This follow-up to our first Hatchifesto was delivered by co-director Michael Pinchbeck as a talk at the Getting It Out There symposium at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts on 12 May 2012.
Hatch is a verb. Hatch is a noun. Hatch is a theatre without a building based in Nottingham that showcases live work from emerging and established artists across the East Midlands. It is an incubator for new work from the region and an opening onto the art scene for artists that might not normally have access to venues in the area. Since its inception, ten events have happened in ten locations across the region. Each event has invited artists to respond to that location and to chime with a theme.
Helen Cole, in Performance and Place, writes of ‘live art leaking from the building’. We devised Hatch in response to the sense that live art was slowly leaking from our city. Hatch was formed to plug the holes with performance. We felt that the Nottingham live art scene had lost momentum because of the closure of the Powerhouse, the NOW Festival and eXpo, and the performance courses at Nottingham Trent University had shut up shop. We felt that these closures left gaps in the local arts landscape but created opportunities for grass roots, artist-led activity to take place in the empty spaces left behind, to grow through the cracks.
In the beginning, we drew up a Hatchifesto and sent it out to regional artists to share an idea of what Hatch might be. We decided that Hatch would embrace work that often succeeds but is not afraid to fail. We wanted to work with artists who didn’t know what to call themselves, who wear too many hats. We wanted to showcase work that sweats on a low budget, or no budget. Work that might not ordinarily find a home outside a festival. Work our parents would say was ‘interesting’. Work that is unexpected and unfinished and unashamed of the fact it might not work. Since then, Hatch has showcased over 200 artists’ work to over 2000 people; from 6 acts in the back room of a pub to 20 acts in 10 venues along a whole street. Hatch has worked with digital art festivals, dance festivals, fine art festivals, arts centres and theatres, including Nottingham Playhouse. We have hatched talks, residencies, workshops and speed dating. We have hatched in Derby, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Skegness (a cultural cold spot). We have hatched in caves, castles, cinemas, pubs, clubs, football clubs, snooker clubs, tea rooms, vodka bars, gay bars, Polish centres, virtual golf centres and a five star hotel. We have hatched in empty shop windows and on market stalls. We have hatched in cars, coaches and trains. We have hatched in bandstands. We have even hatched in bed.
We want to challenge the vocabulary of the sector. We want to ask why we can’t talk about a B-stream instead of a mainstream? Like we might say a B-road instead of a main road, or a B-side instead of an A-side. Or a B-Movie. Or a Plan B. Because there are a lot of Plan Bs at the moment. We want to talk about overground instead of underground, hi fi instead of lo fi, low profile instead of high profile. Do It Together rather than Do It Yourself.
We want to work outside theatres and at the same time we want to turn theatres inside out. We want to pitch a tent outside a theatre and tell stories in it to one person at a time. Or walk onstage at a theatre and tell an audience we have nothing to say and see what happens. Or perform for 24 hours in a foyer to the people passing through it and to see how long they stay. We want to make areas in venues that are usually corridors into destinations. We want to turn carpets into stages, strip lights into spotlights, windows into proscenium arches. We want to break eggs in chief executive’s offices or spill red paint on the floor. We want to give the audience a kiss or a cuddle or a shower or a shave. We want to take them into the dressing room or the rig or the control box or the box office and say this is a performance space too. We want to stretch risk assessments until they tell us what is possible, not what isn’t.
We want to sign venue contracts but then say: ‘Now we would like you to sign this. To say you have read our manifesto and you are happy for us to take over. To say you know that some people might walk out but other people might walk in’. In my show, The Beginning, we ask the audience to sign a contract and in the contract we say ‘If you leave, we leave. If you get up and go, we get up and go. We’re all in this together’. Because we are all in this together. We want to hyphenate the relationship between performer and audience, venues and the outside world. We want it to be a relationship, not just a one night stand.
Hatch has coined a word, performance-y (performance with a y on the end), to umbrella the work we show. It is a broad brushstroke to include multiple forms of performance. Because the definition of the work matters less than the opportunity to show it. We offer artists a small fee, time, space, an outside eye and the marketing and technical support they might need to get their ideas off the ground. Each event is like a nest. We nurture these ideas with feedback and we watch them fly around the room. Sometimes we watch these ideas fly the nest and tour the country. Sometimes the idea comes back in its finished form. Sometimes we go on the road with it.
We have been mentoring a group of fine art students at Nottingham Trent University for three years. They have now graduated and will join us on a bus to Hazard in Manchester in July to perform professionally for the first time. They are the first generation of artists we have genuinely hatched. At the same time, we have shown new work in the region by Action Hero, Reckless Sleepers and, hopefully, Third Angel. Hatch connects artists at different stages in their careers to new audiences in the spaces in between venues and festivals. Andrew Mitchelson from Live Art Development Agency said recently: ‘If there is no context, make the context.’ Hatch makes contexts. Hatch breaks contexts. Theatres have to drive with their foot on the accelerator. Theatres without a building can drive with their foot on the brake. If main house theatres are ships, Hatch is a hovercraft, darting between different spaces, taking shortcuts and never staying still for long enough to be defined. The moment we stop moving is the moment we stop working. Hatch makes contexts blur and bleed and spill and flow. Like a broken egg. Or red paint on the floor.
Hatch is a verb. Hatch is a noun.