IETM Dublin 2013 - Meet, Mingle and Trust
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IETM Spring Plenary meeting in Dublin takes place 11-14 April, 2013.

dublin_web_register_en.jpgTo register for the Dublin meeting, click here.

Early Bird rates apply up to March 28 (€75 for freelance, non-members; €75-€150 representatives of organisations, fee depends on annual turnover). The meeting is limited to 600 participants. Registrations will stop when this capacity has been reached.

To join Project's mailing list to be kept up to date with information about IETM Dublin 2013 and how you can get involved here.

IETM Dublin 2013 meeting team comprises:
Cian O’Brien, Artistic Director of Project Arts Centre
Lian Bell, Producer of IETM Dublin 2013
Niamh O’Donnell, General Manager & Executive Producer of Project Arts Centre
Amy O’Hanlon, Administrator & Planner
Kate Heffernan, Logistics Manager

IETM Dublin 2013 is an initiative of the Arts Council of Ireland in partnership with Culture Ireland, produced by Project Arts Centre and supported by Dublin City Council and Fáilte Ireland. It is part of both the Arts Council’s and Culture Ireland's Culture Programme to mark Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

IETM Dublin 2013 - Meet, Mingle and Trust

In April Project Arts Centre will host the latest IETM plenary meeting, a gathering of primarily European dance and theatre arts professionals that occurs every six months and that is centred around a particular theme pertinent to making and producing contemporary performance. Organised in concert with the IETM secretariat in Brussels and the designated host city, these plenary meetings provide a unique networking opportunity to plug into the wider conversation occurring between practitioners, producers and cultural organisations all over Europe.

IETM began in the early 1980s as a way for European theatre, dance and performance professionals to exchange knowledge and build relationships across a range of cultural and social contexts. The acronym IETM originally stood for Informal European Theatre Meeting, but its function as forum for networking, collaboration and information exchange has grown beyond the boundaries of Europe; the organisation is now simply known as IETM, an international network for the contemporary performing arts. However, the informal approach to the structuring of these meetings remains part of IETM’s aim, a point emphasised by the IETM secretariat. ‘They’re very, very careful not to call it a conference,’ says Lian Bell, who is producing the event for Project Arts Centre. It is Bell’s hope that a balance can be struck between scheduling more structured discussions and meetings, and giving people the space and time to meet up with old contacts and make new ones. ‘The big point [of IETM] is for people to meet each other, so if you’re scheduling everyone’s time all the time, they don’t get that chance.’

logo_ietm-(1).pngCreating the opportunity to meet, mingle and share ideas is key to the success of any IETM gathering, allowing for both structured discourse and spontaneous interaction. Producers, practitioners and venue managers from all different kinds of artistic, political and social backgrounds can make contact and spark new conversations about European cultural policy, approaches to producing and making performance, and the possibility of creating opportunities for co-production and collaboration across borders. The membership of the organisation is also roughly half dance and half theatre, offering the chance for a cross-pollenisation of forms and approaches to performance as well. But what IETM also offers is the opportunity for the host city to showcase itself as a unique cultural base within a wider European context, and it’s particularly significant that Dublin is hosting the event as Ireland assumes the EU presidency this year. ‘This will hopefully bring extra attention to Ireland,’ says Arts Council Director Orlaith McBride, ‘and offer a platform which theatre makers, dance artists and other performance makers can capitalise on.’

Significant too is this meeting’s theme of ‘trust’, especially when one considers the breaches of public trust made by institutions and policy makers both in Ireland and the EU at large. For Cian O’Brien, artistic director of Project, the chosen theme grew in part out of his journey taking over the helm of the Project Arts Centre last year, and the trust he felt he needed to establish among the staff, the artists who worked with Project, and its audience. ‘For me it really was a personal thing,’ he says.  ‘It was tied in with beginning this job.’  The theme, wide open as it may seem, is one that will undoubtedly ignite immediate discussion and debate. For José Miguel Jiménez, artistic director of The Company, it’s also one that ultimately permeates every corner of our experience, as artists and citizens alike: ‘It’s not necessarily only connected to theatre or artistic practice. Trust right now is something that crosses every activity we’re involved in.’ In order to generate artistic and discursive content relevant to both local and trans-national concerns, producers in Dublin have been working in concert with the secretariat in Brussels, while also soliciting content from Irish practitioners through an open call sent out last November. The aim of the open call was to invite people who work in the arts in Ireland to come up with ways to engage with international visitors, with possible ideas ranging from artists giving personalised tours of the city, to relaxed studio visits, to artists talking about the hopes and ideals surrounding their work, rather than just offering a straightforward portfolio of local work without an explanatory frame.  O’Brien, with the help of an advisory panel, has also selected an artistic programme of five full productions that will aim to showcase highlights of contemporary performance in Dublin. 

Project Arts Centre’s location at the heart of Temple Bar is also a key advantage to its hosting IETM. Having Temple Bar as kind of IETM campus serves the event’s remit of being both a site of cultural exchange and networking. A large number of Temple Bar cultural institutions, like Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, the Dublin Fringe Festival, and Smock Alley Theatre will serve as venues for meetings, discussions and presentations. ‘We’re tapping into a lot of cultural institutions, partly because that’s a great way to see the city, and partly because it’s a great way to showcase Temple Bar as a cultural quarter,’ says Lian Bell. For Willie White, director of the Dublin Theatre Festival and an IETM board member, setting IETM in the centre of Temple Bar was an obvious choice. White, along with the Arts Council and Culture Ireland, was instrumental in bringing this coming plenary meeting to Dublin. ‘The interesting thing about the experience of Temple Bar over the last twenty one years is that the durable part of it has been the cultural structure,’ says White. ‘The great thing about that is that you can walk through Temple Bar and see all the different institutions that were commissioned by Temple Bar Cultural Trust from the 90s.’
But what expectations should Irish arts professionals have for the event itself? The immediate benefits may not seem so apparent for the first time attendee, but Lian Bell says that each meeting offers a two-and-a-half day window into a much larger conversation occurring between professionals within Europe and across the globe. ‘Anyone who comes to Dublin and hasn’t been to IETM before, the best thing you can do is come and look, and see how it goes. It’s the very first step in something,’ she says. Gavin Quinn, artistic director of Pan Pan Theatre Company, agrees. Quinn has been attending IETM plenary meetings (and satellite meetings outside Europe) for over a decade now, and suggests that the benefits of attending IETM begin to become evident after the cumulative experience of going to a number of meetings over the course of several years. Relationships made at a meeting, or over coffee, or while socialising in the bar after a performance can ultimately grow, over time, into collaborations and co-productions. ‘Little encounters can end up being the most valuable,’ Quinn says.

Those who’ve attended IETM before make it clear that these meetings aren’t a fare or marketplace for artists looking to baldly sell a show. When he attended his first meeting in Copenhagen last year, José Miguel Jiménez says he first arrived thinking he had to push The Company and its work hard. ‘When I went to Copenhagen I brought DVDs and I brought business cards. And it’s not at all about that.’ Over the course of the meeting it became clear for Jiménez that IETM was more about meeting like-minded professionals rather than just trying to get a tour or get into a festival. ‘You’re just supposed to be there and see what people are doing,’ says Jiménez. ‘I ended up meeting two or three artists, some of them in similar situations as me. And you create solid connections with a couple of people.’ Jiménez went away from that meeting with two or three contacts that he’s remained in touch with, relationships he was able to develop over the course of the next meeting in Zagreb, Croatia. ‘It’s basically about starting a conversation. When I went to Zagreb I met with people I had met briefly before in Copenhagen or with people I had made friends with before.’

So what practical steps can a new IETM attendee take to get as much as they can out of the meeting in April? As Lian Bell says, it might be helpful to get in touch with companies and institutions in Ireland that have done IETM before, like Pan Pan, The Performance Corporation, Dance Ireland, or Irish Theatre Institute, and ask them what they feel is worthwhile about the experience and how it’s helped them. Also, once you’ve signed up for the meeting, have a look at the delegate list and have a think about who you might like to meet. Send them a personal email asking if they’d like to have a chat at some point over the course of the meeting. Most importantly, get over any apprehension or embarrassment about introducing yourself, says Bell. ‘People who go to IETM are there to have conversations, so if you’re able to spot somebody in the crowd that you’re interested in talking to, don’t feel worried about starting up a conversation.’ Gavin Quinn’s advice is to not ‘expect anything. Be open to it. It’s okay to attend the meeting and not have a list of things to do.... The more relaxed you are, the better the meeting will be for you.’ Paul Johnson, director of Dance Ireland, says that new attendees should ‘understand that IETM is only the beginning of a journey or conversation that might or might not develop into something later. So use it as a means to learning more about the outside world – think of it as the means towards something rather than the end in itself.’ It’s also helpful to leave the workaday world of your job behind while you’re attending the meeting, suggests Bell. It’s not very useful to dip and in out of the meeting in order to keep track of emails and phone calls regarding work back at the office.

One of the biggest aims of the coming meeting is to generate interest in IETM among Irish performance arts professionals, while at the same time introducing international attendees to the vibrancy of Irish performance. There aren’t many Irish members of IETM currently, says Cian O’Brien, and the hope is that this meeting will introduce Irish art professionals to the benefits of joining the IETM network. ‘I want Irish artists and practitioners to think that IETM is good, see the benefit of it, and want to go again, because it is part of a longer conversation,’ he says. ‘I think the fact that the Arts Council and Culture Ireland are investing in this is an indication that they really think that it’s a good thing. And I suppose the other outcome is I would like that the attendees at the meeting who are not from Ireland to be surprised in some way by what they’ve seen.’ Most of all for Ireland, a country considered to be on the fringes of Europe, the opportunity to make an impact with other European theatre and dance professionals is one not to be missed. ‘The cultural scene here is extraordinary,’ O’Brien explains. ‘It’s not like anywhere else in the world. The way artists make work and the way people work together, and the fact that the industry is so small, and so closely knit, is very unique. [...] Those are important things people should take away.’


  Jesse Weaver completed his doctoral thesis at University College Cork in 2011. His research focus was on the changing roles of the playwright in Irish theatre production from 1980 to 2010.

1 Comment

Roundhouse says Wed, 06 March 2013 1:22
Really inspiring! I had a completely different idea about it. Can't wait to go now :)

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