How to start a collective

How to start a collective

By Olivia Humphreys 27/01/12

Two’s company, three’s a crowd and four is a collective – and what could be better than getting together with like-minded artists and friends to fulfill your creative vision? Olivia Humphreys talks to three new collectives about getting started…

Kitchen Sink is a filmmaking collective made up of documentary directors who graduated from the National Film & TV School in 2011; Bread and Goose has just finished a highly successful run of site-specific theatre piece Fox in the Snow, created and performed in the shadow of Brixton’s railway arches; and See Saw delivers animation and moving image workshops with a strong focus on exploring personal history and memory. 

Why start a collective?

Veselina from See Saw describes a collective as an “artistic playground, a place to share ideas, seek creative support, and work on projects together.” She originally thought of starting a company, however “the focus then is on profit. With a company, you share capital; in a collective structure, you share resources.”

For Kitchen Sink, forming a collective was the obvious step after graduation. Collective member Kristof Bilsen says, “As we were all very conscious of how daunting the freelance world can be, we felt it was a good idea to stick together. The fact that we have a group of eight peers who are in a similar situation gives us strength and encouragement to go on.”

Kate Lovell from Bread and Goose also found joining a collective motivated her: “Sitting at a lonely desk writing for agents who will likely chuck you on the slush pile can be very deadening to both creativity and motivation. Being part of a collective, I have had two pieces of writing performed within a six-month period by a company of professionals.” 

Have variety within the group

It’s obviously necessary for members to share an affinity and work well together, but you shouldn’t be too similar; as Kate Lovell says, “having a broad spectrum of different talents means that you can create work of the highest quality. It also combats against major artistic differences – if for instance two members had design as our main skill, we might then be conflicted over who has the final say.” Kristof Bilsen agrees: ‘It’s lucky that we are all such different directors both in styles and approaches, so there’s not a sense of unhealthy competition. We learned along the way how to teach one another, given that some of us had more experience than others.”

Be flexible

As Kitchen Sink’s Kristof Bilsen has found, “getting eight people with their noses pointing in the same direction can be chaotic: we try to be very organic and flexible in the way we work together, and are happy to keep things fairly open. No need to write very existential mission statements and dogmas.”

Don’t get hung up on details

Kate Lovell advises, “Don’t form a collective and spend all your time talking about what you would like to do but how difficult it is to do it, or get stuck behind closed doors. Just go for it. Pick a date for a performance or an arts exhibition and work to it – get real people to come and see what you do.”


Read more How to articles.

Interested in winning a £1,000 cash injection for your collective (or, indeed, for yourself)? Apply for Ideas Fund Innovators. 

Image: Cheerleaders by D Services, available under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Closing Update

25489 Page views

Most popular
Our past collaborators