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2. What actually IS an Associate Artist? by Associate Artist Laura Turner

28 May 2024

In a series of blog posts over the next year, Associate Artist Laura Turner shares her journey as an artist, past and present. Focusing on a different area of the industry each month, these blogs will shine a light on the artistic process and what life is like as a creative freelancer and an associate of a regional theatre. Laura is a playwright, screenwriter, actor and dramaturg from the East Midlands, passionate about exploring stories through a regional female lens to interrogate what it means to be empowered and independent in the world today.

What actually IS an Associate Artist?

Since joining the Playhouse, this is probably the question I’ve been asked the most. It’s the question I secretly didn’t really know the answer to, even when I applied for the role. And when I had my interview, the trickiness of defining the role was something that actually came up. Adam (Penford, Artistic Director) and Amanda (Whittington, Board of Trustees) told me that the biggest part of being an Associate Artist was…deciding what your role would be yourself.

That sounds non-committal written down, which really isn’t the case. Being a freelancer employed with any organisation can be a tricky thing. Let’s be honest – we’re often pigeon-holed into a very precise role (which may or may not be where your passion lies), so an Associate offers an opportunity to define your role yourself. Make it your own.

So, when I was offered the role, I knew that was the case and I was excited for that. But there was still a little voice in my head that came going…but, but, but, but what IS it? What if there’s a right way to be an Associate and a wrong way? I need to figure it out! Cue impending imposter syndrome…

From conversations I’ve had with other artists in the last few weeks, I reckon lots of us share the same uncertainty over these hard to define roles. So, in the hope of shedding some light just by sharing my experiences, I thought I’d talk in these blogs about what I’m doing in the role each month.


Women’s Writes Script Surgeries

One of the main things I was passionate about doing in the role was opening up more free and accessible opportunities for dramaturgy and script reading. I think this can be so hard for artists to access – there are great paid opportunities, but most self-employed people can’t afford that (I know I can’t). I also feel really strongly about giving positive opportunities to East Midlands based womxn and being specific in that call out to those with lived experience of womanhood. So, with the help of Beccy d’Souza (one of my new favourite people), we set up Women’s Writes script surgeries. If you identify, you can submit a script or idea to me, I’ll have a read and share feedback in the way that feels most accessible to you.

I’d love to hear from you –

Here’s the link


Script Reading and Dramaturgy

So lots of this month has been reading some brilliant submissions already coming in, and compiling feedback. Elsewhere I’m reading scripts that have been submitted to the theatre and sharing feedback on them, as well as beginning to dramaturg some exciting projects that came through the last round of open Ideas Submissions.

It’s been a very reading-heavy month, but I love that. Writers learn to be better at what we do by reading as diverse a mix of stories and voices as possible, so I count it as a privilege that I can do this, and if I can share some useful thoughts to those writers then all the better.

Going back to uni

This month I was also invited back to the University of York where I studied English Lit, to talk about Current Trends in the Theatre, Film and TV industries. It was brilliant to chat with the undergraduates about the changing landscape of being a freelancer as the various pressures continue to rise on our industry, but always with a sense of hopefulness – that if anything is the antidote, it’s telling stories about what we know…


PUNCH @ Nottingham Playhouse

I also attended the Press Night of Punch, and what a night that was. An incredible feat of storytelling across all elements of the creative process, and it was so special to be part of such a communal experience. The standing ovation at the end of the play was unanimous and part of that was because of how deeply connected this story is to the city. There’s something affirming about seeing a regional story resonate so deeply in a regional space.

I’m also taking the chance to teach myself about the business side of a big regional theatre, and learning from the expertise of different departments in the building, from Marketing to Participation and Artist Development. More on that coming up next month…

So there you go, a whistle stop tour of my first full month as Associate Artist. There’s definitely no right or wrong way to be an Associate (or at least, I hope. Definitely tell me if there is…) You really do just get to make it your own which is exciting, daunting, satisfying, uncertain and thrilling all at once. Have ideas and make something happen, however small it might feel in a big organisation. Someone else would do something completely different to me, and that’s what’s so great about it.

Holidays are…a good thing?

In other, slightly more random thoughts, this month I got back from my honeymoon in April, where I had grand ideas of going away and doing lots of writing in airports, on airplanes and of course in really inspiring settings in the bamboo forest, a skyscraper in Tokyo, a beachside shrine looking out over the ocean off the mainland coast…

I went to all those places, but did I write a word? Not one. And actually that’s OK. That’s more than OK. Breaks and holidays are important (as my husband keeps telling me). And actually, my biggest fear about taking a long break – that I’d lose all creative and artistic ability immediately and irreversibly – completely wasn’t true. I came back from holiday and actually experienced that thing I’ve heard people talk about, where they feel refreshed and have renewed creative vigour…

Who knew holidays were good for us as artists? (I know – pretty much everyone except me) Let’s see if I can remember next time I go away…

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