Non-essential shops and services are now shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, and this includes arts venues such as theatres, cinemas and galleries.
In response, Manchester arts venue HOME is now spearheading a plan to take brand-new live experiences from the homes of artists directly into the homes of their audiences.
Called Homemakers, the series of newly-commissioned work challenges theatre and live art makers to create new works at home, for an audience who are also at home.
It’s questioning our very definition of ‘live theatre’.
The final works could be live-streamed performance, video, audio, text, games, personal encounters – or something completely different. The pieces will be made available on HOME’s website on a ‘pay-what-you-decide’ basis.
It will be made accessible to the widest possible audience through captioning, audio description, and providing relaxed versions where appropriate.
Artists commissioned so far include Bryony Kimmings, Javaad Alipoor, Ad Infinitum and Plaster Cast Theatre.
“I’m excited to see how I make work digitally, I’ve always focused on human bodies living, breathing and feeling all together in a room,” said Bryony.
“What happens when you take that away. Is it possible to still create that connection remotely?! Who knows! We’ll have a bash.”
George Mann, co-artistic director of Ad Infinitum, says cancelling a performance is always devastating.
“Closing theatres seems unimaginable,” said George. “But, having theatre as a concept cancelled for the foreseeable, is just absolutely insane and forces you to ask existential questions that make your brain want to pop. It really hits home just how fragile our existence is.
“We’re trying to get to grips with an ever-changing situation, it’s altered our future in ways we still don’t understand, but we’re doing everything we can to protect the people we collaborate with.
“So, getting an email from the team at HOME inviting us to be creative, and to help make a challenging, uncertain time an opportunity to work with people we love, to collaborate, to stay human, it was really moving – and just what we all needed. We can’t wait to share what we come up with!”.
The new project is a response to “the immediate crisis facing artists, audiences and arts organisations,” explains HOME’s Jude Christian.
“We want to provide artists with a platform to keep making the kind of brilliant, groundbreaking work that venues like HOME exist to programme, and to keep bringing our audiences the best of theatre and live art while our doors are closed.”
The commissions are being paid for by part of HOME’s Response Fund, which was set up in the wake of the announcement that theatres across the country would close due to the coronavirus.
The incredible reaction to the Response Fund has allowed Homemakers to be announced less than a week after HOME confirmed it would have to temporarily close its doors to the public.
“We are working with a ‘pay-what-you-decide’ model because we want to acknowledge the value of our artists’ work and give audiences a chance to support them by paying what they might expect to pay in a live venue,” says Jude.
“However, we don’t want to create any barriers to access and therefore this model provides everyone with the opportunity to engage with all of our work for free.”
The aim is for the first work to be available in early April.