Outdoor arts experts Without Walls grow their network as Covid-19 continues to challenge the arts sector

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!

About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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