Do you have to follow an audiences tastes or can you lead them? Having the confidence to take risks

Anne Timpson, 9 August 2012

This was a merge of two workshops which seemed to cover common ground. We paraphrased the questions as looking at personal and collective risks and how we concourage organisations and individuals to take risks, but on further converstaion it was clear that although the two questions posed covered common ground, they were also looking at two very distinct areas.

Do you have to follow an audiences taste or can you lead them? was a question asked in response to Theatre by the Lakes current programming and explored how easy it would be to lead the existing core audience to view more challenging work.

It was felt that there was pressure to get the programming of the main house right in order to finance more challenging work in the studio. The audiences for the Main house and the studio do not generally cross over and the theatre would like to encourage them to do so by programming more challenging work in the main house.

More event type work like History Boys does attract a wider general audience as the work is by established, recognised writers. Is there opportunity to do more of this type of work.

Programming in advance meant that there is not the same opportunity to be spontaneous in terms of producing more challenging work which may run for short periods during or at either end of the summer season.

The conversation asked what is it that attracts people to a performance? In addition to title and author, it was considered that knowledge of their previous work and word of mouth reccomendations influenced this as well as the experience and atmosphere created.

Having the confidence to take risks cuts across the question posed above but was a broader exploration of how we encourage artists and theatre practitioners in general, working away from large established organisations to have the confidence to take risks in their work and stand by their artistic beliefs.

Being clear about your idea and confident in what you are making/performing and producing something that grabs people's imagination will go some way to ensuring that you can make taking risks postive with a positive outcome.

Partnership working with established organisations in a position to give support to emerging work will benefit individuals and smaller organisations looking to develop new work, but proper planning is vital to ensure that they are able to respond to opportunities particularly if they are programming their venue a year in advance.

From the conversation it became apparent that financial risk and making the bottom line balance was the main consideration when looking at taking risks with programming and making work. The question of how we encourage people to subsidise such work is paramount and I think that is a workshop taking place later, so I am sure that a report will appear at some point!