Produced by Farnham Maltings, show business was a one day symposium aimed at producers, theatre companies and venues working at the small to mid scale, exploring how the commercial and subsidised sectors might work better together. It took place at the National Theatre on 19 June 2014.
While our larger theatre organisations are increasingly working in this way, it is far less familiar territory for the producers and practitioners working at a smaller scale in theatre’s independent sector. Those working in this sphere are usually schooled in either a subsidised or commercial model of production, setting the mould for careers in one camp or the other and rarely looking across the divide for possible partners.
And yet there seems to be much to gain from greater collaboration; breaking entrenched ways of working to better resource, develop and exploit new work. From accessing the rich tapestry of regional research and development infrastructures and broadening the ways in which productions are financed, to the exploitation of our strongest shows through commercially-oriented runs in the capital and subsidised regional touring, the potential benefits flow in both directions.
A generation of cultural leaders is now emerging that is operating within a financial climate that demands ever more entrepreneurial approaches and a hyper-connected digital environment that invites us to break out of our silos and re-think traditional ways of working. And so this symposium offered a timely opportunity to challenge preconceptions about the restrictions, riches and rigours of the commercial and subsidised sectors and to explore the potential for greater artistic innovation, increased resilience, fairer pay and larger audiences that might result from mixed models and unlikely alliances that borrow the best from both worlds.