Tuesday, 28 February 2012

How Do We Fill an Empty Building in Central London?

Conveners: Roland Smith, Dan Simon– Theatre Delicatessen

Participants: Josh Neicho, Alan Sharpington, Susanna Davies-Cook, Martin Duffy, Verity Standen, Tom Mouth, Simon Pittman, Adam Patesson, Mark Manghan, Kas Daley, Adam Montford, Jules Munns, George Mann
Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Conversation focused on ways to bring artists and makers to a large former office building in Marylebone, for which Theatre Delicatessen are finalizing a lease agreement for their third ‘pop-up’ theatre space, over a year after their most recent venue on Picton Place off Oxford Street.

The property is suitable for a wide variety of performance and visual art based work, and is able to accommodate a good number of arts and creative practitioners looking for office, rehearsal and workshop space.

The lease is for 9 months which may be extendable.

Main questions, conclusions and recommendations as follows:

  • There is much demand for a space where artists and creatives can work away from home, in an environment in which they can interact socially and professionally. Being centrally located and close to major transport providers makes this an even more attractive offer, and for many it does not matter whether the space is fully kitted out so long as there are the basic resources necessary to work/rehearse/teach etc.

  • TD are particularly interested in creating a thriving artistic hub with a strong sense of community, where residents have the space they require to run around and do their thing, and then relax in a social setting where there is wifi, coffee etc. Some ideas put forward to encourage this kind of environment are:
    • Dinners and events that encourage conversation and ideas;
    • Create a ‘society’ of people much in the same way Coney operates;
    • Encourage ownership of space – participation of space users in decorating, nesting, maintenance and volunteering to give them a sense that the space belongs to them and, in turn, a feeling of responsibility for it.
    • Paint’n’Beer volunteer – having a building/floor make-over day or days for casual volunteers and residents to help decorate with a few crates of beer
    • Open place office areas or ‘hot desking’ where desks are leased allowing a greater body of creative people to work together

  • Ideas for programming and inspiration include:
    • Contacting The Yard and exploring the way they encouraged personal investment in the space by their members
    • Contact the Royal Court and find out how they run ‘unplugged’ – a bare-bones pop-up theatre project in empty shops around London
    • Look to Hospital Club as an example of networking events, scratch, film, music and performance events and recreation
    • Learn from experienced programmers of year round multi-arts venues
    • Attracting new talent and residents via publicity generated through press
    • Research Amazing Space group for ideas on work space management

  • Generally;
    • That good venues are very much about first experience and feel, and that front of house plays a very important role in terms of audience experience
    • That it is important to distinguish the TD brand with works performed/produced by residents outside of the artistic remit of the group, and that it might be a good idea to have a separate brand to cover extramural shows/exhibitions
    • May be useful speaking to empty shops projects like Empty Shops Network to explore ideas for use of the space
    • Local community outreach – talk to school, police, local community centres, churches etc and explore ideas as to how to increase community participation
    • Is 9 months long enough to run substantial community projects? Question of managing impact

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