Q&A with Martha King

Read the next in our series of Q&A’s with participants for Producer Farm 2018, a residency which provides time and space for contemporary performance producers to refresh their current practice, and consider their future potential.

Martha King is a creative producer based in Bristol who has developed her practice through co-founding and running The Parlour Showrooms in Bristol, producing theatre & dance at ICIA, University of Bath and most recently as senior producer at Knowle West Media Centre – an arts and digital organisation producing socially engaged arts projects. She has produced, programmed and commissioned: residences, visual art, dance and performance works in a variety of festival, venue and sited locations. She is committed to supporting artists practices to flourish and is driven by the potential of bringing people together, from varied backgrounds and disciplines, to imagine and co-create new futures.

1. What challenges do you encounter within your area of producing?

Working in an area of producing that is rooted in principles of co-design, participation and collaboration involves bringing people together from different backgrounds and disciplines. Some of the biggest challenges in doing this lie in balancing the different agendas, needs, timeframes and languages of everyone involved. I am inspired and challenged by questions of how to effectively incentivise participation, how to genuinely create spaces for dialogue between unlikely partnerships and how to facilitate democratic processes of decision making.

On a larger scale, of course, the current political and economic climate is challenging us all – however, I feel these challenges are forcing people to be more open to partnership working and considering the role of arts and artists in broader terms. I already see these challenges pushing us to develop more diverse, responsive and collaborative practices.

2. Why did you apply for Producer Farm and what do you hope to get out of it? 

Through my role at Knowle West Media Centre we are running exciting arts programmes exploring how housing can be developed differently in the future and how new technologies can be co-designed and used for the common good. We are always looking for partnerships and ways to support artists from diverse backgrounds and disciplines – hopefully the Producer Farm will be a chance to extend networks, open up new possibilities and initiate fruitful collaborations.

Alongside my current role at KWMC I have long-term ambitions to establish a producing company or space that supports interdisciplinary arts practice and co-research beyond city contexts and am looking for ways to develop my freelance practice in this direction. The Producer Farm seems the perfect opportunity to share/test out ideas, discover others working in similar ways, be challenged, provoked and surprised. When I am so often operating in delivery mode it will be a luxury to have a whole week to reflect and plan with others at a similar stage in their career. I am very grateful for this opportunity.

3. Can you tell us about an event you have been to which has made you think differently?

I recently went to an event at OSR Projects in Somerset called ‘Build your own art world’. It was a day of discussion from artist-led projects across England, Wales and Holland. Examples showed artists taking initiative to make amazing things happen by working closely with communities and across disciplines whilst maintaining integrity and not letting funding refusals stop action. I came away inspired by this DIY attitude to do NOW with what we have; drawing on the people and resources already around us. These ideas connect to inspiring essays/talks I have heard recently by theorists such as Donna Haraway and Ruth Little stressing the importance of embodied practice and situated knowing.

Many events recently have made me think a lot more about access and the need to consider this at every step of programming and producing. I went to a Mufti Games event recently and was impressed by how they’d employed an ‘access provocateur’, on their R&D residency, to encourage and provoke deep thinking about access right from the start of developing work. I think embedding this role from the beginning is a great idea that can easily be replicated by many organisations/projects.

Producer Farm is a partnership with Dance Umbrella, Bristol Old Vic FERMENT, Fuel, Coombe Farm Studios & In Between Time