ExploreTheArch Theatre Company
ExploreTheArch explores the theatre of domestic life at the company's intimate, domestic-status venue, Archer Lodge in St Leonards on Sea. Sold out production, Spirited, ran through the summer 2021 with an extension run.
Cultural strategy ambition(s)
Culture for everyone - Hastings' cultural offer is inclusive and accessible - there are chances for people to take part in culture and creativity in their community.
Proud to live in Hastings - Culture builds connections between communities to improve the quality of life for local people.
What did you do/what happened?
Inspired by the writing of England's early known adventure author, Marie de France, this 2021 expressionist theatre production was developed into an Arts Council England and Hastings Borough Council funded installation showing in 2022 at Battle Abbey and Hastings Museum & Art Gallery.
Who was involved?
Yasmin Aishah is on the company's mentee team of early career freelance artists with barriers to employment. Growing up in Hastings, she is now forging a career as a visual artist and performer in the town. She has been appointed a director of ExploreTheArch Theatre company.
Was there anything novel in your approach?
ExploreTheArch is a internationally recognised for its work exploring the theatre of domestic life in a dedicated domestic-status venue. Its interdisciplinary, experiential work is unique. ExploreTheArch's mentee scheme for early career freelance artists with barriers to employment addresses an identified absence of network and support for 16-28 year olds selecting a freelance career in the cultural sector as a best fit for their health and learning challenges. Team members typically find that traditional educational channels do not meet their needs. They are recruited to the scheme for the insights they will bring to the creative sector through their lived experience of diversity.
When did this happen, over what time period?
Spirited ran through the summer of 2021 and, in 2022, is showing as an installation. It is conceived as a five year, multi-partner project adding diverse stories to 1066-themed history through the foregrounding of the overlooked adventure stories of twelfth-century author, Marie de France.
Is this a first for Hastings, regionally or even nationally?
First internationally. The Norman Connections project did address Herstory with some acknowledgement of female career queens in the upgrade of Falaise Castle. This project supports partners to embrace the much wider #Herstory offered in this writing with its LGBTQ+ and migration themes.
Where did you get inspiration / the idea from for this activity?
It has been a lifelong ambition to expand the access to Marie de France's writing beyond elite academic communities. The ambition is to offer multiple accessible entry points and for Hastings to claim this author through Hastings Museum & Art Gallery's collection of medieval everyday objects that relate to her stories of domestic experience.
What difference has this made to your organisation, and the people involved?
This is one of a number of projects that we run involving our mentee team of twelve early career artists who need to forge a career in sister towns Hastings and St Leonards on Sea because of personal health issues that affect their ability to move away from home.
What are your plans for the future?
We hope to achieve permanent funding for this scheme which is at present funded only through specific project. In the meantime, the mentee offer is free workspace at Archer Lodge, funded by the company, which offers them an uplifting and confidence building environment and community to develop their personal practice and employment at industry rates when project funding is achieved.
What advice would you give another arts organisation or creative practitioner looking to do something similar / work in Hastings?
Define your identity. We are unique in the world, as far as we are aware. There is no other domestic status venue dedicated year round to intimate theatre. We are built on the back of thirty years or so of national growth in the immersive theatre tradition and, as an experiential theatre company, are inter-disciplinary which enables a diverse team to work together.
How can your experience address commonly encountered challenges to help other arts organisation or creative practitioner working or based-in Hastings?
We work in parallel with other Hastings orgs Project Art Works and Egg Tooth offering a clear distinction in support. Our mentee team understand how our offer is different to the support these organisations provide and, at the point of recruitment, we select with care for a best-fit experience that can continue for ten years. A long term relationship benefits those who have not thrived in the start stop experience of short-term education provision.
"The mentoring scheme addresses the perception that Hastings is the town you leave after sixth form. I'm part of a growing network of young creative professionals who choose to build a career in the cultural sector here. I aim to become an international artist through thriving in this town where I grew up."