creative producer blog

The Creative Theatre Producers Club

The space for theatre makers.

How to survive Edinburgh - 1.

This is the first newsletter for a while - basically, I’ve been a bit busy, which in this business is no bad thing.

But it’s August and as everyone in the real world rushes off on holiday, we enter the stress-pool that is the Edinburgh Festival!

Many of you will be Edinburgh veterans - but if you’re not, and even if you are, you should know - Edinburgh is tough! And when I say Edinburgh, I’m really talking about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which is where most of us chase our field of dreams.  My first Festival was 1992.  

As you’ll know if you’ve been on our Creative Producers Workshop - we have to learn that Spreadsheet Are Our Friends. So you will have done your budget to death and be down a road that started with registration and brochure copy in the dark depths of the winter. And it might be too late for you now, with the festival almost done, but I just want to make the point that as producer, you need to take care of yourself.  Edinburgh during festival is almost a 24 hour city. It’s exciting. There are new creatives to meet; productions to see and most of all your own show to succeed with.

But you need to be aware it’s the little things that can be very tough for a producer. Most performing companies tend to stay together in the same accommodation and it can be very hard sharing the toothpaste and food budget for a whole month with an actor you auditioned for an hour in June. If I had a pound for every company I know has split over the Festival, I could afford to fund a couple of shows every year!

And then there’s morale. If you are the producer, you know that the buck stops with you. Everyone else in the company can moan and groan and bitch and complain, but you are the final adjudicator, peace-maker, smoother and soother.

And that’s just dealing with the company. What about yourself?  Did anyone tell you the average Edinburgh audience is 4?  No, thought not.  And great reviews are a possibility IF you can get the reviewers in to see your show in the first place.  Which you probably won’t.  Be ready for it.  Even though most decent venues will do all they can to help, there’s a LOT of competition for reviewers.  A friend of mine who is an Edinburgh veteran with an international reputation finally got his first review in week three of four!  So manage expectations within the company. Miserable actors are a very miserable thing indeed.

Also, try and have at least a day a week off - or at least a couple of days off in the run. I know that might sound very counter-intuitive and radical on a fixed run, with potential lack of income, but you and everyone will be working at a pitch you would never do normally. Not just performing, but leafleting, (God, the flyering! Save me!) drinking, late nights or early mornings and bad diet; all will combine to wear you down.  So try and make some ‘you time’.  You probably won’t lose much financially with a few days off and it might just energise both yourself and the company.

If you are in Edinburgh, I hope it is all you expected. It is a glorious agony. If you are considering going next year, or if you know anyone who is, please forward this and tell them to sign up to our newsletter.

And as always if you have any comments or criticisms, I’d love to hear from you.



NEXT TIME - Reviews, good and bad - and how to deal with them.
COMING SOON - How not to blow your success in Edinburgh!

Creative Producers Club.

Posted 4 weeks ago

It’s been a while.  But we’re more important than ever now.

It’s been a couple of months since I last posted here.  But I’m trying to sort a script and music for our national tour of A Christmas Carol later in the year.  I finally managed to get a group of international journalists together to come on the London Literary Pub Crawl, so we’re having our official opening 5 years after we started!  I’m working on a TV script; I’m trying to negotiate with a National Trust garden to present a play in November and I no longer have my assistant, who has decided to travel the world.  Although postcards have been promised.  So spending time on this site is not really a priority.

I’m delighted that Roller Diner,  a musical I was loosely involved in creating with writer and friend Stephen Jackson at the Billesley Pub in Birmingham years ago, has gone on to win the prestigious Verity Bargate Award and is now playing at the Soho Theatre.  And like everyone, I’ve been moved by recent events in London and Manchester.  I met a friend in the Soho bar who came to see Roller Diner

“Thank god for this.” he said.  “I felt like weeping most of the day, watching the constant TV news pictures of the burning flats.  But life goes on.  This has set me up for the week.”  

And it made me think a bit about how important we are as creators of stories.  In a mad, bad world, producers can create a balance and make a difference.

Posted 13 weeks ago

Looking for free set or props?

Just a quick note - a producer friend of mine in our Carnaby Street Stage One office was saying he’s just found props and set dressings for his new production - for no cost!  The Curve Theatre in Leicester have a huge store and although you’ll have to pay a security deposit, hires are free!  Good on you, Leicester!

Posted 23 weeks ago

To Tour, or not To Tour. That is the question...

The scale of a tour is judged by the number of seats of the venues your production is going to tour to. And we all normally start small. Partly through lack of confidence or cash and partly because we just need to work things out. The numbers are not set. The Arts Council used to have a guideline, but generally small scale is considered to be anything under around 200 seats. 200 - 500 seats is around what is called a middle-scale tour and anything over around 500 seats would be considered large scale, although some maintain that large scale starts at 600.

As a new theatre company, writer or actor touring for the first time the problem is not so much what size tour do I want as what size tour can I get? I produced a show for three weeks in the back room of the Billesley pub in Birmingham - capacity 80. After its three weeks in Brum, its fourth week was at the Tameside Hippodrome - capacity 1200. Same show. Same actors - apart from the talented John Marques who was already in demand.  We had to add some panels to the set to make it fill the cavernous Hippodrome but we were only able to get in to the Hipp because we had built a reputation on the small scale. And through the small-scale I learnt one crucial, hard, torturous lesson.  Anathema to an artist but you’ve got to understand it. It’s all down to… and I shudder even now… its all down to … the deal! There, I’ve said it. It’s The Deal that will make or break a show or tour.

Julius Green, someone I consider a friend, was the hard nosed, but wonderfully kind, producer of Bill Kenwright Ltd and he knows all about this. But more about Julius later.

First out you have to ask, why do I want to tour? And where? But mainly, why? Touring is notoriously expensive. Would you be better off finding a room locally and putting on the show yourself. That’s how I started.

Any questions or comments?  Please feel free to ask.

Posted 32 weeks ago
<p>Rehearsed readings. Good or bad?</p>

Rehearsed readings. Good or bad?

Posted 33 weeks ago

Creative Producers in January. Yep.

I’ve been posting on Facebook. This was an answer to someone who trained as an actor and wasn’t sure what steps to take with his new theatre company. We’ve another ‘Introduction to Creative Producing’ workshop next month. And he wanted to know more. He couldn’t afford an MA. So this is what I wrote.

“Our course was the brainchild of my MA course tutor who pointed out my strange and unusual experience! (He appears on video!) I’ve done the Stage One workshop (twice actually) and it’s brilliant if you are looking to produce commercially or in the West End. I was very critical of the industry in the letters page of The Stage for having no training for producers but things are better now. This day probably won’t answer all your queries (although our alumni are BRILLIANT!) but it should absolutely show you where to go and what to do next!”

Any comments?

Posted 43 weeks ago

Edinburgh festivals: how they became the world’s biggest arts event

By Kenneth Wardrop, Edinburgh Napier University and Anna Leask, Edinburgh Napier University

The Edinburgh Festival is upon us again, a three-week spectacular that turns the Scottish capital into the biggest arts destination on the planet. It is in fact a number of different festivals, with the leading Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe returning for a 70th year since their inception in 1947.

From thousands of options this year you could take in Hollywood actor Alan Cumming singing cabaret; the latest Broadway version of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie; or Icelandic rockers Sigur Rós. Top comedians Alistair McGowan and Bridget Christie will be treading the boards, while those who like their Scottish experience clad in tartan will want to catch the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Also not to be missed are the Book Festival and Jazz & Blues Festival.

Far from being confined to August, Edinburgh now holds 12 independently organised festivals throughout the year covering everything from storytelling to science to films to the city’s world renowned Hogmanay celebrations for New Year’s Eve. The city’s success as a leading cultural tourism destination is closely tied to the festivals’ ongoing strength and their enduring appeal to global audiences. This is why Edinburgh likes to call itself “the world’s leading festival city”.

Most of Edinburgh’s festivals are still very much on an upward curve. Where the Fringe, which is considered the world’s largest multi-arts festival, sold 790,000 tickets in 1996 and 1.5 million in 2004, it sold 2.3 million in 2015. The Edinburgh International Festival has risen from 418,000 to 441,000 in the same period; while Book Festival audiences have rocketed from 63,000 in 1997, the first year it became an annual event, to 350,000 last year.

With further audience growth expected this August, the city’s combined festival offering attracts a total of 4.5 million people a year. This is similar to the FIFA World Cup and only behind the Olympic Games – both of which take place every four years.

The Scottish economic impact of all these festivals has also gone up and up. Between 2010 and 2015, it rose from £253m to £313m as festival-goers spent money on everything from Edinburgh accommodation to visits to the Wallace Monument in Stirling. Then there are the harder to measure social and cultural impacts, with 89% of local festival attendees agreeing recently that the festivals increased their pride in the city and positively influenced their attendance at other cultural events the year round.

Smile people! Edinburgh Napier University

Future proofing

So what’s the secret? Apart from the benefits of being a beautiful historic city that is small enough to navigate easily, much can be put down to these separate festivals working together – with support from the city council and the Scottish development, tourism and arts agencies. They carried out the festivals’ first economic impact study in 2004 in recognition of the rise of competitors such as South by South West in Texas; and all the festivals at Quartier des Spectacles in Montreal.

Next came a £75m investment in the city’s arts infrastructure: refurbishing the Usher Hall, Assembly Rooms and Kings Theatre; an extension for the Festival Theatre and new stands and seating for the Tattoo on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. Following a strategic review in 2006, the festivals then formed an umbrella organisation, Festivals Edinburgh, which has helped them collaborate in things like marketing and lobbying. This is one reason for the rise in air routes to and from the city. More traumatic has been the birth of the tram network, though one line has finally opened.

The August offering has also benefited from the Fringe’s ad-hoc approach to growth. The Fringe is not managed in a traditional sense but through an open-access ethos that allows anyone to register as a performer in its programme provided they can secure a suitable venue. It is a story of organic growth helping to create an iconic and trusted brand that has arguably become synonymous with the city itself. The name has even been adopted by other arts festivals like Adelaide, Vancouver and Dublin as a marker for alternative cutting-edge arts and open-access programming.

Fringe benefits. Edinburgh Napier University

Edinburgh is also seen as a vital destination for countries looking to improve their own arts festivals. The Fringe World Congress held its inaugural meeting in the city in 2012 to bring together Fringe directors and organisers, while the British Council Edinburgh International Festivals Academy launched in the city this year to share best practice for festivals.

Glitch management

None of this is to say that everything has proceeded perfectly in Edinburgh, of course. The Film Festival encountered severe difficulties in 2011, for instance, while the Fringe had major issues with its box office system in 2008.

Numerous competitors are also growing strongly. For example the biennial Manchester International Festival in England, which has focused exclusively on new artists since it launched in 2007, saw a 5% rise in attendance figures in 2015. Manchester is also investing heavily in venues such as The Factory for the future. Venice’s Biennale festival is another event that is seeing strong growth.

Though these are much smaller and narrower than Edinburgh’s offering, the Scottish capital will undoubtedly continue to track them in its efforts to stay ahead. If it does this and the festivals keep working well as a group, Edinburgh will remain a world leader in staging international arts events.

The Conversation

Kenneth Wardrop, Visiting Research Fellow, Edinburgh Napier University and Anna Leask, Professor of Tourism Management, Edinburgh Napier University

This article was originally published on The Conversation

Posted 58 weeks ago

Yet another workshop! 😉

This new website, workshop and blog is a result of me (Nick) doing a Masters in Creative Theatre Producing in 2007. It was the first degree of its kind in the UK and created by the ever brilliant Birkbeck College at the University of London. The course director suggesting I do a workshop to raise a bit of money while I was studying. It was Andrew McKinnon’s idea, because he realised my experience was far broader than most. I’m very grateful to him, particular as what was supposed to be a one off at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, six years ago is now becoming a regular event. Last year there were two events - in 2016 there will have been (so far!) four events.

It’s great to know so many people are interested in producing theatre. The workshop and www.CreativeProducers.Club website have come about because of the complete lack of help and information - never mind training - for new theatre producers I experienced when I started out a few years ago.

It’s only right and fitting in the year that Birkbeck announce they are no longer running their boutique M.A. - they have a great MFA for directors still - that they should produce a brilliantly detailed list of all the rehearsal spaces available in London. As a regionalist myself - Birmingham was my manor - I know how hard and expensive is it is to find rehearsal space in the capital. That’s also why the list is on the open part of the website. Anyone can access it.

Our last workshop sold out and the very day I arrived back from Soho, I had two more requests for another. So we will, on Saturday 29th October. The idea of doing more is to keep the group sizes to around 5 or 6. And keep the price down too. The bigger annual groups were more like seminars than workshops and as with everything Maverick Theatre, access and intimacy is a big deal for me.

So I might see you in October. As one of the previous participants stated, it’s like dong “an M.A. in a day.” It’s not, of course, but it will give you a good overview of British Theatre.

And as always, please feel free to get in touch.

Posted 59 weeks ago

EU Funding - it’s leave!

This is an extract from Geoffrey Brown of Euclid’s 26 June, 2016 response to the leave vote and its implications for those applying for EU Funding.

I will be upfront here – I think this will be a disaster for the UK across a range of areas – ranging from reinforcing a nationalist and isolationist tendency in the age of globalisation which will result in the UK being left behind by larger and more powerful trading blocs and countries, through to negative impacts on opportunities for European collaboration and funding.  There is a huge question mark over the future of the UK, and it is not completely fanciful to say that the Leave result could lead to the breakup of the UK – both Scotland and NI voted to remain in the EU.

But I want to use this newsletter to provide a brief overview of the practical implications for those interested in developing partnerships and applications for EU funding.

Firstly, in theory, the UK will continue to be eligible to be able to lead, or be a partner in, applications for EU funding – whether for Horizon 2020, Erasmus+, Europe for Citizens and Creative Europe – and this will certainly continue until the end of the 2 year period that will be triggered when the UK government invokes Article 50 – which at the moment seems likely to be sometime in the autumn.  It is possible that there could be agreement for the UK to be eligible until the final deadlines in 2019 for the current round of these programmes (the current funding round ends in 2020).  The UK will also continue to distribute its share of the EU Structural & Investment Funds via DCLG & the LEPs in England, and the various designated agencies and partners in the devolved nations and regions of the UK.

Beyond 2019/2020, however, this is likely to all change, and will be based on which of the several options is the one chosen by the UK for its formal relationship with the EU.  There are… a range of possible alternatives yet to be fully explored.

Please let me know if you’d like further details of Euclid’s work.

Posted 64 weeks ago

Starting a Theatre Company?

There are a few things you need to do if you are starting to produce theatre.

Are you producing as an individual?  You should always set up a Limited Company to protect yourself.  It’s cheap and easy to do-it-yourself at Companies House online.

Think about insurance too. You’ll need something even if it’s just employers liability.

If you are thinking of starting a Theatre Company to work in the subsidised sector and you’ll be applying for grants. you need at least to be a not-for-profit association.   (The Arts Council of England - ACE - have just introduced a thing called ‘Grantium’.  A bit sci-fi! ) You don’t need to be a registered charity. You can be an unincorporated group or association.  You will need a constitution though.  There’s a free download at our new website -

Posted 84 weeks ago