Next Steps: Planning, Networking and Funding!

TLDR: We’ve established that HiH will be a producing venue offering 2 week, 1 week and short/experimental runs. We’ll have an open door policy, but high standards for programming our longer runs. We’ll be community focussed and led. We’re applying for Arts Council funding to do some audience research, and meeting with Sheffield Theatres to talk about it all!

It’s been ages since I last updated this blog – life and work have been hectic, and it somehow got pushed down the priority list. So this might be quite a long update!

Planning

After the Theatres Trust conference, and having thought about what a theatre should be, and who it should be aimed at, I met up with Tim Norwood, my partner in crime, and future Artistic Director of HiH (we hope). We had a massive brainstorming session where we talked about what the theatre should look like, and what we wanted to do in it. This included:

What Will Be On?

  • Our programming ethos will be: high standards, not necessarily political, and will actively work with other local venues to ensure we don’t clash
  • That we will have an open door policy for anyone to propose a show, and that where possible we will try to make it happen (eg in the free week every month or in a scratch night)
  • That we will be a producing house! And that our productions will try to be reactive to current events, but also explore revivals and Shakespeare. These will have to be grant based, but we will aim for 4-6 per year
  • That an average month would have a 2 week run of a “main show”, a 1 week run of a “fringe show” (or something experimental), and 1 week free for smaller slots/shows/whatever

What Matters To Us?

  • That this is not a project, it’s permanent and we need to not compromise on this
  • The importance of focussing on the local community and their wants/needs
  • Wanting to get new audiences in, including people who currently don’t go to the theatre
  • That diversity and access are very important to us, and we will be actively trying to increase diversity in audiences and artists at all times

How Will It Work?

  • Rehearsal space could be available even when shows are on, provided shows set/costumes weren’t touched
  • We could offer a 70/30 split, but not better, to be financially viable
  • That FEEDBACK is really important, but in different ways to different people
    • As a venue, we want measurable feedback from audiences, and general feedback from artists
    • Artists may have their own feedback ideas, and will want a general overview of audience opinions
  • That we will need to balance market forces vs subsidies (if we can get any!)

We also did a picture! Of what our ideal venue might look like. The quality is terrible, but here’s a quick look – includes feedback boxes, cafe/bar, an office with our monthly budgets on the wall, and a graffiti/mural wall!

theatre

Funding

Having done all that thinking, we realised our next step needed to be a Research period. We want to look at current experiences in Sheffield, for a few key audience groups, which we selected either because they have high participation rates (Students, Older People), or typically lower participation rates (Working Class Men, Muslims, New Mothers). We want to ask them about their experience of theatre in the past, what makes them go now, and/or what barriers exist to stop them going.

We’ve reached out to a lot of people – local libraries to host talks/feedback sessions after the research is completed, local community groups to arrange interviews and surveys, and local arts groups (including with the Council) to talk about the future for Hope in Hell. We’ve also got a meeting booked in with Sheffield Theatres to talk about what support they could offer, and will hopefully get one sorted with Theatre Deli too!

Once we have everything lined up, we’ll be writing an Arts Council Grants For The Arts funding bid, for about £8000, to fund 3 months of training, research and write-up. There’ll be some crowdfunding needed, so watch this space!

Networking

It’s very important to make connections to make this work, both within theatre and in Sheffield in general. It’s been hard to do that whilst living in London, but sending out the emails to community groups and organisations in the past fortnight has been good. It’s also been terrifying to start to commit to this without any confirmation of funding, but it needs to happen!

This weekend is Devoted and Disgruntled, the conference which inspired me last year to actually make this dream a reality. So who knows what new ideas or challenges I’ll have to report next week!

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