Artistic Policy

Without Walls mission is to lead excellence in outdoor arts through the creation of inspirational new work of the highest quality by UK artists – from the intimate to the epic – touring this work to reach large, diverse and new audiences across the country.

The Without Walls Artistic Policy is reviewed by the Artistic Directorate and the Board annually, to ensure that it can respond to current themes and agendas and remains dynamic and ambitious.

Explore our Artistic Policy below to find out more about how we work together to achieve our mission.

Image: Black Victorians, Jeanefer Jean-Charles at Greenwich + Docklands International Festival 2020

Without Walls was formed in 2007 by a group of five partners, committed to working together to jointly commission and support new work by UK artists. A key driver was to ensure that by collaborating as festivals, artists would benefit from a series of presentation opportunities across one season, that would enable new work to develop and gain the momentum needed to sustain viable touring.

In 2013 a wider touring network was introduced alongside the commissioning group, supporting the development of emerging festivals and presenters in areas of low engagement and expanding the range of touring opportunities for the work commissioned by Without Walls. The original commissioning group also evolved and by 2018 this had expanded to a group of ten partners.

In 2018 Arts Council England recognised Without Walls’ track record of success and bold development plans by awarding the organisation Band 3 NPO funding. This has allowed the organisation to plan and commission on a longer-term basis and to introduce a wider programme of strategic development work to support the development of outdoor arts. A new Board of Directors was established in April 2018 to oversee this ambitious programme of work, including festival partners and independent members who bring a variety of business and artistic expertise. At this point the commissioning group was reconstituted as the Artistic Directorate, with delegated responsibility from the Board to drive the Artistic programme.

Over the 13 seasons of work that Without Walls has presented to date, 150 + shows have been presented and toured, and a further 80 projects have been supported through R&D support. Details of the past programme of work can be found on the Without Walls website.

Without Walls is proud of the achievements that this programme represents which includes work of all scales from across the range of art forms that make up outdoor arts including; circus, installations, dance, sound art, digital work, and participatory work, aerial, pyrotechnics, theatre and classic street theatre.  Without Walls is committed to supporting the evolution of outdoor arts, pushing the boundaries of artistic practice, taking creative risks and enabling experimentation.  There is a clear commitment to supporting work by Deaf or Disabled artists or integrated companies, investing in work by Black and Asian artists and encouraging new artists to work in the field of outdoor arts.  Without Walls has raised the profile of outdoor arts, making it more diverse, vibrant, and representative of contemporary Britain.

It is a priority of Without Walls that the work it supports tours to audiences across the country, and in particular to communities that have low levels of engagement with the arts.  Without Walls invests in a range of audience development activities to enable as many people as possible to have the opportunity to see the work it produces, as well as investing in access services to ensure that the programme is accessible to Deaf and disabled audience members. Alongside this, Without Walls strives to promote environmental good practice in the creation, development and touring of its work.  All of these factors inform the selection of work, and support is offered to artists to help address these priorities, ensuring the work is suitable for touring to Without Walls networks and beyond. In order to promote the touring and development of new work Without Walls supports a range of established and emerging festivals through the Touring Network Partnership and the Creative Development Network respectively to promote the development of robust distribution networks that will help artists to develop, present and sustain their work overtime.

As a funded consortium, Without Walls recognises its important role in championing outdoor arts in the UK, and this Artistic Policy is informed by an ambition to be a sector leader in outdoor arts in the UK and internationally.

The Artistic Directorate is empowered by the Board of Directors to curate and deliver the artistic programme.  This group is made up of a single representative of each of the commissioning partners of Without Walls, all of whom invest funds in the work and bring their expertise to the development of the programme.  The members of the Artistic Directorate meet regularly to select and develop the programme and to monitor the progress of each piece. These meetings are chaired by an Independent Chair and facilitated and managed by XTRAX, whose role is to ensure the effective and fair operation of the meetings and to support the delivery of the Artistic Policy.

About the Artistic Directorate
The members of the Artistic Directorate are co-curators, joint investors and presenters of the programme that they jointly select; they are responsible for ensuring the programme is artistically ambitious, financially and practically robust, and they present it at their festivals and events during its first year of touring.

The programme is agreed collectively by the members of the Artistic Directorate. There are a number of ways in which work can be selected. These include (but are not limited to): open calls, development of work through R&D or residencies, projects nurtured by Artistic Directorate members over time, collaborations with organisations or associate partners, and co-commissions with other partners. It is understood that it may take several years for a project to evolve, and the Artistic Directorate will often work with artists through R&D and early development processes before a project is ready for presentation.

The Without Walls programme is a curated programme of work and not a funding scheme. As co-curators of, and investors in, the overall programme, the members of the Artistic Directorate determine the priorities for each season with reference to the Artistic Policy and select work that contributes to this. The Artistic Directorate members also consider the social and cultural context of their own festival or event as well as the broader political landscape and the wider presentation network in the UK and internationally.

Between them, the Artistic Directorate can present work of many scales, types and genres, in contexts from the traditional street arts festival, to work designed for different types of public space.  The opportunity to present work to audiences in a range of contexts and settings is a key feature of the offer that Without Walls makes to artists; in the first year, through the Artistic Directorate partners, and in subsequent years through the Touring Network and other partners. The suitability of work for onward touring is a requirement of Without Walls support and an important consideration for the Artistic Directorate.

In fostering innovation and pushing the boundaries of creative development, Without Walls invests in the R&D, commissioning and touring of excellent new outdoor arts by UK artists:

  • to support, develop and present high-quality work from a new and emerging generation of outdoor artists;
  • To support work of international significance with the potential to tour widely in the UK, Europe and beyond
  • to prioritise the development and presentation of work made by artists from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse artists, work made by Deaf, disabled and/or neurodivergent artists and work by LGBTIQA+ artists
  • to work with established companies and artists who are keen to experiment and develop new approaches to their work;
  • to help stimulate new, surprising and engaging outdoor arts collaborations between artists from different disciplines;
  • to draw on the Consortium’s considerable experience and awareness of international outdoor arts to help provide new stimulus and opportunities for collaboration between UK and international artists.
  • To explore opportunities for artists to experiment with digital and new technology in outdoor arts
  • To support work that develops new and exciting opportunities for audiences of all ages to experience and interact with outdoor arts

Without Walls looks for exciting and imaginative ideas that have been developed specifically with outdoor presentation in mind. The ambition is that each Without Walls programme should represent the highest quality new work that the UK outdoor arts sector has to offer.

Projects can be of any form or scale however they should be suitable for touring to multiple outdoor arts festivals/events in the UK and potentially internationally.

Without Walls seeks to actively support the work of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse, and Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists and we work to encourage and solicit proposals from relevant individuals and organisations.

In addition to the stated Artistic Policy Without Walls is committed to delivering a balanced programme that considers the scale, genre and style of the projects selected.

Without Walls is committed to driving efforts to diversify the outdoor arts sector. In 2021, 38% of the projects we supported were led by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse artists, and we are committed to maintaining or increasing this level of investment in artists who have historically been under represented in the outdoor arts world.

There is also much work to be done in increasing the representation of Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists, so this remains a priority for Without Walls. It is the responsibility of the Artistic Directorate to ensure that the artistic programme selected meets these targets.

It is the role of the chair and the XTRAX team to work with the Artistic Directorate to monitor these targets throughout the selection meetings and to monitor the Without Walls programme over time, to ensure that these targets are met.

Investment in R&D is an important tool for Without Walls in creating high quality work.  The Consortium recognises that R&D projects will come in many formats and scales; that not all R&D projects will go on to be realised as full creations; that not all R&D projects will be developed as full commissions by the Consortium; and that large-scale projects in particular, or those with of budgets in excess of £75,000, will likely have been through some kind of R&D process as a means of ensuring the project is well researched in terms of artistic, production and financial requirements.

Without Walls’ investment in R&D is guided by how the project meets the criteria of the Consortium’s Artistic Policy and could be used to allow:

  • the kick-starting of projects for full development in future years (recognising that successful work needs to be developed in stages and allowing Without Walls to plan on a longer-term basis);
  • artistic experimentation without the pressure of creating a full show;
  • artists to review the development needs of a project, including assessing the full creation requirements and related costs;
  • artists and festivals the opportunity to develop realistic presentation requirements and assess the related costs;
  • commissioning partners to review more information about projects before committing full commissioning funds, so as to ensure artistic quality and to mitigate financial risk; artists and commissioning partners to identify producing and additional commissioning partners.

The priorities outlined in this Artistic Policy extend to the full range of Without Walls’ creative development work, including audience development, training and creative development, and the promotion of environmental sustainability. Without Walls works throughout the year on the delivery of a wide range of strategic projects designed to support the development of high quality of work, and creates opportunities for artists, producers and presenters to develop the skills and tools needed to create exceptional work. Without Walls works with all the network partners from across the Artistic Directorate, Touring Network Partnership and Creative Development Network on the delivery of these activities.