How can we 'sell' Translated or non-UK origin theatre to UK producers and programmers?

Sorry it's taken me so long to get this uploaded!

Thankyou to the amazing variety of artists and organisers who joined in and offered their perspective: Ben, Sarah, Susan, Nathaniel, and Natalie.

In many European countries there are large numbers of organisations, including government programmes, which support and promote translations and productions originating from other countries. E.g. In Poland, it was mentioned that there is both a 'British Council' style organisation which promotes Polish arts & culture abroad, and the 'opposite' organisation which exists specifically to facilitate and encourage foreign companies and texts to visit Poland or set up cultural exchanges. This goes alongside a general cultural openness to translation, surtitles, etc., which are often used as a marketing bonus.

The lack of government support for the Arts means that this kind of organisation seems unlikely in the UK!
Sometimes we might be able to go via organisations in the play's/playwright's 'country of origin' to help get funding/support for translation and production in the UK? E.g. the Goethe Institut supported this festival, Brexit Stage Left.

It's difficult for (often better-funded) continental European companies to adapt to the standard way of working in the UK – e.g. a company from France might expect somewhere between 6 months-2 years to develop a new project, which is completely unfeasable in the UK model where 3 weeks of rehearsal seems like a luxury.

What other barriers are there to putting on work in translation or with visiting companies, apart from funding?

There may be a perception that there is not an audience for 'foreign' plays in the UK. This is self-perpetuating because if foreign plays are not produced, audiences won't get the opportunity to attend them. We decided that a massive block to foreign theatre in the UK is theatre producers who act as gatekeepers to what audiences see. Producers may be reluctant to produce or programme foreign work becuase:
worried about audience numbers for 'foreign' work, whether in translation or original laguage.
feel they won't understand the play themselves and therefore hesitate to judge its quality for selection (anecdotal evidence from one of the members who had worked on play selection)
may have a specific image of the country which doesn't match the image presented in the text.

Ways of making a change...

- Proving an audience:
Grassroots. Producing your own work, starting small and building up momentum. This is a common model for unknown playwrights/companies of UK work so why not for foreign work too? If a play does well on the fringe, and from there makes it into larger or well-reputed theatre(s), then producers in larger theatres can be approached with proof that the audience is there, audiences for that show are not put off by its foreignness.

- Proving an audience:
Can we create an umbrella community of internationally-minded UK arts organisations to share ticket sales info/audience demographics/etc? Even sharing mailing lists for audiences who are open to foreign work (if possible within GDPR) or creating an audience community like the Audience Club? We are going to research the possibilities of this.
Audience data shared in this community could help all of the member organisations to convince producers that the audience IS there for foreign work if they just take the risk!

- The way we approach producers in the first place:
- Hiding the fact that the play is in translation completely – an experiment to see whether this changes response rate!
- Or not leading with the play's origins or foreignness but not hiding them either. Focus on the themes and ideas of the piece, the things that make it universal. Find relevant venues to approach based on theme and style, not origin.

- Joining with other more established organisations:
Linking up with organisations who show the relevance of the work or have links with a potential audience. Could be a charity or community group whose interests chime with the subject of the play, or another arts organisation who could co-produce and pull in an open-minded audience.
See below for a list of International/European-minded arts organisations in the UK!

2 of the group were from Eurodram, a network of translators, playwrights, directors, producers etc. across the UK and Europe who review one anothers' work and occasionally are able to support translations, read throughs and stagings.
A way for internationally-minded artists to support each other and also to discover texts they might be interested in working on.

We talked about Publishing and how similar barriers seem to work with publishing plays too. Because books need to be published in bulk to be cost-effective publishers can be hesitant to publish translations, even if work which is popular in original country/language, because they doubt if the UK readers are there.
Self publishing was suggested as a solution although others said they felt there was a stigma around self-publishing which might even put off publishers in future.
Oberon books has recently worked with Global Voices and the Arcola to publish an anthology: Global Queer Plays. Global Voices and the Arcola have done a lot of persuading there, and now have a great relationship with Oberon so let's hope to see lots more from them!

– There is a feeling that theatre people, including gatekeepers like producers, might actually be getting more open-minded in defiance of Brexit. Maybe European-ness is actually becoming more sexy for the theatre set! And received ideas about the way we expect or want to see a country portrayed on stage may be increasingly challenged.

Non-exhaustive list of international-outlook theatre companies and organisations... This gives us hope... and who knows, some of them might be up for co-producing or showcasing your next show/translation/epic beat poem/mime circus.
I've added links where I can find them. There are some great resources/blogs on some of these sites too!

Global Voices
Stone Crabs
Echange Théâtre/Exchange Theatre (French)
Cross Channel (France/French specific)
Foreign Affairs
Out of the Wings (Spanish and Portugese speaking countires)
Legal Aliens
Ice and Fire (human rights focus)
Cevantes (Spanish Language theatre in London)
Casa (Latin American theatre festival)
Migration Matters
BE Festival
LIFT Festival
MIF Festival