I’m Lynette Shanbury.
Executive director at Spare Tyre, so I work very closely with Arti our artistic director. The way we approach work is incredibly thoughtful. It takes time to develop how we work with different groups of people and that’s because we work with people who are from very uhh different backgrounds and are often not involved in the arts in any way at all and it’s actually really important that we ge- engage with them on their terms.
My role is very much about the financial uhh security of the organisation, the financial planning and control. The fundraising, so I’m lead fundraiser for the organisation. My role is also about going out and finding new leads and new developments, new partnerships to make, helping the company to grow and find new avenues of interesting work. And then overseeing the operational of things. All the marketing that goes out, how we operate our office and our organisational functions, overseeing HR, anything like that making sure that the ship is running correctly.
Participatory means something very different to participation. That is something that I have learned here. Participation is taking part, getting involved and that can be at different levels of engagement, different depths of engagement. Participatory is about… being part of leading that journey. Not being told what to do but having the voice and being facilitated to, to develop that work. All of our work evolves slowly over time and in response to need.
I think our work can be quite shocking to audiences. It can make them think really deeply about issues. Seeing The Garden go out, which is our piece of immersive theatre for people with dementia, and seeing people with really advanced dementia just totally focused on a leaf for 40 minutes. Just smelling herbs, fresh herbs that have been brought into a care home where they haven’t been outside in 3 years. I think that moment of joy is really important in our work umm but I also think it makes people think. So the recent production which we supported, that was a piece about assisted dying and the fact that it was a group of older people talking about this really difficult issue. The conversations we have with the audience afterwards were amazing. The level of impact it clearly had on people you can clearly tell because of the conversations just continue. They spill out into the bar. We had reports of people talking about it weeks afterwards. And I think that level of impact from theatre when A) something is really good and it it therefore uhh it it engrosses people and B) it’s real. And I think that’s one of the comments we get a lot about our work, that it’s very real. It’s very genuine because these are real people standing on stage or or creating an exhibition or whatever it is umm these are real people telling stories that they feel are important. It’s not necessarily actors saying a script and I think that comes across and people feel that the work is very genuine.
The company has sustained because it has been responsive. Responsive to social issues, responsive to the needs of the participants we have been working with. I think that is fundamental to how the company has had the longevity it has and it has to be part of the future.
The other thing that Spare Tyre does is we commit in the long term to communities, to individuals, to supporting participatory artists that we work with to develop their practice and I think umm that needs to be recognised by funders by other arts organisations and they need to understand that if they go into this area of socially engaged practice and participatory practice it needs to be long term. That pressure to maintain an on going weekly style of working which is so important to people but actually is really hard to fundraise for after a while. You run out of places to go to where the funders say ‘oh no we want something new’ and actually what you really just want is sustained funding that can keep something really good going for longer because it means to much to those people who are engaged. You don’t necessarily need to engage new people. You just want to keep it going for the people who are there and I think I think that’s an issue for the charity sector as a whole. And I think it is something that funders as a whole are beginning to realise as austerity cuts deeper as uhh more people are struggling, the basics the basics of those every week contacts are important.
What I’ve come to enjoy whilst I’ve been here over the time is the more devised work umm the the work that just comes through the outreach work that we do. The the outputs are as diverse uhh an exhibition of of photographs and uhh an award ceremony. That’s one of the things that I think I’ve really learned here that theatre is not just about writing a script, putting actors on stage. The whole process is about development of ideas and researching and exploring different ways of thinking. Engaging different people’s ideas so you’ve got a diversity of views and and input and there are no rules. We’re we’re very big on rules in British theatre sector. It doesn’t have to be done one way or another actually. It can be done in any way that you want. And what you’re looking for is to create an experience which all comes back to the story you’re trying to put across. I’ve learned that here. It definitely opened my eyes to different ways of creating theatre.
Lynette was our Executive Director between 2014 – 2018, she was responsible for managing the business and fundraising side of Spare Tyre. She worked closely with our Artistic Director Arti in shaping the business plan and developing individual projects.
Lynette spoke to us about how Spare Tyre changed her perception of what theatre is, and the benefits of working responsively.