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30th October 2017 Aaron McGregor

#CultureHive SmallScale Arts Council of Wales bursary recipient

Rachel Miller, Artistic Director at Avant Cymru received a bursary from Arts Council of Wales to attend the CultureHive Small-Scale Development Programme last week. She originally wrote this post on the Avant Cymru blog.

Day One
So today we evaluated our mission and vision statements, this is something we wrote over a year ago and the message is very much the same, however we have fine tuned the sentences today and you can check these out on our website.

It was really interesting to speak to the other dance and theatre companies in the room to reflect on how we are similar and how we differ. In reflection Avant’s commitment to the valleys is our USP. The stories that come from the valleys are diverse and we are free to use all kinds of performance styles and educational experiences to share these stories, this is evident in our 2018 programme with ‘Blue Scar’ (a hip hop dance production) and ‘Forget Me Not’ (a semi immersive play). They are distinctive to our company as they reflect the valleys, however they are very different performance styles and we are proud of our versatility in being able to showcase these styles with talented Avant casts.

Today had reaffirmed that we are on track and the mission and vision statement have confidently been added to our business plan.

Word of today : Confidence, why because Avant are on mission and heading towards our vision. Looking forward to tomorrow when we can analyse how we can share this mission with more audiences and at a variety of venues.

Day Two
We worked alot on brand today and on what is important to us. We are passionate about our community and the stories it has to share and we want to be the leading theatre company creating these performances in the valleys, performances that speak to and for our community. We have always wanted to celebrate the valleys rich past, discuss the issues that are in the present and look to create real change and ambition in the future. We believe we have taken the right steps to achieve these aims and today has been a great opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved and what is still left to do.

We’d love to know what you think about our social media output, our website and our posters that are around town. Why not follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, keep in touch and tell us what you think.

Patrick Thomas designed our Rhondda Road poster, Patrick is an 18 year old from Treherbert, he came to work with us on the Blue Scar project and designed the logo for the show. We want to nurture local talent and by creating paid opportunities to local talent we want to be able to support other young creatives in the same way. But here’s the question… did you know this? Are we shouting out about our commitment to this area enough? Do you want to see the Rhondda’s stories shared in local productions and in national/international tours? How can we involve you to help champion our work?

I got to sit next to other touring companies today and discuss who to market to new audiences in new locations, I heard from a playwright whose play reflects British/Trinidad culture, the response for the play sounded amazing, it engaged with new and current theatre audiences who wanted to engage with a new culture through theatre. It is something we consider alot, especially with Rhondda Road and people’s concerns that a soap opera will shine a negative light on the valleys, so we would love to hear from you. What do you want to see? Do you know about Blue Scar and Forget Me Not, if not want can we do to make sure the news reached you?

In reflection after today, if our brand is to truly reflect the valleys we need you guys, so please do talk to us and tell us what you think about what we are doing and what you would like us to do.  We are a ‘Forward Thinking Theatre Company’ and we want to think with you.

Right back to the business plan!! Until tomorrow, goodnight all.

Day Three

We got to discuss evaluation today, one of my favourite things, mixed with an idea to create an excel document to monitor the feedback, I suddenly feel right at home. Evaluation is such a powerful tool, we use it often in Avant to be able to influence the shows and events that we produce.

However today I started to consider how I share this evaluation with others, I often create conclusions from the data I gather and I am able to plan the next steps due to gathering this data, but I am not very good at sharing this process with others. Well until now, I can see that I will be creating a few excel documents over the next week so that the aims and objectives of ‘Rhondda Road’, ‘Blue Scar’ and ‘Forget Me Not’ are clear for all in the team. I often get told to delegate, however I worry that through delegation Avant’s vision and missions will be lost, a clear document which sets out to achieve Avant’s aims will help me to inform and empower colleagues to take on more roles for Avant.

Second thought of the day is the difference between marketing and outreach. We love outreach, we believe that engaging in new theatre audiences is important, we are starting to reach new theatre audiences. However, and I apologies for this, we have neglected those who are already interested in theatre by not marketing to you.

How can we improve our marketing?

Do you already attend theatre? What can we do to sell (yes sell) our shows and opportunities to you? We know that we are creating high quality shows that appeal to those who enjoy theatre, we know this from our evaluation, but we are not reaching you at the moment.

We know we need to gain your trust so please do give us a chance, come and chat with us and let us know what you think about our marketing.

It has been a productive three days, I have spent time reflecting and getting our first business plan draft on paper (well I say paper, but it is 2017 so I mean on a computer programme, but it doesn’t sound so good)! I have gained a new strategic action plan for our projects and Alan has been briefed, he will be receiving a number of excel documents shortly! Finally I have made meaningful connections with other arts practitioners and we have all had a valuable experience.

Thank you AMA for your programme and thank you Arts Council Wales for supporting Avant to have this time to get the business in order so that we can focus on creating high quality, professional, relevant, dance and drama.


Image courtesy of Rachel Miller.


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