If you’ve been looking at the things we’re doing during lockdown, you might be wondering what impact the Covid crisis is having on Theatre in the Mill’s work and future. It’s really easy for artists and creative freelancers to feel totally alienated from organisations and the decisions they’re making right now. So this is where we’re at.
Theatre in the Mill has four full time staff members. We are all still employed, and not furloughed. Working to manage these new conditions and plans is intense, especially for those of us also looking after kids, but we’re in a lucky position to still be working – as part of the University of Bradford, our jobs are safe. The majority of TiM’s creative budget comes from our Arts Council England NPO funding, plus some Uni operating budget, so our core income is safe for now too. Unlike many larger venues, ticket sales make up a small percentage of our income; our audience capacity is limited to 80, and more than that we keep our ticket prices accessible so we’ve always accounted for performances breaking even or costing us more than they earn us. In short, for the time being, we’re financially stable.
Of course, our budget has taken a hit. We’re honouring our commitments and paying those artists already booked for our planned Weekender in May, and will be paying them again in future where we’re able to present their work. We’ve continued to pay artists we had agreed R&D commissions with. There are collaborative projects with partners such as East Street Arts which have to entirely shift their timelines, increasing the project cost. After lots of discussions with freelance artists, we also launched our Covid response package, with a budget of £17,750. You can see a breakdown of where this money is going by looking through each section of the response package. It was a choice to do this, of course, but funnelling the money that would have been spent on putting on festivals directly to artists to weather this storm feels like the right decision. It does mean, however, that our commissioning budget has been cut down drastically, which is really difficult. We’re receiving even more emails than usual from artists wanting support for their work, and we wish we had the money to do that but just don’t at the moment.
What are we doing going forward? This is the tricky part. We had 2020/21 beautifully mapped out in a business plan that we’ve since had to scrap – or at least postpone – and we’re now in the business of looking at how we can best use our money, time and expertise to support a sector in crisis. Some theatres are looking at opening later this year with social distancing measures in place to keep audiences and employees safe. Those of you who’ve visited us know that routes in and out of our spaces are limited, as is audience capacity. We know that socially distanced performances at the Mill aren’t an option. But our primary mission is artist development, so we’re simply looking to redefine how we deliver that mission under these new circumstances. Right now, that means offering funding and tech equipment for artists developing their practice at home; in six months time, that will likely mean offering artists R&D space at TiM (with lots of hygiene and safety measures in place) and in twelve months, well…we’re optimistic. We hope to see you all in person before then.
I hope this was useful, and for those with more questions we’d love to see your faces. We hold a Zoom Open Office every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 10am – 11am.
Jyothi & Team TiM
Ps big shout out to Hannah Bentley, our ACE Relationship Manager, for being a queen. That is all.