to land. Our biggest fear is that we let our most important stakeholders down by returning to ‘business as usual’ after so much need for change was so starkly revealed. Our new Hire-For-Nothing venue hire model, Choose What You Pay ticketing scheme and doubling down on our *Vital Voice commitment are some of the ways we are meeting our people where they are. We still have a lot of work to do, and we always will.
We have also spent the last few months analysing our internal systems and procedures, with a desire to cultivate more collaborative decision-making and creative joy within the workplace. This has included placing traditional programming models under a critical lens and detangling the ways they take root within arts organisations. What is programming really though? Where does it come from? Who did we model it off? And what could it become here in our whare, in alignment with our values?
For us, programming is a social act before it is curatorial. It locates itself within the sacred vā space between people. It unfurls through kōrero, endless winding kōrero, and through care. There is an intimacy there - a treaty is formed with the artist - as we are trusted to shepherd their creative world-building from the darkness into the light. We think that programming should also be a door through which many different communities are able to enter, and all kinds of people should get to enact their unique perspectives upon our city’s stages. Should we be placing this huge responsibility of intersectional community work on one person alone? Perhaps it should be the work of a village.
So it’s official. We are ditching the traditional directorship model in favour of a whānau-based collaborative approach. Our team members are all connected to different creative communities, which we see as a real strength worth harnessing. They will all make programme decisions collectively and initiate their own outreach practices. From time to time, we will also invite guests to come and take over the programming thing for us!
After a lot of conversation, big fails, hard work and radical trust, we are excited to have arrived at a place that feels right for us, for our people, and for the times we are in. We are asking our communities of artists to come with us on this journey and help us get really good at this new approach. It might take a little bit for us all to get used to, and collaborative models require robust processes that we’re just putting the finishing touches on. We are just about there whānau. We are just about there!
Also - you may have seen some new faces around the place lately, including the three spunks who now look after artists once they are programmed by the wider team. We’re calling them ‘the hive’ - made up of Todd Waters (Programmes Navigator), Alex de Vries (Systems Catalyst) and Vira Paky (Artist Champion). For programmed artists, Todd is your first port of call, and Vira and Alex will swoop in to help guide you through the process.
As always we are immensely grateful to the Basement board for their trust and support, and to our core funders Creative New Zealand, Foundation North and Auckland Council. Without them, we would not be able to dream into bright futures. And most importantly, our endless gratitude goes to Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei, for the opportunity to be manuhiri here on this sacred whenua.
*Vital Voices is a term we use to refer to specific communities that have been historically marginalised from mainstream arts spaces. Our current Vital Voices focus is on Tangata Whenua, People of Colour, Rainbow Communities, Immigrant Communities, and Disabled Communities.