Jump to:

Your questions

General Artichoke

What is your mission statement?

Artichoke is a creative producing company which puts on extraordinary live events and sets new benchmarks for artistic imagination. Artichoke is unique; it inhabits a territory outside the mainstream, working beyond the theatre, concert hall and gallery. It aims to put on shows which, whilst every bit as ambitious and technically complex as those of the major institutions, are popular, if not populist, in nature.

I have an idea for a show – will you produce it?

Artichoke only produce large scale, ambitious events that take place in public spaces and are accessible to the public. If you think your idea fits this checklist then you are welcome to email details of your proposal to us at artichoke@artichoke.uk.com. Please include a short summary of your idea as well as a more detailed plan. We will take a look at every proposal sent to us, but we may not always be able to give you personal feedback. 

Why are you called ‘Artichoke’?

Helen thought of it while in a taxi one day. She texted Nicky, who agreed that it was great. There is no deeper meaning to the name.

How much do your projects cost, and who funds them?

Our projects vary in cost from £350,000 for The Telectroscope to £2m for La Machine. We receive core funding from the Arts Council England. However, we often need to raise money from other sources: for this we approach trusts, foundations and businesses. We also instigate partnerships with local authorities and businesses: for example, JCB kindly provides us with plant for our events. Occasionally we co-produce events, particularly when we are putting on something as part of a festival. We also run a membership scheme called Artichoke Hearts, where individuals who like our work can help to support us.

How many projects do you make each year?

We don't set ourselves a target for shows: after The Sultan’s Elephant in 2006 we did not produce another show until The Telectroscope in 2008.  This is because of the huge amount of organisation and preparation that is needed for each project. Our events undergo a lengthy development process, which sometimes results in our production schedule changing.

How many people come to see your shows?

It varies depending on the scale of the project and the marketing, and we never have definite figures because we don’t ticket our events. The BBC estimated that one million people saw The Sultan’s Elephant, 50,000 saw The Telectroscope, 250,000 came to La Machine, many millions saw One & Other either live or on the website.  An estimated 175,000 people came to Lumiere Durham 2013.

How do you promote your productions?

We use a mixture of social media, e-bulletins, print and news coverage to publicise individual projects. 

I’d like to produce The Sultan’s Elephant/La Machine/One & Other in my home town – what should I do?

The best way to do this is to contact the artistic companies directly: for The Sultan’s Elephant you should contact Royal De Luxe, for La Machine Francois Delaroziere and for One & Other contact Antony Gormley.

What are you doing next?

We are always working on several exciting projects at any time, but because we like to keep an air of mystery surrounding what we do, we won’t announce them until nearer the time. If you sign up to our newsletter you'll be the first to know about our next projects.

Can I work for Artichoke?

We advertise any vacancies here. You are welcome to send us speculative CVs, which we will keep on file.

Can I get work experience with Artichoke?

We advertise our work experience and internship opportunities here. You are welcome to send us a speculative request for work experience. We ask that you send us your CV and also a covering letter outlining why you would like to work for us, when you are available and what you would like to get out of a placement with us. You can send your CV and covering letter to artichoke@artichoke.uk.com 

Why does it take so long for you to make your projects?

There are two main reasons why our projects can take years to come to fruition: the first is that we are only a tiny team of eleven core staff members. The second is that often our projects are on a larger scale than more traditional art events that take place in theatres or galleries. They require a huge amount of preparation and it can take a lot of time to raise enough funds to make them happen. We go through an extensive pre-production process to ensure that our projects are viable, will appeal to large audiences and are of the highest quality. Our shows also involve working with numerous other organisations, such as city councils, emergency departments and local businesses.

Do you ever need actors for your shows? Can I send you my CV?

We are rarely responsible for casting performers: usually the artistic companies we work with do this.

What impact do your projects have on cities?

Our projects aim to give people a fresh perspective of a place. Our events are closely tied to the places in which they are produced: for example Crown of Light in Lumiere was commissioned specially for Durham’s Cathedral, and artist Ross Ashton utilised that building’s history in the son et lumiere display. By illuminating a site, or setting it in a different context, we try to cultivate new appreciation of a place. Our work also has tangible economic benefits. For example, during La Machine Liverpool experienced a 615% increase in footfall, while Lumiere Durham 2013 generated an estimated £5.8m of economic benefit.

One of your aims is to change the way people look at their surroundings. Do you mean during the event or after it as well?

Inevitably people will see their surroundings afresh most of all during the projects. However, we hope that our audiences will remember the event for many years to come when they walk through a certain place.

What is the funding breakdown for your projects?

The amount of funding we receive and the source of our funding varies for each project, but it is usually a combination of grants from Arts Council England, statutory funding, sponsorship and support from Trusts and Foundations.

How are your budgets broken down across your projects?

The budgets for our projects vary depending on the scale of the event. Likewise, the key costs are determined by the nature of the project. For example, one of the main costs for One & Other was staffing, because we needed teams in Trafalgar Square 24 hours a day. In contrast, much of Lumiere’s budget is spent on commissioning pieces for the festival and on stewarding the event.

How do you capture data on how many people attend your events?

For events such as The Telectroscope and Dining With Alice we had exact numbers from the tickets sold. However, Artichoke’s events are usually unticketed, and as such it’s very difficult for us to gauge exact audience numbers. In the case of One & Other, we could estimate potential audience numbers because there are statistics on how many people pass through Trafalgar Square each day during the summer. For The Sultan’s Elephant and La Machine we relied on local authorities’ expertise, on the police and on BBC estimates.

How do you measure the impact of the work you create?

We commission an independent evaluation for most of our projects. The results of these evaluations usually addresses where people have travelled from, how much they have spent and how they rate various aspects of the event. From this data we can tell how far-reaching our marketing is and which demographics the event appealed to, as well as what benefits were gained for the city or venue.

What conditions does your Arts Council funding come with?

Artichoke is classed as a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) by Arts Council England, which means that they fund us over a period of time rather than on a project by project basis. Arts Council England has standard conditions for all their grants. We have to deliver an artistic programme that is agreed with Arts Council England, and we have to credit them in appropriate ways and send them regular financial information. You can find more information about Arts Council England’s NPOs on their website.

Will you come and give a talk at my arts club/school/college?

As we are such a small team, sadly we don’t have enough time to talk at every event that invites us. However, do send a proposal to artichoke@artichoke.uk.com and we will see if one of us can attend.

Can I interview you for my dissertation?

Unfortunately we simply don’t have enough time to meet with everyone who asks us, much as we would like to! However, we have designed this website – and this page in particular – to be as friendly to erstwhile Artichoke researchers as possible. Please take a look round the site, and if there’s something that you really need to know and can’t find on here, email artichoke@artichoke.uk.com and we'll do our best to help.

The Sultan's Elephant

What was the legacy of The Sultan’s Elephant?

Many thousands of photos on Flickr and several mentions in press pieces in 2009 as a ‘highlight of the decade’. You can find some of these pieces here. Testament to the continued memories of a magical four days!

How much estimated revenue was made in London throughout the four days?

Visit London estimated that the average spend per audience member was £28.72, with 310,000 visits made exclusively to see the elephant. This would make the total estimated revenue generated solely by The Sultan’s Elephant just under £9m.

La Machine

Do you have any data on the turn out or estimated revenue for La Machine?

An estimated 250,000 people saw La Machine. The additional visitor expenditure related to the event was just over £2m, and around 50 extra jobs were created because of the show.

Was La Princesse designed specifically for Liverpool?

Yes. La Machine’s director Francois Delaroziere had a choice of three creatures to choose from. When he visited Liverpool he decided that a spider would fit the city’s geography the best.

Have you made changes for the Yokohama event based on what happened in Liverpool?

While we produced the Liverpool premiere of La Machine, we are not involved in La Princesse’s journey to Japan.

One & Other

What were the objectives of the One & Other project and to what extent were they achieved?

Antony Gormley aimed to present a cross section of the UK in 2009. This was interpreted to mean a largely random selection of applicants, with the only selection criteria being an equal number of men and women, and a proportional geographical spread. For example, if 11.6% of the population live in the North West, 277 places (11.6% of the 2400 slots available) were allocated to applicants from the North West.

Overall the project was remarkably successful in fulfilling these targets. We maintained the equal gender split (49.8% male, 50.2% female). We remained within 10% of our regional target numbers on the majority of regions. Only two fell outside this margin. Northern Ireland was the least successful region: we allocated 80% of the Northern Ireland slots to applicants from that region, while London had 136% of its allocated slots. This was perhaps to be expected, as we did not offer to pay travel costs (which would have made the project prohibitively expensive) and many last minute cancellations were necessarily replaced by London inhabitants.

What was the relevance of the location? Why is the City of London so attractive for public performance?

Obviously the location was decided before Antony was commissioned, as part of the fourth plinth project. However, both the plinth and Trafalgar Square were important to the ideas behind One & Other. One & Other aimed to reclaim the square – traditionally a place of military figures – for the public. As Antony himself said, “The square has its history as a place of national identity. My project is about trying to democratise this space of privilege, idealisation and control. This is about putting one of us in the place of a political or military hero. It's an opportunity to use this old instrument of hierarchical reinforcement for something a little bit more fun.” [Interview with Alastair Sooke, The Telegraph, 26 February 2009].

Was One & Other intended primarily as entertainment, or were there deeper artistic and perhaps philosophical roots?

One & Other was an entertaining artistic process that showed us British society in all its forms. It could be (and was) read as many different things: a comment on reality television; a progression of Warhol’s prediction that one day everyone would have their ‘15 minutes of fame’. Perhaps it was both of these things.

What means of communication did One & Other utilise?

The website was a key means of communication to participants and those who already knew about the project. Provided by our sponsors, Sky Arts, the website showed a live feed of the plinth throughout the project, allowed participants to upload individual profiles, and enabled viewers to leave comments for the plinthers. In total there have been over eight million hits on the website since its launch. In fact, we had the power of the internet to thank for much of the discussion that occurred around the project: there were more than 160,000 tweets using the hashtag #oneandother, over 4000 photos on Flickr and the two facebook groups (official and unofficial) had over 4000 members between them.

Most people heard about the project through the huge amount of press and media coverage, which had an equivalent advertising value of around £2,750,000. We received 246 pieces in national newspapers, 1391 pieces in regionals and almost 400 television reports across the country. Around 50 pieces were published internationally. We also persuaded the writers for Radio 4’s long-running soap The Archers to weave the project into their storylines for four months.

Finally, we were keen that people who may not usually attend arts events hear about the event. To this end we collaborated with various organisations including every regional Arts Council and the National Association of Housing Associations. We were moderately successful in this goal: 37% of participants stated that they attended arts events either never of less than 3 times per year, while 53% had not previously taken part in an arts activity.

Would you agree that One & Other was an “interruptive event” in that it significantly changed a particular urban space for a certain amount of time?

One & Other was perhaps more ‘immersive’ than ‘interruptive’. On the one hand, the project attracted many extra people to see the plinthers (our evaluation counts 50,000 as a conservative estimate) and many people who were passing through the Square stopped and had a look at what was happening. On the other, Gormley pointed out on 6th July 2009 that “After 10 and a half hours it's already just one of those things. It's part of the summer season: there's the Chelsea Flower Show, Henley and the Fourth Plinth." [Katy Guest, Independent, 8 July 2009]. There were several of what might be termed ‘interruptive events’ during One & Other, such as the freestyle championships which also took place in Trafalgar Square.

Are there similarities between One & Other and the phenomenon of flashmobbing?

Some of the plinthers’ acts certainly had similarities with flashmobbing: there was a plinther who held a fake Olympic Games in the Square, and many others who got people below dancing. Flashmobbing implies doing something extraordinary as a group of people without going through the usual permission processes. As such, while One & Other as a whole may not qualify as a flashmob event, some of the activities begun by the plinthers may.


I’d like to show my work at Lumiere, how do I do it?

We don't invite applications to programme Lumiere other than our commissioning scheme BRILLIANT.  But you are welcome to send us your portfolio or a link to your website, which we would keep on file.  Email artichoke@artichoke.uk.com.

Are any of the installations available for hire?

Yes, we have a few artworks available for hire. These include:

  • 'I Love Durham', by Jacques rival
  • 'Aquarium' by Benedetto Bufalino
  • 'Fête' by Ron Haselden

Contact the office on 020 7650 7611 or email artichoke@artichoke.uk.com to find out more.

Artichoke’s roots

How and why was Artichoke founded?

Nicky and Helen met in 1989 when they were both working for LIFT (the London International Festival of Theatre). They continued to work together on projects such as the free Arts and Events programme at Canary Wharf and then the Salisbury Festival. They set up Artichoke with the aim of bringing The Sultan’s Elephant to London. The company continues with the aim of putting on extraordinary arts events in public places. Since 2005 Artichoke has grown to incorporate a team of eleven core staff members. You can find out more about each individual here.

Did you train in arts management or a related subject?

After gaining a degree at Oxford University, Helen took a Diploma in Arts Administration at City University. Nicky studied English at the University of East Anglia.

Can't find what you are looking for? Ask us your question.