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Feature: Call for Action – IdeasTap Inspires

Posted on 05 March 2014 by Billy Barrett

“We’ve built a site that manages calls for action,” says Amanda White, Strategic Partnerships Director for IdeasTap. The charity maintains a database of more than 135,000 people seeking opportunities in the creative industries, growing at a rate of 200 members per day. It’s become an invaluable resource for organisations to tap into, simplifying and water-tightening application processes that would otherwise take far more time and people-power. Recently awarded a £250,000 Exceptional Award from Arts Council England, the charity is now in “really, really early days” of unveiling IdeasTap Inspires, a national training programme for young people. Is this its largest co-ordinated project yet? “Oh, we’re not fazed by numbers,” White insists. “A lot of what we do is big-number activities, like NYT auditions and 24 Hour Plays. But yes, it is.”

IdeasTap Inspires will engage around 5,000 people in free workshops, masterclasses, training events and online resources across several artistic disciplines. The partner organisations delivering these ‘spas’, White says, “are probably the organisations where you go, ‘oh my god, I’d love to work with them’,” including Complicite, the RSC and longtime IdeasTap collaborators Hightide. “We want to give young people a chance to have a money-can’t-buy experience,” says White. “Tell them what they can’t learn in college and help them build resilience, feel clearer and more confident about where they want to work.’

Partner organisations in the programme are as nationally scattered as Ideastap’s members; spas will also be running at the Royal Exchange Manchester, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Bristol Old Vic. Poppy Keeling, co-ordinator of Complicite’s Creative Learning Programme, was drawn to the collaboration for “a few reasons – the main one being that IdeasTap has such a huge membership and such fantastic nationwide reach that partnering with them means we can meet people with different backgrounds from across the country, people we might not otherwise get to work with.”

Spas will give applicants the opportunity to mirror companies’ practice. “What Complicite is looking for is people interested in making their own work,” White explains. “I’d say that’s very different from what the RSC is looking for, which is people that might be interesting for them to have in their shows.” Keeling elaborates: “The overall aim is to put together a dynamic young company including writer, director, designers and performers, who will work together with Complicite Associates to create a scratch show.”

The company “often gets to work with young performers, directors or designers,” Keeling says, “but we very rarely get the chance to work with them all together in a collaborative setting. This programme – which will see theatre-makers from across disciplines working together – feels really true to the spirit of Complicite’s work.” These spas, White explains, “go from a mass call-out, to a large number of people getting workshops, through to a much smaller group having a much deeper engagement, working with Complicite for two weeks. The RSC one will be a weekend at Stratford with a similar model.”

Meanwhile, Hightide is offering the opportunity for aspiring marketers and designers to “develop their craft and careers” at the company’s annual new writing festival in Halesworth in April. Artistic Director Steven Atkinson is putting together a team to produce Rising Tides, a series of climate change-themed plays debuting at the festival. “It’s an opportunity to have creative freedom,” says Atkinson. “They’re working as professionals but in a safe environment. New plays are always kind of risky because you don’t know if they’re going to be any good and can sometimes be difficult to produce, but in a well-established festival that has all of that mentoring and support around it, they’ll learn how to put a show on and have the opportunity to do it how they want to.”

Funding for the programme comes at a time when public finance is scarce and competition fierce. Education in this climate, White says delicately, can be “tricky. It’s often the area that you can raise money for out of everything in an arts organisation, however [departments] are always on the frontline, always under-served, I think.” I ask Keeling whether she feels under fire. “On the whole I think the education, outreach, access – whatever you choose to call it – sector is thriving.” In austerity, she suggests, “the arguments for community arts work, or arts education work, seem to speak louder to funders. This isn’t definitely something I think is a good thing – it comes with its own dangers and needs to be treated carefully – but it can be a bonus. Of course, as the field gets squeezed there are fewer opportunities for everything, so the pressure is definitely still there.” Under this pressure, Atkinson feels a heavy responsibility with Hightide, of “balancing artistic development with also actually putting shows on and making sure that you’re touring them and that audiences are seeing them.”

Spas are intended to provide young people with more than just a one-off experience. “I hope they’ll come out with a better sense of how to pursue their chosen path, and with new skills,” Keeling says. Or “they could give people a quicker idea that actually this isn’t for them,” considers White. “Like, if you go into a workshop and you’re asked to make a noise like an animal and crouch on all fours, and you think Christ almighty, I didn’t like that.” They’re also an opportunity to build lasting relationships with companies and practitioners. “I hope we’ll put together a company that makes a show so good we just have to tour it,” says Keeling. “But that’s up to the participants, I guess!”

More information about the Ideas Tap Inspires programme can be found on Ideas Tap’s website

Billy Barrett

Billy Barrett

Billy currently studies English and Theatre at Warwick University. Between reviewing and reading for his course, Billy writes, directs and acts in theatre. He tries to see everything in London, Warwick and beyond!

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News: A Younger Theatre is awarded a Grant for the Arts for Incoming Festival

Posted on 16 December 2013 by A Younger Theatre

Incoming Festival

We’re proud to announce A Younger Theatre has been awarded Grants for the Arts funding from Arts Council England to support Incoming Festival, which we are co-curating festival with New Diorama Theatre. Grants for the Arts is the second source of funding we have secured for Incoming this month, after being awarded a grant from the Kevin Spacey Foundation, too.

The support from both Arts Council England and the Kevin Spacey Foundation will allow us to offer 15 emerging companies across across the UK the opportunity to take part within Incoming Festival. From the beginnings of Incoming Festival, emerging as an idea in early 2013, we have sought to present a professional and supportive festival with our partner, New Diorama Theatre. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to offer the companies this support, and audiences can look forward to a week of engaging and inspiring work.

Grants for the Arts funding will allow us to:
- Pay industry fees for participating companies
- Offer bursaries for four participating companies to develop their work beyond the festival
- Run a series of workshops led by professional theatre companies and practitioners for theatre-makers, audiences and critics
- Host a series of discussions with guest speakers from the theatre industry throughout the festival
- Effectively market Incoming, including a designated festival website and brochure

The Kevin Spacey Foundation’s grant will allow us to:
- Offer mentoring and guidance for the participating companies
- Develop a paid Festival Assistant role for an arts graduate

We’d like to thank Deborah Williams at Arts Council England for her wise words, and David Byrne and Jemima Lee at New Diorama Theatre for their continued assistance as we develop Incoming.

We’ll be announcing the line-up of the companies in the festival in January 2014.

Incoming runs from 19 – 25 May 2014

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Guest blog: I’ll show you mine… Owen Calvert-Lyons

Posted on 03 December 2013 by A Younger Theatre

The Point

After reading some of the many blogs by Bryony Kimmings, Amelia Bird, Andy Field et al, I felt compelled to offer my venue’s perspective.

I am the Artistic Director of The Point theatre – a mid-scale venue (300 seats) in Eastleigh, Hampshire, programming contemporary dance and theatre. Last year, the venue cost £696,000 to operate.

Most of the time, I offer companies a 70/30 split (in their favour). So, if I sell all 300 seats at our standard ticket price of £12 then the company makes £2,520 and the venue makes £1,080. But, for many shows, companies prefer to use a ‘flat-floor’ configuration, lowering capacity to 264. Eastleigh is not a particularly affluent town, so we sell a large amount of concession tickets at £10, bringing the average ticket yield down to £11. So, based on these figures, if we sell out, then the company gets £2,032 and the venue takes £871. But let’s face it, as much as we would all love our work to sell out, the reality is that this happens less often than we would like, especially as we prioritise the development of risk-taking new work. So, let’s say I sell 150 tickets. The company takes £1,155 and the venue takes £495. From this figure, I have to pay the marketing team who have worked tirelessly to promote the show, the front of house team who look after our audiences, the technical team who are helping to operate the show, the box office team who sold the tickets, the operations team who keep our venue functioning and the management team to oversee all of this, not to mention a truly eye-watering electricity bill (£31,000 last year). The result of this, sadly, is that staff working in venues don’t get paid as much as they should for their skills and expertise either.

Theatres are expensive buildings to run. So, why bother? With the increasing popularity of site-specific/immersive/pop-up/outdoor work, maybe we should stop paying for bricks and mortar and concentrate our money on artists.

But my venue is developing the next generation of artists. We have five youth theatre groups and 15 dance groups every week. With salaried staff as opposed to project fees, our creative learning team can work year-round, working with 30,000 people to make art. We also run a paid internship scheme; a centre for advanced dance training and a boys’ dance academy, all focused upon nurturing young artists.

Amelia, I completely understand your frustrations at Artist Development programmes and your plea to just be paid properly for your art, but I don’t believe that these two things are mutually exclusive. We provide eight Associate Companies with free office space as well as rehearsal space, year round. We help all of our associates (whether mid-career or emerging) with support to write funding bids. Every one of our associates has achieved G4A funding in the past two years. Through this model, we are supporting artists so that they are better able to raise the money necessary to make their art and better able to negotiate with venues to get paid properly for their work.

We support the development of new work. We encourage experimentation and risk-taking, often supporting companies’ research and development processes. There is far less financial return for this work, as not all of these shows in development will make it into production in order for us to see a return on this investment. The Point is not regularly funded by Arts Council England, though we do receive public subsidy through our local authority (Eastleigh Borough Council) which makes all of this possible.

There is a danger that these debates polarise venues and artists, when the truth is that we are all working for the same thing: we all want to make and to present great art. The reality is that we work in an art form that is heavily reliant upon public subsidy. It is painfully apparent that there will be less government subsidy (in all its many forms) available over the coming two years. So, how do we begin to bridge this gap to ensure that artists are paid for their work, venues are able to keep their doors open and, most importantly, that audiences continue to be able to enjoy great art?

Well, if neither artists nor venues are earning enough money, then basic economics tells us that we are either not selling enough of it or we are selling it too cheaply. Perhaps we need to charge more for tickets? But then how do we make sure that our work is accessible to everyone? Perhaps we need to get rid of tickets all together and find a new way to allow audiences to pay for what they enjoy in an informed manner, which directly relates to what the production cost to put on?

I agree with Andy that greater transparency would be a good place to start. Artists, venues and funders being more open with one another about what things cost can only be a good thing. But without audiences being part of this conversation, we are simply preaching to the converted.

Owen Calvert-Lyons is the Artistic Director of The Point, Eastleigh. 

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Guest blog: I’ll show you mine… Amelia Bird

Posted on 29 November 2013 by A Younger Theatre

Gomito Roost - IMG_0117-2

I have been an independent, touring theatre artist for 11 years.

I am about to start up a venue.

There are three budgets for the venue sat in front of me.

I need to choose one.

Budget 1 is based on a box office split model. It offers visiting companies 50% of ticket sales to perform in the venue. The venue itself is a moveable, pop-up kind of thing which travels in a big van so it will also be able to transport the visiting company’s set for them. I would like to pool publicity so the visiting company doesn’t need to print flyers or posters and the venue will also provide technicians. All a visiting company needs to do is to arrange transport and accommodation for their people and perform four times per week. Sounds like a good deal no?

Well actually no. Because the point of this venue is to be as friendly and welcoming to audiences as possible, so ticket prices have to be reasonable, (£10/£5 to start). At that price, even if we sold 100% of tickets a visiting company could not afford to cover their costs and pay performers at Equity minimum rates. In fact a one man show would have to sell 80% of tickets every day just to cover their costs and pay the performer legal MINIMUM WAGE. So if I am offering this deal I am saying “I expect you to find more funding” or “I expect that you will not pay people even the minimum industry standards and possibly not the even the legal minimum wage” or “I expect you to walk to each tour location and sleep in a cardboard box”.

Budget 2 is based on offering a guaranteed fee to visiting companies, based on what I’ve been typically offered by studio-sized venues for alternative theatre shows in recent years. It still includes a shared van, shared publicity and technicians, which is by no means standard in the industry.

Things are looking up for visiting companies in this model. If you have no more than 2.8 performers you can cover your costs and pay Equity rates. Huzzah. So with this deal I’m saying “I believe in minimum wage”, “small is beautiful… but if you could find some more funding yourself that would be great” or “if there are three of you, one of you is going to need to sleep in your car”.

Budget 3 includes a pot of money to pay what it will actually cost the visiting companies to stage the shows. It has enough in it for 12 performers for a month in a variety of configurations (for income and programming to make sense I am thinking of four shows with casts of 5/4/2/1). Bear in mind that the venue is making no contribution to the creation of the show, or any royalties or running costs of the company; this is just ‘on the day’ costs to break even, not make a profit.

Budget 3 for a month is £39,000 larger than Budget 1.

Coming from a fringe mentality, it sends me into a panic every time I look at it. I’m really not sure I’m going to be able to find the finance to get the project off the ground, let alone whack in £39,000. In the current climate of cuts, £39,000 per month seems like a lot. It’s probably not a lot for a venue. Or is it? It looks like a lot to me. What can I cut? I’m also paying myself Equity minimum, maybe I can just do it for half -wage. Can I scrimp on publicity? Can I get volunteers to take up some of the venue positions? Can I do less? Can I be smaller?

Looking around it seems like no one else is worrying about how artists cover their costs, so why should I bother? I’ve been on the other side and I worked it out. I still do work for free and I’ve asked collaborators to do stuff for free. When my company was more established, I got Arts Council funding to make sure projects and tours were paid. Yes I administered that company and those applications for free, and I got annoyed because the application turnaround time doesn’t actually match up with when venues are booking, but screw it, let’s do budget 1, it’s still a good deal comparatively; let the artists work it out themselves. Yep definitely budget 1. Or 2. That seems like a good compromise. Yes definitely 2. That’s what other venues are doing. 2.

Ah crap.

I really can’t settle it with my conscience. I know the current mentality is unfair, I know it makes theatre poorer, less diverse, more hurriedly made and just generally not as good as it could be. Why, if I’m starting a venue from scratch should I model it on the system which already exists? So I will be working with budget 3, though it’s scarily large to me. All the Arts Council guidance tells you to pay people properly, so I will. Not just ‘my’ people at the venue, but also visiting independent artists, because it isn’t fair to turn a blind eye to the fact that they are often working for illegally low wages.

I am looking for funding from a variety of sources for this venue, Arts Council England, Local Authorities, Trusts, Commercial Sponsors and ticket income. I might not manage to raise it in time, in which case I will have to give it more time, or do fewer shows, or look again at my costs. There is very little fat to be cut, but it can’t be from artists. My mind is set. Please venues, if you care about quality, about artist development, if you have ever bought a Fair Trade banana in your life, look again at the fees you pay independents and work out what they must be paying themselves.

I really should end this blog here, it’s far too long, but I would hate to be accused of venue-bashing and not offering any solutions. I know that established venues have core running costs which this pop-up theatre will not, I know that they are held to paying for certain things by funding agreements and the way they have been set up historically, but I have one suggestion for an area which they could think about cutting costs on. (Deep breath)

Artist Development

I know, I am a terrible, treacherous artist, but having ‘benefitted’ from a number of these schemes I feel I can give an informed opinion. I think we can do without venue-led, top-down artist development schemes. I think we could spend less on Creative Producers and Artist Development Officers, move them over to audience development or marketing, somewhere where they will bring in an income to pay properly for shows. Because paying artists properly is the number one best way to help them develop. Please venues, recognise that offering £1,000 to make a new show is not useful (you know it costs more than that), please don’t worry about offering a formalised programme of mentoring and advice. Feel free to take that whole strand of your work out of your business plan, simplify your aims and don’t raise funding for it. I know it might feel like you are letting artists down, but let me level with you: we’re not as haphazard as we look. If we are encouraged to look after our own R & D processes, rather than filtering them through you, we will be OK.

Artist development will still happen, because do you know who is quite good at developing artists? Artists. We’re self-motivated people in the main, we want to improve, we invite outside eyes into our rehearsals, we’re prepared to pay to train, to go to workshops and masterclasses, we search out mentors, we often pester our elders for coffee and free advice (I do this a lot, thank you elders it means the world). We arrange artist play dates and meet ups and skill sharings and music jams. We share advice on starting companies, on writing funding applications, on marketing, on cheap rehearsal spaces. And if we are paid fairly for our work we will spend even more time doing these things and less working in call centres or fretting about crowdfunding our latest tour.

At the moment we’re doubling up and it’s bad value for money. Venues are being funded for artist development, but because their schemes don’t actually cover artists costs (or necessarily fit what we want to do), independent artists and companies are also applying for research and development money. Venues are being funded to put on new, risky work, but because the fees offered to visiting artists and companies don’t cover costs the artists are also applying for touring support. It doesn’t make sense and we are sending in twice as many applications as necessary to Arts Council England which has recently had to greatly reduce its staff.

Alright, too many words now. Let’s all think it through and do some sums before the next NPO round. Artists and independent companies sort out the ‘product’ and venues pay for it properly. I’ve made it sound simple, I know it isn’t. It feels ridiculous to choose budget 3 over budget 1 when money is tight, but as I like to shout at the politicians on the TV “you can’t balance a budget JUST by cutting costs. Think about the future. Think about growth. Think about innovation. Think about a fairer world.”

Amelia Bird is the outgoing Artistic Director of Gomito Productions and about to be the Artistic Director of The Tearaway Theatre (if she can find the money to pay everyone properly).





A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

More Posts - Website

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