Interview: Rob Thorpe-Woods (KickItDown Productions)
Hello, I’m Isabelle, a reviewer for The-Crumb. Despite many frustrations, losses and obstacles that have come our way as artists and creatives during lockdown, I’m constantly noticing evolving work and exciting new projects emerging. KickItDown Productions is one of them, run by Rob Thorpe-Woods. It is a new and flourishing company, set to ‘discover and source ground-breaking artists’. Since discovering Rob’s work recently, I wanted to take this opportunity to ask him about his goals and plans for his new adventure.
Was there a lightbulb moment when KickItDown Productions seemed necessary to start up and what was that moment?
The more I reflect on KickItDown‘s inception the more I realise that it came from a reactionary place. I can remember vividly going back to my family home after all the theatres and shops had to close in London. It felt extremely weird and nobody (especially artists) really knew what to do with themselves. If I have to be honest my mental health suffered a bit and I had to try and find myself again.
The lightbulb moment happened one early morning in March. I realised everyone was in the same boat, all our lives had stopped and there wasn’t a space for us to express ourselves, we had nowhere to be creative.
I also reflected on the power structures within arts, specifically theatres who made most of their staff on low incomes redundant, including myself. I knew for a fact that most of these employees tend to be out-of-work actors, directors, producers and theatre makers. I realised that the power structures within the arts needed to change, but if we want things to change, we have to be the change.
That’s what KickItDown is to me, It’s a space to be creative within the constraints of lockdown. We are a production company that supports, nurtures and gives a platform to artists from all walks of life, it’s all about the artists.
We have done this by providing free workshops, talks and events throughout the pandemic, one of which you kindly attended Isabelle! We also put a new writing callout up on the BBC Writersroom where we received over 700 submissions, we selected 18 exceptional scripts and I'm delighted to say we will be live streaming these pieces in December.
Starting something from scratch can seem intimidating, I know for me, starting up a Youtube channel and an Instagram account for my writing seemed slightly scary. What were the things you had to consider in terms of aesthetic, budgets, networking and what is that process like?
From my experience feeling fear is a good thing as long as it doesn’t overwhelm you. A director once told me that you “Have to let fear push you from behind rather than stand in front of you” I think that’s a powerful statement and I’ve taken it with me.
In terms of considerations KickItDown happened quite organically, I knew that I wanted it to look right, I wanted visiting our website to be an experience. I tend to find that many companies start without an identity, I think that it’s imperative to have one, people need to know what you’re about.
In terms of budgeting, I was silly and didn’t put a budget together when I started KickItDown. It was an instinctive project and looking back I wish I had allowed myself more time to structure it correctly. That was a mistake. I think in my head I thought KickItDown would only last during lockdown 1 but it’s just kept growing and growing which is very exciting.
What would your advice be to anyone wanting to set up their own company/website? Is it easier than we think it could be?
I have always been cautious with giving out advice throughout my career as I think everyone is on their own unique and individual journey. I know it’s SO HARD but you have to trust yourself and YOUR ideas. One thing I would say is to not compare yourself to your fellow creatives/friends. It's a toxic mindset to get into and social media aggravates it.
In terms of starting a website/company: I think you can’t be motivated by money when starting a company in the arts because it won’t come straight away, you have to trust your ideas and see where they take you, remain positive and don’t let the pressure or other people's negativity infiltrate your own philosophy. Be diplomatic and understanding but also know that you have a lot of creatives depending on you, transparency is key. Some people are going to be super supportive and some people will be on the fence, at the end of the day it’s about trusting yourself and your instincts.
What are some projects coming up that you’d like to share, if they aren’t top secret!?
Originally we had partnered with The Playground Theatre to share all of our digital work in their space alongside 4 new pieces of writing that we’ve been developing behind the scenes.
Unfortunately we had to postpone that event due to the second lockdown. We will however be live-streaming all of our digital work over December and you can find out more information about that here.
We will also be releasing more workshops in January and there are some other projects we have in pipeline but I can’t talk about them yet I’m afraid haha.
What does the ideal future look like for KickItDown Productions for you at the moment?
I would love KickItDown to eventually become an NPO, I know it’s a big challenge but I believe in our work and I think we can do it! I would also love for us to have our own physical space to make work in. The possibilities with KickItDown are endless, I want our work to be unapologetic and challenging with an emphasis of representing the underrepresented.
I sometimes think theatre can be too polite. Genuinely. We have all seen enough Shakespeare, I think we need to provoke a conversation and get communities talking.
When I listen to a hip hop record such as Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly I think it’s so unapologetic and important, it forces people to listen and talk. I want to make work like that.
I want our work to continue to be accessible, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could still provide free workshops and shows? I would like that, but it would be tricky to find a way to make it work financially.
I’m also keen to still collaborate with the 18 writers we have attached to our digital projects. I want to be in a place to commission them and nurture their work through free dramaturgy, most of them are at the early stages of their careers but their voices inspire and motivate me.
How can we help to spread the word and support KickItDown Productions work?
Follow us on all social media platforms via our handle: @kickitdownprod and come and support our first digital sharing on the 2nd of December at 19:30 on our YouYube channel.
We also have a GoFundMe page up at the minute - where 96% of all funds raised will go directly to artists working with us. You can visit this here.
If you would like to support us through funding/sponsorship you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also subscribe to our mailing list via our website.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, I look forward to taking part and supporting all the company’s work!
Thank you for being interested in our work, I really appreciate it!