Coworking and collaboration in theatre and the arts

Convener(s): Sarah Cook

Participants: Alex, Nicky, Kelly, Jay, Adam, David, Lian


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Sarah kicked off. She runs a coworking space for social entrepreneurs, it’s membership based – people pay money and get hours in the space. Is this model suitable for theatre – can we share spaces, work together to get better spaces (for performance, for rehearsals, for working) than we could afford by ourselves, can we create communities of like-minded people so we stop getting the freelance blues and benefit from shared brain syndrome.

Some people don’t like or want to collaborate. Sometimes there’s an education job to be done in helping people understand that sharing and collaboration isn’t stealing ideas

Different types of work need different space – start from the space and go from there. Location is important – can people get to it, can people USE it (think access). Who might use the space at different times – can you share a space with someone who wants evenings and you use it in the daytime. Artistic input – the kind of space you use has an impact on the sort of work you produce.

Desire for a “home of one’s own” that having a permanent base = stability.

Idea that you can start small and work up. SOUP in Brighton – co-working in each other’s living rooms.

Temporary vs permanent – pop-up spaces like DandD, Theatre Delicatessan, Secret Cinema, Summer Outdoor Festivals. Finding permanent shared spaces – organisations like BAC which house other companies. Ref New Finsbury Theatre (@parktheatrelive)

Income streams from selling space – rehearsal rooms, private hire for parties, rental on office space. Membership scheme for using space. Problem that a lot of artists don’t make a lot of money (any money!) so how do they afford the rent on spaces like this? Are there grants / bursuries that can be created, if so how are they funded – ACE etc.

Concern about spaces that are funded by corporate entities and project an “underground” image – is there an ethical problem here? Gentrification of areas formerly used by artists as cheap studio space makes them unaffordable.

Practicalities – unused spaces can have physical challenges – infrastructure may need development – cost. Timescales are important – if you only have the space for a short time then the refit can’t take too long!

How to find spaces: there are venue finding organisations who will scout for you, local councils, libraries, church trusts, empty shops on the high street – ref Brixton Village, other unused buildings ref Secret Cinema.

Different lengths of occupancy are available to different sorts of organisations – there are legal loopholes for charities to do work in developing buildings (buildings that have been partly finished). There is often a requirement on new developments to provide space for public art – can you get contacts with building developers and get in at the planning stage to get a space to do work.