Léim Live

Eleanor Creighton: Module B placement in Mercat de les Flors


I spent my first Module B placement in Umea, Sweden, for the Aerowaves Spring Forward Festival. It was a whirlwind of 25 shows in 3 days and a completely buzzing festival. Here, at the other end of Europe, I was looking at nine days in Barcelona, with plenty of time to get ‘inside’ the organisation and learn a little more slowly.

A large part of my time was spent working closely with Silvia Gonzalez to make decisions about the proposed new communications strategy for the European Dancehouse Network, ahead of Tanzmesse and the Lyon Biennale de la Danse and developing content for the new EDN website. Silvia has worked on Communications for Modul Dance for three years and has a wealth of experience gained from being at the coal face of devising strategies and methods to keep a group of 22 partners and dozens of artists in contact. We discussed at length about behaviours of audiences, artists and presenters and talked about various useful tools to help our work in communications. We also shared our experiences of developing relevant and engaging content for print, online and social media communications channels. She faces many of the same challenges as people working in arts/cultural communications here, and our conversations were lively and full of good insights into the similarities and differences of the contexts we each work in.

I researched and created content for the new EDN website, the strategy for which was created by Argyris Argyrou during his placement at Mercat. Drawing together information and feedback about the previous projects that have been created under the umbrella of the EDN proved an interesting lesson in how European projects are devised and structured, and the reality of how they play out. It also showed me just how quickly the members of the EDN have refined how they create projects in response to what was learned during each one. I detected a clear trajectory towards longer term engagements with artists, a keener focus on specific areas of need/development for each project and a stronger recognition for the role of/responsibility towards audiences in successive ‘generations’ of projects. This insight is hugely valuable and puts the small encounters with other projects that I have had so far into a broader context of the development of the European dance ecology.

I had this impression of the Mercat de les Flors as a powerhouse of dance, a heavyweight on the European scene. My experience there did not undermine this, but I came away from my conversations with staff members (who were incredibly open, honest and generous with their time and knowledge) with a much more nuanced sense of the organisation. I was really impressed by the infrastructure that the team at Mercat has built under the leadership of Cesc Casadesus and it’s long-term view – particularly in relation to education. I also began to understand in greater depth the challenges that the organisation faces in the short-medium term, the financial realities they are up against and that some very tough choices regarding programming and artist development will need to be taken fairly soon. My conversations touched on politics and the position of dance, the necessity of clear artistic purpose, the needs and expectations of audiences, the realities facing artists across Europe and the pragmatic decisions that must be made to balance all of these to make anything happen at all!

To digest these conversations and balance out the work, Barcelona offered itself up as possibly the most pleasantly walkable city I’ve yet encountered. From Bareloneta by the sea with a moon hanging like a forgotten balloon, to invading Park Guell after sundown like a local, to munching seafood paella in the sun, it felt like getting to know the atmosphere of the city was important too. And I took a hint from Catalan lifestyle — work hard, then get out into that sunshine and enjoy some good food!

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