misunderstanding each other since 2003

Fence Archive

5. Tampere, 2005

A partnership of 5 organisations from the network of Fence participants came together to develop a one year project entitledJanus(June 05-May06). Janus thus enabled Fence 5,6,7 and 8 to happen.

  • uniT Verein für Kultur an der Karl Franzens Universität Graz, Austria
  • The Finnish Theatre Information Centre, Finland
  • West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, UK
  • Writernet UK
  • Theater Instituut, Nederland

Janus used the Fence network to identify 15 plays from different countries across Europe that engage with the theme of "Cultural Identity: cultural diversity." These were then translated into English, German or Finnish and given showcased readings as part of Festivals in Tampere, Finland (August 05); Graz, Austria (March 06) and Leeds, UK (May 06). Once the plays had been translated, each playwright went to the host country for a week before the Festival to work with a playwright/dramaturg so as to explore the context of the play in translation as well as the actual text itself.

With support from Culture 2000 Janus was launched as part of the Tampere International Theatre Festival, Finland (August 05). The Fence met alongshide the festival, hosted by our colleagues from the Finnish Theatre Information Centre, led by the organisation's director Riitta Seppälä.

Feckless playwrights

The Finnish Theatre Information Service is one of our partners in the Janus project, and the first translated plays from the Janus project were given rehearsed readings at the Festival.
This section incorporates notes and images from the Fence meeting, plus information on playwriting in Finland.
For more information on the Tampere Festival please visit the festival website:http://www.teatterikesa.fi
For more information on the Finnish Theatre Information Centre, visit their website:http://www.teatteri.org

Feckless playwrights

Four plays were translated for the Tampere Festival, two into English (1 Bed FlatandFish Soup) and two into Finnish (The Breathing HouseandThe Stonewatcher). The readings of these pieces were held as part of an international seminar called Play in Focus which was attended by Fence participants and other festival visitors. The plays have subsequently been promoted in newsletters, sent to dramaturges, literary managers and directors in Finland, and have been published in print and electronic form in the on-line library of the Finnish Theatre Information Centre.

Fence participants met Finnish directors, writers and agents to explore in more depth the context in which new work is produced in Finland as part of the open seminarPlay in Focus. Notes from these discussions are available in the Playwriting in Finland part of this section.

Participating playwrights and their plays were (click on title for more information):

José Maria Vieira Mendes (Portugal):1 Bed Flat(English reading)

János Háy (Hungary):The Stonewatcher(Finnish reading)

Paul Brodowsky (Germany):Fish Soup(English reading)

Peter Arnott (Scotland):The Breathing House(Finnish reading)

For more information on the translations please contact the Finnish Theatre Information Centre:

Meritullinkatu 33 A, 00170 Helsinki, Finland

Tel. +358 (0)9 2511 2120,

Fax +358 (0)9 2511 2125


Website (in English and Finnish):www.teatteri.org


Introduction of the Fence and Background

outside the sauna

The Fence was set up to link Playwrights and gatekeepers across Europe.
Historically it has been scripts that cross boarders rather than playwrights.
We wanted to create the conditions by which the mobility of playwrights as individual artists can be increased. In order to do this, we needed to find out about each other, our cultures and theatre systems.
In the eighteen months to this meeting the Fence grew as an international network. Originally present at the first meeting in Hurst were around 21 participants. By 2005 there were between 50 and 65 people with an involvement in the Fence.
The Fence continues to grow and there are new faces at this meeting. Arising out of the discussions had by Fence members was a desire to “do” as well as to talk.
From this the translation project, Janus was born.

A trip to the sauna

Tampere 2005: What is the Fence now?

Impressions so far:

  • Networking is important because it allows directors to have access to more plays. Potentially this could mean much more translations. It could also help to establish co-productions internationally.
  • International collaboration can offer models and support to enable changes to playwriting culture in a country.
  • The informality, simplicity and lack of “organisation” to the Fence is valued.
  • The seeming informality of the Fence, is actually highly organised. The Janus project brings in money to support the Fence and enables it to keep its simplicity. The Fence allows us to see ourselves and our situations through one anothers’ eyes, it raises our consciousness. Most importantly it’s not about an organisation which wants a product.
  • Playwrights who are not particularly well received in one country, can go on to have stellar careers abroad. The network gives the opportunity for more writers who don’t necessarily fit their own culture, to find a home in another.
  • Similarly, where a theatre culture does not support new playwriting, playwrights can find homes abroad (not just their work, but themselves) and affirmation and confidence.
  • This is an informal marketplace, which brings certain qualities, facilities, inspirations. There is freedom to make collaborations.
  • I always get more international feedback than I do from home.
  • There is a formality to the Fence: a chaired discussion with agendas. It is not totally an informal experience. How is the informality of business balanced against the informality? There are a lot of useful conversations going on outside of meetings, informally, which it seems should be in meetings? How do we bring the informality in?
  • The structure of the Fence has been enabled by piggy-backing on more formal events (like the IETM, Tampere Festival etc) to there is structure there. We’ve created ourselves by parasitically attaching ourselves to the highly structured.
  • This mix of the informal and formal does work: there’s going to be a production of a Romanian play in Russia in October.

Network Growth

Points raised in discussion:

  • There are issues around the growth of the network. If we want to close our circle, we must do it soon. There are thousands of playwrights across Europe who would want to join these meetings. If the size of the network, its personal nature and informality is important, we must consider.
  • Original invites for the network were through people we’d heard of and the network has grown organically as a result, as more and more people and countries come into its orbit. Some people are individuals, others represent many other playwrights and those who work with them.
  • The bigger the Fence becomes, the more organisation it will take. There is a danger that it will lose its informality as a result.
  • How do we keep in touch with people. Is there a contact list available?

Questions towards Action:

  • How do we join and leave the network? What are the processes for this?
  • What is the dynamic between those who essentially represent themselves or a single organisation, and those who are representing many?
  • Who is missing from the network? How will we find them?
  • How should the network continue to grow in the future.
  • Action: preparation and dissemination of an updated contact list.

Promoting the Network and its work

Web Presence

Thoughts from the Fence

  • Although there is a web presence through writernet’s site, this isn’t being picked up by search engines. There is a need to increase the web presence to show the development of the network, to inform others and aid the attraction future funding.

Questions for Action:

  • What should be the content of the website?
  • What are the protocols?
  • How will members of the Fence be involved in the development of the site, especially if the site is to be a resource as well as a record?
  • Should the website be a standalone site from writernet’s site?
  • Who do we want to promote this information to? How should we promote it? Need to ensure that there are links to the site from all member’s sites and other agencies (indicating the Fence rather than Writernet)

Documentation and Discovery

Thoughts from the Fence

  • Fence gives an information channel, communication and reaction, which is valuable for countries where the infrastructure for playwriting is not developed.
  • Through our discussions and work, the Fence is developing a body of knowledge and understanding. It is important that this is captured, not simply for prosperity, but so that the knowledge can be of use to a wider constituency and can begin to influence the mobility of writers across the boundaries of Europe.There are resource implications for organisations and individuals. Some organisations are set up well to do this sort of work. Others are not.

Questions for Action:

  • Who should take responsibility for this?
  • How should this knowledge be recorded? IE: through minutes, publications, personal stories etc
  • How should this knowledge be disseminated?
  • What should be the expectations on Fence members in terms of disseminating this knowledge to their own countries?
  • How do we talk about the Fence?
  • How are people supported where they do not have the resources to disseminate information?

Who Drives the Fence and what is the Agenda?

Thoughts from Discussion

  • Something that feels like its missing (at least in this meeting) is a political engagement in the world outside. We should be responsive to events that have occurred and give ourselves to forums in which broader European contexts can be discussed. There are many different versions of the same histories. It’s pertinent to our work as theatre makers, and is a stunning opportunity to see things differently.
  • There is an enormous amount ofinformationavailable now through the internet. But the computer in your head cannot use it all, and it feels isolating, even more so if you are part of a country which is isolated by language. The Fence enables knowledge to be transferred in a smaller community. It is an efficient way of looking for things.
  • We want to share one another’s work: but not in terms of productions. Can we not just introduce work from different countries at every meeting?

Questions, Thoughts and Actions

  • Getting to know each other better is clearly one of the agendas of the Fence. The informality of the network is valued, but there were also questions raised around what the network should be doing and talking about?
  • Janus should provide a focus for discussion, not just for the production of readings.
  • Alongside the business of Janus, the Tampere meeting did provide a strong focus for the Fence on Finnish playwriting (see notes below). This corresponds with the desire to get to know one another’s work. This happened in meetings and out of meetings, but somehow in the final meeting wasn’t acknowledged as part of the Fence experience. How do we highlight and manage this against the international business? More structure?
  • How do we get other people to take the lead and influence and organise elements of the Fence? When asked, there is often a lot of silence (which came out in the final meeting against Janus, but not earlier on). Is it a question of approaching individuals, and giving responsibility to people. There’s a sense that people will not be forthcoming.
  • There are implications for greater structure in the next meeting, how should this be done?

General Thoughts: How do we ensure that the Fence reaches playwrights in each of the countries represented, and isn’t simply about the individuals in the room. Is this an issue? How do we talk about the Fence to writers in our country, and how do they know how to access it (or the opportunities that grow from it). Reflections later on. How do we separate Fence meetings and Fence benefits? How does the body of knowledge and understanding have wider benefit? This will vary from country to country, according to how direct the relationship a representative has with writers in their country, and how many they are able to reach.

Development of Country Profiles on the web. There are still some missing: Belarus, France, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Spain.

How do people contribute to the Fence outside of meetings? Is the idea that the Fence should be trickling down to writers across Europe and should be promoted to them as an opportunity fully realised? Increasing the beneficiary base, will also increase the potential of funding surely?

Fence Enquiry: Finnish Playwriting

Whilst in Tampere, the Fence was given the opportunity to meet a number of figures from Finnish Theatre, to better our understanding of the landscape for theatre writers in Finland. Here are some observations and notes on what was learnt.

1. Finnish Playwrights Association

Key Facts

  • Association was founded in 1921
  • They have the largest Finnish Library of plays (5000).
  • They have 400 members and look after 120 estates.
  • They are a mix of a Trade Union and Agency
  • They are not a commercial organisation, are non-profit and state supported.
  • Their work is to legitimise the profession of playwriting in Finland

The need to create and participate in international networks is a common desire amongst many young playwrights in Finland.

The legitimisation of the profession and work as an agency is important to the FPA, but most important is the peer networking.

The role of the Dramaturg is in decline in Finland. There are only 11 dramaturg positions in theatres. The generation who studied dramaturgy but do not practice are infact playwrights. Playwrights in Finland are often auteur playwrights, they direct their own work.

It is a different thing for you to write a play to direct yourself and that for someone else.

Playwrights in the FPA write for film, radio and television as well as theatre.

Around 80 new plays are premiered in Finland a year.

Education of Playwrights

Elsewhere dramaturges tend to be schooled primarily in science of theatre and research. In Finland they are trained to be artists with the philosophy that an understanding of the anatomy of drama comes from doing.

Therefore, dramaturges have a strong artistic identity, and less interest in analysis and logistics. The important thing is an understanding of the play in space and as part of training a dramaturg will be expected to direct. The only difference to director training is that you do not direct classic plays, only new ones.

Playwrights are professionals. However, of a 400 membership of the FPA only around 5 writers are making a career from writing theatre alone.

Although they are a trade union, they do not have unemployment funds for the writers who are not working.

Every playwright’s dream is to be performed. Plays are not literature, they are a part of performance. Most plays only get one performance.

There are issues around combining a Trade Union with an agency model. You have to treat everyone equally, and you therefore are more of a collecting agency.

There are resource issues too, currently the library is only available in paper, but they hope to get it into electronic format in the future.

2. Swedish Language Playwriting

The Swedish speaking minority in Finland accounts for about 6% of the population.

It is a dying culture, as more and more assimulation occurs.

The Arts can help to support cultural identity and there is a strong tradition of poetry and literature in the Swedish language, but not a strong drama tradition.

About 5 years ago a group of directors, dramaturges and actors sought to address this. They noticed that there were very few Swedish speakers going to dramaturgy school (a co-incidental 9 year gap between students over 20 years).

A laboratory was set up inviting professional and non-professional playwrights to submit texts for further development, and they were they workshopped by the group.

It was a voluntary initiative which lasted a couple of years, but didn’t survive due to the voluntary nature and the fact that the soil was too thin to really sustain it. However a number of plays were developed.

The process was rethought, and it was decided to only focus on professional writers. These writers were invited to masterclasses. The masterclass group has 12 participants who meet every fortnight. The masterclasses offer nutrition, education and inspiration to the playwrights involved and have engendered an ongoing writers’ group.

Plays generated from this group will soon be going into performance, and the National Theatre of Swedish People is now working with new writing.

3. Drama Agency (Riitta also)

Key Facts

  • Biggest drama agency in Finland
  • They import foreign plays as well as working with Finnish plays
  • Work with translators
  • It is not a Trade Union and does not have that duty
  • The talk to dramaturges and directors, network and attempt to influence programme decisions.

When reading foreign plays four or five questions are asked of the script:

  • Is it any good?
  • Is it good for Finland?
  • Is there a need in the theatre for this work?
  • Which theatre?
  • Which director?

Issues around translation.

Knowledge of foreign languages is poor in Finland. It is difficult to circulate foreign texts (unless they are in English). Many scripts are therefore read through English translations (ie. Russian plays that come through the Royal Court).

The younger generation is driving mainstream drama and looking outwards.

The dominance of Anglo-Saxon texts and culture is still highly dominant.

The Finnish theatre has always in the past been open minded about work from international sources.

More and more is being translated into Finnish.

4. KOM Theatre Helsinki: Pekka Milonoff (artistic director)

Pekka Milonoff has been with KOM theatre in Helsinki for the past 30 years. They have a particular interest in new Finnish plays.

For the last 5 years they have run a script factory, working with young playwrights.

Anyone who wants to can send a play to the intiative.

800 plays have been sent over the last 5 years, of which they have been interested in 50.

Selected playwrigthts are assigned a dramaturg with whom they have monthly meetings.

After 6-12 months of development the play is given a reading, which is followed by feedback and perhaps 1-2 days discussion of the script. A new draft is then written which after about 2 years is given a reading infront of an audience, and more feedback from the audience. Writers are given access to actors (if they want it). The younger generation of playwrights seem particularly keen to work with actors.

It is acknowledged that this is a similar process to that in UK.

They also have an interenational arm and have collaborated with the Royal Court.

In Finnish Theatre, however, this was a new experience and many theatres have been interested in its outcomes. They have also worked with the Swedish lab. Other theatres are now co-operating and looking at co-productions of the resulting texts. The work has had an influence on Finnish theatre and more new plays are finding themselves into repertories. There are many interestesting new playwrights in Finland. There was a need for higher quality plays in Finland.

There is money to pay writers to write, writers can be given up €5000, although €10 000 would be better.

In the last 30 years there have been more and more good playwrights. However, there are less dramaturges.

There is a hunger for new personal voices. The KOM don’t just want to make a ‘well made play’. They want to listen and be sensitive to each writers’ voice, find new ways to make theatre. They are happy when they find a text they don’t immediately understand. It’s important to have a process which enables rehearsal without production pressure. It gives more freedom. This is why more theatres are interested in the process and new work: but it still remains a financial risk.

The staff at the KOM includes 1 dramaturg and 1 permanent producer on this projects. Additionally there is a pool of 20 dramaturgs who work with the playwrights.

Fence Discussion:

Q: Where is the dramaturg’s allegiance? To the theatre, the writer or the play?

This can be a conflict. But we work with other theatres. We only make 2 new plays a year so many of the plays can’t make it into the repertoire no matter how much we like them. That’s the rationale of working with other producers, and we’re not jealous of our texts.

Q: Why does Finnish theatre need personal voices?

There has been a big change in Finnish culture in the last 10 -15 years, specifically through our membership of the EU. Finland needs these voices, so we can hear what playwrights think it is like to live in Finland now. It creates a discourse about our society.

Q: At what point is a director involved in the development of the play? Directors can change a lot about a play?

The ability of the director to change a play differs from culture to culture. In KOM theatre’s case they don’t want the director to be involved too early, because director’s want to be surprised by a text. The feeling is that the text must be whole first. However, there are directors who are sensitive to working with playwrights.

Q: Are there extra funds from the Finnish Government for developing playwrights?

No, but we’ve tried to access funds and we hope that there will be money in the future. Government does subsidise playwrights directly, however, all playwrights who are performed are given a stipend.

Further Thoughts from the Fence

  • There is a new sensitivity to subjectivity in theatre, brought about by the search for personal voices. The personal voice connects the self to society, but a directors theatre can be knocked by that.
  • Slovenia has a small market of 7 rep theatres and 20 -25 independent theatres. Authors in Slovenia have traditionally been a part of literary rather than theatrical circles. In recent years, however, playwriting has been developed separately from the literary sphere, connecting to the new spirit in the country brought about by independence and political change.
  • The local can move to the international. Once a play is translated into English it can find new markets. But are plays looking inwards or outwards?
  • The importance of writing in Belarusian language in Belarus as distinct from Russian language plays, as a means to asserting cultural identity.
  • In Turkey the State Theatre is the most powerful. There are 12 state theatres and 50% of the repertory is new writing. There are more that 20 conservatoires and 4 schools. The best playwrights are working. They are not paid for plays, but get 40% of royalties.

5. Kristian Smeds: Director and Playwright, Kajaani City Theatre

Kristian Smeds is one of the most celebrated theatremakers in Finland.

His production of Three Sisters, is the third in a triology of plays he has made as Artistic Director of the Kajaani City Theatre.

The connecting element of all these plays was localness.

Kajaani as a city suffers from high unemployment, a high suicide rate and alcoholism. There is no university, so the young people leave. In many ways it is a dying city.

Through his work Kristian has attempted to make a difference, and in Kajaani the connection between the audience and ensemble was unique.

His adaptation of Three Sisters (which he says is 50% him, 50% Chekhov) uses the Chekhov’s play to muse on local identity and current policitical situations. It has been highly successful.

The Fence enjoyed an exploration of Kristian’s work, and the challenges he had faced.

6. Finnish Theatre Information Centre

The Finnish Theatre Information Centre works in the following ways:

  • Provides information to the theatre sector
  • Acts as the Finnish arm of the International Theatre institute
  • Co-operates with other international organisations and networks including the Nordic Theatre Alliance and IETM
  • Has been involved in cross-national projects such as transmission.

They have also tried to open windows elsewhere, most recently with projects in West Africa.

They have a focus on new playwriting, and try to get more resources for translation and discover new ways of promoting new work.

The Janus Project: Switching On

What the Project Sets Out to Do

Janus was designed around a Culture 2000 priorities.

It offered a fixed point to access resources, not only for the project, but also for the Fence as a network.

Values esposed by Janus are:

  • Mobility of playwrights not just texts.
  • Diversity and diversities of cultures: which means different things in different places.
  •  Translations of 15 plays from 15 countries will be performed at 3 different theatre festivals: 4 in Tampere 5 in Graz in March 6 in Leeds
  • The project is not just about productions, but about practitioners.
  • To explore the issues that arise when playwrights cross borders: through translations and through working in different theatre systems.

Why Janus?

Janus was the Roman god of gates and doorways, depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. His symbolism is also as the god of change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, and of one universe to another.

Behind the project is the idea that through translation we meet ourselves. That playwrights have the chance to and experience of seeing their work (and themselves) in the context of another country.


Play Selection

Initial Selection Process

The initial selection process for Janus was democratically devised by Fence participants in Graz in October.

At the point of devising, it was acknowledged that the process was under pressure for two reasons:

1. A short time frame in which to select plays for the Tampere festival.

2. The outcome of the Culture 2000 bid was not confirmed until May, so this initial selection process was not resourced and dependent on the the individual resources of organisations

The system hit many challenges. For some it worked beautifully and plays were selected to deadline, other groups fared less well and plays were not selected by the time of the Belgrade meeting in March.

In Belgrade the Fence participants focused on the selection process further, working with each other to ensure that plays could reach Riitta Seppala as soon as possible.

It is clear that from these difficulties the selection process for Janus and Leeds need to be looked at. The pool of plays needs to widened, and the way that they are selected needs to be revised in order for it to be practical.

Selection for Graz and Leeds

Although Graz has been postponed from October to March, there is still an urgency to ensure that any new plays that are to be added to the pool reach Edith by the end of October.

We needed to:

Make an audit of the plays which were submitted

Determine how Edith and Alex receive material in the future

What happens once we’ve selected material.


Some issues from the earlier process:

1. There were clear administrative difficulties with the first process. Plays were passing through several layers of people before they reached the Janus partners, and some, through fairness, were being submitted blind. This however, meant that often contact details for the writer were not available to the partners at their end of the selection process:

  • It is essential that contact details are on the script
  • It is important that it is the newest version of the script that the partners read

2. Increasing the pool. Very few plays made it to Riitta for her selection, even though some had been sent through the system. This needs to be better co-ordinated for the next selection process, especially if we are pulling in more countries.


Revised Selection Process

The Janus partners attempted to simplify the next selection process between them, but it was clear that this could not be done fully without consultation from the Fence when the new process was brought to the Fence meeting. An observation was that it felt as though a producer was simply standing there saying what she wanted.

The initial revisions were adjusted through discussion, which included submitted plays being sent to all Fence members on CD ROMS, and the promise of a selection meeting being held in Utrecht.

The partners are attempting to be very clear and transparent. But there is, I think, a concern that corners will be cut when trying to get everything done and that the process will end up like any other. There was also a noting of a them/ us situation emerging between the Janus Partners and The Fence.

Does the Fence feel disempowered? More emphasis on other areas of the project, rather than just on selection, with the Fence, may enable us to get beyond this. Involvement of Fence participants in other aspects? Interesting that we have talked a lot about play selection, butlessabout playwright selection. In the meetings around selection subsequently the focus has very much been on the problems of play selection. The needs of the playwright were not highlighted in the same way.

Cultural Diversity

The fact that plays should be engaging in some way with cultural diversity, and that being a point of departure for the Fence’s further enquiry into the meaning of diversity across Europe and how it translates from one culture to another, was not clear to everyone submitting. It seems Janus has very much focused on the practical need to find produceable plays, rather than the ideological and exploratory factors behind the project and the needs of the work. This may be due to language barriers, and the failure of individuals to read information fully. I think it’s clear that we need to re-assert this as part of the project. This is a specific project, not as wide maybe as people think. Maybe this will help in the selection process?


Questions, Thoughts and Further Action

  • The readings should not exist without discussion and reflection from Fence participants. Otherwise, this simply becomes an exercise for feeding three festivals some plays (or at least seems that way from the outside). Discussions should include looking at the content of the play, and how it translates across borders. The challenges of translating that content, and the reasons why it is appropriate for that market. They should involve directors, translators, playwrights and programmers.
  • Would it be worth bringing in the original material from the first meetings around cultural diversity and text crossing borders?
  • The presence of festivals in the mix of Janus is not simply as producers, but as organs through which more people can access the work, and promote the work to a new market. This process should be explored and highlighted.


Thoughts from the network:

Reading a plays can be suspicious activity. Sometimes a play can be read 3 or 4 times, have huge amounts of feedback, which confuses the writer and still doesn’t bring the play any closer to production. In another way a reading can be an alibi for having an international theatre. However, a reading can also be a way that a range of people can have access to a play and a playwright, as a way or step to do something important with that text. It is important that the Janus readings fulfil this last function.

Publication of Plays

Thoughts from the Network:

Publication of the Janus plays is an important goal for the Fence network. If the plays are published in bi-ligual editions it will improve their accessibility to other countries.

Points for further discussion and action:

How will the Janus plays be published and who will take responsibility for the translation and publication?

If they are in bi-lingual editions which languages should they be published in? English is acknowledged as the most accessible language internationally, but some plays have been translated from, for example, German to Finnish. If we do further translation into English this has resource implications, it also potentially undermines the project.

Janus in Tampere: The Experience of the Playwright

The experience of the playwright is an essential part of the Janus process. Not only in terms of the playwrights themselves, but also in terms of the learning that the Fence can gain from the Janus process.


Thoughts from the Fence

It’s important that the translator and the playwright meet, not because of the fear that the story won’t come through, but from the fear that the “tone of the play” isn’t so easy to translate. If there is no chance to talk through with your translator, there is a danger that the translation will not provide an audience with what is going on below the surface of the play: the spirit of the play. Cross reference to Channels project, where the meeting between a translator, original playwright and dramaturg/ translator/ moderator, enabled a clearer understanding of the spirit.

During Tampere 3 of the 4 playwrights translated were part of Fence meetings. However, there was only one opportunity for the Fence to question and discuss the working processes behind the translation session (see Evaluation below), and no formal discussions were set up publically as part of the readings. Moreover, the time pressure on getting plays translated, had meant that the playwrights had not had developed contact with translators during the translation process (in one case the writer hadn’t been aware that his play had been translated). This is a failure for a process, which has highlighted the experience of the playwright crossing boarders and their empowerment but is quite evidently a by-product of the intial time pressures, and the collapse of the Varna meeting.


Despite this, Peter Arnott’s experience was a positive one:

Peter Arnott has not had direct contact with his translator during the translation project, other than a few emails. And his first contact with the project was when he met the actors and director on arrival in Tampere. He was curious to know what makes a play set in 1860s Edinburgh interesting to someone else in Finland.

He found the reading was excellent and could tell the translation was good.

As a playwright you have anxieties about your own work in reading, particularly when it’s in translation.

He’s done this a few times before, though, so he knew the best way of approaching this was taking the director out for a drink. As a more experienced playwright he felt equipped to talk to a director.

He found the team working on the reading to be intelligent and sensitive people. Well schooled in the practicalities and sharing a broader concern about the playwright as a theatre artist. This was important.

The Janus process has been empowering. As a writer you are always waiting for the crumbs from someone else’s table. There is an accidental nature to success.

He felt, though, that the process needed clarification, specifically around the goals of the process.

It is an opportunity to develop best practice around how writers work with translators.

Ideally, it should be a process with 3 people: the playwright, translator and bilingual arbiter. There is a danger that the translator won’t always know how to reflect elements in the text (the regional accents in Breathing House in this case).

We must still ensure that we explore the process of the playwright crossing borders and not just the text.


Questions, Thoughts and Actions

  • How will the translation process, and the playwright’s process in it be handled for Leeds and Graz?
  • How can we ensure the writers’ involvement in this process?
  • What learning about best practice for translation can we gain from Janus?
  • How do we capture this learning, and take it further?

Feedback to Writers/ Nominators

No feedback has been given to writers or nominators of plays that were not selected for Tampere.

One consideration is that Tampere is not the end of the selection process, and plays not selected for Tampere may still be selected for Graz or Leeds.

The understanding how one anothers’ markets work is an important by-product of the Janus process. Articulating and communicating this more specifically for one another should be a part of the project, and should be recorded.

However, there was not enough time to give feedback around why plays were not selected for Tampere itself and why they were not deemed appropriate for the Finnish market.

This was partly due to the rigour of the selection process which was compromised by tight deadlines. There was a big push just to get plays for Tampere.

Furthermore, this is one of the areas that was to be discussed in Varna, and has not been looked at since Varna collapsed.

Now Graz has been postponed it gives us an option to look at this issue more clearly.

One piece of evaluation around the playwrights involved in the Janus project so far:

How many have been actively involved in the translation project?

How many have already crossed boarders independently and had experience of transnational working?

How will we capture their experience?



It is essential that records are kept of beneficiary data and all expenses for Janus.

This includes all receipts.

The EU requires absolute transparency.

Questions and Further Action

Alex has explained and handed out forms for this but I wondered, during this process whether people were fully aware of the fact that Janus money is paying for the Fence meetings and whether they were making that connection? Is it worth preparing a document that sets out everything that will be required in terms of financial records and beneficiary data and disseminating that to the Fence, clearly highlighting everyone’s role in it from now on (and how it is benefiting them?)


The Janus partners have met and created a list of 6 main objectives for the project, all commonly held by the main partners. These have been (and will be) disseminated to the Fence.

Peter Arnott shared his experience of the Janus process (see above in Experience of the Playwright section)

The Fence members present at the Evaluation session gave a list of offers and requests. These included offers and requests for the Fence as well as Janus.

There was low energy in the session, and low attendance.

Questions and Further Action

  • Why didn’t people come to the evaluation session? What are the barriers to their participation? Is this ownership of the project? Language based? Process based?
  • Who owns Janus? The Fence or the partners?
  • Have these objectives grown from discussions held by the Fence around the project? The Fence was not involved in the discussions in Tampere around the main objectives. Is it clear that these main objectives are grown from the Fence’s original objectives, and is this clear to Fence members? What impact will this have in the willingness of the Fence to participate in Janus evaluation will this have if this is not so?
  • Can the evaluation of Janus and the Fence happen together? How clear is the relationship between the two things? How clearly do members of the Fence feel ownership over Janus?
  • Have members given offers and requests for Janus as well as the Fence (I need to look at this)? How are they different? How are they specific? What are people offering and requesting from the Janus process as distinct from the Fence? What is their investment in it?
  • How will we get buy in for the evaluation mechanism from Fence participants?
  • Who are the key people who should be present in evaluation? Do they know who they are and what is expected of them when participating in this project? Directors, translators, playwrights, participants, audiences.

Launching and Celebrating Janus

  • It doesn’t feel as if Janus has been properly launched?
  • How can we address this and how can we celebrate it?
  • Tampere felt very low key.
  • Does it need to be with a bang? Press? Publication? Party? Involving the Fence as a whole?

Relationship between Janus and the Fence

Janus gives The Fence the opportunity to put into practice a number of the areas we have discussed in prior meetings. We can work actively together.

The financial resources that Janus brings is a marvellous first windfall for the network.

But Janus is not the only way to actualise the network. Whilst we test Janus we need to have wider discussion about other ways to actualise what the Fence does.

Questions and thoughts for Further Action

  • How do we get beyond the feeling that Janus is the only project, rather than the first project for the Fence?
  • How can we articulate what all members of the Fence seek to benefit from involvement in the Janus project? What are the opportunities for them, beside the financial opportunities?
  • What is the relationship between the Fence and Janus? Should the two be split?
  • Personally, I don’t think so. But I think there needs to be a a refocusing on the many aspects of Janus, and not just the selection.
  • How do we demonstrate the further benefits of this process, the legacy for all of us, and make that concrete rather than anecdotal?