Round-up of 2019

Author: Ash Mann

Cue exclamations of surprise that it’s the start of yet another year.

2020 has loomed into view and it’s the start of a new decade. So we thought we’d round-up some of our highlights from 2019 alongside a bit of a summing up of what we’ve been up to over the past 12 months at Substrakt.

Best show

Loads of people nominated A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge. We all went on a Substrakt outing in June and pretty much everyone who came then made at least one return visit, it was so much fun.

Stu also enjoyed The Cane at the Royal Court, Kat raved about Come From Away (which Joel has already seen about 6 times).

Emily loved The Barbershop Chronicles at the Roundhouse, “so glad I caught it this time around, and in such a great venue. It lived up to and exceeded expectation. It was the show that inspired Tobi Kyeremateng to set up Black Ticket Project, helping young black people access the arts. They have a Patreon which is well worth supporting” and Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas at the Southbank Centre “I laughed so much I cried, and then I also cried. Which is standard for HG, she is an exceptional human” (I also caught this show and echo Em’s review).

Paddy caught The Babershop Chronicles when it made its way to Birmingham. Michelle loved I’m a Phoenix, Bitch! (Battersea Arts Centre); Faith, Hope and Charity (National Theatre); The Ocean at the End of the Lane (National Theatre and still playing!); Medea (Internationaal Theatre Amsterdam/Barbican), and Company (Gielgud Theatre).

Another shout for The Babershop Chronicles and I’m a Phoenix, Bitch! from Elisa, whilst Cas picked out Rob Broderick/Abandoman at the Edinburgh Festival and Glyndebourne’s Cendrillon. And last but not least some more opera courtesy of our trip to New Mexico in August from Grace who chose La Boheme and Cosi Fan Tutte (Santa Fe Opera), Grace also enjoyed The Frog Princess (Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati) and the Trout Quintet at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival (The Lensic).

Best exhibtion

We had the pleasure of working with the RA on their Young Artist Summer Showcase which Stu has picked as his exhibition highlight of the year (“Exceptional talent on show”). Kat enjoyed mummies and pharaohs with the Tutankhamen Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.

Emily returned to (almost) her home town for the Turner Prize at the beautiful Turner Contemporary in Margate (“My personal favourite was Lawrence Abu Hamdan”). Paddy marvelled at Haroon Mirza’s reality is somehow what we expect it to be (Ikon Gallery, Birmingham), Snapshot to Wechat: a Migration of Identity (Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool) and William Kentridge: Thick Time (Whitworth, Manchester).

Grace loved the “epic and inspiring” Men of Steel, Women of Wonder at Crystal Bridges while Michelle picked In Real Life: Olafur Eliasson (Tate Modern – still on!) and Kaleidoscope (Saatchi Gallery). Elisa joined Em in a trip to Margate for the Turner Prize and also enjoyed William Blake at Tate Britain.

Another pick for both Olafur Eliasson and William Kentridge from Cas and Ian has flagged fuse’s award-winning Dökk and the Coventry Biennial.

Best book

A varied and fascinating list from my brilliant colleagues, fun to see a few duplicates on here – there wasn’t any conferring, honest:

Best talks

We go to our fair share of conferences, workshops and seminars. Some of the best talks we’ve seen have been:

  • Jess Thom at the Spektrix Conference (Emily – an amazing call to action to the arts sector to insist upon meaningfully increasing accessibility and diversity in their organisations. She’s a force of nature, absolutely hilarious and was the best closing keynote I have ever seen)
  • Robin Christopherson at Digital Works #9 (Emily – continuing in the accessibility vein, and yes, it is an event we run… but I learned a lot about my preconceptions of the use of technology by, and the essential role it plays for those with disabilities. I certainly didn’t expect to cry. Plus Hugo the dog is a hero)
  • All of Birmingham Design Festival but Paddy especially enjoyed Mike Drings, Liam Wong and Tina Touli’s talks and Ian highlighted Veronica Fuerte (Hey Studio) and Tina Touli.
  • Digital Inclusion: Fen Slattery (Grace – they had lots of helpful tips on how to make your presentations, marketing materials and websites, more inclusive.)
  • Sade Brown’s keynote on diversity, “What did you have to leave at the door in order to show up today?, at the IETM conference (international network for performing arts) (Michelle – absolutely incredible and inspiring. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, definitely do!)
  • And another shout out to all the great Jess Thom speeches from last year as she is always brilliant (Michelle)
  • Jess Thom at Spektrix Conference (Cas)
  • Daisy Swift at TLCC – Music for Life: the power of creativity for people living with dementia (Cas)
  • Ersin Han Ersin (Marshmallow Laser Feast) at KIKK Festival (Ian)

Best music

Best film

Best podcast

There was only one winner here:  The Missing Cryptoqueen (Sam, Kat, Emily, Stu).

Substrakt things

We launched new sites for, amongst others, Turner Contemporary, Shakespeare’s Globe, Two River Theater, Theatre Royal Plymouth, The Momentary, Boulevard Theatre, The Lensic, Grange Park Opera, Children’s Theatre Company, Sage Gateshead and the aforementioned Royal Academy’s Young Artist Summer Showcase.

We also welcomed a bunch of lovely and talented new folk to the team, hosted two more Digital Works events, did a bunch of training and consultancy and spoke at a few conferences.

We’re looking forward to what 2020 has in store!