In Good Company is the flagship professional creative and business development programme for theatre-makers and companies in the Midlands. We spoke to IGC’s Creative Producer Ben Anderson about the opportunities offered by the programme and how it has evolved over the years.
Tell us about the main opportunities that In Good Company can offer theatre-makers in the region.
In Good Company has a huge array of opportunities for theatre-makers at a variety of stages in their careers. Our programme is expansive and bespoke to each person so it has the potential to reach the largest number of makers.
We provide mentorship, business support, resources and high-profile performance opportunities. In Good Company has transformed how artists and venues communicate and co-create exciting new performance platforms, commissions and touring networks.
Our six key strands are:
1) Commissions and bursaries;
2) Workshops (both business and creative);
3) A touring network;
4) Performance platforms (including our Check-In and Deparure Lounge Festivals and paid scratch nights);
5) New writing development (including our Playshuffle open mic nights and our Take Off development opportunity);
6) The Artist Network (which includes a newsletter, Facebook group and digital directory).
And we’ve got a new one coming soon:
7) Producers scheme
How does In Good Company tailor its offers for early career artists and for more established ones?
IGC recognises that whilst we are very much a grass roots organisation, we need to ensure that we support people through their journey. After a couple of shows and tours outside the region, the expectation around an artist’s work increases but the support and resources don’t necessarily follow suit.
For early career artists we have a bursary scheme for new projects and research and development. We distribute four bursaries of £1000 in January and June each year, and then build a package of support and mentorship alongside our venue partners. That really is bespoke for each artist.
Then we have a £10,000 mid-career commission for a theatre-maker or company that really needs to take that next step. We have a lot of experience to draw on within our small staff team and across our partnerships.
Describe a typical week inside In Good Company HQ. Who’s there, and how do you spend most of your time when running the programme?
Well IGC HQ is located in what I call the mothership (aka the wonderful Derby Theatre which is the lead partner for IGC). Both Sophie Hack (IGC’s Administrator) and I are based in the office there. We’re sat with the rest of the Derby Theatre artistic team, with an essential snack drawer between us and some plants for sanity.
There is no such thing as a typical week at In Good Company. A lot of my time is taken up with managing the day-to-day running of the programme, organising workshops, programming festivals and scratch nights, booking tours, managing all the various opportunities we have at any given time, shortlisting, communicating with artists and advising them on their projects. We often work with University of Derby students who are based at the theatre or with work experience placements. Not to forget managing the partnership of ten venues and making sure everyone is happy. I usually spend at least one day a week in another city visiting a partner venue. I particularly enjoy getting out and meeting artists in their home cities.
I also manage the Big House Programme which is all about supporting theatre-makers as businesses. That programme comes with an entire different set of partner venues.
How has the initial mission of In Good Company changed over the years? Have there been particular needs you’ve responded to?
In Good Company has always been shaped by artists. We are ACE project funded which means every few years we go back to our plan, consult artists and venues, and build on the programme. So it changes, but its core mission of pooling resources to support artists remains the same. I’m forever grateful for the trust venues place in us to know what’s best for makers.
The main difference is the size of the partnership. It’s gone from a three-venue partnership to a huge ten-venue partnership.
What three pieces of advice would you give a new theatre-maker who doesn’t know how to start getting their work in front of audiences?
1) Just make something, anything. You only learn by doing.
2) Get to grips with funding and spreadsheets.
3) Communication and relationship building is key. Try to articulate your values, as concisely as possible.
Many theatre-makers face lots of rejection in their first few years of making work. Do you have any tips on how to deal with this?
Consider this: everyone on this planet has a story to tell. Try dividing your number of rejections by the population of the planet. Suddenly your rejection rate looks pretty low.
What are the biggest challenges you think the Midlands’ independent theatre sector will face in the next few years, and how do you think we can collectively deal with those challenges?
The aftermath of Covid-19 will be the biggest challenge. We all have a responsibility, every single one of us, to advocate for the independent sector – particularly to funders and NPOs in the hope that they start pooling resources and diversifying their income streams.
Also, make sure we’re all working towards ACE’s Let’s Create strategy.
What specific advice would you offer to artists dealing with the uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation?
Reach out. The most reassuring thing about all of this is that we are all in it together.