The Alternative Theatre Charter

Posted in blogging, venues on August 4, 2014 by danbaker83

This Theatre Charter thing is annoying me – it only seems to serve a small, privileged section of the audience. In response I’ve drawn up an alternative which I’d be much happier to see people sign up to.   THE VENUE/COMPANY

  • We will welcome you to our spaces with no prejudice. You don’t have to wear a top hat and tails to get in, and if you want to have a laugh and a joke with your mates in the bar then we’re cool with that
  • We will do our best to engage and entertain you with our performances and events. Sometimes we may not be completely successful, but we’re going to try bloody hard.
  • We know our bars are usually massively overpriced. If we can’t keep these prices down, we’ll at least try to make them a nice environment to hang out in
  • Yes, the ice cream is also overpriced. And the sweets. We’re sorry
  • Because most of our Box Office and Front of House staff will be people who are keen to work in our industry (and lots will be students or jobbing artists) they’re typically lovely people to chat to. They’re not well-paid, but they’ll probably be up for a chat if you fancy it
  • We can’t compete with Michael Bay – but we can do spectacle. And bigger isn’t always better – some smaller shows are AMAZING
  • If we’re doing a show that’s not at a traditional space, then we’ll give you as much information as possible about it. Nothing sucks more than going to a show in a muddy, rainy field wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt (festivals excepted)
  • Our seats are probably uncomfortable. WE KNOW. If you need to fidget a bit to get comfortable, then go for it (and if you want to bring a cushion from home, then that’s cool too)
  • We will respect you and your opinions. If you think our work wasn’t great, then we’ll not claim you “didn’t get it” – instead, we’ll work harder at making what we’re trying to achieve even clearer


  • Let us know if you have any problems. We’re not going to get any better at making theatre more welcoming if you don’t feed back to us, and we’re genuinely keen to know what you think
  • If you want to laugh or applaud at any points, then go for it. There’s not a wrong time to react – despite what some people will tell you – and it lets us know what you think
  • You’re welcome to leave if you want to. This isn’t Guantanamo Bay – you don’t have to wait until we let you leave
  • You might be able to help us in being better with new audiences. If you think you know a group who may be interested in coming who haven’t been before, then get in touch and we’ll happily do what we can to make the experience enjoyable for them
  • If you’re bringing a family to a show, then we’re really excited by that. We hope they enjoy it, and tell us anything we can do to make it better. Theatres can be really bad at dealing with families sometimes
  • If there’s anything we’re failing at as a venue, then TELL US. Best thing to do is put something in writing (even a tweet) and then we can respond and do something about it.
  • And try not to be a dick, eh? We’re really keen for you to feel welcome, but if you keep doing stuff like shouting “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” at Sir Ian McKellan during Waiting for Godot or threatening to punch out an old lady because her sweet wrappers are too loud, we’ll probably ask you to leave

And remember – you can absolutely sign up to this charter. Or not. It’s completely your choice.


In case you’re interested, Amber Massie-Blomfield from The Albany and Annabel Turpin from ARC in Stockton have also blogged about why their venues aren’t signing up to the Theatre Charter (the original one, not mine). They’re both good reads.

Festivals – vital champions new work

Posted in Uncategorized on May 19, 2014 by danbaker83

Festivals can be a vital platform for emerging artists to present their work; from the wider audiences festivals can bring to the diverse pool of companies and artists they attract, those involved can benefit hugely far beyond the simple economic factors we often measure things by.

With A Young Theatre’s Incoming Festival opening at the New Diorama Theatre in London today, the companies involved will have a fantastic opportunity to showcase their work in a venue with a developing reputation – and with a number of companies involved not based in London, they also have the opportunity to reach an audience in the capital under much less financial pressure than they typically might face. Furthermore, with the shows forming part of a full festival programme the appeal to audiences is much greater than it might be for an independent run – audiences may be shared between shows, and with A Younger Theatre and the New Diorama advocating for the work there is already a seal of approval that the work is of a high standard. Add to that the highly professional print and marketing for the festival, and you’re looking at a huge opportunity for those companies and artists involved. Continue reading

Developing an independent theatre scene

Posted in artist development, networking, producing on January 3, 2014 by danbaker83

How does a revolution start? Is restlessness and a desire to challenge the status quo enough to inspire people into action? And how is momentum maintained and built upon?

In 2013, Plymouth bid to be the 2017 City of Culture. As we all know now, the bid was unsuccessful as Hull won the honour – and deservedly so, with a strong bid and a real sense that the city was working together to celebrate its heritage and current cultural offer – and Plymouth returned to its status as a city with ‘potential’. But a big concern from myself and many of my peers working independently in the arts within the city was that there seemed to be a lack of consultation of those of use striving to make work here. Continue reading

The new National Theatre AD (i.e. theatre’s David Moyes)

Posted in venues on October 15, 2013 by danbaker83

This year, the biggest shoes in the business need filling. After a long reign marked by success after success, a Knight of the realm steps down – leaving someone with the unenviable task of filling his shoes. Questions will be asked about their suitability, and people will watch closely as the press stand by, pens at the ready to tell the world that things ain’t as good as they used to be.

Whoever gets the Artistic Director job at the National Theatre will effectively be the David Moyes of the theatre world. Continue reading

On realising the importance of maintaining friendships

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2013 by danbaker83

I recently received sad news regarding the passing of an actor I’ve worked with a couple of times in the past; the thought of someone so young, talented and positive no longer being with us is awful to contemplate, and has also made me realise just how easy it can be to grow apart from people in an industry where there is often a distinct lack of security and continuity. Continue reading

Is Jonathan Mills censoring the EIF?

Posted in festival on August 12, 2013 by danbaker83

Sir Jonathan Mills has a lot to answer for. Ahead of the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), he has declared there will be no works which address the issue of Scottish independence – Mills has instead declared that the festival will remain “politically neutral”. To me, this just smacks of cowardice.

Art and politics have always had a close relationship, with theatre and performance in particular proving to be powerful means of expression; ideologies have been challenged, leaders lampooned and revolutions documented throughout the course of theatrical history. Due to the impact these issues have on people’s day-to-day lives, politics are a fertile breeding ground for artists to mine when creating work – and the strength of conviction people often have around these issues helps create powerful, moving and provocative work. So, for Jonathan Mills to tell artists they should not create work for the festival which covers Scottish independence – a huge issue for those living and working north of the border – is tantamount to censorship. Continue reading

Open Court, and presenting innovative work in risk-averse times

Posted in artist development, new writing, producing, venues on August 11, 2013 by danbaker83

The Royal Court’s Open Court Festival – a programme of work programmed, curated and developed by writers – saw a variety of different styles of work presented, in many ways different to what we have come to expect from the Court. Along with the change in the Bush Theatre’s submissions process to accept a wider range of work, two major new writing venues are showing a willingness to embrace the desires of writers to create the work they wish to, rather than that which venues traditionally programme. But will this lead to a change in the type of work produced, or will the safer, more traditional work win out in the end?

Continue reading


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