Creative marketing can leave little time for developing artistic skills, yet few can afford to ignore its positive impact. Narus Productions director Rachel Erickson tells Sheila McWattie about how her newly founded company aims to help
Rachel Erickson is fizzing with drive and enthusiasm for the imminent public launch of Narus Productions, her recently established and rapidly evolving not-for-profit arts marketing consultancy, based at the Centre for Creative Collaboration in London’s Kings Cross. “From the outset we’re seeking to build a discussion based around how our company can most effectively support those in the creative industries and act as an advocate to better enable the voices of Disabled artists to reach the mainstream,” she explains.
Narus is setting the tone and raising its own profile with a warm invitation to interested individuals and representatives of like-minded organisations to attend its launch party from 6.30pm on Friday 10 May near London’s Kings Cross: “Come and raise a glass with us and enjoy an evening of celebration, including a presentation of the Narus vision, entertainment, networking and discussions, drinks and nibbles – and a prize draw for some fantastic experiences!”
Partnership is key for the Narus team. With a name inspired by the Latin ‘gnarus’ – meaning aware, expert, perceptive and well known – the fledgling company aims to provide the nuts and bolts back-up for small theatre companies and artists, with a specific focus on supporting those working in the field of disability arts.
Rachel sees creativity as a full-time process: “To achieve their full potential, artists need time to focus on their work. The concept of Narus developed from our recognition that many talented artists are struggling to get that work noticed because they don’t have the energy to focus simultaneously on administration, marketing, and their creative process,” she explains. “The business and art worlds are often so completely separate from one another, but it's time for that to change. It’s definitely time to move beyond the cliché of the struggling actor or director. My commitment to our clients, staff, audiences, and anyone else I come into contact with is to do my utmost to make the world a better place through collaboration and creative solutions. So Narus aims to empower creative organisations and artists to focus on their art by offering support throughout project planning and production.”
Mixing skills with experience
Practicality and empathy are combined at Narus to help provide realistic solutions to challenging situations. Options available to individuals and small arts organisations include business consultancy and bespoke services such as publicity, promotion and marketing, audience and funding acquisition, grant applications, administration, networking, production management and access training.
“Our team come from diverse backgrounds in the creative and business sectors, enabling us to share knowledge and taking a collaborative, innovative approach to supporting our clients,” says Rachel, who has more than a decade of experience as a director, stage manager, administrator, and creative facilitator, including projects with Graeae Theatre Company, Actability Inclusive, Corali Dance Company and Parrabbola, and serving as a volunteer marshal for the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Narus co-ordinator Trish Howey and consultant Andrew Rivera contribute a rich mix of skills including marketing and design.
Reaching the organisation’s target market
“We’ll make tactical use of the usual channels such as social media, face-to-face networking and through conversations with the many existing networks. It's very important to us that we're not trying to replace any of the networks out there – I think Danny Braverman was quoted in a recent report as saying that “The daily experience of the sector is a bewildering array of networks” – but rather to try and have a clear enough awareness of them all to point people towards them, and so hopefully benefit everyone.”
The ethos is highly participative: “Among the small arts organisations with which we are currently collaborating is Beautiful Mess, which does site-specific work in the borough of Lambeth, south London, focusing on celebratory participatory events enabling marginalised groups to find their voice. We're working on a marketing plan with director Kati Francis to make sure the reach that the company achieves is as wide as possible.”
“And we’re excited about developing services with Actability, an inclusive performing arts organisation providing touring theatre and workshops in Hertfordshire and Essex with disabled and non-disabled adults, including high quality performance opportunities for learning disabled people. Having recently gained charitable status, they are seeing a big increase in opportunities for work, so we'll be involved primarily in an admin capacity to help keep things organised and running smoothly through this expansion.
Some of their upcoming projects include workshops around hate crime and sexuality for learning disabled people and they are also in conversation about their next touring show, which we hope to support in a production management capacity.
“While all small organisations and artists who wish to develop their work and build audiences share the challenge of balancing creative time with the need to manage and market that process, we’ve chosen to focus our service on Disability Arts with the recognition that Disabled artists face additional barriers including social attitudes and passive discrimination, as well as physical access barriers.”
“We operate on the social model of disability, with the belief that the removal of these barriers will lead to more richness and diversity both in the arts and in society at large.”
Representation at the official launch
“We want to attract as many representatives from different theatre companies and organisations as possible to the official launch of Narus. We have also invited young emerging admin, marketing and production professionals who have an interest in potentially working with Narus, so that they can become part of the conversation.
“We are quite keen to get dialogue going beyond what has traditionally been the disability arts community – we tend to get so immersed that it can be easy to forget that a lot of others in the theatre industry are not aware of the movement.”
Coping with limited access at the launch event
“We are doing the best we can concerning access [to the launch event] on a very limited budget and are incredibly grateful for the free use of space at the Centre for Creative Collaboration. We decided to go ahead with the event despite the venue’s limited access rather than wait for an unknown period of time, with a view towards having future events, which will be in more accessible spaces.
“I can confirm that we will have sign language interpreters and personal assistants available to support as needed during the evening, and will be in conversation with businesses in the area in order to – at the very least – find somewhere nearby with accessible facilities.
“We decided it's better to be up-front about our situation and work with people who want to come to find reasonable solutions rather than avoid the subject all together, which, in my experience is what to many people do, because they just get intimidated by the whole prospect.
“It's also my experience that when you ask people, they know their own needs and can give much more productive suggestions than [would happen] with us just trying to imagine and prepare for every scenario. Of course, in an ideal world where everyone recognised the social model of disability, people should be able to expect that they could just show up to an event and have it be completely accessible. I suppose you could say that's our ultimate goal, but in the meantime we just have to do the best we can.”
Access priorities at future venues
“Ideally we would always be able to guarantee that everything was accessible, and we'll always strive to find spaces that are as all-inclusive as possible. This means not only the basic and obvious things, such as ramps and accessible toilet facilities, but making sure that venue staff are on-board with supporting access needs, and that there is a general positive attitude in this respect.
“In reality there may be times when due to budgets or availability or other factors an opportunity may arise for a space that would be limiting in some respect, but would be an otherwise beneficial opportunity to the company or a client.
“In those cases a judgment call has to be made, and we will make every effort to reach out to and engage as many people as possible in the decision and carefully weigh pros and cons. Keeping an open dialogue going is one of the most important things, and admitting the challenges to enable us to face them collaboratively.
“Part of the conditions for our use of the space at the Centre for Creative Collaboration, where our office is based, is that we give back to the building in some way, and my current priority is to help them improve accessibility there.”
Obtaining free Narus launch party tickets
Free tickets for the Narus launch party are available at http://naruslaunch.eventbrite.co.uk/
Please RSVP by 8 May.
Venue: Centre for Creative Collaboration
16 Acton Street, London WC1X 9NG
Date and time: Friday 10 May 2013 from 6.30pm to 9pm.
Nearest tube: Kings Cross
Limited wheelchair access; no accessible toilets/ restrooms.
If you have access requirements or any other enquiries, please contact Narus prior to the event: firstname.lastname@example.org