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"We believe it is possible to develop a network of buildings with flexible spaces that nurture talent, promote excellence, provide career progression opportunities,and foster more equitable relations with the mainstream theatre sector.

  • These spaces should be managed and led by practitioners from The Sector and be open to all who wish to expand their horizons through engaging with theatre
  • There should be a strategic approach to establishing these buildings to ensure they meet the regional, national and international needs of The Sector
  • We recommend that the proposal for developing a network of buildings in regional centres with different specialisms be put before colleagues
  • This buildings infrastructure project – along with the people and resources within the proposed buildings – should be set up to develop as an ongoing investment in The Sector over a minimum of 10 years"

After a five year journey, Sustained Theatre is finally on the point of realising the ambition expressed in the above statement.

Following discussions with the Arts Council earlier this summer, we are now able to move forward with capital funding applications for the projects including approval to work with a company approved by the National Artists’ Team a year ago and the first was submitted on 13 October, with more to follow.

The project has been led from the outset by artists from the Sector and has seen many more contribute to its development and outcome.  Although it was originally envisaged that one each of four different facilities (‘clean’ space, ‘dirty space’, mobile theatre, retreat) would be established, the proposal which has emerged is to create a network of spaces across England, focussed on four physical hubs in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London.  The possibility of establishing a fifth in Newcastle-upon-Tyne is still being explored. 

These hubs will have dedicated Sustained Theatre studios and offices and, through the partnerships on which all are based, will offer access to other rehearsal and studio spaces in which to create and develop work.  They will create access for artists and companies from the Sector to physical space in which they can create, develop and prepare their work for presentation.  They will host other activities to strengthen the skills base of the Sector, such as producer development training, mentoring, critical debate and other creative development programmes.  Office space will be hired to companies from the sector on either short or long term basis.  The partnership organisations with whom we are working will be able to offer informal support and advice and include presenting venues, so there will be opportunities to put work created in the spaces before audiences.  The initial leases for the spaces will be for a 10 year period.

The projects, selected from 37 responses to a national Call for Partners, which form the Sustained Theatre Spaces Network are as follows:

Location: Zion Arts Centre, Hume, Manchester
Lead Partner: Zion Arts Centre
Other Partners: Community Arts North-West, Contact Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre
Space: Dedicated rehearsal studio and office space of approx 264 m2; access to other spaces within Zion Arts Centre, including a fully equipped 230 seat studio theatre, a recording studio and digital arts lab (Zion is well-connected in terms of IT infrastructure and skills).  Some building alterations and refurbishment are required.

London follows a slightly different model from the other projects in that the two companies involved are members of Sustained Theatre themselves.  Both are developing their buildings and will be dedicating a proportion of the availability of space to Sustained Theatre companies and artists under a service level agreement.

Arcola moved to new, larger premises in Dalston in January 2011.  The Colourworks building will offer studios and office space in addition to their auditoria and will require some refurbishment and conversion; these works have been costed at just under £2.6m and are part of a larger £10m plan for the development of Arcola’s facilities.  Once the investment is secured, Hackney Borough Council will grant them a 25 year lease on the premises.

Tara are proposing to use their existing base in South London which requires some alterations and refurbishment to accommodate their contribution to the proposal.  A new rehearsal studio will be created in the basement and the existing studio will be made larger.

An operational plan has been developed for how the London space will work in conjunction with the London hub, with facilities being offered from both venues to artists and companies from the region.  The London space will also have a significant role as a showcase venue for work created at other spaces in the network.

Location:  The Edge, Digbeth, Birmingham
Lead Partner: Friction Arts
Other Partners: The Drum, Birmingham; Belgrade Theatre, Coventry; The Public, West Bromwich; Black Country Touring
Space: Shared use of a rehearsal studio of approx 250 m2 and dedicated office space.  Some remodelling and upgrading of the building is required to make it fit for purpose.  This project is in its early stages and needs some development before putting in a full application to the Arts Council.

Location: Yorkshire Dance building, St Peter’s Buildings, Leeds
Lead Partner: Yorkshire Dance
Other Partners: West Yorkshire Playhouse, Phoenix Dance Company
Space: Dedicated rehearsal studio and office space of approx 375 m2 in total; access to other studio spaces within Yorkshire Dance (including a ‘clean’ space, (i.e. fully equipped with lighting and sound rig and capable of accommodating a small invited audience), studios within Phoenix Dance Company’s new building and considerable use of Rehearsal Room 3 within WYP.  Some minor building alterations and refurbishment are required. 

The appropriate regional hub (the organisational ones as opposed to the physical spaces) will take a significant role in the management and operation of the space working closely with the lead partner both in terms of its day-to-day functions and also in planning and managing the use and development of the space.

This is an exciting time for the network as a lot of hard work comes to fruition.  The results of the applications should become known in early 2012 and hopefully we can then move on to delivering  the spaces and opening the doors.

David Beidas
New Stages Ltd, October 2011



a group of people sit stand and pose in a room

Spaces Update December 2010



Although it may have seemed a bit quiet recently, the Making Spaces project continues to move on. Just to remind ourselves, the concept which had emerged from the Call for Partners process was as follows:

there are four physical hubs located in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, where Sustained Theatre has a lease on at least one studio/rehearsal space, some offices to be rented out to Sustained Theatre companies and artists and other ancillary spaces (a social space is generally regarded as an important element). Through a local partnership network, other studio/rehearsal spaces are available and skills and expertise can be drawn on. The range of spaces available through the partnership will include one ‘clean’ space (i.e. fully equipped with lighting and sound rig and capable of accommodating a small invited audience). There is a venue among the range of partners which is capable of programming work which is created in the hub. There are no new buildings.


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