Swindon The Opera writer and producer Matt Fox, along with musician and artistic director Jessie Thompson and general manager Stephanie Walsh, have set up Madam Renards, a brand new performing arts promotion and production company with the object of awakening Swindon audiences to the joys and revelations of musical and theatrical experiences, and to give professional artists an opportunity to appear before the paying public.
In the company’s first blog Matt writes about artistic endeavour in Swindon despite the lack of support from the borough council, and refers to recent productions in the town that prove Swindon is a million miles away from the cultural back-water image portrayed by its council-run arts facilities.
Right, Matt with Swindon: The Opera composer Betty Roe, MBE
He said: “The lottery funded production Swindon: The Opera received unprecedented interest from national and local press and involved over 250 local people – musicians, actors, singers, dancers and artists, telling the story of 60 years of the town’s history.
“The aim was to highlight the many cultural achievements of the town and the unsung people who have made a mark on it and the nation’s history.
“As a result I realised that the opera had far more universal themes than I first thought. Indeed the show could have covered the history of any maligned industrial town or city in the country; and the people in it could have been the residents of any place which is generally viewed as low brow or uncultured.”
Other productions like The Pillowman by TS Theatre and Wrong Shoes’ immersive theatre presentation Nightlife have taken place at unusual venues such as the Victoria Pub and Furnace nightclub. Perhaps it is the lack of council support that drives the unconventionality and originality of such productions, as theatre goes out to find its audience, instead of waiting for the audience to come to it.
Madam Renards is challenging the notion of whether Swindon really does do arts, or whether the council just says it does. Certainly by drawing the attention of Swindon’s population to performances on the fringe of usual venues, artists can be sure to reach new audiences, with or without council backing.
Keep up with the blog at www.madamrenards.co.uk