I used to live by the philosophy that there is only ‘good’ change - and if I saw change as 'bad' change then I probably wasn't looking properly. On 29th October, after having attended the most recent arts@artaud event, I discovered an overwhelming urge to revise that philosophy somewhat.
There was once a time when Arts@Artaud was an almost entirely student-run, student-managed and student-organised event, a School of Arts showcase of the vast array of fresh artistic, theatrical, musical, comedic and cinematic talent which has been brewing at Brunel. To a large extent, this is still what the new College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences event is about - but there has been a hugely noticeable shift in organisational forces from the students onto staff, that this spirit of Arts@Artaud as a student led showcase for students is fading.
As recently as the previous Arts@Artaud, the auditions panel was majority student based, the decision about who would ultimately perform was still left to the team of students running the event and all of the marketing and promotion decisions were taken by students. This year it doesn't seem like any of this was the case - the auditions panel was made entirely of staff organising the event, the final running order decisions were taken by the same staff who sat on the auditions panel and, to the best of my knowledge, marketing and promotion was entirely overseen and managed by staff. Although I have absolutely no issues with staff wanting to organise an event for students to perform in, it is for me, a depressing thought that staff have removed the opportunity for student involvement in backstage aspects of university events by taking these positions for themselves.
These changes are noticeable to anybody who has attended an Arts@Artaud. A huge part of the night's unique character and intimacy has disappeared - the token staff performance is gone, stages don't move around as the running order of acts dictates, the sound desk and the bar have swapped places making the sound desk overly obvious and appear like an attraction in itself. There used to be several installations during the interval, encouraging students with more ambitious or large scale projects to get involved with the event - those have gone too, and without them there's nothing to keep the audience busy during the interval, and not much to keep them there for the second half either.
However, once you're aware of all of these changes and personality amputations that have happened over the summer, it's all good. From strange songs about pixie fairies to angsty films about pizza delivery boys, the entertainment is brilliantly interesting as ever, the alcohol is cheaper than almost everything under the sun (£1.50 a pint!) and you always leave with lots to talk about. Having lots to talk about, however, may not always be a good thing. Although the musical stylings of Eskimo Soda or the comedy stylings of [insert name of Greek comedian who I can't remember his name] are fantastic, and something which I would happily pay my £1 entry fee several times again to go and listen to, other acts were, simply put, appalling and embarrassing, and acts which I felt wouldn't have successfully completed the auditions process had it remained in the control of students. The entirely questionable decision to include these couple of acts (out of a total of about 12, I should add) confused the character of Arts@Artaud, lowered the overall quality of the night and - to be perfectly frank - created an uncomfortable and awkward atmosphere while they were on stage.
Of all of the Arts@Artaud events I have attended, be that as a member of the audience or as an organiser, I enjoyed this one the least. I'm unsure as to whether it was because of all of these bad changes (and I do believe they're bad because it's entirely removed an aspect of student involvement) or the inclusion of some truly dreadful acts – or perhaps a bit of both – which spoilt the evening for me. One thing is for certain though: Students should be the priority of future Arts@Artaud events, from management and act selection all the way down to the audience. No more staff only audition panels, no more staff only decisions. And no more bad acts!
If you want to get involved in the next Arts@Artaud event, auditions are being held on November 17th in time for the next event taking place on December 3rd in the Artaud Building.