How do small organisations get big organisations to play with them? 

Convener(s): Mark Stevenson (Teatro Vivo)

Participants: Jenny Harris, Louise mai Newbury, Kas Darley, Deirdre Mclaughlin, Tanja, matt, Monica, Derek, Kate Hall, Lyn Gardner, John, Julia Sandiford, Dan, Ben, Matt Rogers, Alan Sharpington, Sam Worboys, Simon, Sian Rees, Poppy, MNKelly, and lots of others

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

This question arose out of finding ways into and working in collaboration larger companies.

  • Don’t always just aim at the really big organisations. Look to those just a little above your level, and ask for smaller things to begin with: use of equipment, space, email lists.
  • If you go in just asking for a huge monetary collaboration from Day 1 then it is unlikely to happen.
  • Think of things that the larger organisation may see as low value to them (a resource they take for granted or has little cost implications)
  • Some companies found it difficult getting people to see work and then when they did get a relationship it was with individuals and when there were staff changes in the larger organisations then the whole relationship became problematic.
  • In the current funding climate large organisations will be needing to and wanting to collaborate with smaller organisations.
  • The onus is on the smaller companies to make those big organisations feel guilty and make them work with us! The big organisations are so well funded that they should be helping – BUT do think about what you can get from them that isn’t just monetary.
  • NT and Old Vic, etc should be taking on small companies to nurture (like the NT did with Shunt)
  • Whilst there is the uncertainty about NPO funding everyone is talking about collaboration so now is the moment to be approaching large organisations.
  • As artists we should look at how we approach organisations. They aren’t just ‘venues’ to host our work – it’s the relationship that you build up. Rather than looking for the space. What can you offer them?
  • Large organisations have a massive resource of experienced people – Going and asking for advice is the best way to start a relationship. But be quite direct about what you want advice about.
  • Rule of 3 was discussed – some people advocating if you hadn’t had a response from an organisation after three goes then move on (although Jenny said that when she received things sometimes it took a bit longer)
  • Don’t just base your relationship on feeling a debt of gratitude. It’s a relationship. You don’t need to compromise. If a company takes you on they want you for what it is you do.
  • It was suggested that 3 minute videos or other documentation of work is just as useful – one programmer saying she generally used youtube to programme nowadays
  • RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. Find out about the people you want to contact – what they are interested in – what kind of theatre the tend to work on. Find the right person and the right company for you and your work
  • Smaller venues offer spaces and creative hubs. If you are linked to a small venue it’ll help in your funding applications, as it will also help the larger organisations to get funding if they are helping you.
  • Smaller venues often need quality work but don’t have the budget to create it. They need companies to provide that and lead with work.
  • Derek from 503 talked about how they needed companies who could provide a couple of shows a year, so that they could help develop audiences.
  • Are there things you can do that won’t cost the larger organisation.
  • Lyn gardener was surprised how passive we all are. Why are we all so cowed by the larger companies. Get their attention – if you aren’t getting a response – go and perform a 3 minute guerrilla show in the stairwell of their theatre, people will know who you are then!
  • Lyn also talked about seeing things around festivals. She went to BAC One-on-One festival and saw lots of non-official shows happening around the building.
  • BUT always make sure it is still quality work you are showing.
  • We assume there is a model of growth in theatre that means moving up through to large buildings, maybe that’s not right for your company.
  • People talked about approaching other companies (for instance IKEA who supplied £3500 worth of furniture for a site-specific set).
  • We need a culture when those above mentor and help those below. That means that even if you’re on your second show you should be haelping the people who are trying to get their first on.
  • Producers said that people don’t come and ask them about stuff. Just call – it’s the start of a relationship.
  • People found that in the regions it was easier to build relationships with other organisations. It was suggested that companies move out of London to access this.
  • People found that being in dialogue with younger companies asking questions is brilliant and helps you define how you do things yourself.
  • If there is something that is missing that you need then become it yourself, as a younger company probably need it too.
  • Gather round people just above you and just below you and rise up like a ring of fire.
  • Improbable run a mentoring fete once a year and look to help people – it makes them stronger as an organisation ([email protected] – if you want advice)
  • Erica from Northern stage talked about the fact they don’t have closed doors – they want people to come and talk to them. They have free space and a yearly award – but very few companies from outside the North east apply for these
  • Find out what makes the organisation you want to approach tick – if you can’t find out – go and ask them.
  • Everyone started somewhere. They are all approachable – just don’t be scared.
  • Ask people who you should be talking to if you don’t know