Sarah-Jane Watkinson, 11 January 2016

Towards a consortium/network to support small scale venues programming more

European work


Sarah-Jane Watkinson, Sadie Newman, Anthony Lee, Stella Kann, Kirsten Burrows,

Deb Justice, Sarah Watton, Jolie Booth, Susan Swanton

This action session came out of the session on Sunday “How can we support British

venues and audiences take a risk on European theatre?”.

All venues are under pressure to maintain audiences and box office in a hard

economic climate and are therefore very risk averse. Many venues are reluctant to

programme European work, especially if it’s not in English on the grounds that it’s too

risky and there isn’t an audience. Issues around marketing a show in a foreign

language, dealing with dense, wordy marketing copy and different expectations from

companies not use to the idea of touring as in the UK and spending weeks on the


When companies are booked, as with other supposedly niche work, they are

increasingly expected to do more of the marketing themselves.

Following the discussion at the session, a suggestion for a consortium of friendly

venues that would support both touring companies and other venues.

Examples exist in other artforms or to support new/emerging artists eg Dance Network

or House that support small scale touring in the south east.

BE Festival – Best of BE tour offers a programme of three short pieces selected from

the festival, offering a low risk package to venues and which has begun to establish its

own touring circuit.

Nomadic Tendency of Fools – revisited the same cities over six years, each time

building an audience by treating the city as the venue, not the building itself with

associated activities around each location. The venue was used as a hub with

audience growing largely by word of mouth.

Making Tracks – world music consortium. Started as a small GforA project and is now

an NPO. Each consortium member commits to taking four tours a year produced by

Making Tracks. The shows are offered as a package for a fee, so additional costs of

travel, accommodation etc are dealt with by producer.

What sort of things would a consortium do?

- Develop strategies to remove element of risk eg offer shows as pay what you decide

- raise awareness of European work

- strengthen links between venues and companies

- share good practice/experiences

- share audience data

- marketing support including joint flyers etc

- venue twinning – eg visits from groups from other venues so that ambassadors can

try something before home venue takes the plunge

- curate a menu in the same way that rural touring networks do with their community


- facilitate putting together a season

- pool travel and accommodation costs

It would be useful to link with Audiences Europe – this huge consortium made up of

audience development agencies, companies and practitioners currently does not have

any representation from a strategic audience development organisation (except for

Audiences Northern Ireland) because of the void left by chances in the audience

development sector across the UK.

Sarah-Jane Watkinson



Comments: 1

Antonio Ferrara, 11 January 2016

Hi - I was at the Sunday session - glad to hear it's been taken up today. Let me know if I can help.