Towards an Ecological Touring Model

When we moved to Oulu in 2015, we did it with the knowledge that technology has advanced sufficiently for geographical location to be less important. We can use online conferencing technology to have meetings with people anywhere in the world. We can use NDI/VOIP/SoundJack to collaborate in realtime with other performers. We can create work specifically for online platforms and build an international audience without leaving our home studio.

This hasn’t really happened though. We tend to conduct our board meetings online, and regularly have Skype meetings with producers, but we still fly or drive long distances to perform or run workshops. We are still burning fuel to travel (It helps that we live close enough to Oulu Airport to be able to cycle there sometimes) 

As the planet approaches an ecological crisis point, we are trying to develop new ways of thinking and working that have a minimal carbon footprint.

The traditional touring theatre model goes something like this:

1, A company is based in a particular area. The well-funded companies are usually in the capital city.

2, They put out a call for auditions. Performers travel from far and wide to attend the auditions.

3, A performance team is selected. Some may be local, but others will have to travel to the company and be accommodated for the duration of the project.

4, The entire team – performers, technicians, directors – plus set and equipment goes on the road to visit venues and perform. The large scale shows tend to only go to major cities, so audiences need to be local, or to travel further to see the work.

5, After a performance, the team disappears – heading to a new city – maybe driving around or flying country to country.

This is all very expensive, in terms of logistical costs and in ecological terms. And it doesn’t support performers, venues or audiences living on the edges of the countries. If a young person is passionate about dance or theatre, there is very little to keep them living in a small provincial town, and they are drawn to the bigger cities.

We aim to try to invert this hierarchy by developing more sustainable methods of touring that actively support artists, venues and audiences in smaller towns and rural areas, whilst reducing the environmental impact of touring.

Please Switch On is one iteration of our Ecological Touring Model. Only the core of the performance team actually travels to the place where the venue is. The performers are locally-sourced, creating opportunities for dancers, musicians, poets and other local performers to get together and create a show in a few days. The show is based on improvisation. TaikaBox supplies the tools and structure for the performance – based on audience interaction.

Born Old has a slightly different approach. The show can be performed in Finnish, using one performer touring with director and technician, but to make the show accessible to children who don’t speak Finnish, we incorporate a local performer who spends a few days with us adapting the show into a duet. The touring still has the same environmental impact, but it supports the local performer and sets up a relationship with the venue and audiences that can be beneficial after TaikaBox has left the building.

We are currently in negotiation with organisations in Sweden and Norway to embark on a three-way research and development project to create a new system for touring a show that uses local performers. This project will be a continually-developing process of exploring Nordic-ness, sharing stories across the Nordic region and adding new content to the show that is sourced wherever we perform it.


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