Sarah Booth, 10 January 2016


Present: Alice Massey, Claire Saddleton, Alex, Rachel Briscoe, Alan Dix, Madeline,

Jonathan, Phelim, Nick, Jo Crowley, Sophie Gill Ellie Griffiths, Kirsten Shirling, Emma


(others floated in and out of the conversation)

I called this session as a Designer living in London and suffering burnout from the

amount of work needed to meet the costs of living and thinking about re-locating. In

the past year made lots of shows outside of London, however most of the creatives on

the projects were London based and many meetings/ rehearsals for those projects

happened in London, begging the question, is it possible to sustain a freelance career

in theatre outside of London?

There was a very rich and lively conversation that went a bit like this (my notes weren't

great so apologies for any mis-quotes)-

The majority of the people in the session at the start were London based. One writer

based in Leeds had moved from London and never looked back. She's created strong

links with with BBC and found it a really easy base to get to London and Edinburgh.

One gave an example of a small regional company nominated for an award against

many other London based companies found there was an air of snobbery about their

nomination, being regarded as ‘regional theatre’. This sparked a discussion about

excellence and people's attitudes to the quality of work made around the country and

whether these attitudes have any foundation.

One member of the group with a company based in London for the past 10 years is

about to move her company to Newcastle. Motivation for the move was cited as

financial and spending much of the past 10 years just trying to keep above water,

therefore not embodying the company's own ethos of mindfulness. Criteria given for

choosing a place to re-locate were- water quality, likelihood of voting Tory and

proximity to Scotland (In case of a Union break-up and they close the borders, she'd

like a chance of getting in!)

Out of this came a discussion about how your location can affect/ change the kind of

work you make. We discussed many regions having a very strong sense of landscape

and identity, whereas London as a whole feels more transient. However particular

areas with strong communities such as Tooting were mentioned in this debate.

One member of the group based in Cardiff (previously London) said she had found it

much easier as a small fish to meet ‘big fishes’ outside of London. She had also found

a greater level of people/ organisations willing to support her as an individual artist.

However she did cite Train prices as a very disabling factor to her work as she does

have to get to London sometimes and the train fare are prohibitively expensive.

There were a few examples of people who had/ were about to embark on spending a

year on the road building relationships and developing their practices with a greater

sphere of influences. For the person about to go on this trip she had reservations

about not being ‘an established artist’ and whether this would make it more difficult.

The conversation veered towards audience development once you do decide to

re-locate, how do you find an audience/ appetite for your work? Successful examples-

Mark Bruce, Merlin Theatre in Frome, Somerset - Annie Rigby, Clore, Newcastle.

Difficulties cited in working regionally were getting long enough runs in order to fully

develop/ explore the work where it is commonplace to have 3/4 week runs in London

you may only get 1 week Regionally. When trying to find a theatre scene/ create one

we discussed the importance of having the council's interest positive examples given

were Stockton/ Hull, negative- Portsmouth.

One writer had just re-located to Hereford and was finding that there was little to no

theatre networks in the area. Theatre Bristol was cited as a successful network which

had created such a thriving community of artists that they are looking to expand into

other areas.

We talked about the necessity (or not) of a full time dedicated building in order to

‘create an art’s scene'. A lot of people felt that creating work in garages/ shops/

churches/ libraries/ the street was just as successful in finding new audiences as being

in a dedicated building. A producer told us she gave audiences keepsakes with strong

branding, so that audiences know where/ how to find you again if you're not in a

dedicated building.

There was a lot of discussion about how we serve the community best. For example if

the Theatre Royal Plymouth are rehearsing their new show in London are they missing

out in engaging the local audiences in the process of making the show/ cultivating

audiences? If the majority of your actors are already London based and you save

money on accommodation/ per diems which could be spent elsewhere (maternity pay/

facilities/ staff) is that better? Also Actors being able to audition for another roles whilst

rehearsing is important and more difficult when rehearsing outside of London. One

director said she'd purposefully stopped holding auditions in London and had be

successful in finding a roster of local actors.

I will leave you with my favourite quote from the discussion-

Folkestone - the new Hastings