Sarah Eastaff, director of a new theatre company dedicated to making exciting, immersive story-telling experiences for children, writes for Northern Soul about producing theatre in unusual spaces and offers some advice when applying for arts funding.
At Are We There Yet? we believe that live performance is at its most exciting when it’s different with every audience. Our work is focused on adventures in unexpected areas, finding fun in the ordinary and embracing everybody’s imagination.
In October we will premiere our new show: This is Not an Office. This is a piece of theatre for families with children aged 6+ set in an office in central Liverpool. The audience begin by reading a story in which a monster terrorises familiar storybook characters. Suddenly we realise the monster is in the office; we must find him and stop him before it’s too late!
This is Not an Office is being produced with Hope Street Limited in Liverpool. Hope St Ltd is well known for its immersive work with people of all ages and backgrounds and our production will debut at Hope St’s On The Verge Festival on October 19-25. This festival produces work by emerging artists in unusual spaces and we are making the only piece of children’s theatre.
We’re making this kind of theatre because our producer Sarah Jackson, performer Melissa Handley and I are all passionate about engaging non-traditional audiences. We also have a lot of experience facilitating drama sessions in schools and community settings. We’ve worked in and with theatres across the North West including Contact, the Octagon in Bolton and the West Yorkshire Playhouse. These experiences have allowed us to hone our own style of performance and now we’re really excited about the specific experience we can offer our audience.
To make this experience possible, we have been applying for funding from a range of avenues. Recently we’ve been lucky enough to receive some funding from O2 Think Big, who support and enable young people with great ideas to have an impact on society. This funding will be used to make our performances accessible and enjoyable for children with a range of needs. It’ll also help us to provide props for the children that will make the show even more immersive – such as pirate costumes and a colouring-in area.
To receive this funding, we tailored our application to emphasise the work we are doing in and around Liverpool. Prior to the performances in October, we are taking a draft of the play into primary schools. By doing this, we will engage with potential audiences and we will involve young people in our development process. We’ve also been able to make the most of the wonderful people we’ve worked with in the past; other funding applications we’re in the process of sending off have been proof-read by many talented practitioners, while our relationship with Hope Street Ltd has been crucial to our funding strategy.
For anyone interested in receiving funding for an arts project, I’d also emphasise the importance and the worth of funding in kind. Our transport and accommodation costs during the festival are covered, while Hope St Ltd is generously providing staff for the event. Examples like this combined with the funding from O2 Think Big account form a substantial percentage of our budget. Now, when we apply for other funding we stand a better chance of receiving it because we are not reliant on a single charity or company.
Furthermore, myself and other members of Are We There Yet? will be funding small, specific elements of our process. Fortunately, everyone involved in this process is in employment and understand that to make theatre on this relatively large scale, you’ve got to put your own money, as well as time, into it.
We are also currently crowdfunding for this project to match the funding we received from O2 Think Big. This will fund costumes for the cast and the audience. We’re offering a range of rewards for individuals who donate from an exclusive newsletter to postcards with pictures from the performance, and if you donate £100 you can choose a piece of the set from the production to keep! We’ve engaged our target audience through a video showing a short introduction to the story, on social media and by utilising our previous partnerships with local theatres.
By Sarah Eastaff
To apply for funding with O2 Think Big, follow this link: www.o2thinkbig.co.uk