About the Fence

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The Fence is an international network for working playwrights and people who make playwriting happen - across Europe and beyond.

As of October 2015, the network comprises over two hundred and twenty members from fifty-two countries.

About Fence membership

Fence Membership is via recommendation from existing members. The aim is to build membership geographically, and to achieve a balance across gender, age and ethnicity. Membership has grown organically to its current level from an initial gathering of 25 in 2003. There is no membership fee.

The network focuses on individuals, and works with institutions to make face-to-face meetings happen. In this way institutional power and resources are accessed to support individual playwrights, dramaturgs, theatre translators and cultural operators.

Members participate according to their energies and enthusiasms. As they pay no fee, they subsidise their involvement with their time. What they say they value most is the informal way this allows them to participate according to their capacity and the particular requirements of their working and personal lives. The connections the network provides and the professional development opportunities, along with the environment in which potential collaboration can be fostered, are the driving rationale for participation. We make things happen with and for each other.

About Fence meetings

Fence meetings typically feature 10-25 visitor members, combining with up to a similar number of home-based members. They focus on the following key areas.

  • Meeting playwrights and cultural operators from each host country, learning about their systems & structures and opportunities & challenges for indigenous playwrights - as well as foreign ones
  • Meeting each other and pursuing peer-led professional development activity which focuses on how to operate as a playwright in a changing landscape
  • Putting work on – in a scratch night form - work written, directed and acted by participants as a practical laboratory way of generating material, engagement, excitement, partnership and exchange.
  • Making connections beyond the network; both to grow the number of countries represented beyond 40, but also to engage with a broader focus than just playwriting.

Fence meetings often happen on the sidelines of theatre festivals, and have also occurred as writing retreats.

Origins of the Fence

Initially a collaboration between Writernet (UK), The British Council and Creative Renewal, and in association with the international network for contemporary performing arts, IETM, the Fence was launched with an international writers’ retreat in John Osborne’s old house at the Hurst in Shropshire in October 2003, and then as a Meeting Group at the IETM in Birmingham exploring the practice of contemporary dramatic writing in many culturally diverse European contexts.

The network has since built on the success of this launch by growing to include 201 playwrights and cultural operators from 50 countries, and has held meetings in Budapest, Graz, Belgrade, Tampere, Amsterdam, Graz (again), Leeds, Istanbul, Timisoara, Glasgow, Guadeloupe, Paris/Bondy, Rabat, Tuscany/Rome, Amsterdam (again), and in 2014 in Waterford, Connecticut, and New York.

Activities arise organically via relationships formed across the network. Often these are between groups of 2-6 people, so it’s a de-centred model. The Fence can also come together as a group, as it did in 2005-6 to create Janus, a one-year playwright exchange and translation programme, funded by a successful bid to Culture 2000.

Purpose of the Fence

The Fence was founded on the core principles of:

  • the importance of the playwright
  • that in practice, diversity and mobility are the same thing,
  • and that through engagement with others our own work develops.

The network exists as a space to think, to be and to do. The Fence aims to open up routes to work opportunities for playwrights seeking to extend their work beyond their own national and infrastructural boundaries.

Founder Jonathan Meth's aim was to create a network that was based primarily on relationships, rather than scripts and translations, that would enable people to come together and work out for themselves what they wanted to do together.

"I wanted the individual artist to be at the heart of it, but I also wanted a range of institutions to help enable that. I was supported in this initial set up by many people, but in particular the creative team of Sarah Dickenson, Gabriel Gbadamosi, Peter Arnott and Kaite O’Reilly, and the financial support of Duncan Sones, then at Metier and Sally Cowling, then at the British Council," Jonathan explains.

The Fence started as a British-ignited enterprise, and has since grown to be owned by everyone across the network.

Quick examples of activity arising from the network

  •  Out of the Fence Amsterdam Nov. 2012 meeting Edith Draxl (Austria) came together with Ozlem Ozhabes (Turkey), Hakan Silahsizoglu (Turkey), Andreea Valean (Romania), Anja Krans (Netherlands), Katje Hieminga (Netherlands), Julie Everton (UK) to create a Training the trainers – playwriting in Higher Education project which secured EU Leonardo funding and has just started, led by Uni-T in Graz.
  •  Gabriel Gbadamosi’s play African Moon was produced in Krefeld in Germany in 2013
  •  Sara Clifford and Denis Baronet, who met at a Fence meeting in Nov 2010 in Guadeloupe, had Non, the play they then jointly wrote produced in Rome at Teatro dell'Orologio in 2013
  • Svetlana Dimcovic and Fred Fortas’ play, Swimming Pool, which also grew out of the Fence in Guadeloupe was staged at the Avignon Festival in 2013. They are now working on a project about Algeria and the former Yugoslavia.
  • A successful bid for EU Culture funding in 2005 led to Janus, which saw 16 plays from 15 countries sourced across the network and given staged readings as part of 3 festivals in the UK, Finland and Austria.
  • A number of Fence members have exchanged translation services for each other's work. For example, Neil Fleming's translations of Ewald Palmetshofer's Superheroes (Helden) was performed at New York's HotINK festival in 2008.

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