News: Without Walls grows its collaborative network for the Outdoor Arts, helping to counter the challenges posed by Covid-19

Without Walls, a unique network of over 30 festivals that brings fantastic outdoor arts to people across the UK, opens 2021 by welcoming three new partners: Timber Festival, Certain Blacks and The Culture House. With collaboration at the heart of Without Walls’ work, this national network aims to raise the artistic bar of the Outdoor Arts – an industry that is paramount as we anticipate moving beyond Covid-19.

Collaboration during Covid-19 is more vital than ever for the survival of the arts; the Without Walls Artistic Directorate includes the UK’s most highly regarded outdoor arts and performance specialists who, in 2021, will invest over £650k to support artists to develop and tour ambitious new outdoor projects. This process, spearheaded by the Artistic Directorate, ensures an influx of new shows for the Outdoor Arts sector.

Certain Blacks are joining the Artistic Directorate this year – an arts development organisation that was formed to support the growth of diverse artists. They present performance, live art, music and theatre from the creative voices of our diverse society, aiming to challenge the norms of performance and what is seen as diverse. Certain Blacks showcases art from the ‘margins into the mainstream’ and work this year will explore ideas around our post-pandemic nation and the idea of being ‘British’ following Brexit and Black Lives Matters.

Also new to the Artistic Directorate is Timber Festival – it is an immersive and revitalising festival that takes place in the heart of the National Forest celebrating our relationship with trees and forests through music, art and ideas. For one weekend in July, new thinkers, activists, makers, artists, musicians and writers will gather to play, provoke and inspire our complex and rewarding relationship with the natural world. Timber offers the chance to recharge and reconnect. Run by Wild Rumpus, a rural social enterprise working at the intersection of arts and nature, Timber explores their founding principles to take audiences outdoors to reimagine their relationship with the world around them, using the arts to help imagine a more sustainable future. Timber is a joint venture between the National Forest Company and Wild Rumpus.

Without Walls also work with partners who are dedicated to creating an appetite for outdoor arts in communities without regular arts activity and low levels of cultural engagement, such as The Culture House who are joining the Touring Network Partnership branch of the organisation in 2021. Based in Grimsby, The Culture House aim to positively impact on everyday life by presenting work in a wide range of indoor and outdoor local spaces. Other new partners who have recently joined the Without Walls network include The Arches Festivals in Worcester and Historic England. This increasing geographical reach reflects Without Walls’ growing impact.

Outdoor work has never been more important as the entire arts industry seeks to rebuild confidence in audiences wanting to attend events. Without Walls leads excellence in outdoor arts – commissioning work from the intimate to the epic, which tours to reach large, diverse and new audiences across the country and internationally. The consortium makes high-quality arts experiences accessible to all regardless of personal, social or economic circumstances.

Josephine Burns, Chair of Without Walls, comments, Without Walls is an undeniable success story for the UK Outdoor Arts sector; our collective decision-making model has led to pioneering outdoor work being presented across the country for free. We are delighted to welcome our new partners to Without Walls – these appointments continue to broaden our collective voice and expertise to ensure our work can be even more transformative on a local, regional and national level.

The Without Walls 2021 programme, to be announced in March, will be their biggest to date showing the innovation and resilience of those working in the Outdoor Arts sector. Many consider Outdoor Arts to be one of the safest ways to experience arts, and a way to restart cultural recovery. Without Walls have engaged a dedicated Covid-safety production manager who worked with artists at GDIF in 2020 (the first and one of the only festivals to go ahead) – and is continuing to work with artists to ensure shows are safe for presentation. 2021 is a year to break boundaries and ensure hungry audiences have access to the arts, in the safest way possible – outdoors!

Photo credit: JMA Photography


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