Friction exist to create cultural and social change through the arts. We’re not artform specific and instead have a process –
- Who am I – i.e. Why am I making this artwork/project, what’s the interest, the driver behind it
- Who are we together – asking this of our partners, our stakeholders, our participants – how do our agendas coincide
- What are we going to do – what do we want the outcome to be, what do we want the result of our cooperation to be
- How are we going to do it – this is the point we choose the artform or approach we are taking, and it really could be anything – if we don’t have the skills in-house we will find skilled people we can work with
This means that no two projects are the same, and we rarely make work that can tour, because contexts, people and external stuff like politics – don’t we all know it – are always shifting. Our work is bespoke to ensure that it is always relevant to this place, these people, at this time. You can imagine how confusing this can be to funders and commissioners.
Friction Arts was set up, as a company limited by guarantee, not for profit, by Lead Artists, Lee Griffiths and Sandra Hall in 2004. We began as unincorporated FPLA in 1992, making cross-artform venues in festivals like The Forest Fayre and Glastonbury as well as running Glasto’s Outdoor Theatre Stage.
We started making socially-engaged projects in the early 90’s, as well as honing our craft creating walkabout theatre for street festivals and becoming a fixture on the underground rave scene. We had a regular residency at the Que Club in Birmingham for many years, creating some bizarre and, more or less, inappropriate walkabouts and installations for years at nights like Atomic Jam, Citric City and many others.
We’ve always had a thing for social change and social justice and soon turned our energy towards ‘making the world we’d like to live in through art’. So we changed tack somewhat and started to create responsive, site-specific performances and socially-engaged projects, leading us towards where we are today.
Our Lead Artists have a unique skillset and experience between them – if anything they are expert generalists. Sandra comes from a background in theatre, TV and film and has trained with the likes of Phillipe Gaulier in Paris and Prapto Suryodarmo in Indonesia. Working with Geese theatre company in the very early 90’s is what brought her to Birmingham and she worked in over 140 prisons and criminal justice settings, confronting offending behaviour using drama – theatre was never going to be the same again. Lee has a very wonky CV, and worked as a tropical fish shop owner aged 17, a farm labourer, a commercial scuba diver, a refrigeration engineer and is a qualified nursery nurse, so never had time for Uni and all that jazz. Never play Trivial Pursuits with him, he will murder you.
We haven’t published photographs of ourselves here, although this page is about Friction, ‘it’s’ not about us, it’s about the work.
We don’t do this alone, we are supported by a great team of people who help us make our stuff happen, and they are, in no particular order
- The board – Chair Tyrone Huggins, actor, writer, director and diversity champion, ‘The Boss’ makes sure we’re ploughing the right furrow. Janet Hetherington academic, teacher and safeguarding expert who helps make sure we keep all our people safe. Mark Webster, former head of arts at Staffs Uni, Mark has been making community arts projects for decades and is a great sounding board. Michael Mihoc, just turned 18, the newest and youngest member of our board, but he’s there on merit, not to tick any boxes. Michael is an actor, burgeoning director and co-founder of Coventry’s Fridays club, we’re looking forward to the journeys we’ll be taking with him on the board. Sandra and Lee also sit on the board as non-voting members – not that we ever vote, we prefer to work by consensus.
- Lead Artists for our Young People’s programmes, Nita Newman, Heather Wilson and Natalie Mason. Nita was running our Art Club for many years, and we’re really lucky to have such a great contemporary artist working with our young peeps, her role has recently been taken over by Heather, who constantly goes over and above the call of duty, with Nita popping in now and again to lend a hand. Natalie is a musician and ethnomusicologist that we co-design and deliver our MMM project with – she’s now also embarking on a PhD, linked to the programme.
- Community Producer Adrienne Frances is our right hand person, helping us to manage our projects, fundraise and generally get things done. She’s fairly new to the Friction Family but we’re expecting great things.
- Finance Manager Karla Hunter, originally from Mexico, Karla brings her fiery personality to the complex financial management that Friction requires – nobody owes us money as they don’t want to get ‘that’ phone call.
- We also work with a wide pool of regular freelance artists, technicians and other experts, and this group of extremely experienced people means we can always put together a team that ensures we can always deliver high-quality, risk-taking work, whatever the context. Too many to list here, but thanks to all of you.
Friction Are regularly funded as part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio, as well as a wide range of funders and commissioners from within and without the arts and social sectors. Thanks to them and to players of the National Lottery who have been supporting us off and on for years, we hope that, at least once, it is you.