Berlin Association of Independent Performing Artists
This article was commissioned by the Korean Arts Management Services and originally published in Korean for theApro.kr– a database website for the global exchange of performing arts, a project supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Republic of Korea.
Fish-Tales, In photo: Alexander Schröder, Martin Clausen and Beatrice Fleischlin, © http://www.posttheater.com
Arbeitsgruppen(AG) des LAFT Berlin or LaFT Berlin working groups, which have been in full operation since October 2009, consist of representatives from bbk Berlin, KulturForum, spott e.V., LaFT Berlin, ZTB and Tanzbüro Berlin. The working groups aim to examine and address conditions of professional artists that need further improvement. AG provides the necessary advise categorised as follows: 1) AG Lobby; 2) AG Service; 3) AG Budget; 4) AG Artistic Activities; 5) AG Labour Agency; 6) AG Guidance and Training 7) AG Communication; and 8. AG Artist Venues. They offer a whole range of consultations to varying activities. All members of LAFT Berlin are encouraged to take an active part in the working groups. AG Lobby strives to increase the political presence of the association; AG Services develops service programmes for its members; AG Budget specifically seeks ways to influence changes within the cultural budget provided by the Berlin Senate for the benefit of the independent performing arts community; AG Artistic Activities develops concrete actions to increase the presence of the free theatre scene; AG Labour Agency is committed to promoting a better job opportunities for performing artists in relation with the German employment agency; AG Communication works on improving the public visibility of the independent theatre through media and press communication; AG Guidance and Training is dedicated to consulting and training services for free theatre and dance professionals; and AG Artists Venues cultivates the cooperation between artists and venues.
To provide concrete examples of their work, AG Service organises monthly roundtable discussions and experts’ day to its members. Successful round tables have been organised at the Theater unterm Dach, Theaterdiscounter, Sophiensaele, Ballhaus Naunynstraße and Ballhaus Ost. During these meetings, participants get the chance to meet and engage in a discussion with the artistic directors, resident playwrights and dramaturges of the respective venues. For the expert meetings, the working group has organised discussions with the likes of Alexander Opitz, Siegfried Langbehn, Ute Buesing and Günter Jeschonnek.
In 2009, together with TanzRaumBerlin, the contemporary dance network, LAFT Berlin initiated a major campaign to introduction the standardisation of fees for performing artists. A practical approach pegged at the living costs of artists having to earn € 12.08/hour for those insured under the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK) with a 40-hour working week, and the non-KSK insured from € 15.95. This resulted to an increase of 6 Million Euros in publicly funded independent performing arts productions with a consciousness of setting realistic honorarium for performing artists. The association is working further on developing a policy explicitly articulating concrete actions for its sustained implementation.
Passow asserts, “This is not a hobby. This is professional work. If the Berlin Senate for instance is giving grants, it should be taken as a form of commissioning works. At the moment, there are no standards and we would like to introduce standards. We would like to be properly funded and raise the budget.” With intensified lobbying efforts involving active participation of its members and other networks, its winnings are reflected effectively in numbers.
By far, LaFT Berlin has contributed to the cultural and political work, succeeding in strengthening communication amongst its members, evident in its doubling membership since its inception 3 years ago. LaFT Berlin’s public image has likewise increased with growing number of press interviews, invitation to cultural events and participation in political discussions. Since March 2010, LaFT Berlin, gained a voice in the Berlin Council representing the arts. It has participated at the IETM meeting and likewise involved in the Association of Free Theatre (BUFT). Berlin Artists Action Alliance is another ally of LAFT Berlin in lobbying for the funding pot of local cultural institutions. Apart from building camaraderie with the different performing arts associations, LAFT actively responds to issues concerning the community through circulation of information (news, print and online communication).
LAFT is currently negotiating with the Berlin Senate to secure infrastructure funding to strategically strengthen progress of its actions. “We are sustained by regular membership contribution. We have six board members, working honorary – plus me. I work with the workgroups, write the press releases and represent LaFT in the parliament. We try to inform the politicians about the consequences of their decisions,” explains Passow. Elaborating on the current climate in the growing European cultural capital, she says, “The situation got harder and harder. Competition is becoming tougher. Berlin is an individualistic society but we try to exchange experiences by talking to each other. We offer talks between institutions and artists.”
And although running an association working with a group of independent theatre companies and artists already means having to deal with a mountain of work, LaFT is open to collaborations and international contacts/network. Moving on its fourth year, LaFT Berlin is continuously building its visibility and most importantly getting people together in developing a sense of community. In Passow’s words, “LaFT is investing on the future of the scene and its professionalization.
About the Writer: VaniniBelarmino is a Berlin-based producer and curator specialising in interdisciplinary exchange and cross-border collaborations. She is the Founder and Managing Director of Belarmino&Partners, an international project management and promotions consultancy for arts and culture<http://www.belarminopartners.com
Some useful links:
Berlin Senate for Culture, see text in Korean
a rose is <www.aroseis.de/
ehrlichearbeit – freiesKulturbüro<www.ehrlichearbeit.de/
English Theatre Berlin<www.etberlin.de/
EX!T Ausgangspunkt Theater<www.exit-theater.de/
German Theatre Abroad<www.g-t-a.de/
JungeOper Berlin / Schlossplatztheater<www.schlossplatztheater.de/
lunatiks production <www.lunatiks.de/
Mia Kaspari& Company <www.me-dea-fusion.de/
Mime Centrum Berlin<www.mimecentrum.de/
Nico and the Navigators <www.navigators.de/
Oper Dynamo West <www.operdynamowest.org/
Platypus Theater <www.platypus-theater.de/
Schauplatz International <www.schauplatzinternational.net/
Spree Agenten Berlin<www.spree-agenten.de/
Theater o.N. /Zinnober<www.theater-on.com/
The Working Party<www.theworkingparty.de/
united OFF productions<www.unitedoffproductions.de/