What is Black Theatre Live?
Last week I started my new job as a Tour Manager for the Black Theatre Live. One of the first tasks I was asked to do was to start a blog about the project and its last week’s launch at Derby Theatre. Haven’t blogged before, so I’ll stick to logic and try to explain, in my own words, what this project is and what makes me excited about it.
Black Theatre Live is a consortium of eight theatres – Tara Arts (leading partner), Derby Theatre, Queens Hall (Hexham), Lighthouse (Poole), Theatre Royal (Bury St Edmunds), Theatre Royal (Margate), Key Theatre (Peterborough) and Stratford Circus. Together they pooled their efforts and secured funds, from Arts Council England and other sources, to deliver a three year long project – producing and touring small and mid-scale shows by BME companies. Now, if I wasn’t professionally involved in this project I would certainly be curious to hear what sort of new deal BTL has to offer, especially to deserve Arts Council’s funding over the three year period?
Black Theatre Live gives the opportunity to BME artists and/or organisations, regardless of their experience and status - to have their shows produced, toured and promoted; in total seven productions over the course of three years. The process of applying is significantly simpler than an average G4A application. Applicants also benefit from having their submissions, or pitching sessions for those shortlisted, seen by the representatives of all 8 consortium organisations. The selection process is not a one-dimensional one and although not everyone will gain a production and tour, there’s still a good chance many will get on the radar of the BTL consortium members and be engaged in various ways. For those selected, their production and tour will receive professional support in management, promotion and financial security – where their main focus will be on their artistic work. Opportunities for professional development are also there and BTL consortium is resolved to help improve the broader sector in that way too.
How can this unusual mixture of theatres help promote and develop BME sector in a way it hasn’t been done before?
Some of the partner organisations have a track record of being heavily involved in diverse work, notably Tara Arts, as pioneers of Asian Theatre in UK and Stratford Circus, coming from Newham – country’s most diverse borough. But that’s not the point. Black Theatre Live plan is to see BME work touring places where it’s not getting much exposure. The idea is to support a dialogue that insists on universal values of theatre and art and communicates through to audiences regardless of where they are from. All the BTL members are therefore putting efforts into using their marketing and outreach departments’ capacities to identify best ways to present the future BTL projects in a way local audiences can get interested. A good story is a good story, after all.
In one of my next blogs I will write on the topic of the meeting of all the BTL outreach officers and the very rich and exciting schedule of discussions and workshops they went at Derby Theatre 6-8 January, with some pictures made on the day, as an illustration.
Meanwhile, I’d like to share my impressions of what could be described as the ‘cherry on the top’ of the last week’s activities and that was the pitching sessions for shortlisted projects for autumn 2015 small scale touring. On the 8 January, a panel made out of theatre executives from BTL members, was seeing the seven shortlisted candidates; every one of them with 45 minutes to present their ‘case’. Half way through I’m sure all of the panel members knew that by the end of the day they’ll have to make some very hard decisions. The quality of applicants was very high. Some had fascinating concepts, some had incredible potentials to reach out to wide audiences, some had very personal and poignant stories to tell. Eventually, the choice was made. However, this wasn’t a win or lose situation for the participants, as their involvement won’t end just for not being successful on this occasion. BTL will have much more to offer.
Please watch this space and we will endeavour to keep you informed on the BTL’s news and progress. With Tara’s brand new production of Macbeth coming out this spring and a BTL’s first selected small scale show for autumn 2015 - exciting times are ahead.
Milan Govedarica (BTL Tour Manager)