Thoughts from Pitch Up

Collaboration is at the heart of what greenhouse, house’s sister project, is all about. Running over three years, the initiative was set up to nurture relationships between contemporary theatre-makers and venues, supporting the creation of new work across the South East and East of England. So it seems fitting that Pitch Up, greenhouse’s one-day event at Shoreditch Town Hall last week, was also aimed squarely at building new collaborations.

The format of the day was indicated in its title: theatre-makers and venues were invited to pitch their ideas and ambitions to an audience of artists, producers and programmers. 16 formal pitches of 15 minutes each were spread out across the day, with breaks built in to encourage networking and conversations. Just from a glance around, it was clear that many people who were not pitching themselves were also taking advantage of the event, and in each of the gaps between pitches the room was buzzing with conversation.

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There’s always something slightly uncomfortable about a set-up in which theatres and makers are essentially selling their wares, but Pitch Up sought to banish that discomfort as much as possible with an emphasis on conversation rather than promotion. The approaches to the pitching process were therefore varied, ranging from polished proposals to more off-the-cuff presentations. Some had relatively clear visions in mind; others were simply issuing an invitation. And then there were those who got creative with their pitches, be it with live music or edible bribes (food turned out to be a running theme).

The projects themselves also differed hugely from one pitch to the next. There was everything from musicals to comedy, adaptations to installations. Often the most interesting and successful pitches were those which fully engaged with the purpose of the day and offered ways for partners to be actively involved in the process of making the proposed piece of theatre. The Happiness Equation, for example, is asking to work with local communities on the researching of the show as well as support in making and touring it, while Light the Fuse and Scribbled Thought are searching for extra stories from around the country to insert into their bus stop set show Your Stop.

Some of the most fascinating pitches, however, came not from theatre-makers but from venues. At a time when everyone in the theatre community is all too aware of the pinch on funding and resources, it’s cheering to see that there are venues who are still looking to actively support artists in the creation of new work. These venues also recognised the benefits of collaboration in a difficult climate, strategically seeing ways in which buildings and theatre-makers can work together to attract funding and make the most of their pooled resources.

But it’s not just about cash, rehearsal space or practical support. One of the most popular presentations of the day (perhaps apart from the one doling out free ice-cream) was made by Rob Allerton from the Phoenix Theatre & Arts Centre in Bordon. With a brief but jam-packed powerpoint presentation, Rob gave everyone a vivid feel for the town where he works before extending an invitation to bold, risk-taking artists to help the Phoenix explore the area’s identity. It was a pitch spilling over with inspiration and one which spoke powerfully to the way in which art helps us to articulate a sense of space. And most importantly, it was an offer to form a genuine, mutually beneficial partnership, which is what greenhouse – and Pitch Up – is all about.

Written by Catherine Love, house associate.