Artsadmin was established in 1979 by Judith Knight and Seonaid Stewart, who had previously worked together at Oval House Theatre, which at the time presented some of the innovative and radical theatre seen in the UK. They became increasingly aware of the lack of producing and administrative support for independent artists and companies, and set up Artsadmin to try to do something about it.
Clear artistic choices made at the outset paved the way for the resulting artistic policy, key to Artsadmin’s success. In the early years they worked with Hesitate and Demonstrate, Mike Figgis, Pip Simmons, Welfare State International, Smith and Goody, Natasha Morgan and many others. They established a strong relationship with the Mickery Theater Amsterdam which provided a gateway to the rest of Europe, and many projects were subsequently co-produced in partnership with European theatres and festivals.
Read more about Artsadmin's early work in 'The Producers: Alchemists of the Impossible'
Support from UK trusts and foundations enabled Artsadmin to provide forward-looking management that could sustain companies between projects to develop their work, and the company first received Arts Council funding in 1984. Artsadmin’s co-director Gill Lloyd joined the company in 1985.
By the mid to late eighties Artsadmin had increased its portfolio to include companies and artists such Station House Opera, Gary Stevens, Impact Theatre Co-operative, Bobby Baker, Graeme Miller, Heather Ackroyd, DV8, Moti Roti, the Bow Gamelan Ensemble and others, establishing relationships with many which have continued to the present day.
Tackling important issues
Many important projects followed, including Pip Simmons’ Gor Hoi, a large site-specific project with the newly arrived Vietnamese refugee community in East London, and his seminal production about the holocaust An die Musik (re-mounted and toured in 2000).
With the ending of the blanket cultural boycott in South Africa, Artsadmin developed a relationship with the Market Theatre of Johannesburg, with tours of several productions, including You Strike the Woman, You Strike the Rock and Bopha.
Artsadmin developed relationships with many venues and festivals in the UK and abroad, including relationship with LIFT (London International Theatre Festival) which has lasted for over 30 years.
Toynbee Studios: space and support
In 1995 Artsadmin moved from a tiny office in Clerkenwell to Toynbee Studios, an old drama school in London’s East End. Artsadmin was now able to offer artists space to develop work: rehearsal spaces, video resources and performance opportunities.
In 1998 Artsadmin set up its bursary scheme. The aim of the scheme was, and still is, to provide support for artistic research and process, providing flexibility according to each artist’s ideas. This was also the year that the free advisory service for artists was established.
Over the years, the work Artsadmin has produced work in different spaces all over the world, from the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage in New York to Canon Barnett School next door to Toynbee Studios in East London, from small scale theatre tours to film installations, from performances with audiences of one to audiences of 100,000, from performances in a tree to performances in the beach at dawn.
For full list of artists projects have a look at our archive
Between 2001-07 Artsadmin undertook a major phase of expansion at Toynbee Studios, including the addition of a new rooftop dance studio, eight new basement studios for digital media companies, and the Arts Bar & Café.
In 2004 and 2006 Artsadmin managed the first of Arts Council England's deciBel arts awards, offering opportunities for UK-based visual artists of Asian, Black African, or Black Caribbean artists and trainee curators.
Artsadmin’s growing portfolio of artists continue to create ground-breaking new work that tours around the UK and the world, such as Station House Opera’s Dominoes, Amy Sharrocks’ Museum of Water, Phoebe Davies’ Influences, and The Assembly of Animals by Tim Spooner.
The Artist Support service is helping contemporary artists at all stages of their careers with information and training, providing development opportunities and curating projects with young people. Over 200 artists have now been supported with bursaries.
At Toynbee Studios a 280-seat theatre, rehearsal spaces, dance facilities, and the Arts Bar & Café host performances, events and a hub to meet friends and artists throughout the year.
Artsadmin‘s work on the environment and climate change is of increasing importance in the work they do, from one-off commissions such as Michael Pinsky’s Plunge to its biennial 2 Degrees Festival, and our work with the Imagine 2020 network.
Artsadmin's relationship with European partners is crucial including its EU-funded networks Imagine 2020, Create to Connect, Bamboo.
Since 2013, Artsadmin have delivered the Unlimited commissions programme with Shape Arts, aiming to embed work by disabled artists within the UK cultural sector, reach new audiences and shift perceptions of disabled people.