Before the Applause Podcast

Navigating the Evolving World of Creative Arts with Kate Scanlan

July 23, 2023 David Watson Season 1 Episode 1
Before the Applause Podcast
Navigating the Evolving World of Creative Arts with Kate Scanlan
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever wondered what it's like to navigate the constantly evolving world of the creative art sector? We spent a captivating hour with our guest, the multifaceted Kate Scanlan, who shares her unique journey. From her dance degree at Surrey University to her time at Saddler's Wales, Kate recounts the highs and lows of her career, including an unsuccessful job application that led her to carve out a more unconventional path.

Kate illuminates the workings of her project, Scanners Inc, a testament to her entrepreneurial spirit. She delves into the importance of nurturing young talent and the challenges she faced in balancing personal and professional identities. We also explore the critical role of partnerships in the art sectors and the resilience needed to stay committed amidst these challenges. Kate's narration isn't short of inspiring anecdotes, reminding us that passion and determination are key drivers in the creative industry.

In the concluding part of our discussion, we tackle the post-pandemic struggles of the creative art sector and potential solutions. Kate and I exchange thoughts on how to revolutionise the sector, from creating equitable working conditions to transforming work policies. As we ponder upon Kate's personal indicators of success and lessons learned, we realise that challenging conventions is essential to progress. This podcast episode is a testament to the grit and resilience needed in the arts, making it a must-listen for aspiring artists and enthusiasts alike.

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David Watson:

Welcome to this new episode of Before the Applause with me, your host, David Watson. In this episode, we talk to Kate Scanlan, Creative Director of Scanners Inc. and Co-Creative Director and Chief Executive of East London Dance. She's a multi-talented and highly respected woman working in the creative arts sector, and we explore how she's personally navigated this constantly changing world, what still needs to change and why you need an entrepreneurial spirit and bucket loads of passion in order to unlock opportunities and make your ideas happen, in probably one of the toughest decades for arts and culture, we've ever had. Grab a cup of something nice and join us as we discover more. Before the Applause. Hey, Kate!

Kate Scanlan:

Hi, David, how are you?

David Watson:

I'm good yourself.?

Kate Scanlan:

Yeah, really really good. Thank you, really happy to be here.

David Watson:

Thank you so much for being a guest. I'm so glad that I've managed to persuade you to come on and share your wisdom with me and all the listeners. We've been friends for quite some time.

Kate Scanlan:

Oh, it's a pleasure. I mean, how quickly did I sign up? Like you sent email and responded. I mean, I'm not normally that quick at agreeing to do things, but yeah, when you sent the email, I was like gotta do this!

David Watson:

Well, I really appreciate it and I'm sure everybody's going love listening to this conversation as much as I will. I can actually hear that wind chime - it's all good, you know live and all that. So can you just give us a little bit of you know back history, highlights of your career, what you've done, where you've worked and how you've navigated through that?

Kate Scanlan:

Sure, so I have been doing what I've been doing professionally since 1998. So I did a dance degree at Surrey University and the Degree sadly doesn't exist anymore because in my opinion it was at the time the best University Degree because it gave you loads of practical experience. We were taught by all amazing choreographers from the UK and internationally and it was before you had to have like academic qualifications to be in a University context teaching, so they were just like CRAZY, brilliant artists. And then you've got this kind of professional side, so you've got to understand the performing arts, the dance industry, and you've got to have some work experience in it. So that was kind of like where I started and at the time I just wanted to be involved in everything. So when I graduated I just said yes to everything and one of the first things I did was work at Sadler's Wells, which is kind of a pretty much a dream job, and it was in August 1998, just before the venue reopened to the that we know today. I think I had like a 10 week contract, three days a week, in the education department and my job was to like get Rambert from The and the Royal Ballet into local schools. That was the job and at the end I was like, oh my god, I love it so much, I don't want to leave! You know, you're just meeting all the most amazing choreographers that you've ever studied and dreamed about meeting. You're just like bumping into them in the cafe. You know, I was just like buzzing, I absolutely loved it. So I said that I would volunteer and they were like, oh look, we'll pay you one day a week. So then I stayed and that was kind of really the launch pad, I suppose, of my career. And then I just said yes to the things I wanted, that I was excited by and offered to do things that weren't in my job, but things I really wanted to do. Like I always thought the producing team at had such a great job because they got to go to the airport and pick up artists, as I mean really not exciting actually, as it goes. So I decided one bank holiday, Monday, all the team were busy and Trisha Brown company was arriving and I really was a fan of Trisha Brown. So I was like, oh, I'll do it. And so I offered to do it and was there like super excited and somehow missed Trisha Brown. Now if you know anything about Trisha Brown, she's passed away now, but she was really tall, very distinctive, willowy, sort of like a bob but like wild curly hair. I mean I still don't, even to this day, know how I missed her. And I called the taxi company. I was like, look, she's taking a while to come through. And they were like, oh no, she's on the way to the hotel in the taxi. I was like what? Oh my god, I'm going to get the sack. It's not even my job and I'm going to get the sack. And so, yeah, I just kind of got myself involved in things like that really. And then I went for the Head of Education at . I think it was called Head of Connect at the time, which is what they were calling the education department, and I didn't get it. And it was at the same time that we were developing Breakin' Convention with Jonzi and so I was like working with Alistair Spalding and then Emma Dowden who was in the programming team, and together we were like building what was. But I went for this job and I didn't get it. And I remember being so sad and Alistair Spaulding and Chrissy Sharp, both saying to me what you need to do is you need to go to Rambert and get the job, because Fiona Ross came from Rambert to Sadler's Wells. Get that job, because that is the experience you don't have. You haven't managed a team of in like in an office context. And, interestingly, that really is the last kind of like traditional linear career step that I made, because I'm like, why am I doing this? I just want to have fun and do what I do. But basically we'll get on to that, I'm sure. Another point, but in terms of career moves, it was an interesting one because then I was full- time at Rambert as Director of Education, and then I didn't want Breakin' Convention let go because it was only just starting. So then I was doing in my evenings, weekends, holidays, and yeah, I kind of did that for quite a long time. And then since then I've been doing Scanners Inc for 10 years now. So I started that at the end of 2012, but officially, like the first events, were in January 2013, and then I went to work at Battersea Power Station. So I kind of went into this world where culture is used as a place making tool, so they use it to unite sort of disparate communities, so the original communities that live in an area and then the new communities that are moving in. And how do you create like a cohesive community? And in the past property developers would like do sculpture trails and that was their culture. And then obviously it's kind of evolved and it's got a lot more sophisticated. And so I was there as Head of Events doing the cultural programming and doing like shi shi events, which was like not my world at all. And then since then I've kind of worked with other developers and then most recently taken on East London Dance with Tia Hassan. We also run Move it together, although me not so much anymore. I'm not really involved in Move it now. I'm kind of like the Creative Consultant for the creative team, but I don't really do any of the day anymore day, I don't have time. So we took on East London Dance and we are sharing the job of Creative Director and Chief Exec, that's our job title. So I do East London Dance and Scanners Inc. Now that's my kind of where I'm at.

David Watson:

Busy, busy, busy. And can you just tell us a little bit about how Scanners Inc came about and what you actually do as Scanners. Inc.?

Kate Scanlan:

Yeah, sure, well, it's actually. It's kind of funny really, because I actually launched my first company when I was at Rambert and it was called Dance 360 and I had this vision of wanting to do micro dance festivals all around the world and so I was like, oh yeah, this world is going to unify. And at the time I used to train in the gym with this guy called Mark who runs a design agency called Rosie H. e's now based out of America, and the company is huge, and they do really interesting like work around design concepts for Nike, for example, and Converse. Anyway, I was like come on, Mark, hit me up, do me a logo, and he created this really nice logo. And I'm still going to do something with that project and the project name because it was actually, it was really great, but it never really took off. So I did the opening ceremony of the Tour de France in Trafalgar Square and I was the Sance Advisor. It was 2005 and it was part of London's sort of 'hey, we're here, let's do the Olympics'. It was kind of part of that 'we can do big international events'. It was really great, but it never took off. I did some loads of little bits, but it never really took off. And then, as I was thinking about maybe leaving Breakin' Convention. We were on tour. We were walking through a car park in Bradford at the back of the St George's Hall, going back to the hotel, and we just had this really bougie hotel. I think I had a bath on a stage in my bedroom, you know. It was a kind of crazy crazy hotel and we were sort of talking and I was talking with Maddie Couples, who was our stage manager, and I was like you know, I really want to write, I love writing, and I was thinking I might start a blog and we were all thinking what could, what names could it be? And at the time I had a couple of nicknames and one of them was Scanners. So we were like, oh, we should call it Scanners. And she was like she called it Scanners Ink, like the ink from a pen. I was like, oh, my god, that's brilliant. So I started this blog on Tumblr called Scanners Ink, and I would just write random things, things I believed in. I did this whole thing around my favourite London day, which was going to be a podcast. That's 11 years, 12 years ago, and I never got round to doing it. One of my many, many ideas haven't got round to doing, and and I went into this event in a club and it was an event run by Hakeem Onibudo from Impact Dance, and I walked in the club and he shouted on the mic ' yo Scanners Ink is in the house' and I was like whoa, okay, this is interesting. And I don't know if it was the time in my life and my career, whether it was I was feeling particularly confident, whether it was I doing more interesting things than I had been back in 2005,. But it kind of took a hold and people latched onto this thing and would watch, you know, listen to the emails and, I think, face. I was on Facebook then. So it was kind of it was kind of fairly basic and then I decided that I would give it a go A t the time my sister was like you really should change the name because everyone that I've told about it thinks it's a tattoo parlour because of the Ink. So I was like, oh, okay, so I turned into Scanners Inc. You did the first design of the logo, you built the first website for me and I think back then I was thinking of myself Sadler's Wells, because I was always like pretend to be bigger than you are, like think of your money and your personal bank account, your sole training account, as like a bank account. Think of, imagine it's a Coutts bank account, and I was like getting these really big visions from myself. And so I suppose at the time I tried to replicate . I was like I've got the huge education strand, I've got the huge producing event strand, I've got this huge area of artist development. And so at the beginning I was sort of supporting young, at the time emerging artists like Ella Mesmer, Blacstock, Robbie Graham, Southpaw, and really I took on way too much. I was, you know, I took on way too much and I also suppose I realized at that point that I didn't really know what it meant to be a producer. And I was at Breakin' Convention. I thought I knew I was a producer but actually I was working within an organization, really in a programming and project management way, and then suddenly I was producing, raising the money. So yeah, over the last 10 years it's changed a lot. So now I would say what Scanners Inc. does is it creates bespoke events, so for the private sector, for placemaking context, for property developers, shopping centres, and then art for art, culture for culture sake projects, often in the public realm. And I do a lot of work in shopping centres, under bridges, you know the sort of spaces that you walk past on a daily basis and don't give any time to. I quite like those places and I suppose for me it takes me back to being a kid. I was born in the late 70s or mid 70s and in the early 80s Hip Hop was everywhere and everyone on the street was like a larger than life version of themselves and so it was like. It was like metaphorically, really colourful. And if you went to Covent Garden, which we used to go twice a year we went one in the summer holidays and we went once at Christmas that was the only times I went into central London we always went to Covent Garden and I remember like probably being about six or seven and all the b-boys and the poppers and they're thinking, oh my God, amazing. And then I probably now work with some of the people that I saw back then. But I suppose I wanted to create, I want to create a world where that is more common again, because I think, you know, it really unites people. I do a lot of work with young people, a lot of work with emerging artists, a lot of work trying to share what I've learned. So I've got this strand called Sofa Sessions that I used to do once a month. You led one for me, David, in the early days, and the concept for people that don't know about it was that we would be on a sofa somewhere in central London, often at the BFI, because they had really nice, quiet sofa area that you didn't have to pay to book. We would all get our own teas and coffees and cakes and then we would talk for two hours around a particular subject. And when I started it it was because I was really lonely and I'd gone from being in a really big team with a lot of Breakin' Conventions' doing and then at Rambert big team, you know, yes, you had to do the funding, but you know, you had money to spend and you had a very clear identity for what you existed to do. And then I suddenly was on my own and I'm like, oh my God, like what? Just like completely feeling like unskilled. a fraud, you know all those things that we feel and maybe don't talk about. And so I set this thing up and it was, you know, it was really amazing. I did it every single month for about seven years and then I started doing these Monday motivation videos walking up and down the road and yeah, so that has sort of now morphed into this idea around Boxfresh Skills and around the fact a lot of the training is either really expensive or it doesn't feel that relevant to you as an independent freelancer. And a lot of the time the people making up the training have never been freelancers before, or so long ago where they freelanced, that they don't really understand the challenges and the landscape. And so, that's the other bit of Scanners Inc. , like creating amazing events and concepts and doing the kind of professional development, that equity of the sector, and then, yeah, trying to make more opportunities for children and young people. In a nutshell, a long nutshell.

David Watson:

Incredible. So my question is why? Why are you doing this and why did you get down this route and this path in your life?

Kate Scanlan:

I asked myself the same question many times. You know what? It's actually been a really big question for me at the moment. So I think pre-pandemic, I did it because I didn't have any other option. I was actually talking about it on my. I did my Monday Motivation video today, and I was actually kind of talking about what is your purpose? Why do you get out of bed to do this thing? I feel like as a kid, I never felt that I fitted in, and so then, when I found Hip Hop as a career, like as a community, a professional community, I was like, wow, okay, this is where I fit, this is where my ideas aren't weird and they don't stand out, and this is where they're needed. And this is where this kind of like stronger together concept I always have, like, why don't people want to share? Like, if we share, we all get better, and then we all go to the next level, and that is Hip Hop. 'Each one teach one' this idea of like community strength as your foundation. And so I think when I got into that, I was like, yeah, this is my purpose and my purpose. Now, then pandemic hit, and I felt this huge responsibility, of which actually I had no responsibility. I just felt this huge responsibility for this whole generation of dancers and creatives that were graduating into a universe that didn't exist temporarily, like no shows, no theatres, can't leave your house. I was just thinking about how much young people pay to go to University or vocational college, and often dance training is more expensive, it's much longer hours. I remember when I did my training all those many, many years ago in the nineties, and the guys on my floor when I moved into halls, they were like doing maths and science and engineering, and they had like four to six hours of lectures a week. They were like you're doing dance? What kind of rubbish soft subject is that? Rolling around the floor! And I had 30 hours of lectures and classes and then training and then rehearsals and then, you know, essay writing. So I was like you know this commitment for these young people and your dance training, particularly if you've gone through a vocational route. Your dance training often starts when you're like two or three and I'm like these kids have literally spent their whole lives getting to this month. This is the moment, and the moment has been taken away from them spectacularly, horrifically, and I just felt this such a responsibility. So that's when this Boxfresh Skills came about and I launched this online festival event, don't know what you'd call it really. Three days and they did professional class, they had mental health sessions, business sessions, and Arlene Phillips was the keynote speaker. We also yoga and sound baths! I mean honestly, an accountant spoke to me about how to be, how to look after yourself as a freelancer was literally it was kind of epic. I think that was like my motivation then and I think now I kind of come back into the sector, and I've got a two year old, I'm a single parent and my motivation is changing again because I think in the past, if I got a lot of likes and hype, like people came to the bridge and like, oh my God, it's amazing, and all these people will be like for like four days or a week, two weeks it'll be to the bridge, bridge and that's my like one day Hip Hop festival and it used to be under the Hungerford Bridge at Southbank, and it went from being like 400 people in the first year to eight to ten thousand people over like a 10 hour period by the kind of fifth, sixth An d that that fuelled me, like the ego was loving that. 'Kate, you're great' and now I'm like yeah, fine, but that doesn't really pay the bills. And what is my like, what is my motivation now? And I suppose it's all of the above, but it's slightly shifted to be like how can I create something that has a real legacy and that helps people? And I remember earlier in my career, actually 10 years ago, I was invited to do a couple of panel discussions and one of them I took Ivan with me and we kind of went and we talked about the artist producer relationship. It Rich Mix and it was again actually it was an Impact Dance event, a Hakeem event, and we talked all about it. And then someone said to me what is your, how do you approach working with artists? And I was like I kind of approach it by trying to make myself redundant, like that's kind of the aim that you give and you teach and you share the bits that Y helpful. You let people create their own structures and their own future models. Because if you try and be too purposeful and like or directed and this is how you do it I believe that you're already out of date, right? So I think now the purpose that's driving me is like how to make it more equitable and better, like how to get more new voices that don't necessarily have the University or vocational background, but are absolutely fantastic and have so much to share, and the ideas that are gonna change the world. We need that right now right, really badly, and so I suppose it's partly about continuing to do these amazing events, but it's also a lot now about what is the legacy and how do we change the future really.

David Watson:

Totally agree. When you spoke, a lot of this is around change, so embracing the change, figuring out the change. There's been a lot of change in the work that you do and I suppose how do you handle that as an individual and how do you handle it as a professional? Thinking about what you've just said, about your kind of that thing that drives you to help other people, how do you deal with and handle change in this sector?

Kate Scanlan:

Well, that is actually a really good question, mainly because I actually quite like change. Like I think if I was gonna do things again, I think I'd probably be quite a good change manager, because I like to come in, I like to observe stuff and then I just like to get rid of things that don't work and just like if this might have been a historical way of doing things, but if it doesn't serve or there is a better, quicker, smoother, whatever equitable way to do it, let's just do that, let's just ditch it. And I'm quite impulsive like that, but I'm very much intuitive. I remember when I was working for Fuel Theatre and Kate McGrath said to me oh, you're a really intuitive producer, and this is like going back to 2014. And I was so upset and offended I thought she had cussed me, and it took me probably about three years, maybe longer, to realize that actually it was a compliment and what she was saying was I knew how to do things, but I had an intuitive instinct that I was able to trust. That's really important in producing. I did tell her about it and she laughed. She goes yeah, it wasn't a cuss, but yeah, you know. So I think I love the change. I've also been that person that when I'm done, when I feel like I've got all, I'm gonna get out of a situation, I've learned everything, or I've given as much as I can, I'm just like, I quit. I've not been one to line up the next job. I've been like right, that's it, I'm out, here's my resignation letter. I've always been like that, for my poor mum, stressing out that I've quit another job. The flip side is that normally then when I would quit that job, I'd be like, yeah, I've got the job. And then the reality would hit and I'd be like, oh my God, I'm never gonna work again. So I would get literally like the flip of I'd lose all the confidence and blah, blah, blah. And I suppose when I left Battersea Power Station that was 2018, I was like, right, I'm gonna do Scanners Inc. thing full on. And that was a really hard environment to be in for two years. Oh my goodness, that was intense, but what a learning ground. It really was unbelievable learning ground. Actually, that's the first time where I took the change and I was like actually, yeah, this was the right choice, I'm ready. I was totally cool, I got into what I was gonna do. I was focused. I think now at the moment I'm struggling with change because I think having had a baby at the end of the pandemic come back into like a really intense job, running an organization with a tiny newborn baby. He was like five months when I started at ELD, you know. I mean, I think I lost a sense of who I was and I think partly because I had him when I was like 45. So I had had my whole identity, was around like this producer, this person and you know, my life and my friendships and my family were all like intertwined and then suddenly we were like alone for three years and then I have this baby and then I'm like back in the world of work. So I think for me it's trying to find some time for me to just be and I think I was sort of using any very little time because obviously to collect a child at six when you live an hour and a half commute away from work, you've got to leave at four and so like I then make up my hours in the evening while I'm doing a scan of thinking in the evening. So there's not much downtime that I found that I was trying to like fix myself, you know, like, work out what does it mean to be me right now? And I think what I've learned is that actually change needs me right now to just chill out a little bit. And you know, read a book and not work every night. And you know, doing the ironing, as much as I love, it is not actually a night off. And a night off is, you know, read a book, watch a movie, like, do some meditation, have a bath, you know. So it's like. Now I'm like change is like it's also about balance and it's about, yeah, not taking things so personally, because in the sector and the performing arts, the dance industry, right now we're in a really bad place. Everybody has not got enough money, everybody is going for the same money, everybody is advocating their case. It's actually it's a very complex time and it's a time where you really need to know your purpose and you need to really like when you write a funding application. It's like someone working with me on something at the moment was like oh, we need a set paragraph to describe the business that we're trying to fundraise for and I was like I actually disagree, because you want every single application to feel bespoke to that fund. So you're describing the organization in the context of that fund, in the context of where we are right now. So, like, it's become so challenging and it's almost like a work of art to do a good funding application, because you're literally writing, then you're looking at it again, then you're stripping it back, then you're going back and you're picking out the language and you're. I mean, it's like next level and the budgets and the you know. So I kind of feel like we are, we're being placed like we were in the pandemic, in a place of, like, isolation and opposition. And actually this is the time where, like, the partnerships and coming together are really important and not everybody is up for true partnerships. And you can, you know, you can see it sometimes during a meeting and you're trying to talk about a partnership and you can the other person's saying you know, well, we should be doing this ourselves, we don't really need you, and they're actually saying it out loud. You know they're not just thinking it in their head, they're like, actually, why aren't we doing this? We could do this much better on our own, you know. And it's just like, oh my God. So I think the change, I think the change right now and the current feeling and energy in the performing and dance particularly, which is where I'm mainly based Like, see with you, you've got to really love this stuff to want to stay in it. And somebody shared me an article recently and it was talking about how like 13 Creative Director / Chief Eexecs in like, it was mainly talking about venues, have left in the last like 13 months have resigned. And I'm like, yeah, you know what I get it, I really get it. Like you've either got to be really stubborn and determined to prove a point and I do have a little bit of that in my character Like I'm so determined, like to be right in a good way, but you know you're like I really want to prove a point that we can do it differently. I really believe that we can do great art alongside commercial money or something like that. Do you know what I mean? It doesn't all have to be like, oh, worthy art money. You know the worthy art money is really, really important, but there are so many other ways to finance and to create this ecology for our work and for the growth of artists. So I think I'm kind of determined to try and find a way to make it work, but you've got to then not do it the expense of yourself, right? So it is challenging.

David Watson:

And talking about yourself, I think the pandemic was one of the moments where we all decided and realized we needed something different and in the main, I feel like that is still there, and when I'm interviewing people, the questions they're asking me are obviously about the roles and the opportunities, but actually about them as people. Do you think the wider arts and cultural sector has truly adapted to the way we need to work to protect people's mental health and particularly the thing you've just described about all those people leaving and how difficult it is? Are we creating an environment where people can fulfil their job, be healthy, as well as find that balance of being resilient and pushing hard for the change that we want to see? Do you think the sector is anywhere ?

Kate Scanlan:

That's a big question, I think, make?? one of the challenges about the pandemic were that if you had a job and you kept your job, so you weren't furloughed, your job was like your guiding light. It was your like, particularly if you lived alone. Right, when you lived in a shared house. Not everyone returned to their shared house. They went back to family and stuff. So I feel like for a lot of people now coming back into the workplace I've seen it and I know a lot of other organisations and other freelancers are seeing it that there is this sense that your job has to tick all the bits of your life. And so I think, when I look back to my like 20s rr r at t aadler's r at , having like the time of my actual life, hanging out with like Caroline Miller you know all these people, all these names Maria, emma like we just had this most amazing time. We saw loads of great shows, we went to loads of parties and we literally just had fun and work and fun became the same things. We worked really hard in the day and then at night there was always a show, there was always an event, there was always something. And so work and my social life became sort of this big extension of the same thing. We'd all gone holiday. I mean it's crazy, but I think that's really what being in work in your 20s should be about right If you love your job and you're in this industry. So now jump forward to post pandemic. There aren't as many events and people are less willing, less. So now I think people are more willing to socialize now. But they kind of came back into jobs and they were like actually, if I'm going to come here nine to five, I'm doing it on my terms. And I made some of those things in the pandemic. I was like I'm never working like that again. I'm never going to put myself in a situation like that again. And then I get myself a job where I have to go to the office because we are running a brand new building, right, East London Dance and I have to turn up in a certain way and I have to do board meetings in the week evenings. Tia and I, the head of the organisation, so we get called out of our working days, and we have to deal with it because that's the job, right? And so I think there's a lot of challenges around that. There's a lot of challenges around people wanting to be completely flexible. And I read this thing that Mother Pucker was saying at the weekend. She's like oh, the only job that we've worked out that truly can't be done flexibly is an oil rig worker, because you can't just come on off the rig every time you want. Right, I was like, okay, random, submarines too, probably, but anyway, yeah when you look at the arts, in theory all the jobs in these organisations Can be done flexibly and remotely. The challenges when you're in a small organisation and you have a building or you have a specific purpose your purpose kind of defines the extent to which people can have flexible working. So I think that's one thing. I think probably the biggest thing and I wouldn't have said it pre pandemic is childcare costs. And because I didn't have a kid, and I knew that childcare was expensive, but oh my gosh, it's like double my mortgage for four days a week. This is obscene. I spend most of my salary on childcare and my mortgage, and then I have to basically, I have to, then I have no choice but to try and get as much freelance work, irrespective of whether I'm feeling energised or tired, because I can't pay my bills without extra work. I think that's probably the biggest challenge. In the performing arts industry, it is ways into the industry. If you haven't done the kind of formal routes and how you present your experience in a way that people find compelling, because I think people are still very closed. I think it's changing and there's some people doing really interesting interview techniques to diversify their teams, like I was speaking with Azieb at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, and she's got like 90% black staff team now, and she has specific interview questions, and you know the interview is set up to find out like what are people's anti racist practices? Where do people sit on certain subjects that are really critical to how that organisation operates in its community? So I think there are some really shining examples of where people are trying to really like break those traditional hierarchies. And when it comes to like women in the workplace, to be quite honest, it is not worth me doing my job from a financial perspective, and that is the case for many, many women, single parents or not. I mean, you know it's that's probably the biggest challenge I think in the sector. You know, if you get the sector, we're like more women in dance than men, but when it comes to senior leadership and onwards into, like you know, running organisations, it's mainly men.

David Watson:

So maybe in part of that the industry hasn't changed enough to reflect the world we live in and we need to keep pushing harder for radically changing it, I suppose. So the point of this podcast is before the applause, so everything that happens before the show or whatever that output is. But if we change fundamentally the way things are constructed and where we work together and the flexibility, do you think that would have a profound impact on the output at the other end?

Kate Scanlan:

Oh, yeah, totally.

David Watson:

And are we equipped to deal with that, and in what way do you think it might change it?

Kate Scanlan:

Do I think it would change the outcomes? Yes, because I think if you change the working conditions, the working practices, the thinking and the kind of yeah, the policy of welcoming in and being more equitable and more expansive in our views about who and what, and what is culture, how is it consumed, you're the culture, creative. If we were able to shift that perspective, that lens truly well, then the whole sector would have to change. They would have to be money found to support people with additional needs, whatever that need may be to be in the workplace. They would have to be a genuine shift towards what is flexible working and how do we make it work? How do you run hardship funds? A few few months ago, I was like, oh my God, I really really probably shouldn't share this on here, but anyway, whatever, I'm one for sharing your personal stuff.

David Watson:

And yeah, I was in like.

Kate Scanlan:

It's really challenging financially and every single hardship fund I found that supports people in dance, not one single one would support somebody like me. Universal Credit won't support me, even though on the benefits checker I definitely need Universal Credit. But the reality is you've got a mortgage. You've got a job over 16 hours a week, sorry, get on with it, we're not going to help you. So I think for it truly to change, there is a radical overhaul needed. But imagine, can you imagine, what it would be like if every single project, grant or arts council application had contribution to childcare costs. I know somebody who's done that on a touring application and it's going to mean that she can produce the tour because she's going to be able to afford to pay for the childcare.

David Watson:

And I think if enough of us do it, yeah, and I think if enough of us challenge the way things are, we can make that change. You know, I always talk to artists of different levels about the fact that the arts council do not pay you for the time that you put in to create the application, regardless of whether it gets turned down 10 times. This has been a conversation. For how long we've had this conversation? I think we can be making demands and requests of other areas of applications but if we're not looking at, you know, equitable learning and working styles and we're forgetting fundamentals like that, that people can't currently afford to put bread on the table, yet their artists have spent all their lives. How are we going to make the change? But I suppose you know this comes back to people are going to be listened to this and wanting to get into industry in the industry Kate. We're talking about all the things that aren't working. Why should people still want to work in arts and culture even with all these challenges?

Kate Scanlan:

Because it changes the world right? It changes lives. It changes the world. It changes your life and your world and I think we talk very much about like vocational careers, being nursing and teaching, mate, being in the arts is a vocation because you would not put up with what we have, to the working conditions, and you know it is a real hours yeah. And the things you have to do before you get the money to spend on the product, the work. So I think, yeah, there's definitely got to be a lot of passion there, but literally it is the best, best career. Like I have traveled the world, I have met and worked with so many people, like you know, even the era that you and I were Rambert what an amazing era. And you look at that company now, with a different artistic lead and they have gone in a completely different direction and it just shows you like Rambert is a really good example. Whether you believe it should have stayed as more traditional or you like the direction, kind of regardless to that, it just goes to show you that if you have a strong vision, you can do it. You can do it. And I always think very much about that. Like, Hip Hop, was a culture made by kids who sampled bits of everything. Like their buildings were burning down around them, they had nothing and they created this beautiful culture that is kind of the world's super culture. Now it's used to sell more cars and toothbrushes and God knows what. You know what I mean. It's a crazy, crazy, massive culture and you find it everywhere in the world. Whether you've got people that are loaded or you've got people living in ref ugee camps. Like Hip Hop culture is everywhere and I think that idea around sampling and taking and entrepreneurial- ness, I think if you're going to come into the sector now, that is going to set you apart. You have to be somebody that will find a way. I think the arts is really really brilliant at developing your resilience and I think you know like you will get loads of notes, your funding, like how does that make you feel when you get a no? I was talking about this with Lucas McFarlane when we did the Box Fresh Skills thing and I said to him oh, it just makes me like really mad. I'm like you'll, you'll wish that you invested in this project. I'm going to find another way. And he was like, 'oh, I just think not now or not in this way'. And that is that reframing piece, because if an idea speaks to you and is in your heart and they're going back to this vocation or you are driven to do this work, it's like I was talking about wanting to do a podcast for ages and you've actually gone and done it. It was amazing, but eventually you know you find a way, you find the right time, the right moment to try it. It might not work perfectly, it might not work at all, but it's just that the arts, like you, find ways and the more entrepreneurial you are and the more like broadly you can look at. Where does your money come from? Who are your collaborators? H ow you're going to do it? You know there's millions of empty shops on every single high street. There's millions of empty offices. Who wants office spaces? Nobody really. So, in that fact, where is the opportunity for you as a creative, as a collective like, as someone that wants to change their community for the better? T here's so many opportunities, in fact, there's infinite opportunities right now, but you really need to want it, I think.

David Watson:

I Couldn't agree more. So I was thinking of our time at Rambert and I agree, some of the best times we've had, and you know we've had lots of good times and lots of fun moments. And I wondered, you know, apart from obviously meeting me, what is there any? Is there any really profound and incredible moments that you think about all the time? And I wondered if you could tell us about a moment and why it was so brilliant.

Kate Scanlan:

Oh, wow, I think. Um, there, I think. Well, from Rambert, I'm going to tell you three things. From Rambert, I think the thing I learned was never give up if you believe in something. And the wonderful Sue Wyatt was the Executive Director at the time and, if you remember, she used to say no to me a lot because she was like your ideas are too crazy, they're going to cost money. No. A nd I remember I used to go back to the team and it was Laura and Louise, and then we had an archivist as well, working for us Mel, and I used to go back and say, oh, Sue said no, right, let's rethink it. This is what we said. And she said no, and then I would go right, okay, and then I'd go back up the corridor. This would be like a week later, Sue, I know you said no, but and she'd be like, oh, listen to me. And then she'd go no, so go back. Anyway, to cut the long story short, we ended up working out what was the sweet spot, what could she not say no to. So that was like a really amazing piece of learning. And when I was at Battersea Power Station talking to like Malaysian property developers who you know like expecting profits and you know, just remembering that, you know if you can understand what they want to get from it and you pitch them that you can pretty much get to do anything you like. Right, and that was my big learning from Rambert really. A From Breakin' Convention came the mantra 'never assume anything'. And every time I forget that mantra it smacks me back in the face again. I remember, like in the first breaking convention, we're talking to an artist from LA, from Compton, and it was really not that long for the festival. And then, just as an offhand, we said something about passports and they went, oh, do we need passports? And we were like, yeah, do you not have passports? They were like, no, none of us have got passports. And there were like 15 people coming over. No one had a passport. I would say it was probably two months out to the festival. And then, obviously and then we got another time people have not known they needed visas and then you're suddenly in this crazy visa thing. So never assume anything. And when you never assume anything it also makes you more, it brings in more humanity as well, because when you assume something it can be quite alienating and it can make people a bit scared to ask a question. But when you never assume anything, you present it like know, know, . S. So these are the things we need to do. You know, just checking that you have the or you know, you have kind of a different conversation from it and your energy is different, right. And so then if people go, I haven't got a passport, you're like, yeah, what the hell? I thought you know you're not doing that. It's kind of much softer and kinder really. So I think that that was a never-assume anything and the kind of like kindness moment. And then I suppose you know, when people say, oh, I don't know what I want to, I don't know what I want to do, I don't know, like how do I know if I'm doing the right thing for my career, and for me there's always been like a really simple indicator that I'm in the right place and that is like so much happiness that my actual cheeks hurt, like I actually get a pain in my cheekbones. And I remember the first time I felt it was the first night of Breakin' Convention, 2004. It was a sellout with Electica Boogaloos. The old-school London b-boys breaking all the concrete outside with a ghetto blaster. I mean, it was just amazing. It was just. I just remember Alistair always used to say to us when it was a really great first night, go see this everyone. I did this and we were like Alistair, Alistair, see this. We did it! and we were like so happy. And then we're like when I did the bridge or popping feet pop shop or the, you know, the festival at Battersea Power Station, or the first time we did Move it, you know these moments actually know the first time we did Move It, that was hell. Not that time. Another another time, after the first year, we did move it and but you know, just that moment of just being like I could not be anywhere else and it's those moments that refine in you like why you do what you do and they give you the energy to keep doing, to keep doing right, to keep pushing, to keep trying. If those moments that remind you why you are who you are basically and why you are important, and I think, going back, to I think what I said at the beginning was that as a kid I never really felt that I fitted in massively. I always felt like the odd one out and these moments were where I was like I feel so connected to people and this is like this energy. It is so powerful and when you look around those old, young, disabled, able-bodied, there's everybody, and everybody is like together as one, and I think that's what this world needs a lot more. That's the thing I suppose I like makes me think, yes, keep going, because when you create those moments, it's really special, actually it's really special, and everybody takes home their little, their personal experience of that day or that moment, whatever it is, and that lives on in their life and I think that's really powerful and we create all those amazing memories, don't we?

David Watson:

Yeah, and you've heard it here first the smile-b arometer is if you know you're having a good time at work. And I've got two last questions. So the first one is what industry misconceptions really get on your wick that you want to settle once and for all now, if they're any?

Kate Scanlan:

I think the biggest thing primarily like working in hip-hop over the last 20 years basically 20 years. I suppose is the, the high art, low art, b******** that you know might not be said anymore. We don't use the words high art, but the, the feeling is definitely there. You know, and I think you know when you say you work in hip-hop, all those preconceptions that people have are still there in a lot of cases, and so I feel like the thing I'd really like to change is that kind of those biases around what is art, what is culture, who creates art, who is the artist like. I think, if you know, if we could keep breaking those down, then you know the work that is created will be truly magnificent. I suppose, on the flip side, being an outsider culture sometimes is part of the drive to create this incredible work, to show the world what it really can be. So maybe we need a little bit of that, but I think yeah, I think that's a hard one, but yeah, I think that the biggest thing is that you know people think bigger is better, people think and a more established name is better and you know, and it's not, and actually it's been really encouraging like and really exciting to see companies like Boy Blue, Far from the Norm, Ivan Blackstock, Dixon NBI, you know winning Olivier Awards, having that recognition. You know, because, as you know, it's just a bit of a statue. You know it's just a words and a statue, but actually these things do open doors, they do shed a light on a culture and a type of creation. So I think it's like, yeah, it's a mix. You know, we want to kind of stop these old institutions, but sometimes they're also the route to changing perceptions brilliant answer.

David Watson:

So I ask every guest to make a cultural confession on this podcast, and I hope you've done your homework? Have you?

Kate Scanlan:

There is a real challenge and in in the creative industries, around women working and childcare, and I have talked about it, but it is. You know, it is the thing that, on a monthly basis, makes me think I need to leave the arts. I need a different job, I need to work outside of this sector because I'm working so hard. It's at the detriment to my own self and that's not cool. So I think that that is a that is a really big thing that we have to have. We have to have a meaningful change to it, because in the way that we want rent caps in London, you know, to stop this absorbent rent being charged by private landlords, which is obscene, you know. And the flip side, then, when you, when you actually are able to work, you want it to be worth your while working. Otherwise you will not, you will not retain people in the sector. So I think is that and I suppose at the same time it's around producing and you know it's not really still understood that much. I don't think like we know we need producers, but we still spend all our time as an industry developing artists and not really developing the producers, and then you get to that same classic bit every ten years. Where are the producers? or it used to be Where the dance managers? because that's what used to be called, and now it's producers. And, yeah, we need, we need a more. We're trying to do this at ELD in a very small way, but trying to, you know, help, the retention of producers in the sector and diverse producers, so that you know, you, you have a choice about who you want to produce your work, not the two people that are producing this type of work. So I think that they're probably the things that I feel would make a really big difference. I don't know if they're cultural confessions, no they are.

David Watson:

They are, and the point of cultural confessions that are yours to make. Yeah, so for you they're two profound things that you think about day and night and you're trying to change and you want others to do as well.

Kate Scanlan:

So join me, we get all sorts.

David Watson:

There you go, called call to action from Kate's aka Scanners. Kate, it has been incredible talking to you. I've had so honestly, it's lovely to hear everything that you wanted to share with us. We've been friends for a long time and you are still an inspiration to me, even though you tell me to shut up when I tell you that. But thank you so much for being on this podcast and maybe we'll do it again.

Kate Scanlan:

I'd love to. Maybe you can come on my podcast when I actually launched it.

David Watson:

I'm totally up for that great.

Kate Scanlan:

Thank you so much. Honestly, it's been an honor and a really really nice thing to do on a Monday afternoon, so thank you.

David Watson:

o listening to this episode Applause.

Personal Journey in the Arts Industry
Scanners Inc
Performing Arts Challenges and Changes
Working in the Arts
Lessons Learned and Indicators of Success
Challenge Conventions in the Creative Industry
Cultural Confession