A year and a half ago I went to a talk at 24:7 Theatre Festival about the future of theatre in Manchester. It was a turbulent time for theatre, with arts council cuts all over the place and a rising feeling that something had to change.
Last Thursday, the beginning of that change came into fruition.
The Gap is an organisation in Manchester that’s aiming to bridge the gap between Fringe theatre and theatre at venues such as HOME and The Royal Exchange Theatre. Manchester is filled with theatre talent and with new writers and new companies that make great work. However, it also has a lot of mid-career writers who have earned the credentials to be able to ask, ‘what’s next for me?’
At the moment, The Gap is a conversation. It’s asking a whole pile of people what they think the gap is. Figuring out how to create properly paid work and how to use space in the city.
I suppose it’s this which puts The Gap on a pinnacle – the big question of what will come out of all of these conversations. Whether it’s commercial, or joining up a number of approaches. The advantage we have is that in Manchester, the theatre community is close knit. There are so many familiar faces. It’s a blessing and a curse – it brings up it’s own questions – how to then bring in audiences from outside this fantastic community?
After the debate last Thursday, The Gap put on some plays by a mixture of playwrights. Some are mid-career, and some with a national reputation. Each of the plays was powerful. If the showcase is a snippet of what we can expect then I’m definitely excited.
I think The Gap has a lot of potential. The idea behind it is certainly an ideal one – but being paid decent wages and having support in theatre isn’t a farfetched brand-new idea – it’s just one that’s really hard to figure out when there’s very little arts funding.
There’s a lot that can be done here. As I said last Thursday – now is a time to shout about the talent we have here in Manchester, and to show ourselves as professionals. The pride we share with one another should be shared with everyone else.
At the end of the day, Manchester theatre is pretty good.
If you’d like to find out more about The Gap (or donate) then visit: http://theatregap.co.uk