New models for regional theatre

Convener(s): Matthew Austin

Participants: Lots and lots – oh dear, I forgot to record who was there… Lyn Gardner, Jonathan Holloway, Ric Watts, Anne Tipton, Marcus Romer, Sheridan Humphreys, Ed Simpson people from the following: London Bubble, please do add your names below…

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

These are just some notes jotted down, a kind of record of the discussion with some suggestions of ways forward and successful models.  Will try to keep it brief.

Should regional theatre be a showcase for regional talent and/or a vessel for touring/receiving work?

Could buildings be run by committee, various companies, multiple artistic directors? 

Do we need buildings at all?

Small/mid-scale touring companies need buildings to tour to.

Buildings have been encouraged and funded by ACE to co-produce but have ended up co-producing with each other rather than with theatre companies. Example of Plymouth Drum as a successful model of co-producing with companies rather than buildings – great deal of work touring around the UK.

Q: Is there a need for regional theatre?

Q: Who is it for and why do we need it?

We need to build new audiences and look after our regular attenders

Q: Should we be giving audiences what they want or what we think they want?

Much discussion about Bristol being in a state of flux.

Bristol Old Vic’s policy of radical classicism and programming decisions under previous artistic directors was seen to be successful nationally, but locals were disgruntled.  It didn’t speak to them.

Other activity in the city was ‘hidden’ by Bristol Old Vic, which swallowed much of the funding and press.

Should regional theatre care about national reputation?  Can theatres outside of London just get on with it and produce good work for local communities?  Discussion that this could ghetto-ise regions and if funding became ring-fenced to regional theatres exclusively the quality drops as there is no exposure to high-quality national touring work.

Discussion about education departments and TIE taking work into the community.

Provocation: should large theatres in regional cities and towns be bull-dozed in favour of supporting other non-building based work?

Answer: No.  It needs to be at the centre of cultural life, looking outwards and involving everyone rather than sitting in an ivory tower.

Good models:  National Theatre of Scotland (no building), mac in Birmingham, New Wolsey, Ipswich (lots of work with local companies), Contact in Manchester (deeply imbedded in the local community and with a very young audience),

Are our perceptions of regionality, locality out-dated.  Has the internet changed our idea of being ‘local’?

We need a FLOTILLA of activity, a collaborative, sharing and non-competitive group of artists, companies and buildings moving forward together. 

Theatre is about PEOPLE not BUILDINGS, it’s about RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN PEOPLE. It’s social. You have to be there.

And we need more fun!