We all know the reference, don’t we? It’s not about what you’re called but who you are.
And so it goes with Nimble Fish. While we do love sushi and consider ourselves to be pretty flexible thinkers, the name ‘Nimble Fish’ is apropos of nothing in particular: it’s a moniker that just came to us when we were pondering the launch of our grand enterprise, way back in the salad days of late 2006. We might have given our company any number of similarly fun yet essentially nonsensical names–Elastic Elephant? Supple Salamander?–and yet we hope that the work we’d have done, and have done, would have made us just as proud.
But describing what we do–the company equivalent of ‘who we are’–has always been more of a challenge. The conversations would often go as follows.
Q: ‘So, you create original performance work and produce new performance work by others. You’re theatre-makers, then?’
A: ‘Er, well sort of. Except that we mainly create work for grubby shop spaces, roadway underpasses, the back of container lorries, places like that. Oh, and we do most of our work in schools and community settings.’
Q: ‘So you’re Theatre In Education?’
A: ‘No, we’re not TIE at all. We don’t write plays for schools and we don’t perform plays in schools. And we don’t have a touring van.’
And so it would go.
So, we’ve changed our front-page ‘shingle’ to offer a new description of Nimble Fish as Cultural Producers. Traditionally, the term has been used fairly literally, a cultural producer being any person or organisation that ‘produces’ culture, as in arts, media, etc. But there’s an emerging idea around cultural producing that moves it to a more meta-aware level. Here’s a decent description, as found on the website of an Austrian university delivering an MA in this newly-defined field:
” ‘Cultural producer’ describes the new self-image of today’s cultural worker as producer, impresario, practitioner and cultural conveyer. Cultural producers are found within the traditional arts of music, theatre, dance, literature and painting and even more often in fields owing their development to new technological possibilities. They can be independent entrepreneurs or creatively active in cultural institutions, free thinking enterprises or private companies. They are, doubtless, producers possessing an uncanny sense of hyper-textual self-understanding, focused on the interrelationship to “users” and active proponents of narrative structures encouraging dynamic interaction with audiences.”
“Hyper-textual self-understanding”….love it! But we wouldn’t be a “free thinking enterprise” if we didn’t offer our own definition of Cultural Producing. Here it is:
“Cultural Producers establish, implement and manage a self-generated creative vision, typically outside the purview of traditional performance or gallery spaces. Cultural Producers are rarely restricted to a single artistic form, preferring instead to work with whatever combination of forms best suits a particular idea or theme. Cultural Producers often seek to animate or re-interpret public spaces in the context of the communities they serve, and consequently their work often has a strong component of community participation or co-creation.”
In the spirit of being, ahem, “active proponents of narrative structures encouraging dynamic interaction with audiences,” we would like to offer this definition as a work in progress, and invite your input, objections, amendments, etc. We think we’re onto something quite special here and we’d like to build on it, in the Nimble Fish spirit.
Lest this all sound too arrogant, we’re not making out like we’re the only cultural producing company on the proverbial block. But even if we’re not trailblazers, we like to think we’re on the trail while it’s still new enough for the surrounding view to be fresh, and the possibilities thrilling.