2020: The Year of Unproducing


Headshots of Rebecca Gwyther, Ameena Hamid, Ellie Claughton, Dais Hale

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the UK being plunged into a national lockdown, we spoke to four producers about what the past twelve months have taught them about producing, and unproducing, from unexpected challenges to new-found skills.

We asked them about the lessons they've learned in a (hopefully) unique 12 months, and how reversing the process of producing has given them an opportunity to develop their own skills for the future, and given them tools to create performance in very different forms. 

Uncertainty has, unfortunately, dominated the last year:

“The constant uncertainty has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge. At the beginning, this was as simple as not knowing what happens next, but, as we’ve moved through the pandemic, things have been made increasingly complicated by unclear government policy and ever-changing restrictions.” (Rebecca Gwyther, RJG Productions Ltd)

“I often use the analogy of being at the starting line for a race. You've done all the preparation and work you can to get there and put everything in place but until that gun goes, in this case, you get a reliable date to work towards, you can't do anything. Unfortunately, as a lot of us learnt at the end of last year that race might end ten steps in, rather than at your finish line. (Ameena Hamid, Creative Producer)

“We do not receive core funding, so when projects came to a halt, so did the income. The past year has been a combination of adapting our practice so we can continue to deliver activity online and being creative with our fundraising to ensure all our costs are covered.” (Ellie Claughton, Independent ProducerLUNG, Breach, Barrel Organ)

“With my producing work, it’s been about going ‘ok, how can we work to the form that we’re in?’ rather than trying to replicate the live so we’ve been planning new projects around that.” (Daisy Hale, Independent Producer and Artist)

Amidst the struggle, it’s encouraging to see that there are still positives at play with a renewed focus on how the industry can support and protect each other moving forward:

“The biggest thing was wanting to offer some stability to artists. I’ve spent most of my time over the pandemic fundraising on behalf of other artists, in particular disabled artists, to provide that stability and offering free open resources to others to help them with their own applications. I’ve seen such an increase in open resource and that is something we need to not lose in the future.” (Daisy Hale, Independent Producer and Artist)

“Though it is heartbreaking to halt and 'unproduce' shows, it did teach me a lot about the resilience and kindness of people in this industry and in our audiences. I am so thankful to everyone who moves their tickets with us and sends support when we have to postpone and cancel, it's a bright light when it all seems darkest. An artist reminded me that even when a show closes "you did it" and I've held onto that, it's easy to forget the achievement when you have to end early or not open but unproducing doesn't mean undoing what you did to get there.” (Ameena Hamid, Creative Producer)

“As a producer you are, in some ways, responsible for a whole team. Aside from the logistics, ‘unproducing’ also bears an emotional toll – not just personally, but for an entire team. I’ve had more open conversations with people about their comfort levels and mental health, establishing a degree of care that might not have previously been the industry standard.” (Rebecca Gwyther, RJG Productions Ltd)

“For each company, the safety of the team is the biggest factor and so a project could feel doable but if one element of our risk assessment doesn’t quite work then it won’t happen until it’s been 100% addressed. My eye for detail has definitely improved, which is essential for my job.” (Ellie Claughton, Independent ProducerLUNG, Breach, Barrel Organ)


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