Last weekend saw the premiere of The Site by Frances Bushe; a debut for the writer and my second outing as a producer. The show was another collaborative effort of the Heat&Light 18-25 group performed as part of The Accidental Festival at the Roundhouse and directed by Thomas Hescott. The crowd on Sunday went wild. I don’t think I have ever heard an audience laugh quite so loud (except during pantomime). People genuinely appeared to love the main show and the readings that I’d organised went down very well, if I do say so myself.
But sadly The Site also marked the end of the Heat&Light 18-25 group – another victim of funding cuts. Although opportunities for young writers and directors will still be a part of Hampstead Theatre’s programme, I can’t help but feel a little sad for the rest of us, and in particular for aspiring producers. Heat&Light was one of the only young, theatre initiatives to incorporate a producing role into its programme and I am hard pushed to think of any that will take its place.
I must state here that I do realise being under 26 allows you to benefit from a multitude of arts initiatives. I have heard many times from my seniors that there wasn’t anything like that for them when they were my age. I always feel like reminding them that they benefited from university grants and degrees leading to jobs, but that would only bring about the “exams were harder in my day” argument! However, as we are reminded weekly by the media that we are going to be ones who suffer longer working lives and disappearing state pensions, surely we must make the most of it will we can?
At a time when funding has been reduced surely young, entrepreneurial producers are the key to supporting theatre through a time of greater financial independence. They could provide not just a financial safety net but also, as Lyn Gardner wrote in her theatre blog in 2008, the “spark that brings particular artists together and actually initiates projects”. You could argue that under 26 initiatives are not the right place for encouraging such entrepreneurial spirit. Often 18-25 groups create work that has been heavily supported by older professionals, which, despite providing invaluable mentoring can, perhaps, rein in the creative spirit of its members.
But creative control aside, being involved in projects and being provided with the funding to do so can’t be a bad thing for any aspiring producer. With Heat&Light I have been lucky that my role has come with responsibility, for example creating copy and marketing materials, organising readings and being one of the main contacts for The Accidental Festival made my job very hands on. And most importantly I have met many actors, directors and writers that I hope to work with again. Future collaborations are on the horizon and I now feel ready to stand on my own two feet as a producer. But hopefully there will be a few more producing initiatives for the under 26 group to come, because I’ve still got a few years left.
Image by Pippa Howie