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Artists in residence: Finger in the Pie theatre company

As Artists in Residence, theatre company Finger in the Pie regularly work with students and offer work placements, and Middlesex is a partner in the company's annual Mimetic Festival

Finger in the Pie is an ensemble theatre company specialising in fun and visual physical theatre, and in 2007 they began using rehearsal space at Middlesex, before becoming official Artists in Residence in 20011.

At Middlesex the School of Media and Performing Arts' Artists in Residence Scheme brings established names from the music, dance and theatre industries to the University – giving them the space to research and develop new work while they share their knowledge and experience with students.

The Finger in the Pie play Waiting for Stanley was developed with the support of Middlesex and – ranked in the top ten best reviewed shows at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012 and set for a national tour in 2015 – is a great example of the scheme's success.

The Finger in the Pie Production Waiting for Stanley 

Mimetic Festival

More recently, the University partnered the company during Mimetic Festival 2014, its annual two-week celebration of physical and visual theatre, puppetry and cabaret which was held at the Vaults, a sprawling underground venue beneath Waterloo Station in London.

"From our point of view the relationship with Middlesex is very much about access to facilities and the expertise the department brings to our work," explains Alexander Parsonage, the company's Artistic Director. "In return we run workshops, give lectures and offer placements to students."

A number of Middlesex students worked on placement at Mimetic, while the University played a prominent role setting up a conference at the festival called 'Can't Pay/Can Play' – designed to initiate a discussion around the difficult issues of low pay and the lack of funding in theatre.

"I wanted to set up a conference to question the negativity around this issue," says Alexander. "Everyone in theatre wants to be well paid and I would love to see that happen, but until it does we have to look at other ways as there isn't enough money across the board.

"Bringing a bit of reality to the situation is important, and we should be encouraging people to not see themselves as a failure if they don't earn their entire income from theatre. 

"I am an award-winning director, but I am also a graphic designer and without that I would not have managed to get where I am today."

Sharing best practice

With a panel including freelance producer Flavia Fraser-Cannon, Equity Low Pay No Pay Officer Emmanuel de Lange and author and actor Rafe Beckley, the conference represented the beginning of a process overseen by Middlesex to document and share best practice in collaborative theatre making, production and organisation.

The panel discussion at the Can't Pay Can Play event 

Josephine Machon, Senior Research Fellow at Middlesex, is leading the project with the long-term goal of setting up a network where theatre practitioners can catalogue and share best practice.

"On both our BA and MA Theatre Arts courses, we aim to nurture artists who will play a positive role in the changing landscape of our industry," she says. 

"We are proud of the ways in which our current students have contributed to this very important discussion, and they are engaging in a process that will evolve approaches to practice in the discipline."