Category Archives: Blog

Callout: POC For Paid Blogpost

Following on from my post about mental health and equality, I’d like to invite a guest blogger to create a post about their experience of racism and/or blackness in theatre in the UK. I am looking for a woman of colour, or a non-binary/genderqueer person of colour, as their voices are often unheard. I can pay £75 for the post, and will include any links or self-promotions that the creator wants.

More Details

I have no fixed idea of what this should look like – it could be an image collage, a video, a traditional blog post etc – except that the aim is to amplify the voices of black people in theatre. I would like you to create whatever comes to your mind when you think of racism and/or blackness in theatre in the UK.

I have no fixed deadline for this, but would like it to be published in the next 3-4 weeks if possible.

I would like to support disabled people to apply and create – if you have any support needs for this please let me know.

This may lead to more guest blogs in the future, but my budget is still uncertain (and tiny anyway) so I can’t promise anything.

How to Apply

If you’d like to create this guest blog, please email hopeinhelltheatre@gmail.com, or contact me on Twitter, whichever suits you best.

No experience is required or expected, but if you would like to include previous creations please do. Otherwise, just leave your preferred method of contact and I’ll get in touch to talk to you about it.

 

 

Mental Health and Access in the Arts

Hi everyone! I’ve been away from blogging for a couple of weeks due to being insanely busy, but I’m back to talk about mental health in the arts. I went to a workshop yesterday on this topic hosted by Chama Kay and Les Enfants Terribles, and I wanted to talk about some of the stats I heard there, and the experiences. And, of course, how they’ll impact Hope in Hell.

“A 2015 report by Victoria University in Australia found that performing arts workers experience symptoms of anxiety ten times higher than the general population, and depression symptoms five times higher, saying that these statistics can be directly attributed to financial insecurity and poor working conditions.” – Jessie Thompson

Here’s how it works in theatre – you work for low pay or no pay, on short term zero hours contracts, in work which demands emotional, mental and physical stamina every day, on demand. You work for any number of reasons – because it’s your calling, because it makes you fulfilled, because its what you’re trained in, etc. You joke about post show blues, or the stresses of finding work, but it’s accepted as part of the industry. Right? So it’s hardly surprising to hear that arts workers are 10 times more likely to have anxiety than the general population. Or 5 times more likely to be depressed.

Its an institutional, industrial, colossal problem, and one which is only exacerbated by the current ongoing recession and austerity measures in this country. And, to touch briefly on a huge topic, it’s a problem which is made worse if you are BAME, LGBT+, female, disabled, or a member of any other minority. At the workshop yesterday, some people spoke about experiences of subtle, sub-conscious racism – casting drug dealers as black, for example – but also about shocking incidents of outspoken racism, the type which as a white person I think of as illegal, and therefore impossible. Theatre is one of the best places to hide this type of bigotry, as casting decisions can easily be explained away as artistic, or worse, authentic, and as a who-you-know industry, the risks of calling out bigoted behaviour are high. It’s crucial not to forget that, and in that spirit I will be making a call out on Twitter commissioning a BAME theatre-maker to write a guest-blog about these issues.  Watch this space.

So what can we do to support ourselves, and each other? Chama Kay was very good at getting us thinking about this – if you’d like to see his worksheet, see the end of this blog – and he got me thinking about how a venue can support local theatre makers. My thoughts were:

  1. Be actively inclusive – if I’m interviewing for positions, half of interviewees must be from a minority group. This needs refinement, but I want to be as proactive as I can to ensure that everyone gets the opportunities they deserve.
  2. Hold support classes and workshops for creatives (regardless of their activity with the venue) – this could include group therapy type sessions, mindfulness sessions, or just a regular coffee-and-cake date
  3. Create a network for casts and crew to stay together after a show – email lists, social media groups, alumni meet ups etc, to combat the abandonment feelings that can happen once a show is over
  4. Offer support with Arts Council applications, and reminders that the Arts Council will fund accessibility support including mental health support as part of your application

I am sure more things will occur as Hope in Hell solidifies into reality, but those 4 principles should help to create sustainable working conditions for theatre makers involved in HiH, and create a positive atmosphere for working together!

Chama Kay’s Worksheet

First day in the office!

At the weekend I went to spend my first day in our new offices at Somerset House Exchange! I took some photos of what I was up to, so here we go…

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It was a boiling day, and the fountains were on at Somerset House! Lots of kids running around having fun. Unfortunately I had to descend to the basement to…

The office! There’s two rooms available…

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I attempted a panoramic here. I have one of the lockers assigned to me, and this is a super quiet place to work at a weekend
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This is the other room available. It’s lovely and light, and the stone floor is cool, but the plug sockets aren’t at the desks and my tablet was dead. Also there’s a kitchen for TEA

 

So what was I working on? The bar! This is one aspect of the budget (and whole business to be honest) that I have no knowledge of, no experience of, and have been kinda ignoring until now! So I decided to face my fears and try to both estimate how many sales we’d make at the bar, and how much it would cost.

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This is me estimating costs per month. I reckoned on 24 bottles of wine, 90 beers and a bunch of soft drinks and snacks at £400pcm total. But that might be overestimating if I use cash-and-carry!
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And this is my estimates for takings. I’m pricing booze at £3 per glass/can – what would you expect to pay? And £1.50 for soft drinks. Then I’m guessing 15 alcoholic and 10 soft drinks per night. Is this right? Who knows! In any case it comes to £940 income per month

I couldn’t stay too long coz I was meeting a friend afterwards, but the sun was still shining when I came out! So I tried for another panoramic – enjoy! And if you have any thoughts on how to budget a theatre bar, please get in touch on FB or Twitter!

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The Creative Business Cup

Today we’ve applied for the Creative Business Cup! This is a competition which awards prizes to creative businesses, and offers the chance to pitch to investors for more funds. The questionnaire was a great exercise in defining the business concept for Hope in Hell, and as a result we’ve updated the About page with a fuller description of what Hope in Hell Theatre is.

If you’re interested in our answers for the Cup entry, you can read them in full in the PDF below. Get in touch with your thoughts!

Cup Entry Form

cbc_banner

What makes a theatre?

“Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.” – Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

What is a theatre? To me it’s like the Black Pearl. It’s the stage and the curtains and the seating and the bar, that’s what a theatre needs. But a theatre really is freedom.

Unfortunately, a theatre needs things! So I tried to work out all the things Hope in Hell Theatre would need, from the building itself through the people and the legal documentation. And it turns out, there’s a lot…

http-imgur.comaCDy7c

In fact there’s so much that you can’t read it here! But you can enlarge the image here. It covers 2 sides of A3 paper!

It’s a scary list – there’s a lot of things on here that I hadn’t previously considered, like shares and shareholders, and how they work, and DBS checks to work with schools, and soundproofing for the building. All of which need to be built into the budget and roadmap. But it’s also a good list – its big, but it’s finite, and I have a year to work through it. So hopefully that’s enough time!

In other news, I’ve had two sign ups to the Theatre Gang! If you’d like to get involved with Hope in Hell, in any way however large or small, please check out the info here. And thank you to those who’ve come forward already – I can’t do this by myself!

I’ve also sent out the first Hope in Hell newsletters, and the postcards that go with it! I’m pretty delighted with the artwork by Emma Slattery – you can see more here, and sign up!

This week I’ll be using the new office space in Somerset House for the first time, so watch this space for pics and excitement about that too! Here’s to bigger dreaming.

Join me! Be part of my Theatre Gang!

Hope in Hell Theatre has been going for 5 months now as an active project, and I think it’s time to get more people on board! To that end, I’m now announcing recruitment for a Theatre Gang!

What does this mean, you ask? Well:

  • helping steer the direction of Hope in Hell
  • having a direct and meaningful influence on all aspects of business planning
  • wearing the Hat of Positive Thinking when it’s your turn
  • having the chance to be a director/shareholder when the company is formally created (this is 100% optional)

In essence, I’m looking for anyone who’s enthusiastic about helping make this project happen, and who’s willing to have regular chats (in person or online) about how best to do that. Time commitment is flexible, and I expect the format of Theatre Gang to change over time as we settle into roles (or don’t).

If that sounds like you, fill in a form here, and I’ll get right back to you!

https://goo.gl/forms/EWzPoxLOeiSmVS773

Who Wants What And How To Pay For It

This post is about budgeting! I know, how boring right? WRONG. Budgeting underpins everything we do ever, and it’s been worrying me thinking about how to balance the books on a social enterprise, while being fair to everyone (including myself).

SO. I did an experiment. I wrote up a summary budget twice.

In one version, I started with my own wants as a theatre – having a decent sized space, a marketing budget, offering paid residencies, being paid myself, etc. And then I wrote the other side of the budget to make up that money – I decided fees, hiring conditions etc to reach this ideal amount of money.

Here’s what I got:

Price then Cost

In this budget, we’re paying a Theatre Manager the living wage full time, having 6 artists residencies with £500 each, and allocating £1k per year for attending conferences etc.

To balance that out, we are:

  • offering a 60/40 box office split
  • charging £200 for straight hires per night
  • doing a whole day straight hire for £300
  • charging £9ph for community hires and £10ph for rehearsal space
  • renting out 2 desk spaces at £100 per month each

I like this version because it allows for “good theatre things” – paid residencies, a fairly paid theatre manager, and a realistic budget for personal development. I don’t like it because its more commercial, is more financially limiting, and may be beyond the reach of Sheffield theatremakers.


In the second version, I started from what I think my customers want – both audiences and theatre-makers. I priced things as low as I thought could be reasonably expected, and then tried to work out what Hope in Hell could afford as a result.

Here’s what I got this time:

COST THEN PRICE

In this budget, we’re paying a Theatre Manager 4 days per week (though they will almost certainly need to work more in evenings and weekends) on minimum wage, and have no extras such as paid residencies and travel budgets.

To balance that out, we are:

  • offering a 70/30 box office split
  • doing straight hires at £150 per night
  • doing community hires at £7ph and rehearsal space at £8ph
  • renting out 2 desk spaces at £50 per month each

I like this version because it’s as affordable as it realistically can be, and I hope will be financially viable for Sheffield theatremakers. The lower cost desk space particularly appeals to me as I’m having difficulty finding this sort of thing myself! I don’t like this version because it demands that a Theatre Manager works 4 days per week only, which will probably be in shift work, and on minimum wage rather than living wage.

What do you think? How would you balance a budget like this? Should I be charging more, as in the first budget, or being as cheap as possible and sacrificing nice things, as in the second budget? Discuss!


Assumptions in both budgets:
  1. 9 nights box office split per month (3 x Fri-Sun) with 60% capacity
  2. 2 nights straight hire per month
  3. That Corporation Tax is 20% and our premises fall within the Small Business Allowance to escape Business Rates

Blueprint modelling

Before we get started with today’s blog post, just a quick reminder that we launched the Hope in Hell newsletter and postcards this week! You can find out more here.

Today I’ve been working on blueprint modelling, using a couple of ideas from the NESTA handbook. They say that companies work in 3 essential stages:

  1. Engagement Stage – planning your business, engaging with your customers etc
  2. Development Stage – designing and creating your business
  3. Delivery Stage – the time it takes to get your product/service to the customer

They also want you to think about your activities in each of these 3 stages as either “on stage”, or “off stage” – on stage things are seen by the customer, they’re public, and they can plausibly be paid for by a customer. Off stage things, meanwhile, are behind the scenes – you can’t charge a customer for the marketing materials you used to entice them in, for example. That sort of cost has to come from your profit.

I found this approach difficult, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m trying to do everything on stage, in the sense that it is all public and subject to scrutiny. Secondly, I have two types of customer, the artists and the audience, so things which are hidden from the audience (such as rehearsals) are foregrounded for the artists.

20170519_144221 Despite my reservations, it’s definitely worth thinking about the theatre as a process, or flow, rather than an active and total whole. Its also good to consider which parts of the business can be directly paid for, and which bits need to come out of profit.

Speaking of which, tomorrow is a very exciting blog post! For me! Because I have been doing some budgeting exercises and I’d really like to share them! So watch this space.

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Exciting news – newsletters and postcards!

Today I’m launching an all new email newsletter! This’ll be a monthly update on how everything is going with Hope in Hell, and how I’m coping with it. It’ll be more chatty than my usual blogs, and I’d love for you to reply to me! Give feedback, ask questions, send me cat gifs, whatever you want. I’ll reply back.

You can sign up to the newsletter here, PLUS when you sign up, I’ll send you a postcard! They’re at the printers right now, with amazing art by Emma Slattery. There’s a sneak peek below, but you’ll need to sign up to get the full effect.

HiH Postcards

You can also like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter – the more love we get, the more we can give to all of you!

Why I’ve missed 2 days blogging

Today’s blog is written in a slightly guilty mindframe, because I’ve missed two days of blogging. I aim to blog once a day on my progress with the theatre/business, but this week I haven’t. I want to explain why partly because communicating is important, and partly because I’m hoping one day a future-theatre-person will be reading this and it’s important to hear about other peoples problems! (Hello future person)

I haven’t blogged this week because I’m having a motivation dip. I’m finding that, unsurprisingly, it’s really hard to keep pushing with a very long term project with a non-zero chance of never happening! And that even though I do really believe in the principles and mission of Hope in Hell, sometimes that belief can be shaken by others. The hardest thing is when people who are normally supportive undercut the project, either by asking random, very specific questions (But where will you GET the blackout fabric?!) and then act as though everything is doomed when I can’t answer, or when they question whether it is necessary/possible at all. The latter category most frequently takes the form of “But how will you have a high quality of theatre?”, “But how will you fund it?” and “But noone ever goes to art in Sheffield!”. These are all, in some way, valid questions. But having them asked in negative ways, rather than constructive, is wearing!

So. Having realised I’m not going to get through this by myself, I’m going to be recruiting for a Theatre Gang. Details will be in a future blog post, but it’ll mainly involve bouncing ideas around, holding me accountable, and wearing the Positive Thinking Hat (which will be passed around and will require the wearer to respond positively to whatever issue is currently being discussed). So watch this space!

In the meanwhile, I finished reading Amanda Palmer! Here’s my favourite quotes:

“If you’re asking your fans to support you, the artist, it shouldn’t matter what your choices are, as long as you’re delivering your side of the bargain. As long as art comes out the other side, the money you need to live is almost indistinguishable from the money you need to make art.”

“Since Kickstarter began, 887,256 backers have asked for the artists to refrain from sending them any kind of reward – that represents a little over 14% of their user base. Some people just want to help. You never know until you ask.

AP Quote