Stage Exchange is a new programme taking place in Yorkshire and the Humber region, which aims to enable venues and touring companies to develop long-term relationships beyond the often frustrating experience of the one night stand, writes Melanie Maidens.
The programme is one of a range of projects made possible through resources arising from the 2001 National Theatre Review. It is a partnership between the region?s audience development agency, Audiences Yorkshire, and Arts Council England Yorkshire. The project aims to enable venues and touring companies to become stakeholders in each other?s work. We have encouraged touring companies to engage actively with the audience-development plans of the venue and for the venue to be involved in the creative work of the touring company. Programming and audience development are seen as interrelated, and every partnership between artist and venue is placed in the context of the wider work each wants to do locally, nationally and, also, internationally. Ultimately, the project aims to create an environment in which venues take a longer-term interest in the work of a particular touring company and in which the company can regard their work as having strategic importance.
Stage Exchange has supported five partner projects in its first two years. Among these were:
- IOU and Square Chapel, Halifax who teamed up to present ?Tattoo?, a free outdoor show for 2,000 people
- Tutti Frutti and Lawrence Batley Theatre, who created an Easter show to encourage traditional Christmas audiences to attend at a different time of year
- Wakefield Theatres and Compass Theatre, who explored the possibility of touring small-scale drama to communities in Wakefield that would not usually consider attending the theatre.
Future work includes a series of ?Upfront? shows ? short commissions performed as a prelude to a main-house show as part of York Theatre Royal?s partnership with Pilot Theatre to develop young audiences.
In year three we hope to encourage even more collaborative ideas from a diverse range of partners. Potential applicants have been invited to submit ?ideas on the back of a postcard?. Those partners supported by Stage Exchange will work with a project adviser (who has an appropriate area of expertise) in shaping and developing a project around that initial idea, effectively acting as a mentor to the project partners.
Crucially, Stage Exchange is not just about money ? although that is important. The resources available include support and training in business and marketing planning, an annual ?dating day? (a creative forum for artists and producers from all over the country and beyond to develop new and existing partnerships), and an online ?clash diary?, which offers greater potential for collaboration as well as preventing clashes and gaps.