Perhaps the most time-consuming part of the journey you need to make to leave the country is in finding people to connect with. Then turning this into a fruitful, longer-term relationship. It takes time, persistence and more than a little tenacity – everyone’s busy, everyone has their own established partnerships to nurture and projects to manage. Promoters, festivals and venues are usually inundated with requests.
And it’s fair to say that a good number of requests are unsuitable for their organisations. This is why it’s so important to research potential partners thoroughly. If a festival’s core business is all about new work, it’s unlikely they will be interested in a Chekhov play, even if it is updated.
top tip: take time to get a feel for who you want to contact and invite to see your work. Blanket coverage rarely works, it’s the same as dropping a brick in a pond to see if a fish jumps out.
The only way to start finding potential partners is to talk. Start talking to other arts organisations that already work abroad. Find out how they started, the connections they have and pick up some tips and pointers. Also talk to partners, stakeholders and funders; they may well have useful information or direct access to key people.
At the same time, do your own research. The web is your best friend for this but try to keep your searches structured and relevant. See ‘organisations’ and ‘networks’ below for good starting points.
top tip: Don’t send cold-call emails, they are rarely answered. It’s always best to try for phone contact first. At this stage you will be able to assess if there is any interest or whether the contact is appropriate for both parties. If the call is positive, the follow-up email is then personalised and relevant.
Essentially there are different types of potential partners to target:
- Promoters. These are people based in the country where you wish to work who organise your tour for you. Independent promoters have no specific affiliations but will have strong relationships with venues and festivals. A promoter should look after all practicalities at their end.
- Festivals. Research these thoroughly as they are often quite specific about the type of work they are looking for. Try to find one contact name that you can deal with rather than sending an email to an info address.
- Venues. These are often difficult to crack and the most fruitful outcomes are usually by personal contact and an invitation. It’s the promoters who have the strongest network of venues. Venue-to-Venue potential is good as they both start from common ground.
- Other companies. International performing arts companies – or individual artists – with shared values are worth exploring. This is a good starting point for true international collaboration.
- National organisations. Building relationships with organisations such as the British Council and Visiting Arts can take time but it does get you on the radar.
top tip: If at first you don’t succeed . . . Trying to make first contact can be frustrating and it can take a few tries before you get through. Be persistent without being a stalker.
Using the phone and internet is only one part of your connecting toolkit. Nothing beats the face-to-face meeting and for that to happen you need to be out and about.
This is why it’s important to audit your financial capacity as you will need to budget for transport and accommodation costs if you are going to start attending workshops, network events and festivals. It’s at these that the real work can be done.
top tip: Most international connections are made at a very personal level. Five minutes in a room with someone can save you weeks of trying to connect by phone.
Below are some useful links to help you with your research and development