In the latest of our Community Member Spotlight series, we get to know Lora Krasteva a little better. A multi-taking aficionado with a finger in multiple pies, Lora shares her tips on perfecting the balancing act and the importance of trusting your teammates. We talk non-binary representation within the theatre and production sector, amplifying the relevant voices in the policy-making processes of today and tomorrow, the theory of taking spaces to make space, and working on “projects that are compatible with the new world that we live in” through a combination of creativity and political science.
Fed: So Lora, tell us more about Global Voices Theatre – where did it all begin?
Lora: Global Voices was born at the Arcola Theatre following the very successful Global Queer Plays event which showcased plays in translation from around the world. The event was curated by William Gregory who’s a translator in English and Spanish and he presented it as a couple of weekends of plays being read full length. They were all plays from around the world by queer writers, which were followed up by Q&As with academics and other creators. It was really successful; it was part of the Creative Disruption festival at the Arcola. At the time I was working at Arcola and we decided to replicate the model to present 15-minute excerpt readings under the banner Global Female Voices as a sister event. That became our flagship event and before we knew it, we had a company with a very distinctive remit and ways of working – and that’s how we began.
Fed: What does a day or week in the life of your role as Art Director typically look like?
Lora: I do have to say I resist the grand – and maybe even the obsolete – title of Artistic Director. It sounds a bit like not how we work; we’re three in the company, with producers Robin Skyer, Zhui Ning Chan and myself, and I really co-lead the company with Robin and Zhui Ning. So, usually on a Monday, we catch up for about an hour and half because we all have other jobs, both freelance and non-freelance, to be able to pay the bills and because Global Voices is still relatively small and unfunded at this moment in time.
I look after a lot of the fundraising, talking to partners and the three of us invent – with the support of the creatives we work with and our steering group – where we go next. It always includes passionate conversations about the future of theatre, the company or representation of migrants in the industry; how we can equitably involve more people when resources are scarce .
Fed: You’ve got a lot on your plate then! How do you manage to balance it all?
Lora: I have tried for last ten years to find ways of better organising myself and making sure I’m not overwhelmed and I’m still on that quest! If you work in teams then delegate, trust the people you work with, and remember not all projects and decisions are life or death. If something doesn’t get done, you’ll be fine. Breathe in, breathe out and just sort it out.
One of the biggest things I’m blessed with is having really great relationships with my colleagues at Global Voices and Arts & Homelessness International. They know that I do other things, they support that and I think it’s important to let people know, where you can, that you’re a complex individual spinning many plates. Don’t try to be the hero, trying to make everything possible.
Fed: What led you to working in theatre and production?
Lora: I was always really in love with theatre, since I was a kid so I’ve always tried to have some sort of theatre-making in my life. I was raised on the idea that theatre doesn’t make a career so I studied other things but I’ve always been involved in theatre, at least as a hobby – as an actor, as a director, as a producer, backstage… all the jobs! Then when I came to London, I stumbled across CASA Latin American Theatre Festival. I was fairly homesick at the time and I instantly felt at home. It was like I was stepping into a Latin American city with the hustle and bustle of people being super warm. For someone that was new to London, that was just amazing.
I started volunteering there and then when I finished uni, it was a hard time and CASA was there for me and said: ‘we’ve just confirmed an Arts Council grant, do you want to come and do some admin for us, paid?’ – and the rest is history!
Fed: Has your background in political science influenced your career within the creative industries at all? They’re two quite different worlds…
Lora: Yes and no… I guess politics is like theatre on a macro level, it gives you an idea about how societies work and of systems, of power, of distribution and how we can organise ourselves as individuals, as citizens and as communities. As it happens, theatre is a lot of that too and I think – particularly now during the pandemic – people are a lot more aware of the political aspect of theatre-making. Not necessarily in the message, but in the process of theatre and building communities and dealing with power in the rehearsal room as well as in the theatre space with the audience.
The more I grew up, the more I saw having a different background as being an advantage. I’m not trained in theatre, I’m self-taught and at first, that felt like a burden and I saw myself as being on the back foot. Now, I know how to play it to my advantage. Ultimately, my education has shaped me a lot because I learned in different countries and was educated from different perspectives. It has given me a lot of transferable skills and there are definitely connections between those two parts of my life.
Fed: Speaking of making connections – tell us more about your work connecting the arts and homelessness…
Lora: I’m Executive Producer at the Arts & Homelessness International, which has recently rebranded. It’s a small, UK-based charity and movement which used to be called With One Voice and used to be part of a bigger charity called Streetwise Opera who do opera with homeless people. In 2012, as part of the London Olympics, Arts & Homelessness International (With One Voice at the time) was invited to create an event with 300 people from around the UK who have been homeless, singing at the Royal Opera House. It was hugely successful and they were invited again in 2016, in Rio, to do the same thing but they didn’t want to just drop into another country and say ‘this is how we do arts and homelessness’ because that’s really against the ethos of the company.
So, they started by doing a country review and started a series of exchanges between Rio and Manchester. The Brazilians thought they were going to learn so much from the UK people coming over but actually the biggest takeaway was how the Manchester delegation came back and implemented some grassroots participation in policy-making for homelessness, which is the core of what we call ‘co-production’. Co-production makes sure that the people who are going to be affected by the policy are part of the policy-making process
That’s how Arts & Homelessness came about and then in 2019, we became an independent company and charity that is 50% co-produced, meaning that half the staff and the board are people who have been homeless. We work commissioning research, amplifying voices and connecting people, projects and policymakers through exchanges, including the Arts and Homelessness summit every two years. We also now run the ART Lab – the Advocacy, Research and Training Lab – bringing these elements together in space which encourages innovation around arts and homelessness.
Fed: How do you think non-binary creators could be better represented within the creative industries going forward?
Lora: There’s always more than could be done when we talk about inclusion and work with minority identities. Non-binary folk (as with any other underrepresented members of society) should have equal access to resources, platforms and places of power. It’s also about asking: how can cis people be better allies? That is about people with privilege informing themselves, learning, doing their own research and taking space to make space, which means making space for someone to come and take it from you, pushing doors open for other people to go through them. The more non-binary people are involved in decision-making, the more we see and hear their stories, the more we will all grow as a society together.
Fed: Before you go – tell us what you like most about being a Creative Industries Federation Community member…
Lora: I’m new so I haven’t explored it fully yet but from the outside, I found the resources and advocacy documents the Federation made available to everyone really useful. Any place where I can play a part and contribute my voice I think is useful. This interview is a great opportunity because as someone that does a million things to meet and push the agenda of equality of unrepresented people, we don’t often get many opportunities to be heard or spotlighted. Now as a member, I look forward to adding my voice and supporting it as part of a bigger, like minded group of people and projects.