Karen Goddard, a freelance arts and heritage project producer, is aiming to keep the arts alive during this troubling lockdown.
The main lady herself, Karen Goddard, started out working with The Wolsey Theatre, learning about the ‘nuts and bolts’ of theatre-making and found she deeply loved the experience. Fast forward a few years and she landed a job with Ipswich-based touring theatre company, Eastern Angles, where she started as a Marketing Officer.
While at Eastern Angles, Karen found she was ‘up to her eyes’ in funding applications and business sponsorships whilst trying to dream up creative ways of telling new stories about the people and places in East Anglia.
Karen said: “In truth, by 2018 I’d morphed into a would-be Producer and was enjoying the opportunity to flex my creative muscles. So, that’s when I decided to make the break and set up as Freelance Practitioner.”
Karen’s first freelance role was working on a series of productions for Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company and then various other projects followed.
“As a freelancer, it’s hard to say ‘no’. So, some weeks you find yourself burning the candle at both ends! Other weeks, taking a sigh of relief. I was lucky enough to get money from Arts Council England through their ‘Developing your Creative Practice’ fund to help me pay for training courses and mentoring, which was enormously helpful,” Karen said.
Now, Karen works as a theatre producer from home in Charsfield where she works with a variety of theatre companies, individual artists, playwrights, directors, actors and musicians.
Karen explained: “People often ask me what a theatre ‘Producer’ actually does and it’s a good question! It depends on the project but it can involve everything from applying for funding, finding rehearsal spaces and performance venues, doing research for scripts, striking Box Office deals, sorting out employment contracts, and running community engagement workshops to buying props and booking accommodation and travel.”
Although the first lockdown gave Karen plenty of downtime to brainstorm ideas and interview plenty of people, even squeezing in time to make willow and tissue paper sculptures with her sister, this second lockdown has meant that many of her projects are on hold and, as a freelancer, that is the worst news that a creative can receive.
“November was supposed to be a busy month. My Stow & Tell workshops had just started, we were planning on performing some of the ‘Booming Voices’ script to a small socially distanced audience, Zoe was going to test some creative writing exercises in schools, and we were all set to film some ‘virtual chorus’ community participants. Of course, all that is now on hold.
“I suppose one thing that people may not realize is this: creative freelancers who are lucky enough to gain Arts Council funding are given a pot of money to deliver the work. Great, but if lockdown descends, that pot of money doesn’t magically grow bigger. It’s just spread across a longer period of time. So, for freelancers who are not eligible for the government’s Self Employed Income Support Scheme, of whom there are many, this can be a big problem!”
Despite everything going on, Karen is keeping herself hopeful for the future, even working on a one woman show with writer/performer Natalie Songer, and hopes that all of her amazing workshops, socially distanced of course, will be back and up running once this lockdown has ended.
“All the freelancers I am working with are amazingly positive and optimistic. They are just happy that there is a glimmer of work in the future and can’t wait to get back in a rehearsal room or performance space and do what they do best!”
Karen feels it is vital that we keep the arts alive and continue to support all of our local artists in the future.
“Not having arts and culture in our lives would be devastating on many levels. Firstly, the Creative Industries employ a huge number of people and bolster the economy in a massive way. It’s one of our most successful exports! It’s not just the people directly employed by theatres, museums, arts galleries and so on. It’s the people who service those industries providing everything from lighting gear and costumes, poster designs and printed leaflets to ice-creams and coffee!
“Secondly, arts activity is fundamental to children and young people’s learning. It nurtures important skills that all employers should value – skills like problem-solving, creativity, confidence, and the ability to work in a team to a tight deadline! Finally, participating in arts and culture gives people a sense of physical and mental wellbeing. At this time, surely that is something we must hold onto as hard as we can.”
To keep up-to-date with all of Karen’s on-going projects, be sure to head to her website: www.karengoddard.net and follow her on Twitter @Kgoddard.