Blueprint for Regional Mime Development

Feature in Issue 5-1 | Spring 1993

MAG launched their Blueprint for Regional Mime Development in November 1992 at the Hawth Centre in Crawley. Shani Solomons reports.

Last November as part of the Hawth Centre's Beyond Words Festival, Mime Action Group launched their new publication – the Blueprint for Regional Mime Development. The day consisted of practical examples of Mime (in workshop and performance) and a seminar which looked more closely at the Blueprint and the issues connected with it.

The morning began with a colourful show from Gambolling Guizers, followed by a workshop for young people where participants were encouraged to work together and be inventive with their body movement and creativity.

Blueprint presented by Jac Wilkinson

In the seminar, the Blueprint was outlined by its author, Jac Wilkinson. ‘Originally conceived to aid and develop Regional work, the document explores existing structures and is designed to enable new practitioners and individuals to develop the use of Mime.’

‘The Blueprint puts forward the case that Mime needs to recognise and activate the existing funding organisations and structures in order to develop.’

Jac Wilkinson then went on to explain that MAG has a clear role to play in this by developing its work with artists, venues, funders and the new Regional Arts Boards: providing information, advice and opportunities for information exchange, through Total Theatre and as a focus for support.

Toby Wilsher Trestle Theatre

Giving an insight into the workings of one of Britain's most popular and long established companies, Toby Wilsher spoke about Trestle's background and working methods. Formed in 1981, the company members wanted to have the opportunity to create their own work and to encourage people to look at Mime in new ways. Their early work was designed to be popular and commercially viable. Their system of touring, workshops and residencies helped to build audiences and enabled the company to learn from the students and develop new ways of presenting narrative and ideas. The company have up to three groups touring at any one time and as they tour they undertake residencies. These include:

- Workshop based residencies for ten year olds and upwards, often linked with a regionally focused tour, which aim to raise the company's profile and develop a local audience.
- Performance based workshops aimed at older students and latent professionals, usually leading to a production.
- Teachers’ workshops focused on helping individuals and groups devise and develop their own work.

The Beyond Words Festival and the role of Venues

Alistair Spalding, arts programmer at The Hawth Centre then spoke about how the Festival had developed from the recommendations of the South East Arts Mime Development Project in 1991. Condensing the Festival into a week gave it a focus. The variety of participating companies coming under the umbrella of Mime and Physical Theatre had resulted in the attraction of a large and diverse audience. Local Authority Community and Education departments were involved in the planning and leaflet distribution. This resulted in the marketing of the Festival being very effective and publicity going to a widely targeted audience.

In terms of the role that venues could have in developing Mime in their region, Alistair put forward that he would be very interested in the Hawth being able to commission and provide space for new performance work.

Associating this with an Annual Festival of Mime and Physical Theatre would provide a real focus for development. He also wanted to see more involvement from practitioners and wanted a Festival to be a meeting place for artists as well as the public. Maureen Salmon, SEA Dance and Mime Officer, discussed South East Arts Boards role and announced that they wish to initiate plans to appoint a Mime Development worker for the Region.

A general discussion then followed covering:

- Development of Regional Mime Forums throughout the UK
- Networking through Mime Action Group
- Mime Action Group’s relationship with RAB Officers
- Artist-led groups
- Initiating dialogues with potential partners
- Promotion of role models
- Venue support
- Workshops with adults
- Accessibility of the Artform
- Reviewing Mime
- Distribution of Total Theatre
- European interest

The seminar was well attended by a broad mix of the profession and was accepted as a positive format for collective thinking and suggesting ways that the profession could go forward.

It was proposed that Mime Action Group should consider holding an annual Regional Mime Development Meeting, to keep the issues of Regional Mime Development at the top of the agenda and bring together the views of practitioners and those involved in Mime and Physical Theatre.

The day finished with a packed foyer performance of Inside Out Theatre Company, which preceded Trestle Theatre Company's performance of State of Bewilderment in the Main House. Many thanks go to Alistair Spalding and the staff at the Hawth for all their hard work during the day.

The Blueprint was made possible with funds and support from the ACGB and South East Arts.

This article in the magazine

Issue 5-1
p. 11