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How can our regional theatres support local new writers?

Issue: How can our regional theatre’s support new local writers?

Convener(s): Honor

Participants: Honor, Dan, Darren, Chris, Ian (Gillie), Nick, Laurie (Northampton Theatres), Terry + several other joining throughout
approx 10 – 12  participants

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

The question being asked was “How can our regional theatre’s support new local writers?”
it commented that new work – is not just about new writing. And as far as new writing is  concerned the pool of new writing is much smaller now days because it has to compete with other creative artforms & creative arts.
New writers should maybe look at crossover platforms/ mixing artforms as a way to get their work “out there”?
It was discussed that new writers should not expect their works to reach main house auditoriums or studio and that they should look at small venues/theatre companies to “showcase” the new work.
the “chair” brought the question back to “How can our regional theatres support local writers at grass-route levels – such as thru outreach programmes/ a place where writers could come and gather using theatre resources, such a rehearsal room/space to read and connect – not only with one another but also with theatre professionals whose opinion is invaluable to the novice writer.
The question was raised also without the cohesive resource of the TWP in the East Midlands, even more “lack of connection” will ensue. What’s going to happen now?
What Laurie and Ian agreed on was, that what is probably needed is that one person who works with the four main theatres to network with writers/out reach/directors/readers/producers to bring together and network a whole unit. It was also suggested that a way for new writing/young producers/directors was that a selection of new writing (perhaps from each county) could take co-commission short plays and perform say four new works in one evening and tour that production to each of the theatre’s in a small local tour. But the problems in achieving this is manpower and funding and it was thought that this could be proposed to the Arts Council.It was agreed that there should a shared knowledge amongst theatre’s in this respect.
The Leicester Curve and Northampton admitted that were guilty of not being proactive as perhaps they should be as far as reaching out supporting and reading, but this was due to limited resources/time constraints/funding to commit to anything long term, but were very enthusiastic and encouraging as far as writers approaching them (depending on availability).
another suggestion was that new writers should consider working with smaller theatre companies/venues and with universities. it was also suggested that maybe new writer could use the theatre’s Youth Theatre as a way to showcase in situ with rehearsed reading/black box (hence reducing production/staffing costs).
The question was raised about the quality of new writing and is it the right place to showcase in such as venue?
It was also discussed how writers/artists often leave the region to take their first professional steps and that London-centric model of new writing achieving their career goals because there are not the resources in their home town/region
It was suggested that new writer should perhaps as one package with writers/directors/production/stage management/actors and present themselves in that way to theatre venues.
Ian Gillie recognized that to get work on stage now days you have to be a known writer (with some pedigree) and they will be inevitably judged, yet it seemed unfair that new writers looking for a space to get their work can’t get work on and can’t get judged, which is what they want.
it was commented that the bigger theatre’s have a tendency to seem unapproachable and dusted in mystic shroud and victim of their own business and work loads, and they encouraged writers to network, contact them, be more pushy (but not in an aggressive way!) and they would try to set up some dialogue/meeting where ever possible.
It finally came back to, yes they (Reg Theatres) should perhaps be doing more, but constraints/funding in todays economy is going to make this aspiration very difficult. What would be ideal is some sort of “Script Manager/Reader” – that one person – who works between the theatres in the East Midlands and create an writers information bureau/data base. Cohesion or lack of it was the word that came up time and time again.
A very good and informative lively discussion. And what was very evident was that we all – professionals, new writers, theatre makers – have a unswerving enthusiasm and passion for our craft.

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