E143 - Uncompromising on Beliefs with Alan Lane
“Participation is the only possible way that we are going to get out of the quagmire that we are in.” - Alan Lane
In this episode, we speak with Alan Lane, the Artistic Director of Slung Low Theatre Company.
We discuss the similarities between the charity sector and the arts sector, and how Slung Low has pivoted during the pandemic to serve their community in a time of great need and in a different way to normal, while holding on to their beliefs, values and aims.
1. Understanding the needs of your beneficiaries and adjusting to meet those needs
Alan talked about moving from organising large scale outdoor performance to becoming a non-means-tested self-referral food bank, and an education and culture centre. This came as a result of the social, economic and psychological problems within the community that were highlighted and caused by the pandemic.
Knowing your values, and your agenda and sticking by them can help you to navigate the danger zone of adapting your offering to make the most of opportunities and bring people with you in the direction of supporting your beneficiaries.
2. Moving into a social care environment
One of the views that underpins Slung Low's culture is that the more disconnected you get from the real world the less interesting you are as an artist. By working to represent and understand the interests and needs of the community in which they work, Alan and his colleagues have historically aimed to create performances that resonate with their community. When the pandemic hit they maintained this approach in delivering for their community in other ways.
Slung Low Theatre Company have had to move into this space to help their community during the challenges highlighted by the pandemic. Their mission is to give the people of Holbeck the best possible cultural life.
3. Putting ethics at the forefront
Have a clear mission for your charity or group is crucial in ensuring that you have both the clarity of purpose but also the freedom to adjust to changing circumstances without fear of moving away from your mission. Slung Low focus on how they bring people together in their local community, through a belief in the power of storytelling, and the commonality rather than the differences between them.
Getting a balance of giving the audience a mixture of what they want but also seeking to educate and expose them to different ideas from within and outside of the community is one approach to bridging the gap in views within a community. The result of these conversations has led to a tangible approach of giving all groups an opportunity for access and influence over Slung Low's services.
4. Truly representing your community
Alan highlighted that the Arts sector is predominantly white, those in authority are often male, and the cultural gatekeepers are largely part of the establishment. Making a commitment by defining a quota based on proportionate representation in the organisation's area, helps Alan and his team to steer a course towards progressing in this area. Alan is prioritising his company looking like their community, and is using a quota system until someone can come up with a better solution to be truly representative.
5. We can go back to how things were
We are in the middle of a culture war. What are charities for? If you want to fix the causes of some of the issues that we are seeking to address you will have to get political because it's not about being party political but the culture has to change in order to address the systemic causes of the issues we are seeking to address. Alan asks the question, we have to look at the fabric of our society and if charities aren't doing that who is?
Change is unpopular with people who like the way things are now. Disruption of this will come with inevitable consequences but charities working on the front line of societal inequalities are best placed to understand, share, and lead the call for change.
We hope you enjoy this week’s episode.
This episode is brought to you by our platinum sponsor Charity People.
For more about engaging with your community and tools to do so, you may be interested in:
E104: Philanthropy - COVID-19 and Beyond with Paul Gillespie
E102: Social Mobility with Paul Evans
E91: The Changing Remit of Charities with Andrew Purkis OBE