Mary Swan, 25 January 2014

My company, Proteus, moved into a lovely Edwardian ex-infant school last October.

We have a studio theatre space, a gallery, a cafe and some messy making space. We

are also a national touring company with relationships with venues and a staff team

used to ‘putting it together on a shoestring’.

We want to help theatre makers at all stages of their careers and of all shapes and

sizes make great work.

We don't have any money,

we know you don't either.

So the question is “How, apart from offering space for free (which we are committed to

doing - there, I've said it), can we support theatre makers?”

It was a great and lively discussion with a lot of people from a broad range of

backgrounds and experience. I have tried to capture as much as possible and did ask

everyone to write their e-mail address in my book so we can talk further!

Space is the biggest premium particularly for research and development of new work .

There was also some discussion around having space available for ad hoc periods of

time, and out of hours. We also touched on childcare and how we might look to fund a

creche or other childcare provision for families.

We are looking at having a scratch performance platform co-inciding with the

Basingstoke Festival in late June; this would be an opportunity for artists (perhaps en

route to Edinburgh) to scratch work with a couple of days of space and technical

support in front of an audience.

In terms of scratch we also discussed how many scratch platforms are closed to many

due to demand and that many artists see them instead as a platform where almost

finished work needs to be presented instead of truly developing work. The

environment where work has a right to fail without scuppering the chances of the

company or artists making future work has all but disappeared - because we are

outside of London this is more possible to establish.

However, we also talked about how long term relationships can be developed and the

potential for companies to grow through a relationship with Proteus and the networks

we have. We talked about the possibility of ‘remote mentoring’ - so the capacity to ask

a question, get advice or trouble shoot. Proteus are by no means setting themselves

up as experts - but we know people who are!

We talked about how the logistics of touring is much needed knowledge, technical

support, set design, the wonders of vans, health and safety, risk assesments etc

There was also a need for support around contracts and protecting interests where

theatre is made and there are no financially valuable contracts involved - where is the

ownership, how can individuals protect their interest particularly where their own

money is put into something but they get nothing out. Perhaps forum sessions with

ITC could create a model for this?

We talked about feedback - not just from audiences but if multiple residencies were

possible - from other artists and companies. This could develop into a network of

artists with a common link to their work being made at Proteus Creation Space, but

with the ability for them to share resources going forward.

Marketing and PR seems an issue for everyone - no matter how well resourced but

there could be the option of sharing investment into this area.

We also talked about inviting venue programmers to scratch performances (if the

company wanted) and then the longer term potential of supporting tour booking and

helping fulfill a touring producer role for a percentage of the fee.

We will look at producing a menu of options for companies, available through our

website, that we can develop that lists time and resources available. Most people

wanted flexibility so not to book a block of time but to be able to have half days or

even hours booked in.

In the space people wanted a sound system, basic lighting, access to bits and bobs of

props and costume, wifi, printing, mirrors, dance floor, green room, storage space,

daylight and little visual noise (almost all of which we have).

We also talked about an app or website where venues with space available (free or

not) can post details - particularly useful if last minute drop outs or cancellations

happen. This could extend to a system for venues to fill last minute holes in their

programmes too!

Thanks to all who came - if you missed it but want to talk more about space and a

beautiful relationship with Proteus then e-mail me:

[email protected] or tweet me @TheMarySwan


scratch performance, proteus, rehearsal space, Support, companies, support,

Producing, producing, Proteus, free space