If you asked theatre makers who they’d most like their work to reach, the majority probably wouldn’t plump for the wealthiest, best-educated, least ethnically diverse 8% of the population that the Warwick Report identified as the main consumers of publicly subsidized theatre. And when great work meets a less exclusive demographic – as I experienced recently in Bordon when house brought the astonishing Grounded to The Phoenix Theatre and Arts Centre – the result can be electrifying, injecting the whole business of making and presenting contemporary theatre with a renewed sense of purpose.
This remaking of the connection between theatre makers, venues and, crucially, audiences, is what lies behind greenhouse’s emphasis on projects that are created in dialogue with a potential audience. It’s great to see this ambition increasingly reflected in the pitches that we receive. More exciting still is how this approach has infused many of these projects with a politic that feels as refreshing as it does urgent.
And so it is with our latest round of seed funded projects; 15 new ideas that have been selected through an open call, conversations with theatre makers and venues in the house network, and partnerships formed through our Pitch Up events (forums to help theatre makers and venues make new connections). Thanks to the generous support of Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Arts Council England, we have been able to invest over £70,000 across these projects, enabling new conversations to be opened between theatre makers and audiences in the South East.
Current projects include a verbatim play created with residents of the UK’s most deprived town, a new theatre company comprised of people who are long-term unemployed, and a project that creates a dialogue between homeless people and detained asylum seekers. There are projects that will be created with ageing swingers in Canterbury, South Asian communities in Gravesend, foster carers in Aldershot, activists and politicians in Havant, young children in Worthing, pleasure-seekers in Letchworth, Eastern European migrants in Margate and social housing residents in Chipping Norton. Because, it turns out, when you do ask them, these are the people that theatre makers want to reach.
All 15 projects to receive seed funding in 2015:
- Church with West End Centre and Quarterhouse: What You Need My Louise
- Rifco with The Woodville: Settling Ruby Kaur
- Chris Goode and Company with Old Fire Station and Music in Detention: Medium Insecure
- Encounter with Marlowe Studi0: Swingers
- Papatango with Quarry Theatre: New Theatre, New Writers, New Audiences
- Brighton Peoples Theatre with Brighton Dome: The 92% (working title)
- Luan Blake with Hat Factory and LV21: Machine Women
- Action Hero with West End Centre: Wrecking Ball
- Bootworks with Worthing Theatres: The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad
- Byron Vincent with Letchworth Arts Centre: The Happiness Equation
- UK Arts International with Theatre Royal Margate: Hannah and Hanna Revisited
- Up in Arms with Pound Arts, The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, and North Wall: The Flying Dutchman
- Dan Murphy with Lakeside Theatre: Jaywick
- OddManOut with Phoenix Theatre and Arts Centre: Chilli Sauce
- On the Button with West End Centre and The Theatre Chipping Norton: The Social Housing Project