My name is Arti Prashar. So I was always kinda like being parachuted into projects, that had been… uh created orrr initiated by other people and I would then just then deliver, and I guess I must’ve reached a moment where I kinda felt I wanted to initiate projects myself and I guess that was more in the late nineties after I’d kinda had a stint of story telling and then urm the job just came up here at spare tyre ah for an associate director and I applied for it and I though ahhhh community theatre I’d like to have a look at that, so I applied and urhh I got the job.
When I came to umm spare tyre and put that application in I was at a cross roads with my uh journey actually in the arts. I think I was reaching a moment where if there was nothing grabbing me, in the way that I wanted to carry on with my practice I was probably gunna walk away from the arts. Because it was, it was quite tough there has been a lot of barriers for people of colour you know? And and when you’ve, when you’ve been kinda like pushing against that for at least 20 years you do come to a limit and you come to a point where you go enough I’ve had enough if you don’t wanna let me in I’ve got better things to do with my life. But interestingly enough I think there also comes a point er in my career and it was around the time again I I applied at spare tyre, just for a little while I wanted to just be seen as an artist I I didn’t want to have the burden of carrying eh the sentiments the values of a community… ha umm.. because that’s what you had to do, it was very difficult not to it was almost what you were being asked to do. I think so those were my dilemmas at that time of when coming to this organisation to when coming to spare I was also very sure that I wanted to work within a community arts setting and so I needed to be with an organisation that truly ha-held those values and believed in it.
Then the next discussion really happened was what I why I was interested in the organisation as well was actually because of of the work they were doing with um adults with learning disabilities and that’s really where I wanted to pursue things. That’s where I think I came into my own where I was able to uuuhhh tap into their extraordinary creativity umm and start working with other artists uh like Isaac and Julia, Shauerman and Joe-Paul to start um, creating a practice, a different kinda practice for working with artists with learning disabilities.
Being able to tell my story aas a young Asian woman, because no one else was telling it in the 70s and knowing, what that did for me, the pride it gave me, the confidence it gave me, that I was able to just stand up and t-talk to people who were in the audience and they were listening to my story in the way that I wanted to tell it. So I think its it’s very deep routed, you know, the philosophy or the passion because that’s where it comes from. I think its it’s a lot simpler than we think it is to enable people to tell their stories, we have to trust people to kind off express themselves however they want to and I think that’s that’s part of my little trademark as well haha possibly..? That actually I will take little risks and and supported risks. I I’m not a big fan of censorship ha, and and I think that sometimes you have to enable people to tell their stories umm as m as hard as it is. Sometimes we don’t wanna hear things, we don’t wanna, we don’t wanna see things urrm cus they may not be our believes or our values, I believe that everyone has that right to s-s-speak and create very openly and freely.
Sometimes the demand is that you to sit down with someone and talk to them and by taking to somebody, or communicating with someone is when you learn about someone else. Their thoughts, their wishes, their aspirations their points of view and from there then you say- would you like to take that to a wider audience? Do you want to express that to somebody else? and when they say yes- then that’s when we say how would you like to do it? Oor would you like to do it through a song? Would you like to do it through a painting or a photograph would you like to do it as a piece of theatre.? That’s at the heart of what we do, and I think it happens across the organisation I don’t think its just outward towards participants, we would ask the same as our trustees as we do of our staff as well, and if it’s right for this organisation and fits into the values and the remit of this organisation w-we can try and enable it. I cannot envisage an arts organisation being run in any other way but being led by values, and the artistic vision. I don’t think we’ve broken through enough into the so called mainstream establishment uh arts sectors, ummm you know you need more leadership that is diverse -it’s still got a way to go.
I think the journey from being a director to being an artistic director to a CEO has been extraordinary, you know? That’s that’s, been a tremendous learning I mean like the confidence I have now I didn’t have 15 years ago- to see someone you know an an Asian woman. in this position, running a company in the way that I am and have been is possibly rare? And I don’t think you can/you should take those things lightly. I hope that its uhhh it setting a good example for those to come after me, that it is possible, its hard work there are times that its not easy, but actually if you believe in it and if you have good people around you… some times your dreams do come true!
The fact that sooooo many, and I call it the extended family, because soo many people who are connect to us return to work with us, are happy to work with us and I think that that’s gotta be success…
Arti joined Spare Tyre in 2002 and became Artistic Director in 2006. Under her leadership we developed our inclusive practice and continued to champion the voices of those who are often underrepresented in mainstream arts.
Arti spoke to us about how the company has evolved since she joined.