Project Description


Programming Co-ordinator:
Lauren Barkes-Nickolds

Please note:

Some of the information provided in the Programming Database might be subject to major revision as the Covid-19 crisis develops. The way in which venues programmed work a few months ago is not necessarily the same way they will be programming work a few months from now.

Whilst it is more important than ever that venues can be as transparent as possible about their programming policies, interests, capacity and timeframes, everyone needs to be aware that things will inevitably change over time under these uncertain conditions. As future planning becomes clearer for venues, they are encouraged to update their database information accordingly.


Derby Theatre's Logo
  • Venue:
    Derby Theatre

  • Address:
    15 Theatre Walk
    St Peter’s Quarter
    DE1 2NF

  • Programming Co-ordinator:
    Lauren Barkes-Nickolds

  • Programming Co-ordinator’s Email:


Derby Theatre programmes independent work into its small black box studio theatre (80 – 110 seats depending on seating bank arrangement). They mainly offer one-night slots. As the space is used during the week for University of Derby lectures, they can only really programme on Fridays and Saturdays, and also Sundays for family work.

They programme within seasons which breakdown as follows:

Spring (late January/February to end April) — approximate time for programming is end of July.
Summer (late May to early July) — approximate time for programming is end of October.
Autumn (late September to mid/late November) — approximate time for programming is end of January.

They programme diverse work in all senses of the word: shows for all ages, abilities, culturally diverse companies/work, shows by and for working class people, shows by and for Disabled and Deaf artists/audiences. They have a particular interest in reflecting the community of Derby and current affairs.

Lauren Barkes-Nickolds (Programming & Community Engagement Co-ordinator) takes the lead in programming the space. The best way to contact her is via Derby Theatre’s programming email address ( with a tour pack containing as much information about your show as possible. Lauren collates all of the tour packs recieved, then takes a proportion of them to various committees for consideration: an internal team including staff from across the organisation, and one or more of the theatre’s ambassador groups (Community, Youth & Student). This process produces seasons of work that represent the theatre’s community and provides opportunities to both regional and national artists.


Lauren Barkes-Nickolds - Derby Theatre's Programmer

Tell us about a recent piece of theatre you really enjoyed and why it had such an impact on you.

At Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 I saw Bryony Kimmings for the first time with her show I’m a Phoenix, Bitch. I was absolutely blown away and speechless at the end. Yes, it was a one-woman play (which I’m a little over) but she held that stage for over an hour and I was gripped. It was about motherhood, heartbreak and mental health. The set was fantastic, she was fantastic and the interpreter working alongside her was incredible.

Are there things which push your buttons when you see them in shows (in both good ways and bad ways)?

Good — Companies who you can tell have thought about integrating access at the beginning of their process rather than as an “add-on” after the show was created.

Bad — People saying a show is accessible in one way or another, then you see it and realise that they haven’t thought it through properly or had an access consultant working on the show.

What kind of show have you seen too much of lately?

One-person shows. I know that there is a financial reason for doing one-person shows, due to a reduction in funding and commission opportunities. But when nine out of ten shows I see are one-person shows, they begin to lose something.

How long have you been programming at your venue?

Since 2015.

What is your professional background? How did you get into programming?

I graduated from Huddersfield University in 2011, and spent my time after that searching for jobs, volunteering for arts organisations and performing in community productions. I got my first job as an usher at Derby Theatre in April 2012, working every possible shift I could, and worked my way through casual roles in Box Office, Marketing and Creative Learning. In September 2013 I got my first full-time job as Production Assistant at Derby Theatre, supporting the technical team with the administration of the received and produced programmes. After a year in post, my role was restructured and I became the Production & Programming Assistant and began supporting the programmer with programming administration. In November 2015 I became the Programme Co-ordinator for Derby Theatre, leading on the programming of the Studio Theatre and hires. Over the years my responsibilities have changed, and I have taken a keen interest in Equality & Diversity and Community Engagement. My role was restructured to reflect this in November 2018 — my current role is Programming & Community Engagement Co-ordinator.


Give us some basic details about the space(s) you programme at the venue.

Our Studio Theatre is a small black box space with a maximum of 110 seats using our seating bank, which gives a 3.8m playing depth and 9m width. Or we can take the seating bank back to 80 seats, giving a 4.6m playing depth. We can also take the seating bank out completely and do traverse, in the round, sat amongst set, cabaret seating etc. However, these other configurations results in less audience capacity, which has an affect on potential sales and could have an impact on the kind of fees we could offer.

What kind of work do you programme into your space(s)?

Anything except for dance, as we also have Déda in Derby, the city’s dance house with a fab programme of dance work. However, we do have a small programme of dance works on our Main Stage, as Déda does not have a large space to accommodate some of the bigger productions. The aim of our Studio programme is to try and reflect the community of Derby and current affairs. We are interested in diverse work in all senses of the word: shows for all ages, abilities, culturally diverse companies/work, shows by and for working class people, shows by and for Disabled and Deaf artists/audiences, etc. We present a lot of new writing and devised work, and are less likely to programme old texts, unless they’re being reimagined in an interesting and accessible way.

Tell us about the audiences who visit your venue.

It is difficult to determine who our audiences are, as they’re really mixed and can often depend on the show. For our Main House programme, we have a number of older audiences with a loyal following, and we also engage with many schools, colleges and university groups. For our Studio, it is often not an audience you expect — we might think a show would encourage a hip young crowd, but you walk in and the audience can largely be made up of over-50’s (not to say they aren’t hip, of course).

How many performance slots per year would you estimate you can offer to touring theatre-makers/companies?

For our Studio: Over a year we have approximately 38 one-night slots. We have limited programming capacity as the space is used during the week for University of Derby lectures, so we only really programme on Fridays and Saturdays, and also Sundays for family work.

For our Main House: we have approximately 10—12 weeklong larger touring shows per year, with a number of one-night music and stand-up events. We also have some half-weeks.

What kind of financial deals can/does your venue offer?

We offer Guarantees and Guarantees Against Splits.

What determines the financial deal you offer to touring theatre-makers/companies?

Our deals are mainly based on what the artists need. This can differ depending on how much the show costs to make or how much funding they have got. Of course, we cannot always afford the fees artists are asking for, and in that case, we may ask for a smaller guarantee vs. a split, which we tend to find makes for a better collaboration on marketing efforts between artists and venue (there is a shared interest in getting a full audience because each party has something to gain).

Although we can’t always offer a high guarantee, we will always offer some form of guarantee as we understand that artists have costs they need to cover, and guaranteed income also helps towards funding applications. With a professionally produced piece of work, we would never work on a hire basis. Our hires are for supporting the local amateur and community groups.

Approximately how many programming emails do you receive per week from theatre-makers/companies wanting to bring their work to your venue?

It’s difficult to pick out how many are related to artists bringing shows, but generally I receive about 400 emails a week. Either from artists who are making their first contact about a show, artists chasing up queries, or for managing the current programme. The majority of my job is managing an inbox.

Approximately how many programming telephone calls do you receive per week from theatre-makers/companies wanting to bring their work to your venue?

I don’t tend to receive many programming calls, simply because most people now realise our process and know that we need all information in a tour pack to take to our programming groups.

Approximately how many programming tour packs do you receive per week from theatre-makers/companies wanting to bring their work to your venue?

This is difficult to determine as it isn’t always tour packs; sometimes it is simply information sent in an email rather than an official tour pack.

Does your venue operate an exclusion zone policy for work touring to your venue?

For our Main House programme, we do have an exclusion zone. For the Studio, we do not operate an exclusion zone as we realise it’s best for artists not to travel the breadth of the country and back day after day. However, if a show has performed in Derby recently (or plans to perform somewhere else in the city) then we would not take it. Derby is small and it can be difficult enough to fill one night in the Studio. If it’s been/going elsewhere, this can have a negative impact on sales.


Tell us about your venue’s programming policy.

We have quite a complex process for programming. We programme one season at a time, and ask for tour packs to be sent via email. I look through all packs in one go, then take a proportion of them to an internal team including staff from across the organisation. The shows then still on the table get taken to one or more of our ambassador groups (Community, Youth & Student) for feedback and they each pick one to be programmed as their pick for that season. I then look through the remaining shows on the table and I pull together a programme that reflects our community. We try to ensure we offer programming opportunities to both regional and national artists.

Do you programme your venue within seasons or do you offer a rolling programme?

We programme within seasons and they breakdown as follows:

Spring (late January/February to end April) — approximate time for programming is end of July.
Summer (late May to early July) — approximate time for programming is end of October.
Autumn (late September to mid/late November) — approximate time for programming is end of January.

How is it best for theatre-makers/companies to contact you about programming their work in the first instance?

It’s best to email me with a tour pack including as much information as possible.

Do you love or hate speaking to theatre-makers/companies over the phone?

I am more than happy to have a chat over the phone but sometimes it can be a pointless task for the artist. At the end of the conversation, I have to request information in a tour pack so I can take it to our groups. Because it isn’t just solely me making the decisions, the quick answers that artists expect over the phone aren’t possible. So I prefer email with all the relevant information.

Have do you feel about theatre-makers/companies pursuing programming conversations with you via social media?

Facebook: No, this is my personal account, and apart from sharing opportunities and news with my friends and families, it is mainly a no work zone.

Instagram: No, this is for just my closest family and friends.

Twitter: This is a tricky one. I do not mind people reaching out on there and tagging me in things, as I do the same. However, if it is about potentially programming a show, then I ask that artists follow the process noted above.

The problem with contact via social media is that you never get the opportunity to turn off from work, and having a work/life balance is really important. So as I say, it’s a tricky one.

Should theatre-makers/companies get in touch to come and meet you for a cuppa?

I am always happy to meet artists for a chat about their work, how we programme and offer any advice and support I can. However I would always recommend they follow up any conversations about potential programming with their tour pack which I can take forward to our programming groups.

Is there a specific day of the week or month when you work on responding to programming enquiries?


Will you reply to every programming enquiry you receive (whether by email, telephone or post)?

We try our best to respond to them all in one way or another. Sometimes it can take some time to get a response, which is why we have an automatic response on our programming email so people know we have recieved their email and have saved it on file for when we look at each period. However, with so many emails, there are times when some of them fall through the cracks.

After their initial contact, how long should theatre-makers/companies leave before following up with another email or telephone call?

There’s no specific time for this. We will try and give a timelime for when we are looking at each season, so I’d suggest artists get in touch again if they haven’t heard from us by the time we specified. Best way to follow up is by email.

During an initial programming enquiry, what details do you need to help you make an informed decision?

A full tour pack. Because I’m not the only one person who is making programming decisions, I need as much information as possible in the tour pack to take forward to our groups.

Do you find it helpful or off-putting when theatre-makers/companies gives you the price of their touring work upfront?

I find it helpful. I understand why artists don’t say their costs upfront as every venue is different in what they can offer, but for us it would be good to know. We want to pay artists fairly, and we don’t want to end up in a back-and-forth conversation about what we can afford. Sometimes we end up in a situation where we say yes to a show, but then they tell us the fee and we can’t afford it from our budget. It means we can’t programme that work because we don’t want to try and reduce the fee if that’s what the artist needs.

Do you pay any attention to media reviews/stars included in a programming approach?

Hmmm… We do read them, but we don’t live by them. I have seen work before that I loved and a well-known reviewer hasn’t, and vice versa.

Do you pay any attention to audience comments and voxpops included in a programming approach?

I find these much more valuable than reviewers’ comments. Although I also realise at times they can be biased as they can be from family/friends attending the show.

Do you pay any attention to testimonials from other programmers and industry professionals included in a programming approach?

Yes, they’re very helpful.

Do you actually find time to go and see the full performances, industry showcases, sharings and scratches you are invited to?

Yes, someone from the venue (either me or a trusted colleague) tries to see as much as we can.

Should Artists invite you to see their work (including full performances and work-in-progress sharings)?


How far in advance should they invite you along?

If it’s too far in advance, we might not know our schedules, but if it’s too late, then we might not have time. I would suggest 2 months notice, and where possible, an invite to a local Midlands-based sharing rather than London.

If you do attend performances and work-in-progress sharings, are daytimes or evenings best for you?


How far would you be prepared to travel to see work?

There’s no limit on how far we would travel. But the more local it is, the more likely we are to attend.

Do you usually go to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to help programme your venue?

Yes, it’s the easiest time for me to see work.

When should theatre-makers/companies invite you so you can plan your Excel spreedsheet of shows to see?

1-2 months in advance.

Do you (or a trusted colleague) need to have seen work LIVE before considering it for your programme?

No, we don’t need to have seen their work live. It’s useful to see a filmed version of the full show.


Tell us about other ways in which theatre-makers/companies can build relationships with you beyond (or in addition to) getting their work programmed at your venue.

The best way is by linking up with us through the In Good Company artist development scheme which is based at Derby Theatre.


Programming Policy

View the programming information on Derby Theatre’s website.


Spaces Information

Read about Derby Theatre’s spaces, and take a virtual 360 degree tour.