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Reflecting on IETM: the international network for contemporary performing arts

Vanessa Boyd, Interdisciplinary Performance Officer and Emili Astrom, Dance Officer at Creative Scotland, reflect on the IETM Plenary Meeting, held in Munich from 1-4 November 2018.

IETM – the international network for contemporary performing arts – is a network of over 500 performing arts organisations and individual members working in the contemporary performing arts worldwide and which span theatre, dance, circus, interdisciplinary live arts forms and new media.

IETM was first established in 1981, at a time when international collaboration was largely executed through governmental and intergovernmental institutions. In response to this, IETM organised twice yearly meetings which included discussions, debates, performance programmes and all important opportunity for international sector and peer networking. Today, IETM has more than 500 members from over 50 countries.

For Creative Scotland, international platforms such as IETM are immensely important in creating opportunity for international exchange and to continue to highlight the strength of Scotland’s creative sector

IETM’s latest plenary meeting took place in Munich on 1-4 November, a city with a population of around 1.5m and a thriving cultural scene. Scottish artists have been attending IETM for many, many years now, and a great number of independent artists, producers and companies from Scotland attended in Munich with two delegations part-funded by Creative Scotland.

Scottish artists well represented

For Emili and I, it was our first opportunity to attend IETM, and we were very happy to have such good company during our visit with a delegation of Scottish dance professionals led by Sara Johnstone, (Membership & Studio Manager at The Work Room) along with a smaller delegation including Kim Simpson (Shift), Aby Watson and Amy Rosa. We were also pleased to catch up with Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie from Two Destination Language, Daisy Douglas (Buzzcut) and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, too.

The main theme of IETM was Res Publica Europa (The European Republic), with a focus on the ‘idea’ of Europe, and is it a cultural entity, or a geographical one?

These questions were weaved throughout the programme and led into discussions around identity, community and what or where is ‘home’. With a packed four-day programme, there was a lot on offer for delegates, and plenty of opportunity to meet with peers, make connections and for Emili and I, to share more about the wider Scottish sector.

Energising, networking and learning: A day at IETM

A day at IETM often began with a morning dance energiser, followed by enthusiastic discussion on a variety of topics from best practice participatory arts to disability and accessibility. We could dip our toes into conversation on colonialism and euro-centrism or dive head first into debate on ‘The Gender of the Future’.

Each day was peppered with opportunity to find a quiet corner to meet other delegates and learn more about the range of cultural and funding landscapes represented. Emili and I met with delegates from Korea, Germany, Italy and Portugal to share more on Scotland’s approach to supporting artists and developing opportunities for the sector, and importantly to highlight the richness of the work being created in Scotland and sign-post to relevant artists and organisations.

For the Scottish artists and companies in attendance, as well as attending talks and networking with one another, they were also able to meet their international peers, talk in-depth about their own practice and scope out opportunities for collaboration and further exchange.

Evenings at IETM are often ring-fenced for seeing performances and yes, further connecting with other artist and companies. For those with enough stamina post-show IETM also offers a late-night meeting point (often where some of the best connections can be made), in this case over local Bavarian beer and a German pretzel!

Contemporary performance

There was a strong programme of European contemporary performance taking place as part of IETM and we were lucky enough to time the trip with Funk The System International Hip Hop Festival complete with street art exhibitions, rap battles and dance workshops.

During our visit, the Politik Im Freien Theater was in full swing. Politik Im Freien Theater is a festival that reflects the political and social situations of today and included work from international contemporary performance superstars Gob Squad, Rimini Protokoll, Jaha Koo and Ontroerend Goed to name but a few!

IETM presents a unique opportunity to meet with peers from around the globe, and this particular trip included a meeting between the delegation of Scottish dance and movement professionals and Tanzbüro München, an information and advice centre for Munich based choreographers and dance professionals.

Building on an international creative network

Commensurate hosts (having prepared homemade Bavarian potato salad!), Tanzbüro München truly welcomed the Scottish delegation and it was great to have space for Scottish-based artists to connect with peers working in Munich sharing working approaches, exchanging ideas and discuss the potential for future collaboration and exchange.

For Creative Scotland, international platforms such as IETM are immensely important in creating opportunity for international exchange and to continue to highlight the strength of Scotland’s creative sector, and we were so pleased to have such a strong Scottish contingent present in Munich.

I’m sure it was a priority of many delegates in attendance to ensure that we continue to maintain and build upon the invaluable and awe-inspiring creative network of exchange that exists across Europe, and the wider globe, particularly as Scotland and the rest of the UK head towards some uncertainty in 2019.

IETM’s next plenary will take place in Hull in March 2019, and will look at inclusion in all its forms from race, ethnicity, faith, disability, age, gender, sexuality, class and economic disadvantage – themes that often sit at the heart of contemporary performance in Scotland and permeate through our communities and across our landscapes.