Background to The Corinthia Hotel Artist in Residency Programme & Theatrical Production

Arts Co Productions conceived of and set up The Corinthia Hotel’s Artist in Residence programme to capitalise on the hotel’s unique position geographically at the crossroads of some of London’s most significant cultural organisations, and to build this cultural profile into the DNA of the hotel.

Our aim was to create a different type of Artist in Residence programme.  Not just an old writer sitting in a garret suite, fueled by time at the hotel bar to write poems in praise of the hotel, but a situation where an artist really responded and captured the spirit of the hotel and brand to create unique experiences for guests.

So in Year 1 and 2, through our cultural networks, we launched a national competition to find, an artist (Year 1) and a theatre company (Year 2) who would reside in the hotel and create a piece of artwork in response to it.

Arts Co Productions recruited influential judges who could build the profile of the project – Ed Vaizey – Minister for Culture, Josie Rourke – Artistic Director of The Donmar, Madani Younis – Artistic Director of The Bush Theatre, Justine Simons – Head of Culture for The Mayor’s Office, Caroline Rush – CEO of The British Fashion Council, Amanda Nevill – CEO of the British Film Institute, Yana Peel – Owner, Intelligence Squared and Dan Stevens – Actor (Downtown Abbey etc.)  This helped lend credibility to a cultural project in a non-cultural space.

In Year 1 the artist Noemie Goudal won this national competition for the residency, and during her time at The Corinthia created immense site-specific photo assemblages, merging Corinthia backdrops and extraordinary views of new places which were launched at a private view.  These scenes transported the viewer to other worlds beyond The Corinthia Hotel.

In Year 2 Arts Co Productions’s idea was to invite writers and theatre companies to respond to an application to write an immersive play set in the hotel and using it as its stage set.  This was based on our knowledge that ever more sophisticated, cultured audiences are looking for every more sophisticated, cultural experiences.  We needed to do something that had not been done before.  The national call for applications went out, with the judges advising and press building interest.

Arts Co Productions and the judges eventually chose Look Left Look Right on judging day, who embraced the residency with gusto.  At the outset Arts Co was clear that we didn’t want a marketing piece, but a real piece of theatre in response to the hotel with artistic credibility that critics could critique and the public could by tickets for.  On one hand Arts Co encouraged the theatre company to explore the history of the hotel, and to meet all the key staff / characters – to get under the skin of the hotel.  On the other, we encouraged The Corinthia Hotel to be accommodating and open at every turn to their new residents, to sign up for a ‘warts and all’ piece of artistic output, (though they were slightly fearful of what this might mean.)  Arts Co brokered a partnership where two different organisations learnt to understand and respect the, sometimes different, modes of working of the other.  Both were ultimately striving for quality and originality, just using slightly different languages.  Look Left Look Right explored the hotel’s history and character and interviewed Corinthia Hotel staff and guests, The Corinthia patiently laid themselves open but also taught Look Left Look Right about the intricate workings of a hotel and the level of detail which is necessary for a five star brand.

And so a piece of theatre has been created that is real, funny and poignant, that guests and press are responding to with genuine pleasure (see reviews below).  The Corinthia Hotel, who has taken a huge risk, (not least with 50 new people running around the hotel working on a play), has given space and budget to creativity, not tampered with the script or production one iota, and it has paid off.  The production has created extra work for the staff, with 20 scenes across the hotel rubbing up alongside and often getting in the way of actual day to day hotel life, guests and staff, but it’s also created a peculiar kind of buzz in the hotel, and delight even for the guests who can’t get tickets but can see strange scenes going on around the hotel.

The production sold out a week before opening night, so the run was extended from 16th to 21st April and has a long waiting list.

We are now planning for Season 2 at the end of 2013, which will be linked to Artist in Residence 3.  We have something intriguing up our sleeve to continue to build unique experiences around The Corinthia.

Isabella Macpherson, Arts Co, Curators of The Corinthia Hotel Artist in Residence Programme

                Arts Co Productions Conceived of and Executive Produced Above & Beyond.

Background Notes

Arts Co launched the Artist in Residence (AiR) programme at The Corinthia in 2011, enabling artists to benefit from a unique residency at the heart of cultural London.  Each year an artist from a different discipline – art, theatre, film, fashion, design, literature – is chosen by a panel of judges to create work in response to their residency.