Voices: Jeremy Goldstein

Feature in Issue 21-3 | Autumn 2009

Creative producer and the director of London Artists Projects, in his own words.

I love making shows, pulling strings, making it happen, the creation of something new...

My family was very artistic and culture played a big part in our lives. My parents fed my appetite for culture, which probably set me up for a career in the arts.

I’ll be 40 this year and this is all I’ve ever done. I don’t know how to do anything else.

When I set up London Artists Projects in 2001, I was very adventurous, and interested in working with new ideas – I still am!

I wanted London Artists Projects to be an alternative to mainstream producing practices which I thought were really quite staid. I wanted to pick up extraordinary projects that no one else would touch and work with artists who, like me, were entrepreneurial in their approach and wanted to do something different and challenging with their careers. It was a very simple premise which slowly but surely is blossoming into something quite special.

Ghost Train (with Marisa Carnesky) was one of our early successes. Audiences crave this kind of work and in a way Ghost Train, a live art fairground ride on a real ghost train, preceded the whole hysteria surrounding Sultan’s Elephant and Punchdrunk’s Masque of the Red Death. For its time, it re-wrote the rule-book on what was possible in terms of immersive, site-specific theatre.

There is strength in diversity and having a wide portfolio of projects is important to me. Whenever I look at a new project, I ask myself - is this the kind of project I would want to go to myself?

I often work with artists who are interested in site specific, multimedia or audiovisual work – but I’m just as interested in a good script or musical score.

I’m extremely proud of the fact that nearly all our completed projects are newly commissioned works supported and partnered by flagship arts institutions. But it’s getting harder financially to survive and the main challenge right now is trying to resource the new work properly from within.

What we do well is to work side-by-side with artists to develop new ideas for a broader public.

Being at Chelsea Flower Show with Jyll Bradley as part of her Liverpool 08 commission, and then launching her book Mr Roscoe’s Garden and photographic installation The Botanic Garden at the Walker Art Gallery as part of Liverpool Biennial was very special for me.

There are new projects in the pipeline – with Jyll Bradley; with directors Annabel Arden, Neil Bartlett, Tim Hopkins; and new work from Cardboard Citizens. There are others too but I can’t talk about them yet!

What makes a successful creative team? Difference, rapport, deadlines, communication, leadership. All of these things if managed well can add to the success of a creative team.

Sometimes it’s the difference in people’s backgrounds which can create a lot of excitement. For instance, when we made the opera Elephant and Castle for Aldeburgh Festival in 2007, we paired a classically trained composer Tansy Davies with the electronica world of Mira Calix and the results were really quite astonishing.

As a producer, you have to empower people to do it, take responsibility – own it, so to speak.

A Life in Three Acts (which we are taking to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2009) is of its time and place, and very much in the moment. It’s my fourth show with Bette Bourne and my first with Mark Ravenhill. For many people, Bette personifies a unique performance aesthetic and his legendary company Bloolips changed the face of queer theatre. But it isn’t just the performance work that makes Bette tick, it is his involvement in the formation of the Gay Liberation Front, living in a drag commune, and the fight to be himself in amongst all the hypocrisy and lies.

Mark Ravenhill is right when he says that it was Bette Bourne’s generation who paved the way for our generation to be as we are, and this new show not only celebrates the momentous struggles and achievements of gay liberation but also reveals a portrait of an amazing individual at a particular point in his life. Bette’s stories inspire, are politically charged, but are also very human. They make you laugh and cry and that to me is great theatre too.

Having a bit of self-belief and faith in your projects can take you to places you never thought you’d visit.

Our mission is to work with artists who pursue new directions and open up previously unexplored territory to satisfy audiences who hunger for the live and authentic moments of joy, beauty, magic and meaning that crystallise, reflect and add to their understanding and knowledge of today’s world. That says it in a nutshell.

For more on Jeremy Goldstein’s work and London Artists Projects, see: www.londonartistsprojects.com

A Life in Three Acts is on at Traverse Theatre Edinburgh from 18-30 August Box Office 0131 228 1404 followed by Royal Theatre in The Hague from 2-6 September and then at Soho Theatre London from 21-27 September Box Office 0207 478 0100. All details are available at: www.londonartistsprojects.com

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Issue 21-3
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