Nights with Impresarios, Days at the Races…

September 16, 2009 at 11:35 am 1 comment

by Alec Patton

day at the races(the Marx Brothers in A Day at the Races)

On Monday, I was part of an event at the British Library called ‘A Night with the Impresarios’ (I was there as an interviewer, incidentally. I am not, nor have I ever been, an impresario). During the event, it struck me that theatre has a well-developed (if not necessarily functional) innovation brokerage model, with directors, playwrights, actors, designers, and the rest of the ‘creatives’ linked up with each other – and with financial backers – by a network of agents and producers. John Gale (who produced the first British production of Boeing-boeing and No Sex Please We’re British, among many others) spoke rather derisively about theatre owners, who get a surprisingly high chunk of the price you pay for a ticket – in his words, ‘you never hear about a theatre owner going out of business.’ Theatre producers, on the other hand, lead an extremely precarious existance. According to Matthew Byam Shaw (who produced Frost/Nixon, and brought Spring Awakening to the UK), a young producer can survive a maximum of two bloody noses, before they lose the confidence of any possible backers. Spring Awakening, incidentally, was a financial disaster – even though the house was often packed, the audience were mostly young people buying discounted tickets, and the production was losing thousands of pounds every night.

But the most interesting revelation of the evening was Matthew Byam Shaw’s claim that he finds backers by ‘hanging around racetracks’, because many of his best backers support him in part because they ‘like the punt’.

Time for a Festival of Ideas at Ascot, perhaps?

Incidentally, in case you’re interested, ‘A Night with the Impresarios’ was put on by the Theatre Archive Project, a really interesting oral history project that I have been involved with for a couple of years.

Entry filed under: Innovation Policy, Local Innovation, Third Sector Innovation.

A Need for New Deliverers – Could you pro-sume? New thinkers

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. thirup  |  September 16, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I kind a like the idea of going to the racetracks to find backers, in general i like all ideas involving going west to find the solution that everyone else finds in the east. A bit like finding out that instead of looking for expensive carers to take care of our elder, we can in many find the solution in other areas, by letting robots developedfor the car industry assist the elder with physical tasks, and let a community of old help each other out with personal care and visits. Far away from the theatre, but in a different direction!!


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