It was great to meet and/or catch up with fellow theatre bloggers and writers at the latest Official Theatre gathering on Monday night. Hosted by OT’s indefatigable (and, as always, immaculately costumed and coiffured) Rebecca Felgate, the event this time took place at the Beak Street Soho Grind cocktail bar. As well as opportunities for networking and ideas-sharing, the delights of the night included games and competitions (in which we were pleased to learn about the similarity between “cum face” and “cocktail-shaker face”; thanks for that, Adam ;-)), plus a lovely performance by the singer-songwriter Bity Booker. Those in attendance also had the opportunity to find out about the evening’s sponsors, SeatPlan, a new website which is looking to provide reviews for every seat in London theatre, and, to that end, is encouraging theatre-goers to upload their experiences, tips and photos. You can do that very thing at the website here, and also have the opportunity to earn theatre vouchers for your contributions.
The evening also made me think a bit about blogging and how my feelings about it have changed (or not) over the years. I set up Boycotting Trends at the end of 2008 for practical reasons (the teaching of a “social media” component of a Reading the Media course) and the writing of the blog has served as both complement to - and, at times, I admit it, a distraction from - my academic work ever since.
Balancing the blog with contributing to other websites, my dedication to blogging has ebbed and flowed just as the format and frequency of what I’ve posted here has changed and shifted. And it’s probably fair to say that my ambivalence about social media has only intensified in the intervening years. But there’s no denying that blogging has become a significant and enjoyable part of my writing routine, and has led to all kinds of opportunities I would never have foreseen, from interviewing to film festivaling to annoying Neil LaBute. It’s also led – last but certainly not least - to the establishment of several of my most treasured recent friendships.
Despite the often-discussed controversies of arts blogging, I see the form as offering – at its best - the opportunity for a widening of a critical conversation that too often sees the triumph of hype over real, detailed analysis in the mainstream media where corporate control dictates what’s written about and – I firmly believe – how it’s written about, too. As I was commenting to a friend a couple of weeks ago what I enjoy most is the freedom of blogging, of not being bound by editorial demands or strictures here, of being able to write, as I did recently, a 2000 word tribute to a show that changed my life.
Evenings such as Monday night’s meet-up offer the reassurance of bloggers as a community, sharing insights, approaches and enthusiasms about aspects of the arts that we care about deeply. Thanks, Official Theatre, thanks SeatPlan.