I’ve got an itch it’s a Scratch.

For sometime now this word has seeped into the plethora of wanky words solely used by live artists who didn’t really understand what it meant until they applied for one.

I believe the word originates from Battersea Arts Centre (I’m sure a performance artist will email me highlighting the fact I’m wrong, again as it was actually developed by an underground American actionist reenactment group - niche), they describe their scratch program as ‘new theatrical ideas developed by artists and shaped by audience feedback’ – in short scratching is a group of unpaying punters in a room with feedback forms looking disappointed at someone covered in eggs / paint. Here is my beef - the act of scratching is basically a cleverly rebranded ‘work in progress’ by arts venues with abit of space to whore out, a way of showing an audience of about 30 people (usually other artists with their own agenda and feelings towards your work), an unfinished, unformulated and underdeveloped idea which future is decided by said feedback forms.

Now unlike most Scottee beef with the world of performance I have done it and have the insider knowledge. I previously scratched and found it a hard task, which ultimately wasn’t rewarding and became increasingly frustrating but the ‘scratch night’ is growing ever popular around the UK art scene and I’m not willing to go down without my say. Do we really want our work practice to entail asking other people if our ideas are good enough before we really work and commit to them? I feel scratching is abit half arsed – ‘here’s an idea, its just an idea, can you tell me if its good enough before I put some effort into it’ – Could you imagine if Adele released a scratch album or Hurst invited you to a scratch gallery show? What happened to the art of risk taking in performance? God knows how many artist websites contain the phrase ‘risk taking’. Most scratch programs are unfunded too, this means the artist is just given space for the entitlement of the scratch and any box office sales are kept by the venue or split 50% / 50% (the likely hood of getting this back is small), well above industry standard – fair trade dear? It's also worth noting spaces apply for Arts Council funding to run these programs and still take their share.

Now I’m not saying work in progress isn’t progressive and that everyone need burn their scratch proposals but formats like papering (comps to industry folk during a run), previewing and ‘Pay What You Can’ nights are more effective and in my world fair.

I think this blog has come from the launch of BAC’s ‘#DigitalScratching’ – a live, online platform – because what we really need is another way to scratch / hash tag.

Since when was theatre/performance/stuff sitting in a room with broken windows, one light, 3 chairs and broken toilets an enjoyable experience for artist to make work in or audience to view it?

I think its time we put our necks on the line, stood by our ideas and rehearsed them in nice heated rooms with tea for a length of time. Learn your craft treading the boards and feeling the crowd, ask yourself if it was a good show and what could be improved. Lets make work for real people not other artists. If an audience of paying punters doesn’t like your ideas then at least we can all say we have tried, failed and learnt rather than attempted, pretending and procrastinating (with forms). 

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