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New Horizons

Winds in the east, mist coming in, Like something is brewing and about to begin…

As the dulcet tones of Bert echo in your ears and bring you back to that feeling of childhood wonder and excitement, Studio 18 is about to embark on a new venture - this time, across the seas!

We’re partnering up with The Barn Theatre in Cirencester, with an acute focus on learning in the arts, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With developments such as education reform looming and the establishment of Teatru Malta, the arts and education really stand a chance of being prioritised and attributed the attention they need and deserve!

Worry not! Studio 18 is very much here to stay. This opportunity is going to be an extension of its commitment towards international relations, cultural exchange, professional development and legacy for the Studio. Most of all, it opens up opportunities for our team and members to tread new waters, broaden their horizons and most importantly: challenge the status quo as they are exposed to diverse environments and systems.

This shift - or change, if you will, has always been in works - in fact, it’s part of our second three year strategy. The main aim being to identify pillars of learning and to secure sustainability whilst challenging the creative and learning teams. The synchronicity in thought is something to behold as The Barn Theatre's Academy has identified these same themes as their main focus moving forward. In light of this, new roles within Studio 18 have been created and others have been reshuffled, ensuring that we are not only paving the way for new ideas and welcoming fresh blood, but that our trajectory is always forward looking.

For this reason the likes of Simone Spiteri, Rachel Fabri, and André Agius will step up and take more active roles, sharing the reins for this beautiful beast we’ve created.

Make no mistake, this was not an easy decision - as it requires me to take a step back from immediate management and from contact hours with members; a lot of my work will be based overseas. However, it’s not yet another case of ‘the grass is always greener’, I love the Studio, I love what we’ve created and most of all I love the individuals that constitute it.

On a personal level it was a very difficult decision to take, but it was one I knew I needed to take a couple of years ago, so it was only a matter of time. It’s hard because you feel like there is so much you have left to give directly- especially letting go. The relationships with members… a team with a unique dynamic, who are passionate about what they do and enjoy each other’s company- it’s a lot to leave behind. It’s almost like being at work when you have a newborn at home- you’re always fearful of missing their first steps, missing their first day of school- they’re milestones that you can’t bare to not be a part of.

On the flipside, in the interest of the Studio, this was a no brainer.

There is a point where you need fresh blood, to re-establish boundaries, and to step out. A fresh optic. It would be unfair on future generations if our practitioners did not take the time to develop and refine their craft and practices. I must say the Studio is fortunate enough to enjoy a team of professionals that yearns to learn. Take for example André Agius embarking on his MFA Directing in Edinburgh, Simone Spiteri dedicating more time to her writing, relevant and poignant to current situations and young people- and myself, taking on this project and an MEd in Learning and Teaching at the RCS, focusing on design of pedagogy that embraces the relevant cultural landscape.

It is definitely a bittersweet moment. However, a number of factors contributed to this project coming to life. Over the past two years, we were fortunate enough to recruit an international associate, Paul Edwards, whilst I embarked on a quest to understand creative learning and how to keep arts training relevant (travelling to places like the UK, the Netherlands and Palestine). At the same time, we began to work with various schools, and the work of the Studio began to gain considerable traction. Our somewhat distinctive methods that encourage members to think outside the box are actually what landed us on the radar of the Barn, who had been following our projects for some time before approaching us with this new and exciting opportunity.

How do the two align?

Well, both The Barn and the Studio have arts education, the community and a sense of altruism at the very heart of their ethos. Simply put, it is a natural fit: a symbiotic relationship born out of the desire to nurture future generations and promote greater accessibility in the community.

Does this bring opportunities for Malta and how it approaches the arts and culture?

Because of it’s nature as a relationship, I prefer to think of it as both ends of this new community progressing together- it isn’t one sided and it isn’t meant to benefit one singular party. It’s a way to break out of the island bubble and to begin sparring with other players in a fraternal relationship that allows for communication and mutual sound-boarding.

Make no mistake, I will be back and forth, and very much involved. I’m not headed for the glitz and glam of a romanticised London- I am headed to Bristol to give back to a community out there and the progression of a community back home. Yes, HOME. A place which undeniably stirs much passion, emotions and frustration for me but never loses that quality- and a place where theatre is in it’s adolescence and we as artists, as Maltese artists, have an obligation to nurture and raise as our own. Taking up the post of Director of Education and Outreach at The Barn Theatre will only help open doors; two of our members are already heading out there for internships!

So as we reach the end of Cherry Tree Lane, and we really start to feel those winds of change- I can’t help but acknowledge the excitement and anticipation. Yes, this can all get a little overwhelming at times, but our baby is in safe hands, and I trust my fellow creatives and mentors blindly.

Let us not forget: Without change, there can be no progress.

JMC - Creative Director

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