How can local theatres and organisations prioritise and support local theatre makers

Hannah Silva, 17 July 2012

Josie Sutcliffe, Peter Vanderford, Emily Williams, Cassie Willliamton, Robert Miles, Natalie McGrath, Morag Stotten, Kate Sparshatt (sp?), John Frankland, Miranda Martun, Jeanette Nicholls, David Lockwood, Ruth Mitchell

Some notes - i will write a more thought out report on my blog -

-this is going to be out of order and based on what stuck in my mind…- I've used names when I know them, I hope this is OK, I may not always manage to accurately report - please leave comments to clarify etc!

* Is ‘local’ a dirty word?

First question - should they?

- David Lockwood pointed out that as artistic director of bike shed theatre in Exeter his first responsibility is to the audience not the artists…

Are the artists the audiences? Perhaps not? - why not? Perhaps because the SW is so huge it's hard to travel…

Natalie pointed out that living here it is part of our investment to go and see work….we pay less on rent therefore we should invest in travel (note, buy a Devon and Cornwall railcard!)

A big issue is that the theatres are overstretched and understaffed, it"s very hard to get a response to an email….I suggested that those people in the theatres are doing something with their time, I think they should do a bit less of what they are already doing and a bit more focus on talking to and responding to SW artists and seeing our work…

Part of the problem is that there isn't anyone advocating our work,.,, one telling them they have to see it….of course no reviews is a part of this problem… - no recognised stamp…but theatres need to be better at talking to each other about local artists, advocating…perhaps this is something wide awake devon does/can do.

Thinking about a recognised stamp of approval….it's about using a name…Theatre Royal would be the obvious one….in the absence of this - Kate from theatre Gecko was in the group, how about ‘Theatre Gecko presents’?

- Talking about Gecko - can local artists get more from the visiting companies that come to Plymouth? - I've started hanging out in bar after performances to chat with people, perhaps an organised version of this - mentoring from visiting artists, they could come into rehearsals, or just conversations about theatre etc…

Emily from Wide Awake Devon points out that each region has an arts organisation with a remit for supporting local artists…Wide awake Devon offers various things as well as website and networking/discussion events such as support writing G4A bids.

- Robert Miles said, if we have this support, then why is there still a problem? - Emily talked about the fact that as well as their work they need infrastructure, space, and theatres - they are talking with theatres and recently had positive discussion about theatres linking up and supporting local work…

David Lockwood from bike shed theatre was at the discussion and not so sure that things will happen as a result of it - great energy, but where is the action?

Natalie talked about things taking time, needing to have long discussions with people - she has been talking with Robert Miles at Brewhouse for 5 years before working together. She also talked about being innovative, artist led projects, going to buildings as an artist…

How can we make opportunities in our own regions?

..from my experience this is the best way, or maybe the only way of doing things here….but the fact that it does talk long…I have the funding now…I dont have 5 years to have the conversation needed to get support in place (for example)

- kind of on that note, Robert said that of course SW theatres are looking for the next Pinter! - Would like nothing better than for incredible work to come from the SW.

- But then, our work needs to be seen for this to happen…Pilot Thumb mentioned the number of email invites they've sent out trying to get people to see their work….

I mentioned Pulse in Ipswich, Ferment in Bristol - platforms that help artists get seen, get reviewed, book tours etc…..Emily pointed out we have ‘Flourish’ in Plymouth. I went through Flourish with my show ‘Opposition’ and have to say the emphasis was never on reviews, on producers/ theatres seeing it, on getting tour, no online profile for the work etc. Also - if Flourish wants to succeed perhaps need a conversation with those other platforms about how they work with artists - contracts etc. - Make sure support is really support. Talking to Pilot's Thumb about this - is support from Flourish only in place when the artists manage to get their own funding?

- Support is often on the theatres/organisations terms - which just doesn't work if you are trying to plan a project a year in advance - we need to know that we have support at a certain time etc.

- supporting SW actors too - Very hard as even when auditions are held here very few local actors apply and they are inexperienced.

There was quite a bit of conversation about Jeanette Nicholls ‘supporters group’ whose remit is to support the Theatre Royal - the TR tells them what they need, e.g at the moment large funding for building work - also supported school ties etc.. .

- Artists need a ‘supporters group’! - A funding body made up of people who care about theatre in the region that we can apply to to fund our work…..The existing ‘supporters group’ has constitution to support TR - how can we prioritise the theatre makers here…?

Cornwall based theatre maker talked about needing to take his work to London to get that review before getting booked for a tour in Cornwall….we need the local theatres to trust us….? we shouldn't need to get a London stamp….

What if there were local prizes?

Need infrastructure, network…where do we go after Bike Shed?

- Note; Arts Council is talking about having a Devon to Edinburgh kind of a scheme (escalate east model) - maybe by Edinburgh 2014…

- We can leave the SW and come back…bring experiences back to the region…

Ruth pointed out there are no resources for an established artist with a 20yr CV.

- The Wide Awake initiatives are most useful for recent grads/artists starting out.

- I left for the next bit, looked like the conversation was about space….a mega issue in my experience too….this is from the notes made….

Cost of space is prohibitive.

- Use spaces for conferences to generate money.

- need to use small spaces when starting out

- private funding…squeezed resources


Theatre Royal, support for local theatre makers, Theatre Gecko, Brewhouse Theatre, pilots thumb, plymouth, Plymouth, Theatre, Bike Shed Theatre, theatre