Interview With…Suba Das

The Artistic Director of HighTide chatted to us about how the company is supporting its network of freelancers and next generation of artists.

Hi Suba, how are you feeling about everything that is happening in the arts at the moment?  It’s an interesting time certainly! At present I find myself spending half my time in meetings about the work we need to do to save our industry, and the other half on the very urgent need to address
so much of the inequality that’s present in theatre (because it is present in society as a whole and theatre must not imagine it is immune to this). It’s exhausting – candidly – navigating this space between rescue and reform. But I am hopeful. Out of crisis often emerges innovation.

Could you explain more about how HighTide is supporting artists during this difficult time? Our company supports the country’s most exciting new playwrights, and over the lockdown period we’ve engaged thirty seven freelancers so far with meaningful paid creative work: creating film content for our audiences; working with drama schools; and creating digital storytelling content for thirty primary schools across our home region in the East of England. In addition to this, we’ve offered free training
programmes led by world-class tutors; mentorship with our multi-award-winning alumni; networking opportunities and a digital youth theatre. More than anything we’ve tried to underline that this moment of pause does not mean that artists have to fall silent.

How can the public help HighTide to support the arts and those working in the industry? Acknowledge that all of the great work that so many of us have enjoyed on Netflix or iPlayer – the stuff that’s kept us sane, joyful, laughing, during this devastating time – wouldn’t exist without the
UK’s mighty theatre infrastructure. All of that talent cuts its teeth in youth theatres, drama schools, regional stages all over the UK. And once you’ve acknowledged that, donate the equivalent of your Netflix subscription to one of those vital institutions near you. You’ve already got back way more
than you’ve given. And then write to your MP and let them know that you want some of YOUR taxes to support the art that YOU enjoy.

If you could speak to the government personally, what would you like to say to them? There’s nothing to say that they don’t already know: they have the data on the economic power of our cultural sector, they know the benefits the arts bring in terms of health and social welfare. If they are choosing not to intervene, then we can only imagine it is because they know that the subsidised arts sector has been largely opposed to the things that this Government has pressed ahead with – austerity (which they now pretty much admit was an utter economic fiasco) and now Brexit (which looks to be equally economically disastrous for anyone not already in the 1%). Perhaps the thing I would say is that that voice of creative, community-driven resistance will not be silenced. Even if you let our buildings fall, we will still find a way – and an angry artist is not to be taken lightly.

It seems that HighTide are really doing all they can to support the industry but what additional support does the industry need right now?  Financial support, of course. We’ve been blown away at HighTide by the generosity of our longstanding patrons and donors, who have contributed £20,000 to our Lighthouse Fund, all of which has gone directly on the production of new work and keeping artists in employment over the
past 100 days. Not every organisation is as lucky as we are and many organisations need much, much more support to make their books balance.

What do you think the future of the arts looks like? It looks… about 2 metres away.

By Emma Clarendon

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