As Without Walls launches its latest round of open calls, Programme Manager David Morgan provides an insight into the journey that Without Walls has been on over the course of the pandemic, and how that is shaping our plans for the future.
Like all organisations, Without Walls has been through a transformative period since the pandemic hit in March 2020. Over the course of 2020 almost all our planned festivals and events were cancelled, and the programme of 15 new projects that we had intended to support was put on hold. Without Walls guaranteed support payments to artists and supported our festival partners to honour commissioning and cancellation payments.
Following the initial turmoil, we turned our attention to what else we should be doing in order to support the sector through the crisis. Having moved to online working we continued to regularly meet with our Artistic Directorate and Touring Network partners to share information and to plan how we could adapt to the constantly changing circumstances.
This led to Without Walls delivering a whole range of activities geared towards supporting both artists and festivals. As we learned how to adapt to Covid-safe ways of working we were pleased to be able to offer the opportunity for artists to continue developing work through the Blueprint 2021 open call that we launched in January. We were able to support 11 artists in developing a wide range of projects, and we hope to see many of these come to fruition over the coming years.
During this time we also took the opportunity to review our work with Black and Asian artists. Reflecting the diversity of contemporary Britain is one area in which the outdoor arts sector needs to make progress, and we embrace our responsibility in leading the way in promoting this important work.
In 2021 we were glad to be able to finally present the majority of shows that had been due to appear in 2020. We were pleased that the majority of our partner festivals were able to go ahead as planned, although the cancellation of Stockton International Riverside Festival for the second year running was a sad loss to the season. We very much look forward to Stockton returning in 2022.
At the same time, we have also been able to welcome three new organisations to our Artistic Directorate, expanding the range of touring opportunities that we are able to offer. Certain Blacks and Timber Festival both presented their first Without Walls supported programmes in July 2021.
We are also delighted to be able to announce that DaDa in Liverpool have now joined the Artistic Directorate. DaDa are leaders in the promotion of high quality disability, Deaf and neurodiverse arts from unique cultural perspectives.
Our new partners are already bringing a wealth of insights, experience and fresh perspectives with them and we’re really looking forward to working with Certain Blacks, Timber and DaDa over the coming years.
As 2021 comes to a close, we can now start looking to the future with a greater degree of certainty. This Autumn we are launching an open call for the next round of Blueprint, along with an early opportunity for artists to submit proposals for the creation and touring of new work in 2023.
Our intention is that this will allow artists to continue developing and creating new work over the course of 2022 as we finish working our way through the backlog of projects that we have been supporting over recent years, some of which have been in development since 2018.
The programme that we hope to present next year will be one of Without Walls largest ever programmes of new work and reflects the programming priorities that we have continued to develop during lockdown. We are confident that it represents a great selection of exciting and varied work and we very much look forward to publicly launching the programme in the new year.
The process that we are launching in October is merely the first stage in developing programme plans for 2023 and is intended to enable artists who are in a position to do so to submit proposals at an early stage. This is not the only opportunity to submit proposals for 2023. Another open call will take place in Summer 2022 to enable time for people to continue developing their ideas and plans.
As with all National Portfolio Organisations our own plans for 2023 will still be subject to renewal of our Arts Council funding, and we will be spending the coming months working to develop our plans for 2023 and beyond. Given the various timelines involved we felt that it would be best to begin the process of planning for 2023 as soon as possible, in order to allow artists greater time to develop their projects over the coming year. Our intention is that we would provide final confirmation of the 2023 programme in Autumn 2022, once the results of the NPO application process are known.
Without Walls exists to support artists first and foremost. In launching these two open calls we aim to keep that support flowing to the sector and we very much look forward to receiving all of your ideas.