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Produce less, work better!
The independent performing arts beyond growth

Academy as part of the Impulse Theatre Festival 2023
15 – 18 June 2023, Ringlokschuppen Ruhr (Language: German and English)

Constant growth is simply not possible on a planet with finite resources. Transition to a post-growth society is unavoidable. And yet, the independent performing arts are also governed by the dogma of growth: particularly in the last three years of the pandemic, research, conferences and productions have reached a level never been seen before. However, for most artists nothing has changed in terms of their working conditions or social security: their situation remains precarious. How can we get off this treadmill? The ACADEMY will address this question in a series of lectures and three workshops lasting several days.

Students along with practitioners who are artists, producers, dramaturgs, administrators or representatives of labour unions or funding bodies will embark on a joint search for new working and production conditions. What might a different kind of theatre work look like, if we produce less but more sustainably? If workers, ideas and materials are not burnt up fast, but used over a longer term? If our focus is placed on caring for each other and for creating shared assets and practices?


The ACADEMY begins with a report from the research project ‘System Check’, which examines working conditions and social security in the independent performing arts. In three multi-day workshops (registration required) we will then explore how other theatre work might look in future. To conclude, representatives of associations, labour unions and working groups invite you to round table discussions about how the proposals for the future developed in the workshops might be included in practice in political work.

The ACADEMY itself also wishes to avoid hyper productivity. Space will therefore be reserved for participants to cook together, hang out in the mini˗library and have unstructured conversations.

Registered participants in the workshops will also be able to attend festival events in Düsseldorf in the evenings. The evening programme, meals and shuttles to Düsseldorf (and also accommodation where required) are included in the workshop package.

Thursday, 15.06.

System Check: On the state of work in the independent performing arts


Lectures and a discussion with participants in the research project Sören Fenner (ensemble-netzwerk), Janet Merkel (Institute for Cultural Governance), Elisabeth Roos (Federal Association for the Independent Performing Arts) and Hannah Speicher (Institute for Interdisciplinary Industrial Science, Leibnitz University Hanover)

The research project ‘System Check’ run by the Bundesverband Freie Darstellende Künste has investigated the working conditions of self˗employed individuals and hybrid workers in the performing arts from 2021 to 2023. At the ACADEMY, the project’s key themes and the most important results of its research will be presented by Elisabeth Roos. Hannah Speicher will then give an account of the conclusions drawn from the interview˗based study “Free Fall. Types of work, social security, identities and coping strategies in the independent performing arts.” Janet Merkel will provide insights into how the concept of work has evolved in the arts and creative industries. Here she points out how passion for a profession is linked to working conditions, and raises questions about cultural governance. Sören Fenner talks about experiences of self˗employed individuals and hybrid workers from the artists’ point of view. After a look ahead to the further stages of ‘System Check’, there will be time to exchange views on what we have heard.

Mittag! (Lunch!) The art of doing nothing (but that together)


  • Tiger Kitchen – communal coking, eating and talking about our work (with Nadja Duesterberg and guests)
  • Library of other work
  • Chill out in the park

Introductions in the workshop groups


Shuttle to Düsseldorf for the Impulse SHOWCASE


Friday, 16 and Saturday, 17 June

10.00–13.00 and 15.00–17.00 Workshops

Workshop 1: Commoning our work, commoning our institutions. Post-capitalist training in shared work and production

With Emanuele Braga and Gabriella Riccio (Institute of Radical Imagination)

Can artistic practice be a model for ways out of the crisis? In the workshop ‘Commoning our work, commoning our institutions’, artists and activists from the Institute of Radical Imagination will talk about their practice: they try to create spaces for the growth of the commons against privatisation, gentrification and exploitation – from the micro-level of the individual to reclaiming or occupying urban space and influencing planning and politics. Together with the participants, they will try to shape the idea for a theatre of the commons. The concept of the commons is based on the experience of self-managed art and cultural spaces such as L’Asilo (Naples) or MACAO (Milan) that focus on collective work for shared space in the city that belongs to everyone.

Workshop 2: We have no art: we do everything as well as we can. An experiment in Maintenance Art

With Inga Bendukat and Eleonora Herder (andpartnersincrime)

What if our understanding of art focussed not on production, but on reproduction? If care-giving relationships did not inhibit artistic collaboration, but enriched it? How do artistic working processes operate if they are no longer conceived in terms of neoliberal production principles, but rather in terms of maintenance: as revival and reconnection? What can art learn from radical care work activists? And what if we understood art itself as care work? Would that then become Maintenance Art? Together with the participants, andpartnersincrime investigate a form of independent theatre that combines art and care work and experiment with this Maintenance Art in the city of Mülheim an der Ruhr.

Workshop 3: Producing for the common good. Balancing our work with the economics of the common good

With Oliver Eller and Sandra Paul (Gemeinwohl-Ökonomie)
Impulse by Carlsson Kemena (Theater Göttingen)

The Gemeinwohl-Ökonomie (economy for the common good) is a movement that wishes to base our economy fundamentally on the democratically defined common good and the concept of co-operation. In the workshop Oliver Eller and Sandra Paul introduce the movement and, together with the participants, study examples of balancing the common good in and beyond the independent performing arts and ask: how can we rethink our work in view of the limits of the planet and increasing social crises? How can we realign production in the independent theatre and integrate values such as solidarity, justice, ecological sustainability and transparency into our actions? Carlsson Kemena from Theater Göttingen, which was the first municipal theatre in Germany to go through a common good certification, furthermore deals with the pros and cons of a certification from the theatre’s point of view and gives an insight into how the DT Göttingen is currently developing the process further.

Mittag! (Lunch!) The art of doing nothing (but that together)


  • Tiger Kitchen – communal coking, eating and talking about our work (with Nadja Duesterberg and guests)
  • Library of other work
  • Chill out in the park

Shuttle to Düsseldorf for the Impulse SHOWCASE


Sunday, 18.06.

Fighting together for better working conditions in the independent performing arts


Round table conversations with Esther Bajo and Ulrike Kuner (IG Freie Theaterarbeit/European Association of Independent Performing Arts), Mareike Holtz and Mona Rieken (Performing for Future), Sharon Jamila Hutchinson and Marque-Lin Pham (United Networks), Susan Schubert and Romy Schwarzer (Arbeitsgruppe Elternschaft und Kunstbetrieb/Tanznetz Dresden), Ulrike Seybold (NRW Landesbüro Freie Darstellende Künste), Ina Stock (ver.di).

To conclude the ACADEMY, we will focus again on specific action: in round table discussions with representatives of associations, labour unions and working groups, we will discuss what must be done and what can be done to achieve lasting improvements in working conditions in the independent performing arts.

Mittag! (Lunch!) The art of doing nothing (but that together)


  • Tiger Kitchen – communal coking, eating and talking about our work (with Nadja Duesterberg and guests)
  • Library of other work
  • Chill out in the park

Shuttle to Cologne for the Impulse CITY PROJECT



The lectures on ‘System Check’ on 15 June and the round table discussions on 18 June can be attended free of charge without registering in advance.

Costs for the workshops, catering and festival programme:

  • 60 € (including lunch, tickets for up to five SHOWCASE events, shuttle to the SHOWCASE in Düsseldorf)
  • for an additional 20 € accommodation is included, in mixed gender, multi-occupancy rooms

We may be able to bear the costs for individuals who are unable to pay this fee. Please write an informal request to and we will reply to you as soon as we can.

We offer childcare for the duration of the ACADEMY programme (10.00–17.00 each day). Please let us know if you have a need.

Register now on the website of the Impulse Theater Festival.

A co˗production between Cheers for Fears and the Impulse Theater Festival together with the programme “Verbindungen Fördern” run by the Bundesverband Freie Darstellende Künste e.V. Cheers for Fears is funded by the Ministry for Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine˗Westphalia. “Verbindungen Fördern” is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.