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IETM Porto Spring Plenary Meeting 2018

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

IETM-Porto reflections written from the gaze of a bilingual, female, multifaceted artist and choreographer.

The Dom Luís I Bridge - Ponte de Dom Luís I

It's been couple of months since my return from IETM - Porto and what an exhilarating experience it was! This blog merely touches the surface of my experience in Porto but also offers a few top tips for IETM first timers, It's my hope you come away inspired to get involved.

Earlier this year I was 1 of 12 artists awarded the British Council - IETM Porto Bursary. IETM is an Informal European Theatre Meeting: Once founded by a small group of artists in 1981 and now known as the International network for contemporary performing arts. IETM welcomes over 900 performing arts organisations and individual members working in the contemporary performing arts worldwide: theatre, dance, circus, interdisciplinary live art forms, new media from across the globe.

The four day plenary meeting included talks, walks, panel discussions, creative sessions, late night drinks and performances giving all delegates a chance to network, talk strategies and develop relationships in the hopes of impacting our future arts sector for the better.

As an IETM first timer, I was particularly struck by the relaxed and welcoming environment it provided. Although incubating some of the sectors most influential delegates, change-makers, programmers and artists; it's 'non-sale' atmosphere allowed me to connect with delegates on a more human and authentic level. This then opened up the opportunity for more thought provoking conversation.

“IETM Porto was an educational and through-provoking meeting that offered the opportunity to meet international delegates within a relaxed and informal environment. IETM really challenged my thinking on topics surrounding cultural policies, international collaborations and political affairs impacting the arts sector.” ~ Sara Dos Santos

The Sessions

As it was my first experience I wanted to make the most of the scheduled panel discussions and creative sessions not only to develop a better understanding of the meeting as a whole but also to gain better insight of the cultural sector and artistic state as well as social and political affairs within Portugal and Europe as a whole.

The panel discussions/talks were set up in a more traditional, lecture style format and topics ranged from Sound and Music Theatre to Funding: Why, What and how?? I particularly found the Creative Europe, Producing in the Margins and Fair International Collaborations panel discussions extremely informative (to say the least). They offered the opportunity to delve into more meaty and current challenges, offering the chance to discuss outcomes and ask questions in a more practical and enhancing fashion.

I also attended a number of Newsround sessions. Newsround was a space for artists, organisations and companies to introduce themselves and their current projects (under 3 minutes). I personally found theses sessions to be very useful. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn, grow and be inspired by the amazing work other artists are creating across the globe.

The City

Porto is a small and vibrant city. With a population of approximately 149,194 and fast-growing tourism, and an estimated 9 tourists per 1 local resident you can imagine the demand. Needless to say this city provides historical architecture, traditional cuisine, local port and vibrant street art for all to enjoy. I was personally drawn to the evident impact commercial trade and gentrification is having on the city. It was intriguing to see how art/artists are advocating and taking small steps to maintain and preserve the cities culture and heritage (with or without funding).

The DDD Festival

The IETM meeting coin

cided with The DDD Festival: Dias da Dança is known as the biggest international contemporary dance festival in Portugal and showcases contemporary dance work from local and national artists.

Attending the festival provided a unique insight of what local and national artists are creating. The program ranged from Physical Theatre work by Jorge Andrade to contemporary pieces such as Brother by Marco da Silva Ferreira and Jerada by Bouchra Ouizguen/Carte Blanche. All insightful performances that showcased the countries diversity (or lack of), activism and social state.

Late Night Meeting Point

Last but not least, the late night meeting point. A fabulous opportunity to ‘network’, meet artists, talk politics, literature, favourite holiday destinations and of course in my personal case, colonialism. Honestly, I had some of the most insightful, educational and awkward (at times) conversations during the lates. A must go; but pace yourselves the late nights and early mornings catch up on you.

My four Top Tips (for IETM first timers):

1. Pace yourself (surprise, surprise)

IETM is a beast and pacing yourself is essential. Take walks, plan solo coffee breaks, journal, BREATH and sleep. If your one to suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) this is especially for you. Its important to plan ahead, keep an ear to the ground and schedule time for last minute adventures (even if it simply taking a slow walk to recoup).

2. Know your WHY

In the words of Simon Sinek 'Know your why,' What's your reason for attending IETM, how will your dream(s) come to fruition and what if it doesn't work out the way you planned. Understand your why and be open to diversions. IETM isn't a race but a marathon, don't expect quick fixes or instant collaborations. Building international collaborations and/or an understanding in the international arts sector is a long distance marathon with exciting possibilities.

3. Follow Up

As you know, follow up is important. When you return to the UK (or your country of residence) follow up with your new/old contacts. Tag, share and SUPPORT your new friends! If you liked something say it. If you appreciated something make sure you let them know. Share your ideas, ambitions and current projects (if appropriate) and keep doing you. Hopefully sooner or later you'll start seeing the fruits of your labor.

4. Plan a mini break

If possible plan a mini break either side of the meeting. I can not tell you the difference this made. In the ran up to IETM my schedule was super hectic so I decided to arrived a day early to rest and explore the city and stayed on for few days post the meeting. This allowed me to reflect, recap and follow up with people before heading back to my artistic life of directing, teaching and choreographing.

and thats it... Look out for my follow up blog reflecting on peer to peer learning, diversity within the arts and colonialism; All topics inspired by conversations had during my ITEM experience. But now I'd like to wrap up with a quote from a fellow British Council bursary winner:

'IETM was a brilliant opportunity to have the sort of conversation you don't normally have outside the usual formal spaces.' ~ Sophie Woolley

For other blogs and IETM perspectives check Gareth Cutter and Amahra Spence (other Spring 2018 bursary winners).

For British Council IETM in Munich - Open call for d/Deaf or disabled practitioners click HERE


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