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TRCH David Suchet

Interview: Hatch's Nathan Miller

11 December 12 interview: Adrian Bhagat
photos: David Baird

For five years now, Hatch have taken away the pretentiousness of performance art, brought back the fun, and have redrawn the boundaries of the stage by refusing to acknowledge them. Playwright Michael Pinchbeck is one of the founders, and the other - Nathan Miller - used to put in serious work for an independent magazine you may have heard of...

What is Hatch for?
We wanted to help performing artists from the East Midlands, of whatever type, to develop their work and find places where they could experiment. Also we wanted to make spaces for the kind of work that might not find a home anywhere else, the kind of thing that isn’t a play or a piece of contemporary dance or a performance art work and might not sit in any of the existing spaces. Our tagline when we started was that we were a theatre without a building. The idea was that we could programme anything that wouldn’t fit into a theatre or an arts theatre, and we looked at the whole city as being our venue.

What was the catalyst that turned the idea into a reality?
Nottingham had been known for its interesting and innovative live arts scene and then that kind of ended with the closure of some venues and the end of the Performing Arts course at NTU. It wasn’t that there wasn’t anything, but there just wasn’t enough. You always need lots of activity and more people doing more things to create something interesting. It was getting harder for the artists and we thought that if we could take on the work of finding a space and marketing a performance they could just get on with devising the ideas. The first year we had no funding at all so we didn’t pay ourselves, the venues, or our performers, so it existed purely on good will. Now, although we’re not regularly funded, we get money for individual projects and we do as much and as well as we can on the resources we have.

So who’s involved in making Hatch tick?
Michael Pinchbeck and I are the founders and co-directors, and Marie-Christine Bertram is the Project Co-ordinator, though in practice we all do a bit of everything with Marie doing the most. She joined us in our first year on a work placement from New College Nottingham where she was studying and worked on a couple of projects, then went travelling for a bit and luckily came back. As we’ve become more established and had the opportunity to do bigger and more interesting things, we have had to bring in other people and we’ll have to do more of that in the future.

You describe the work you promote as ‘performance-y’. How would you define that?
We wanted to be able to take on anything with as wide a range of formats and genres that we could. We’ve had all kinds of acts including stand-up comedy, written theatre, dance and so on but we try not to define performance-y because we don’t want to exclude things that aren’t exactly performances. For example, Rachael Eite set up a load of televisions linked to microphones which picked up audience conversations. That was about the furthest you could get from performance without it just becoming a static installation.

The idea is that work that is experimental, avant garde, or just weird could be presented in a context where it is more accessible than a fifty-year-old play or a ballet. It’s only difficult for people to engage with the arts if you tell them it is. By using the term ‘performance-y’ we avoid defining it and so don’t put people off before they’ve seen it.

Why is it called ‘Hatch’?
Michael came up with the name - I think it was originally meant for some other project of his that never took off. Hatch is a noun and a verb which sum up the twin ideas of what we do. As a verb it means ‘to break open in order to release the developed young’ which is quite a poetic description of our desire to find performance opportunities for new artists and those who want to try new things. Hatch as a noun is an opening that allows you access from one area to another which reflects our wish to open doors and allow artists to engage with audiences and other artists.

Recently you’ve been made an associate arts collective with Embrace Arts in Leicester. What does that involve?
Embrace Arts are part of Leicester University; they’re establishing themselves as a place for performance-y arts. They’ve got a really nice building and facilities but they don’t have a black box theatre so while it’s not necessarily the best place for small scale touring theatre, it fits very well with what we do. Being an associate collective means we’ll be doing two events there each year for the next two years. When we first started in Nottingham we deliberately didn’t stick to a single venue but in Leicester we’ve always been based at Embrace Arts. In Nottingham the challenge is always finding the right space but in Leicester it’s about finding new ways to work with that same building. Luckily their building is changing and being developed and so new spaces emerge within the old one.

When you try to find a venue in Nottingham, what are you looking for?
Generally we are looking for people at the venue who are enthusiastic about working with us, whether they are actively interested in what we are doing or just happy for us to get on
with it. We have to check everything with the venue to make sure they are happy with what’s happening. Sometimes you have to call them up and say “Is it OK if the performers take their clothes off downstairs?” or “are we allowed to spill paint on the floor?”. Sometimes they say yes and sometimes no. We did an event at the Loggerheads which was a perfect venue as it had all these different rooms and caves out the back. Someone at that event decided to get up on the roof and they were fine about that. It’s a real shame that place closed down.

What have you got coming up?
Our next event is called Hatch:Mass and will be at Spanky Van Dyke’s. It’s another unusual venue where we have to go in and work out how to make things happen around the, er, décor. The Nottingham acts include First Floor Theatre who invite you all to a party in their front room and Arletty Theatre making a patchwork quilt of stories. Fourbeatwalk will be on
hand producing hand-made cards for people to send from the event. We’re also bringing in acts from outside the area including Ali Matthews, AKA The Bitchuationist, with a cabaret based around the Book of Genesis, and Harry Giles with a game about capitalists and revolutionaries. On top of that, there will be live music, a mass Yugo yoga session, a love story about badgers and lots more.

How do you go about choosing acts for a Hatch event?
We’ve always had a policy of open submissions because it means we get as much choice as possible. We can only get funding for a limited number of projects so we’re in the happy
situation where we get far more applications than we could ever put on. We choose ten or twelve for each event but we have to reject at least as many good ones. It’s a shame to turn good ideas down but you want to make sure that you present the best work in the best possible way so you choose the acts that fit with the theme of the event and the space it’s in. Hopefully the people we reject will apply the next time with an idea that fits better with that event.

The Gramophones Theatre Company is a good example of a Hatch success story…
The Gramophones’ first event together was Hatch:Abroad and they’ve done other things with us since. They’re a fantastic company of great performers who are really motivated and now they are at a stage where they have funding to build up their company, they have taken a show to Edinburgh, they’re touring and doing a show at the Playhouse. We don’t take credit for that but we’re absolutely thrilled that they’ve come through from working with us.

You were involved with LeftLion in its early days…
I went to school with Jared Wilson and Alan Gilby, and I knew Tim Bates - the founders of LeftLion. I was living in Liverpool when they set up the website, but got involved on the forum. The first couple of printed magazines they put out were absolutely full of typos and errors, I’d moved back to Notts and when I suggested they get someone to proofread it they told me to do it myself. From there, I got sucked in and did various roles. That experience of working with LeftLion was a direct inspiration in setting up Hatch because it made me realise that once you have an idea about something that needs to happen,
you can just get on and do it yourself and, if you are trying to do something to improve the city, people will support it. With a good idea and the right skills, you have a good chance of
succeeding. 

Hatch: Mass takes place at Spanky Van Dykes on Wednesday 12 December from 7pm.


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