Issue: Free Theatre for All

Convener(s): Penelope Dimond

Participants: Penelope Dimond, Josh Darcy, Dan Koop, Caroline, Annette Dabs, Wendy Buckley, Suzy H, Adrian Jackson, Alex Hassell

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Free theatre, some of the issues:

A ghetto? Fighting/working with some preconceptions of the quality of events where admission isn’t charged.

People might think free = amateur.

Funders, audiences and practitioners might see the work as inferior.

Who can afford expensive tickets? The idea of investing in entertainment. If you pay a lot you’re less likely to leave in the interval. (The law of 2 feet)

Audience responsibility.

Pay what you can/want/think after the show, more like a donation.

Is “Free theatre” as a name doomed? Should it be called something else? (Like blue flash theatre, as the free stuff in Time Out has a blue “Free” label) or PWYC, or Honesty Box Theatre.

Should participants embrace Poor Theatre as there’s unlikely to be a lot of money?

How could you tour free theatre? Create networks of houses.

How can an audience pay? By being more complicit perhaps.

Wearing costumes, bringing props/set/characters etc

The need for a free theatre network to find audiences and practitioners. Email, phone etc.

What companies are out there who aren’t street theatres but do free work? One is the New Factory of the Eccentric Actor, are there others?

How can free theatre raise its profile, is it sustainable? How can it relate to funding bodies?

Marketing – possibility of adverts etc.

Diversity and participation from the Arts Council, accessibility = free. Lip service only, but is free theatre an opportunity to address this?

Free for punters, payment for artists in an ideal world.

Site specific? Many free theatre may be because of its links with Street Theatre.

Not all theatre should be free, but the right projects should be.

Sponsors – getting them on board. Theatre for children/young people is a great area for free theatre. Ethics of certain sponsors a problem? We thought not, depending on the show. Possibility of local live ads.

***Maybe a Tescos Theatre Aisle for a week! “Clean Up On Aisle Six”***

The German model: Lots of places in Germany are Pay What you Think after the event (restaurants, bars etc)

Why are museums and galleries free when Theatre isn’t?

Losing the “Taint” of community/free theatre is important, this would work to do that in some way.

Free performances should be stipulated in contracts and regulated.

Possibility of a Pay What You Can venue.

Technology to be used: internet payments, paypal etc, standing orders and so on.

Free events have a special atmosphere.

Action List:


We suggest 27th March, as this is International Theatre Day. 

(NB Monica, who originally told us it was the 23rd checked with her son who looked on the internet and told her it was actually the 27th!)

Method – networking etc.

Free theatre is professional – losing any stigma somehow.

Creating a PAY WHAT YOU WISH venue.