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Chris Grady: What's in the artistic Potting Shed and Greenhouse....

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Last week I looked at the growing role of the freelance independent producer, and this week I have been running around seeing how things happen.

Audiences hopefully end up seeing a glorious theatrical garden; I’ve been in various potting sheds and greenhouses to see what’s growing. So I thought I’d share my week: Monday evening I was invited to a wonderful private view of In Love With Light, an exhibition created by 5 artists who hired their own gallery, put their own work together, and shared the costs of beautiful print, and very nice wine.

Rather than sit in their studios and wait to be invited, they did it themselves. All credit to Juliette Jeanclaude (also one of Kath’s Authentic Artists), Miranda Benzies, Osita Mwankwo, Santiago Alcon and Tom Farthing. They got up and did it - the space was packed and there was a great buzz. For more information look at their website

Juliette Jeanclaude (see her website here) did a short recital of her “Poems on the Bus”, a beautiful new collection, again self published and in this case even handwritten. Sitting on the floor in the gallery with this inspiring poet and artist talking to me about love gave me an idea. I want to see how to share this raw and wonderful creativity with people who might normally only think of art as a visit to the National Gallery, and theatre as a visit to the West End.

There’s so much more in the greenhouse. Tuesday and Thursday this week were dedicated in the daytime to showing off some new blooms – the graduating acting students at Mountview Theatre School. Surrounded by agents, casting directors, theatre and film directors we watched the tightest possible showing of 38 new actors in a 74 minute show created by Caroline Eves.

They shone in their own native accents, in character roles, and as a company. And then they did the mist difficult thing of all, they mingled with agents, walked up to strangers and introduced themselves, and avoided the temptation to run out the stage door. It’s a pleasure for Rebecca Jewell and I to be part of the team which prepares them to face the real world.

I rushed from the Criterion on Tues afternoon to a first showing of Metta Theatre’s The Well. Here Poppy Burton Morgan and choreographer Shreya Kumar have been exploring the largest mass poisoning in history when the good intentions of those seeking to generate clean water for the people of the Ganges delta released arsenic from the rocks, leaving 30-50 million people affected (according to one of the two scientific advisors on the project).

The aim of this showing to just 10 people was to help the funders see what was being created, to excite a theatre manager to book the first performances, and to allow us as board members to see what was being created. My first time at Circus Space and my immense congratulations to Leyla Rees, Lindsey Butcher, and Shreya Kumar for bringing to life on aeriel silks, hoops, and through hinted dance and movement, this powerful personal tragedy. Watch out for an autumn blossoming and check out their website.

On Wednesday I spent many hours gathering (and re-gathering) the papers I need to get a Visa to visit the apple orchards of Kolumna near Moscow in a month’s time to see a new museum and visitor attraction. So this time I really was preparing my own personal growbag. The Russian Visa office is wonderful and quick and polite, once I had every piece of paper they needed.

And from there I went to the Landor Theatre to see A Class Act – the fascinating study of the lyricist of A Chorus Line told through the music and lyrics he had written for many other shows and cabaret artists. Johnny Barr played Ed Kleban – and my god he was good. Rob McWhir, the artistic director of the Landor, attracts the most amazing artists to work with him, and knows how to make this tiny welcoming and intimate space work.

Not so much a greenhouse, as a perfect miniature garden that is always worth exploring . He’s knee deep in rehearsals for a new musical Sleeping Arrangements which will open on 17 April and looking to see whether any inspired West End theatre owner will pick up A Class Act and give you, dear Whatsonstage reader, the chance to see it.

We don’t have many small houses like off-Broadway, so too often these small gems are never seen again. Let’s hope some of the discussions Rob is having will flourish. And today I am back at my desk in Suffolk marking scripts from another potting shed – this time the wonderful world of MA Arts Management at Anglia Ruskin. And very fittingly the first script I have read is a fascinating essay on the Glass Association – so if the wind gets up in the greenhouse I now have a goodly list of names to go to who could create me a new glasshouse to keep the many shoots of creativity alive and warm as they grow.

Look beyond the West End. Look beyond the major galleries. And see what the next generation of creatives are germinating for your delight. Chris

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