The Future For Janus/ The Fence

Discussion: Leeds 2006

The Festival in Leeds marked the culmination of the Janus project: the first project to have emerged from the Fence Network. In this session, which took place on the 11th May half-way through the Janus Festival in Leeds, The Fence members were asked to reflect on the project and look to the future. What did they want to see next?

The session was chaired by Jonathan Meth, Director of writernet, and is split here into three sections for ease of navigation: Introduction to the Discussion and Background, Participant Feedback and Participant list and Introductions

Introduction (Jonathan Meth)

Jonathan: We’re still in the middle of our programme here in Leeds, so we’re not asking you to reflect on what is happening here; there will be time to do this on Sunday before we go home, and we will have some very simple questions to ask you, to jot down your thoughts and let us have them.

This afternoon is about the bigger picture, it’s about the future, it’s about where do we want to go next? What do we want to do next, if anything? This is what I intend to facilitate us discussing. We won’t need 3 hours; it’s hot, we all want to get out into the sunshine and have air, and those of us who are feverishly working away rehearsing or doing scratch nights, can continue that process. But I do want us to have a fruitful discussion, and I do want us to really hear from you, all of you. But to begin with I’m aware that I pretty much know who everyone is, but others of us don’t, so if we could just go around and quickly and succinctly introduce ourselves, just so we know who’s in the room.

[Introductions then followed. For these see the participants list for this discussion.

What do we want to do next?

Jonathan Meth: When we met in Graz we asked people to think about four questions:

Because we are still in the middle of our experience here in Leeds, I don’t propose to deal with the first three questions today. Really it’s the last question, the last of those four, that I want you, I want us, to explore for a little time this afternoon in the heat.

So I am mindful that the prospect of sitting here for three hours and doing that is fairly abhorrent to most of us, so I want to try to make this as fruitful and succinct as possible so we don’t all suffocate. But it’s very important that we try to hear from you.

The Fence network was established on the principle of Offers and Requests. It is OK to ask for something, even if you don’t necessarily know fully what it is you’re asking for, but also OK to make offers, even if you don’t necessarily know fully what you’re offering. It doesn’t have to be perfectly formed or beautifully realised, unlike the readings that we’ve seen so far.

So this is the spirit of collective inquiry that I wish to invite you to join me in this afternoon, and in particular I want to hear from people who might be here for the first time, who have questions, who have observations, who have comments. It’s not going to be very easily to say that at the end of 90 minutes we will be very clear about what we do next, I am not expecting this, this may be an additional bonus. But really it’s up to us, these people, now, here in the room, our collective intelligence, to apply this to ourselves, to this issue. Who would like to speak first?

Gabriel Gbadamosi: Without pre-empting an evaluation of Janus, perhaps it might be quite good in terms of getting people to speak, to speak to the ongoing experience of this translation process we’ve set afoot from the Fence. Perhaps that’s the best way to begin. Julie?

Julie Ellen: I wonder if there is a little step back from that on the difference between the Fence and Janus, just for the people who are here for the first time, I know that I got confused about that when I first came to a meeting.

The Difference Between The Fence and Janus

Gabriel Gbadamosi: We first met some years ago as a smaller group, but intending to grow, of playwrights and people who facilitate playwriting from across Europe, from my perspective so that we can speak and learn from each other’s context, it seemed to be very straight forward.

At that time we met in a small house in the country and we really bonded, we really got to know each other, and as a group meeting each other for the first time, we moved from there to the IETM, which is vast: 400 people meeting together, producers mainly, administrators from the theatres across Europe. And that was our baptism, not of fire, but of cold water.

Suddenly we recognised that we were about playwriting, we were playwrights, and we don’t get together and we don’t do these power meeting. So, twice yearly since then we’ve been meeting, at the IETM and other festivals around Europe, and out of this process a request came that we wanted to be able to see each other’s work. But of course this raises the issue of translation, which is always the issue for playwrights across Europe, because if you cross a border, not always, but generally speaking, some kind of translation has to happen. So, three partners within the group, Alex from West Yorkshire Playhouse, Edith from Uni-T, Riitta from Finnish Information Centre/Tampere, then became the institutional partners around which the Janus translation project arose.

This was translation of playwrights not necessarily just in the group, but in that principle that the group has of saying “hey there’s someone over here, or there’s that play here, it would be good if people knew about it”, a series of plays were nominated, suggested, from writers we’ve never met or heard of before. And that’s what we have been doing, and the West Yorkshire Playhouse is the third stop in which we’re seeing a raft of plays that have been generated for translation in a way that brings the playwright into the process more fully. Perhaps another playwright does the translation.

But we certainly, as the Fence, are present at each of the Janus stops, we see it, and we can feed back to it, we can speak to it. That’s what Janus has been, and is, in its last stop here at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. However, there is still the Fence, we can still meet, how do we want to do it? What do we want to do next?

So maybe now as we go on, initial thoughts about Janus, about what we’ve seen, about what we think.

[It was then decided that the participants would split into smaller groups chaired by each of the current Janus partners, to discuss what they would like to see happen next. Feedback from these discussions can be found in the next section (click here)]

The Future For Janus/ The Fence: Feedback from Groups

Having discussed their thoughts for the next stages for the Fence network, the participants came back together and shared their main points with one another, finally broadening out into wider discussion. It was agreed that groups would not repeat points already mentioned.

Group One

Spokesperson: Julie Ellen

Smaller Discussion Groups

A big please for the future for smaller discussion groups and workshops, as our numbers have grown, the big discussions have become more boring and less fruitful. You actually get a bigger contribution from people in smaller groups.

Importance of Informality

There was a lot of support for the informality of exchange. That structure is needed within that to give us focus, but that what a lot of our group felt, was that there was a definite need for the informal contact, writer to writer, producer to producer, cultural operator, whatever you are. The informality is one of the greatest things the Fence can represent in the future.

Creative Interaction

We were generally most excited by bringing people to work together. The creative interaction was considered to be a vital part. That should have depth to it. E.g. A writer might go and do a script development project in another country, that would give them the opportunity to understand in its widest sense how the theatre market there works, as well as what the linguistic differences are and all those other cultural aspects around not only the creation of the work and presentation of the work, but the culture of theatre infrastructure. So that deeper level of contact was considered valuable, and that we should try to capture that, that those experiences weren’t lost. And that we were a bit more active in how we captured and shared that learning experience, so one of the suggestions was that some artistic activity should happen as a stimulus to a meeting, and then there was a witnessing, sharing, gathering exchange for a bigger meeting around that.

Exposure to Cross-National Contact

Exposing writers to cross-national contact with writers and producers is a value itself. This also builds the profile of the writer in a long-term way, and a very interesting example of how Andrei and cultural operators in New York, how a dialogue had started to build through a range of informal contact, but this has helped to develop an informal platform, just for example for one of the writers here.

International Competence

Something that was also very important was that we started to develop an international competence, that a language of understanding of artistic values and standards as represented in people here continued and was maintained. Now a lot of us have understanding of how we could work in another country, and just the knowing the quality of an individual in their country and the strength of their connections was really valuable understanding. And that could very easily be lost in the sands of time.

Artistic Outcomes

There should be opportunity of non-specific outcomes of artistic activity.

Thematic Discussion

Another suggestion was perhaps we could, our meetings could, have discussion themes as a stimulus. There was an example of the way that the IETM operated, and that there should be opportunity for people to prepare so they could come armed ready for discussion with their own personal and country- wide perspective.


One of the more concrete ideas coming out of that was, could there be a residency programme perhaps?

Lobbying for Change

Note that the size of the gathering is big, and that’s quite hard sometimes, but it’s potentially a very powerful lobby. That when we’re getting around the 100 number, there’s a strength there.

Practical Research

Creating the possibility for placements for practice or for research. Very active things that individual countries could bring to wider international contact.

Publication and Information Sharing

There was quite a lot of talk about information opportunities, bulletins, could there be more active information that way, more active use of the website as it exists. Included in that could be articles written by people who’d had their play translated, somebody could write something about their scratch experience maybe. And those kind of things could be a bigger resource.

The general theme was, let’s be creative together, let’s have an artistic focus in our discussion, let’s not be in big groups for too long….. so I’ll end there.

Group Two

Spokesperson: Jonathan Meth

We focused a lot on Janus and took as a given that the Fence would continue in one way, shape, or form, and tried to imagine what we might take forward from the specifics of the Janus project. We had a number of suggestions:

Capitalising on what we've already done

We have a body of work now, of experience. We have a body of showcased readings. We have a body of translations. We have a group of playwrights who have been through the process either of having their work translated or of working on the process. How can we further exploit and develop this as an asset? One suggestion was that we thinking about offering either some or all of this to a number of key festivals as a way of capitalising on all the work that we have done. Various suggestions range from Wiesbaden to Sibiu to Nitra festival in Slovakia and I am sure there are others. But this idea of “How can we capitalise on what we’ve already done?”

This is not to suggest that it is not necessary to replenish and renew and bring on new artists and new talent. This is just to recognise what we have done, what we have created, the enormous amount of work that has gone into it, and how we might further benefit from further development of that work.

Fence Festival

Another way was create a festival ourselves, to say, OK that’s another way of going. Where you think, alright, now there are a great many people working across the Fence, as has already been said, people like the act of co-creation: writers, directors, actors, others who are involved, we have shown that it’s possible to find, through our growing international competence that there are ways in which we can work together. Do we need to wait for negotiations/ invitations from other festivals, what about finding a way to do it ourselves somehow?

Playwright as Translator

Another idea that came out was this idea of the playwright as translator, and whether there was some workshops we could run that would develop this idea. Or some of these different models we’ve been exploring, both practically and in reflecting in what we’ve seen, and the processes that have been undergone both for Tampere, for Graz and for Leeds. This might be the pairing of playwrights together, there are other ways that might develop, but how do you enhance that? Support that?

There was a value that was felt, possibly, simply to take the model and say this is a good model, we think it works well. But if we need other partners and other playwrights to come through along a model which is like Janus, then why not consider this as well.

Group Three

Spokesperson:Sarah Dickenson

Audiences and Critical Discourse

We talked about productions of work and about the notion of audiences and sharing the work that has been developed through Janus with audiences and getting feedback from audiences. There was a feeling that the discussions that had been going on around the work itself had been very rich and very illuminating, fantastic for developing intercultural competencies and ideas, but we wanted to have that dialogue with audiences as well.


Publication, there was a feeling that we should be thinking about publishing plays and sharing those with one another. Maybe this could happen in a region way, in terms of regional neighbours getting together and sharing some sort of publication which could then feed into the larger Fence network.


We reflected on how the Fence and the Janus project has benefited from harnessing the energies of ex-pats in one another’s’ countries: for example the way that Alex was able to find so many readers who were living in the UK but also spoke other languages, and that we should continue to capitalise on that knowledge, because those people are very useful for us on issues of translation.


The passion and the ideology of the Fence/ Janus was really praised and people felt we should keep the passion factor whatever happens.

Who's Missing?

Growing and developing into other countries, there was discussion around countries that are missing from this group at the moment. We need to really make efforts to bring those countries in.

Group Four

Spokesperson: Riitta Seppala/Gabriel Gbadamosi

Riitta Seppala: Thank you, I’ll start and then Gabriel continues.

The Network

First we considered Janus, the results of Janus, our expectations and roles, and what did we reach and what didn’t we reach. We concluded that we would still have to wait to see all the results of all this networking. But what is already important is that the network exists, there are more friends now who want to work together and know more about each others’ countries in various ways, and you can still see that some people have found each other and that they want to continue to work together.

And then we tried to discuss what could be done in the future, the Janus funding is finished, will be finished in a short time, and we need new ideas if we want to find new funding.

The Fence Continues Regardless

We noticed that the Fence will continue anyway, the Fence network exists and will continue even without funding, with different offerings and requests and wish to work together, but if we want to structure a new project, then we need some ideas.

Artistic income

We had similar discussions as Julie Ellen, expressing the artistic income and smaller groupings, and also the collaboration of writers with directors and producers. We did discuss also the possibility of having a developing text around specific theme together, but then we noticed that there are skilfull, experienced writers and young writers in this grouping, and workshops like that for a short time, they are costly and there are those kind of workshops already. But maybe it’s too difficult to arrange, from this network which is not an organisation itself.

Devised Theatre

So then we thought about that kind of event, where there are some 10 writers and 10 producers/ directors, and maybe some actors, working together in devised theatres from different countries.

Scottish Festival

Then we thought that for next, it’s worthwhile to apply for EU funding from some funds, for instance, cultural funds and other funds. And the only big idea there is that Scotland should be the leading partner, because we noticed that the Playwrights Studio… anyway there are good playwriting unions and hatcheries of playwrights and good festivals, and good partners here in our gatherings and they have a very natural relationship with Jonathan, who also has the skills of writing project applications.

The Value of New Contexts

Gabriel Gbadamosi: We did say amongst ourselves that Janus was a good project, and if it ain’t broke, you know…don’t try to fix it, try to see how you might extend it, and then we looked at how we might extend it, and looked at what it was, from the initial request that we want to see each others’ work, and that probably involves translation, and Jackie [Bolton] pointed out that there was also a developmental quality, this collaboration between playwrights in the translation, playwrights and translators, and somehow if we wanted to continue the idea of Janus, then perhaps we should take the core idea of it, of translation, and begin to look at that in a new way, just to turn it around, turn it around again. What might it look like, and that was our conversation, looking at the success for example of Janus in Finland, because it’s one way, as a Finnish writer to have a tall Fin Horse[play], which does well in Finland for a set of audiences and theatres that you know really well, but when you see it fall or ants fall out of it in Graz, what happens when it moves.

Playwrights learn a lot from this movement, from this new context. And since the Fence is a place where artists find a different kind of audience, they feel it, they see it. But this might change the practice of the artists themselves, this somehow is part of the core value of the Fence, and might constitute an understanding for a new idea, within the Fence to follow Janus. Something around this idea around, what is it now, about your practice, that you’re no longer working in your city, your region, your country, that somehow there’s a possibility that your audience has changed, your knowledge of it, and even what it’s possible to do, has changed. So perhaps the Fence could foster a new project, a new idea, around this change, this translation.

Group Five

Spokesperson: Peter Arnott

I think I’m going to be very brief because a lot of what we talked about has been covered.

The Role of the Audience

The role of the audience in the readings is something we thought about a little. What, for one thing, the plays that were read in Finland, of course, that reading was primarily for a public audience, but who is the intended audience for a public reading is something to bear in mind when organising readings, who is it actually for and what part in the process does the reading play?


We all kind of assumed that the Fence would continue, but would continue being attached to other things, and festivals seemed to be the favourite place, as a group as to what Fence meetings might be attached to. Rather in a sense, although we have used the IETMs, Festivals were felt to be in some ways a better choice because a specific offer can be made to those festivals from this network.

In-between Meetings

Milos in particular talked a lot about what happened in between meetings, that in a sense the meetings become presentations of what happens in-between. And what happens in between is perhaps these translations, we’re talking perhaps about translation exchanges, workshop events taking place in different countries, the matching up, marriage, matchmaking of playwrights in Janus was thought to be very interesting. And I think again, something that Riitta talked about, which we’ll feed into, as to who you match up with who? Because if you have young playwrights working together, do you also have a place for middle-aged, old playwrights working together, and even would they work together?

We talked about the example of the Channels project at the National Theatre but that again might be putting something of our own together, inventing a new way of doing something like this, although obviously that’s a huge institution.


Co-writing in Two Languages

At the very end, we had the notion of would it be possible for two writers to get together and write a play simultaneously in two languages? Would that be interesting?

English as the Lingua Franca

Practical thing about the English language as the bridge, which goes back to who is the audience. If the audience is us, then I think in a sense that English is everyone’s second language, and English as the lingua franca.

Points for Clarification and Upcoming Offers

[Jonathan Meth asked if there were any questions or points for clarification.

Peter Arnott suggested that participants should reflect on what they had heard and then come back with concrete proposals to take forward.

Jonathan Meth agreed that it was a good idea. He clarified that writernet has the responsibility as part of the project to document, evaluate and these conversations and the recording of them and their annotation. But in terms of what happens in the future, this conversation in a sense needs to continue.]

Jonathan Meth:Peter and Milos have drawn attention to what happens between the meetings, and this is something that we need to pay attention to in order to be able to realise collectively some of the ambitions that we’ve begun to articulate now. It’s not the closure of the conversation, it can’t be. The homework really is, how can you continue to develop your ideas, how can you continue to develop the requests that you want to see happen, the things you want to ask for, and how can you also continue to develop the offers, what will you bring, how might you be able to make this happen. That in a sense is the continuation of the conversation that I ask of you. What we offer in return is to try and curate that conversation, to try to listen, to try to synthesise, to try to make the information and knowledge shared so that you can all participate in this. Thank you.

The conversation can continue in small groups or through email if you have other things to say that you don’t feel you can say here now. But there are one or two other things about what we already know is happening that we want to share with you, as a way of concluding this session. Let me hand over now please to Riitta

European Year of Mobility (Riitta Seppala)

I don’t know how many of you have noticed that the European Union has declared that 2006 is the European Year of Mobility. We have been mobile as theatre people are, both in minds and in practise. But anyway, there are special funds also which could be applied from DG Employment and Social Affairs, and we did apply for funds for a project, together with some partners, so our partners in this application were IETM, On the Move organisation and Visiting Arts, UK and PEARL which is a European organisation for associations of performing arts employers. And then also Goethe Institute. We got funds and in this one year project we will have, hire a lawyer from Poland, and he will be offering a help desk on the internet for any kind of questions concerning mobility, funding, whatever. And also he has been doing research before and will be doing throughout this year, and everything will be published through Internet pages.

But also we will organise the next IETM plenary meeting, bigger than smaller meetings, because there are other organisations, from 9th -12th November in Helsinki. It will be an IETM meeting in that sense that there will be lots of different working groups, info cells and training sessions, and plenaries and so on. Many at the same time so that the participants which we think will be something like 600, will have to choose where they want to go. We will be in the centre of Helsinki, in the old student house, and you can’t be more central. We will also arrange a showcase of Finnish performance showcases, theatre performances, dance performance and contemporary performance art and also maybe some circus, we’re not quite sure. Anyway, there will every evening possibilities to go to performances and meet people. I’m offering the possibility for the Fence, if you are willing, to organise one of those working sessions, during this event, we can find places also, but funds for travel, I can’t offer which we can only offer for moderators of working groups, so if some of you would like to moderate something, you can always offer your service, ideas to us, so we can discuss. So the first announcement will be in IETM’s pages like normal in June, and then more programme after the summer, beginning of September, the performance programme, working groups and performance sessions. Registration starts in June if you want to.

I have a card here for everyone to remember this. Also the IETM has some travel scholarships that one has to apply to the IETM for. If you are interested I am welcome, if not, I don’t feel offended, because there are other possibilities and you have already been in Finland, it’s a possibility, of course by email I will send you more information.

CEC Arts Link (Catherine Coray)

I am representing an organisation which provides funds for artistic exchange between the United States and Central/ Eastern European countries. It’s called CEC Arts Link, and I have some information I’ve brought with me and if anyone from those countries would like to apply for funding to travel, to have a residency or an independent project in the United States, I’m happy to provide that information. And also about the Lark Development Centre in New York, which again is very committed to developing international plays for workshop productions. So just ask me, I have some information.

Plans for Future Fence Meetings (Jonathan Meth)


Just then a short update on the plans I have made for future Fence meetings. I have been liasing as some of you know with Kemal Basar, who some of you saw in Graz and some in Tampere, who cannot be here, unfortunately, because he’s working on his own festivals, directing his own plays. But Dieter, Andrei and I had the pleasure of going out to the festival in Trabzon and meeting. He’s very keen and happy to facilitate the Fence meeting in Turkey towards the end of this year.


I’ve also been liasing with Julie around the possibility of making the next but one Fence meeting next year in Scotland, somewhere outside of the central belt of Glasgow and Edinburgh, it would be more of a rural retreat experience, but Julie and I have more work with others to do on this but we are quietly confident that we can make this happen.


Beyond that I’d like to try and do something in Romania, we heard from Andrea today that this year’s International Theatre Festival at Sibiu is having some problems. Next year Sibiu is, with Luxemburg, one of the two European capitals of culture, I would like to try to find a way to see if the Fence can have some kind of participation during that year. At the moment, that’s as far as we’ve got with our plans, but I think that the next two Fence meetings are looking positive. Now it’s up to you to continue with these ideas and these offers and requests, but now please, thank you very much.

Future for Janus/ The Fence - Session Participants Introductions

Jonathan Meth – Director of writernet in the UK. We created the Fence network, out of which the Janus project partners put together and made this project together.

Sarah Dickenson – I am the Information and Research consultant at writernet, and I’m also a freelance dramaturg.

Anne-Marie Draycott – administrator at writernet and also does comedy writing and performing.

Annette Brook – Student on placement with writernet and studying Arts Administration and Cultural policy MA at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Christian Winkler – Also studying an MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy at Goldsmiths, also playwright from Austria, working currently at the Gate. Dramaturg at the Finborough, and a director at Edinburgh Festival this summer.

Birgit Logar – from Austria, Uni-T, helped to organise the literary festival in Graz.

Evelyn Tschernko – also working for Uni-T, helped also to organise literary festival in Graz

David Overand – Literary Assistant at the Traverse

Edith Draxl – from Unit-T, Austria

Gabriel Gbadamosi – playwright UK

Claudia Gabler – from Germany, writer

Charles Mulekwa – playwright from Uganda, I’m here to observe and plan

Jackie Bolton – I’m a PhD student studying dramaturgy and literary management at the University of Leeds and here at the Playhouse

Marlgorzata Semil – Poland, literary manager, publisher, translator

Catherine Coray – New York City, I’m part of the faculty in the theatre wing of the Tisch School of the Arts, and organise an international play reading festival called hotInk at the Tisch School of the Arts. I’m also here representing Lark Play Development Centre and CEC Arts Link.

Paul Brodowsky – Germany, playwright, and Fish Soup was produced at Tampere

Sonja Novak – from Croatia, student of English and German

Vedrana Stakic – from Croatia student of English and German

Juri Ruldolph – producer and director, Slovenia

Peter Arnott – playwright, Playwrights’ Studio Scotland, and Scottish Society of Playwrights, union in Scotland

Aiste Ptakauskaite – a writer, Lithuania

Judith Wendel – playwright and being Anja [Krans] in her absence, Netherlands

Riitta Seppala – Finnish Information Centre, Finland, partner in Janus. Organised Tampere.

Kamelia Nikolova – Bulgaria, lecturer on theatre

Sara Clifford – playwright and also on the board of writernet

Julie Ellen – Playwrights’ Studio Scotland

Jose Maria Viera Mendes – Portugal, playwright

Alexandru Berceanu – Bucharest, Romania, Director and member of Drama Now project for new Romania drama

Peca Stefan – Romanian playwright

Alex Chisholm – literary manager of WYP

Joanne Frazao – editor for Portuguese Theatre Magazine, from Portugal.

Dieter Boyer – Director, Austria

Neil Fleming – UK playwright

Ewald Palmetshofer – playwright, Austria.

Andrea Valean – director, Romania

Milos Kreckovic – dramaturg form Jugoslav Drama Theatre, Belgrade

Marija Stojanovic – playwright, Serbia