More to Discover

21 June 2023

Without Walls are delighted to present our Discover Programme this summer

Discover provides opportunities for artists, directors, producers and creatives who are new to Outdoor Arts to learn more about what it means to make work outdoors.

Project Manager, Tess Farley, reflects on this year’s Discover programme and what it means to the Without Walls network and the creation of outdoor arts.

I recently read a tweet from an artist which, paraphrased, suggested artists don’t need another scheme: they need programmers to read proposals, offer more pitching opportunities and commission what comes in. The writer suggested they wanted all public money for arts to be spent on just that: making art.

As an artist myself, and as someone who has experienced significant barriers to accessing the arts and developing a career in the arts, my knee-jerk inclination was to agree. On the surface this idea makes sense. But aren’t we forgetting something?

We are not in a place of equality. Still. Still. That means lots of people are excluded and experience significant barriers to making work and having that work commissioned. The arts we see in programmes, including outdoor arts, still don’t proportionally represent the diverse make-up of our population. It’s improving, but it’s not equal, yet.

Arts audiences are still not representative of our population – although in outdoor arts we often reach audiences who typically may not feel welcome in arts buildings.

‘Not everyone feels welcome; not everyone has access.’

Not everyone feels welcome; not everyone has access. Not everyone is seen equally or treated equally – conscious and unconscious bias are still a problem. Prejudice is still a problem. Many people experience profound barriers to accessing arts; to training, forging and developing a career as an artist or in the arts. Arts Council England’s Equality Analysis gives more detail on how much work there is still to do, before we can say we’ve achieved equality.

We need equity: to level the playing-field, so that we can work towards equality.

If all public money for arts and culture was spent solely on programming work, wouldn’t we just perpetuate barriers? Wouldn’t we just maintain the status quo?

I’d argue that we need to see genuine commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion reflected in our budget lines, but with the significant chunk being allocated to commissioning outstanding Arts. At Without Walls that’s our current strategic stance. We want our commitments to be genuine and meaningful. We are continually learning, and we recognise we will make mistakes and keep learning.

So what should be the responsibility of arts organisations, especially strategic organisations? How do we make sure what we do offer is meaningful, useful, needed and wanted?

It has to start with listening and learning. It follows with action, and then with more listening and learning – a commitment to continuous improvement and action.

We know we need initiatives to support equity, to make the playing field more level and to provide meaningful opportunities to artists, makers, producers and practitioners who may not otherwise have them to explore and ultimately be better placed to make work – we recognise that in order to commission work which is truly reflective of the communities our festivals serve, we need to remove barriers.

‘Making work outdoors creates impactful opportunities to connect people and place.’

Now in its fifth year, our 2023 Discover programme builds on the success of Discover in previous years – and has been modelled listening to feedback from previous alumni and with recommendations from our Diversity and Inclusion action group in mind.

We’re delighted that this year we are able to offer a programme which provides a real range of ways to engage, explore making work outdoors and connect with other artists and specialists. We recognise that money can often be an issue and exclude people from engaging with schemes or opportunities, perpetuating inequalities. So we’re offering a bursary of up to £250 for participants, which we hope will support people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to to apply and engage with the programme.

I’d encourage anyone working in the arts who is interested in and new to outdoor work – anyone who has ever experienced barriers to forging their career, been excluded, under-represented or felt that the arts aren’t for them to apply.

‘The programme gave me a huge insight into the types of outdoor works out there but also about the logistics of creating work for the outdoors. It was a great opportunity to meet other artists, festival producers and the programme of talks and events were well curated and hugely useful.’

Subathra Subramaniam, Artistic Director and Joint CEO, Akademi


A man in a wheelchair wears a yellow dress and looks up at a group of people who pose around him in a circle.

Making work outdoors creates impactful opportunities to connect people and place; to engage audiences who may not typically feel welcome in arts buildings. The possibilities are endless. We’d love for participants to leave the programme feeling galvanised, fizzing with ideas and with insight into the practical steps they’d need to take to bring those ideas to life.

We want Discover to provide a supportive and open environment for a group to come together, collectively learn and explore. We hope we can support artists who may not have otherwise had an opportunity to find out more and to feel empowered to go on to make outdoor work – to push the boundaries of what outdoor arts can be.

‘So many inspirational speakers… Discover was facilitated in a very professional way… putting everyone at ease to be able ask questions as they came up.’

Gina Chan Martinez, Discover 2021

‘By far the best opportunity I have had to learn the ins and outs of outdoor arts and networks with so many artists, organisations and inspiring people… It was such a pleasant surprise to come to such an open space with wonderful people and find guidance in the form of people who knew what they were doing.’

Discover 2019 participant

Image credits:

The Tide, Talawa Theatre Company
Frock, Stopgap Dance Theatre at Arts by the Sea Festival 2022 © HotShot Creative