How can new/small theatre companies be as robust, flexible and clever as possible?

Amy Howard, 19 September 2012

Present at this discussion:

Amy (The Honk Project) Phelim (Improbable) Louisa (Sparkle and Darks) Katy (Bright Shadow)

Kene (Canterbury Christchurch University)

Phelim made the initial point that isolation is one of the main things that stops a company from growing or feeling the motivation to grow. It's key for a company to feel supported - if only by coming to an event like D&D Roadshow!! - and to meet other artists who you can swap tips with.

We all agreed that it's important to build alliances, and that nowadays it's easy to be selfish and feel the need to grasp on to any funding or support that you have without sharing, but that what we all need to do is be MORE generous, make more partnerships, share more information, etc.

Kene said that one good thing to do is make partnerships with colleges and universities. Internships through relationships like this can be very useful - i.e. students from university courses doing a work placement with you.

Katy said that through doing internships at the start of her career, she learnt a lot about how to run a company. She herself has an intern now, who does a variety of tasks.

The questions was asked - should new companies focus on one thing or diversify, building up a portfolio of areas that it can work in? Should it start narrow, or branch out from the start?

Kene thought companies should start broad and narrow down once they knew what they wanted to focus on.

Katy said that her company has a broad remit, and that this is very useful as it means that there is a regular stream of work coming in.

Louisa said that her company earns money through touring productions and workshops, but that they have started now to get puppet-making commissions, and that this stream of income is growing. Still, all the members of her company have jobs on the side, and can't quite see how to make the leap to running the theatre company on a full time basis. We all agreed that this is a very tricky leap to make.

Can you do this without regular funding? Katy thought that yes, you can, by being clever and diversifying. Her company gets lots of work in care homes now, and this work is now coming to them automatically.

Kene said that it can be strategic to do voluntary work at first - e.g. offer workshops for free - and build relationships that way. After you gain a client's trust, you can start to charge a fee.

Ellie said it might be worth applying for organisational funding from the Arts Council.

Louisa and I spoke about marketing. She finds that advertising isn't very effective unless you spend loads of money on a big campaign, but flyering is good. It's good to have a memorable image. Twitter is useful, especially if you use Tweet Deck. Good for gathering comments from audiences and quotes.

We spoke about sorting out the company's vision and creating a 3 or 5 year plan, and using this to sort out priorities.

And also we spoke about how useful it would be to have a mentor to advise and guide.

MAIN ACTION POINT: DOES ANYONE WANT TO BE MY MENTOR? IF SO, SEND ME AN EMAIL AT [email protected]!! (Check out if you want to see what we do.)

End of report...