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D&D Roadshow 2013 - BRIGHTON

Should I (we) be bothered with touring??

Judith Hibberd - 10 September 2013

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The question came from a genuine desire to know how other practitioners are dealing with touring, What models are others using? Can we do it differently? How are they making it work financially? Are they able to balance the hours spent setting up and managing a tour with the return? And as importantly for me, are producers able to ensure that all their practitioners are paid and treated properly?

In particular, are the younger generation of practitioners approaching touring differently and how does the live/streamed distribution work for them?

The group was unanimous and was pretty quick to answer the direct question with a resounding “yes” and were on the whole fairly upbeat about touring. There was a clear thought that without touring it wouldn't be worth making the work. That the whole point was that as many people as possible should see work once produced.

Whilst these comments could be seen as an obvious response to the question, I was surprised that there was little griping about the difficulties of touring and that there weren't examples of ways of distributing work that were new to me. Much of the discussion was quite pragmatic and reflective. In fact, I felt that I was being more negative/frustrated than the general mood from the artists, venue managers and producers assembled.

As often happens, the observations from the group were in the main things I knew already but things I needed to hear again. Maybe a reminder that often we know the realities of our business and that we can choose to make the work that we know is easier to sell and tour (eg small scale known work that is flexible and easy to transport) or if we choose to do larger scale new work with say over x5 performers on the road, then we have to use our ingenuity to persuade both venues and audiences that they should part with enough money to make it pay its way.

In no particular order, some of the observations were:

* that having a brand, a work that audiences know of, that could be taken out again and again, could be profitable (witness Stomp)

*that small, flexible (high quality ) work that was able to play for say a week, take a break, play for a couple of days, take a break, play again etc was eminently workable

* that The Old Market (amongst other venues) were active in looking at working in tandem with others possibly to enable block bookings/easier touring

* that many productions (particularly in London) play for 3 weeks or so and then finish - not touring outside the capital

*that it would be good if a work could have a long run to establish itself /gain word of mouth but in reality this was not practical outside of London and the large cities

* that many of the HOUSE (SE Touring initiative) venues state that what they want is classic theatre and new writing and yet the companies they support are largely experimental - quite a mis-match

* that there is a direct link between the guarantee a venue can offer and what audiences they think your show will bring in

* that there is money out there to support touring - it is not always easy to find and you have to be flexible and seek out alternative routes

* that touring is time consuming and difficult financially for larger work/ new work/ new companies in particular - and that this has been the case for a long time

In writing up these notes, I am aware that the observations made were very business-like and straight forward - which was helpful. If I had wanted a magic solution to mounting larger scale tours then it was not there - sometimes the message is use your knowledge of the business and get on with it or do something else!!!!

So a big thank you to those involved.
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