Working with venues part two hero image

Making Immersive: Working with Venues, Part Two

In the second part of our working with Venues theme, we explore the processes involved in setting up a space for immersive experiences – from business rates and running costs to grumpy neighbours. In this episode, Dr Joanna Bucknall chats with David Ralf, Tom Black and Joe Ball about programming and developing relationships with venues that host immersive work and the opportunities and challenges they’ve experienced in their journeys so far. 

Our Guests:

David Ralf is a producer, theatre manager, and production manager. Before joining Theatre Deli he was Executive Director of The Bunker Theatre and was Associate Producer of The Hope Theatre. He also produces theatre with his company, Loose Tongue, and writes plays https://www.theatredeli.co.uk/

Tom Black is an immersive theatremaker and interactive narrative design consultant. He co-created Parabolic Theatre’s ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ and is an Artistic Associate of the company. He’s also a founder and Creative Director at Jury Games, and the Chief Operating Officer at sci-fi immersive experience Bridge Command. https://www.tomblack.uk @tomblackuk

Joe Ball Joe Ball has been running Exit Productions for the last 6 years, inviting audiences to start revolutions, colonise Mars, fix boxing matches, Decide if AI is sentient enough to end it’s life, fixed cycle races and the host of the next world cup. Recently he has been delivering interactive events for Boomtown festival, music acts and brands. Joe also co-runs Jury Games that has just found a permanent home in central London after becoming a global success online through lockdown. www.exitproductionsltd.com

Hosted by Dr Joanna Bucknall and produced by Natalie Scott for the IEN’s Knowledge Bank. Funded by Arts Council England.

Podcast Transcript

Joanna Bucknall

Welcome to the Immersive Experience Network’s Making Immersive podcast series, giving you the tools and insights into the making of all things immersive and interactive. I’m your host, Dr Joanna Bucknall . And over the course of this knowledge bank series, I’ll be having conversations with extraordinary creatives, production specialists and makers, who shape this tantalizing sector and the worlds that draw us into this form. In this fourth episode of IEN’s Making Immersive podcast, the discussion is going to focus upon exploring the nuts and bolts of running Immersive Experience in non-traditional venues, and the unique challenges involved in running, maintaining, and working with venues that host immersive work.

This morning, I am joined by David Ralf, who is a producer, theatre manager, and production manager at Theatre Deli. David is a producer and playwright with his company, Loose Tongue. Tom Black, who is creative director of Jury Games and is also an experienced immersive performer. Joe Ball who’s been running Exit Productions for the last six years and co-runs Jury Games with Tom. Recently, Joe has been involved in Delivering mass interactive events for Boomtown festival, musical acts and brands. We’ll be spending the next hour or so discussing the challenges, but also some of the best practice associated with venues that support and host immersive work.

I wanted to just kick off by asking each of you to give a sense of your training background and some of the routes you’ve taken to getting into a position of working in in this immersive space. David, can you just give listeners a sense of your background and expertise, but also a little insight into the routes that led you to working with Theatre Deli?

David Ralf

Absolutely. I came through working as a producer and made a whole load of different fringe work, mainly not immersive work, although I did do bits and pieces with Loose Tongue. But the starting point of my work with venues came with The Hope Theatre where I was an associate producer. And then The Bunker which I joined relatively early on in that venue’s brief life and ran that venue for the last two years of its existence just before the pandemic, where we did exciting things like shifting our model to a much more lowering risk for incoming producers.

We want to stage an award for Fringe Theatre of The Year. I brought Chris Sonics into running that venue, all of which was very exciting. And then once we made the decision to bring that venue to a close, leaving every penny that we had on the stage, well, I was then looking for the next challenge and following on from The Bunker, not an immersive space, but very much a DIY space. It made a lot of sense to look at Theatre Deli who were looking for someone to head up that organization as the last founder was stepping away. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years.

Joanna Bucknall

Excellent. And where was The Bunker?

David Ralf

The Bunker was in London Bridge in a car park underneath a big old listed building, which is where the Menier Chocolate Factory is. For three years, it was a wonderful 110-seater fringe theatre where we did all kinds of crazy stuff. And yet, it was deeply unsustainable, almost all the way through. Eventually, they wanted to re-develop the whole building, and so we had to work out an exit for that space, but hugely proud of what we did there. But also, every single day, it was all of the challenges of running a DIY space, making sure that it was safe for audiences to be in and safe to get them out of it very quickly. All of that.

Joanna Bucknall

Actually, underground seems to be the natural home of all things immersive, pop-up and DIY. We’re like moles.

David Ralf

I’m not sure that I’d recommend underground right by the River Thames, but do what you’ve got to do.

Joanna Bucknall

Yes. And Tom, what’s your background? Because obviously you’re a performer. So how did you get into this?

Tom Black

I hadn’t really done any immersive work until 2018 when someone I knew from university somewhat out of the blue just gave me a phone call and said, “Tom, you did history at university, right? And you can act?” And I was like, “One of those questions is subjective but yeah, okay. What’s this about?” And he said, “Well, I’m in this show. It’s about the Second World War. It’s an immersive theatre piece and I know you like gaming as well. I think it will be of real interest to you because it needs somebody with a history brain.” And I said, “That sounds very interesting. I’d love to come find out more.” That, of course, was my introduction to the brilliant mind of Owen Kingston and everyone at Parabolic Theatre because that show was For King and Country. That was a real whirlwind introduction to the highly interactive immersive theatre that I set out to make myself now and love because I wasn’t aware until I was involved in that show that immersive theatre could be that level of interactivity. That was 2018.

A lot of things followed from that. Owen and I co-created What Crisis which began at the Colab Factory and ended up in various places, including a run with the New Diorama Theatre who were extremely supportive of the show. But during COVID, obviously, I was actually mere weeks away from working with the man sat to my left here, Joe Ball, on a different show, and that show was obviously botched by lockdown. Because he and I were talking and a few ideas had popped into my head, chiefly, how am I going to pay my rent, because all the acting work in London had gone, there was a thought of like, “Well, what if there was a show where it was an interactive, immersive show, but you were interviewing somebody over Zoom because that seems to be the only thing you can do right now?

That, of course, was the origin of the show Jury Duty, which led to the creation of the company Jury Games with Eddie Andrews and Ellie Russo, Eddie being the guy who back in 2018 had phoned me actually about that show back in For King and Country Days. So they came on as our producers, we formed the company Jury Games, and various other things have happened since then. I still work with Parabolic. We’re very excited to have Bridge come out soon. But yes, I’m extremely lucky to be at this juncture. It’s [crosstalk 00:06:59].

Joanna Bucknall

I’m very excited. I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to talk about it yet or not.

Tom Black

Depending on when this airs, we open very, very soon, or are open. But no, that’s all very exciting. But yes, my journey began a little bit by accident and I’m now very lucky to be working entirely within immersive theatre. We’ll come to it, but I also owe a great deal to David and Threatre Deli because Jury Games has taken up a residency there.

Joanna Bucknall

I had no idea For King and Country was your first immersive gig. That was one of my favourite shows around, still one of my favourite shows.

Tom Black

It was a real jumping-in. I loved it to pieces.

Joanna Bucknall

Hugely complex. Did you go to university? Did you study history and drama or did you study history and gaming?

Tom Black

I did history at Leeds and I was part of the theatre group there and it was entirely extra-curricular. I did work out by the end of university, I’d done more plays than I’d done exams, which was reflected in my final degree classification. I was also very proud to be a part of DugOut Theatre. That was the company that went out to the fringe with many years in a row and definitely put me on the path of like, I think I should just stick this thing out.

Joanna Bucknall

It seems like that history is actually what got you in rather than studying performance or anything like that, which is really interesting, I think, as a way in. Joe, how about you? What’s your background? How did you get to where you are?

Joe Ball

I started out post-university, just making fringe shows, self-writing in a little company that we started called Heart to Heart, which was very sweet, all about mental health, very earnest work.

Joanna Bucknall

And where did you study?

Joe Ball

At Hull University. So got total theatre training. So knowing all the different nuts and bolts that go into managing a project and managing stage. Did a lot of work assisting with Coney, and then did a lot of work with Bertie Watkins at Colab, helping him make a lot of shows. Then decided to make Exit to make my own shows. We also were down in the factory basement as all origin stories seem to be with Revolution that went to Boat Festival, and we did a full run of Boat Festival one year, and we’ve been making shows with Exit, or I’ve been making shows with Exit ever since, recently going off to Boomtown to run some stuff for them. We’ve managed a whole district with the narrative involved there. And started moving into making interactive work for bands as they tour, which has been quite an exciting one trying to work with artist’s vision to bring it to life in those exciting ways.

Joanna Bucknall

Brilliant, and we’re going to dig into a lot of the things that have been mentioned so far. We’re going to pick up some of those threads and run with them. But I think you’re right, the origin story. This is basements, caves, and vaults or tunnels of one kind or another. David, Theatre Deli has been instrumental in providing space for the immersive community for both development and the presentation of work. Can you talk about what some of the challenges have been providing space for this work because it comes with its own very distinct set of challenges?

David Ralf

Absolutely. The parts of Theatre Deli that has been about immersive work has come hand in hand with the fact that Theatre Deli has always been working in found spaces, meanwhile, spaces, spaces that would otherwise be sitting empty. And certainly, the early days of Theatre Deli, the founders of the organization wanted to make their own work. They were primarily directors who wanted to create work that they couldn’t put on in other spaces. It wasn’t necessarily immersive; it was about finding any space that they could call their own and call the shots. Hand in hand with that came the ability to invite artists in to make the most use of those spaces, and because all of those spaces were inherently very specific, site-specific, they weren’t set up like theatres, immersive theatre I think naturally found a home there. It was present from the very first show, the infamous Midsummer Night’s Dream in Regent Street, which received one star from Lyn Gardner. That was the first show from Theatre Deli and it absolutely was designed to be immersive. It was designed to be site-specific responding to that space.

In terms of inviting artists in, as I say, that was the ability to let people play, was built in from the very beginning. I think the difference now is that we are designed for the long haul in a way that we weren’t for a long period of time. So we’re trying to marry up that long-term artists’ development and support that industry presence with the fact that we’re still working in spaces where we might be kicked out with very short notice or we might only have for a few months or a couple of years. The big challenge for us is the nature of our leases, and that then impacts on what you decide to spend money on, and how you decide to offer different kinds of support. The classic example, I was recently doing a panel with Neil Connolly who worked with Theatre Deli for many, many years. They did Heist in Marylebone long-term, a massive project, which was all about that amazing audience journey through that building.

Joanna Bucknall

With Difference Engine, wasn’t it?

David Ralf

I wouldn’t be certain.

Joanna Bucknall

Yeah, I think Difference Engine was the company and then there were lots of other people, I think, plugged in.

David Ralf

Absolutely. I remember reading about that production and just being absolutely amazed that they could pull it off in London and it could be so exciting. The challenges are really about an audience journey that a building is not set up for, making it safe for an audience to move through, and also making the immersive dream line up with the realities of that space, and trying to find really good in-world solutions for those various different problems. And actually, weirdly, that’s come up recently with Jury Games and the in-world fiction of that show, which currently we’re hosting, which is a delight. I think that’s the key challenge to aligning those two things up and finding all of the rationales for it.

Joanna Bucknall

So with the precarity of space, which is a theme regardless of who we’re talking to, from right up corporate all the way down to fringe and pop-up, that precarity seems to be built in because of the nature of those spaces. Because even if you invest in the spaces, it’s like Punchdrunk has, for example, it’s still only going to be for a certain limited period of time. In terms of long-term artists’ development, how do you keep that relationship going when the spaces are something which shift and change potentially?

David Ralf

For us, we’ve tried to create programs which are relatively venue-independent. We have residencies which we can run in any of our given spaces. We have shift and space, which is a work-in-progress program which has been running for five or six seasons now and which can be performed in any room. We have at the moment got a wonderful space in Leadenhall Street that’s quite adaptable for that kind of thing, but it’s still fundamentally an office room that we’ve converted into a little black box. We get quite a lot of energy out of that and that tends to generate quite a lot of energy around the artists that we work with. But that can move to pretty much any room that we have. So that’s been the track that we’ve been on for a little while. But also, it is about looking at the portfolio that we currently have of spaces and working with all the various different artists that we know to make something happen. With Jury Games, the space that’s currently their home was previously an office that we were renting out monthly, and it turns out that it works perfectly for that show.

Joanna Bucknall

So it’s much more about investing in relationships in reality than in spaces and the site.

David Ralf

I think so. There’s plenty of people, there’s, I’d say, a few artists at the moment who we have projects that we’re desperate to make happen. At every space that we look at, we’re actively thinking, “Oh, that could be a place for them to do this cool thing that we’ve been looking for a space for, or this could be this.” We’re aware of what’s happening in the immersive and the site-specific world and the artists that are interested in it so that when we’re looking at spaces, we’re looking at it from the point of view of, “Okay, could this be a really exciting exhibition space? Could this be a performance space? Could it be a bunch of rehearsals or could it actually be a really exciting audience journey through some fantastical world?” We’re trying to weigh all of those things up every time we look at whatever horrible office block we’re presented with, or indeed, underground cabin.

Joanna Bucknall

Yes, of course. Joe, you ran a manager space in Bethnal Green for a period of time. Can you talk about what the challenges were, again, of working, of getting that space in the first place, and then managing on a day-to-day basis with that precarity of never knowing?

Joe Ball

Yes, happily. Our precarity was, we had four weeks’ notice to get out, which in the end, they cut down to two weeks in the final one, which was brutal. So anyone that we ended up working with, we were very open about that, and made sure that everyone knew that walking in so any work that was longer, knew the risks as much as we did getting involved. But we decided to pivot more to work in progress. So Tom did, the Guy in the Chair, was it? And we did a few other R&Ds for immersive stuff throughout setting it up as horrible, found space, as I’m sure Dave knows well. You find it as it’s found. They’re often not very looked after. So the initial worry is, do all the toilets work? No, they do not.

Joanna Bucknall

And you had a museum as well, didn’t you?

Joe Ball

We had the Vagina Museum in the back of the building, which was great. They were lovely housemates. Really cool bunch of people doing some really good stuff that brought the whole space to life in a very exciting way.

Joanna Bucknall

When you go into a space like that, checking things that work, do you do that yourself? Do you literally go and flush toilets, see how things work or do you have to get someone in to help you evaluate some of those things?

Joe Ball

That was all us. There was very little funding involved in this. There was no money to pay anyone apart from ourselves to go around and make sure all the cisterns could get water to them. So slowly, I think as toilets broke, there were less and less in the building that could be used just because we didn’t quite have the funds to literally keep it afloat.

David Ralf

This might feel like a strange thing to harp on about but absolutely learning a little bit of plumbing is a huge help. It is always going to be valuable.

Joanna Bucknall

Toilets and airflow actually have come up in pretty much every single conversation we’ve had with anybody about anything to do with immersive. Toilets and airflow are a huge issue, it seems, of spaces.

Joe Ball

The other big issue we found was slightly difficult neighbours because we were in a slightly more residential area. The first company we had in were quite loud. We had a noise complaint up on the office wall as a badge of honour. You probably get three before the police get involved. So we were quite far away from really striking out but it was still one to keep in mind as we move forward and slightly takes the fun out of a space that you want to make big beautiful nighttime activities for people to enjoy.

Joanna Bucknall

Finding pop-up spaces can be challenging as well in terms of audience. Was that something as well that impacted on choosing to help develop work rather than present work per se?

Joe Ball

We were very nicely next to the tube, so it made it very easy to get to. You just had to jump on the central line and you were basically there. So even though we weren’t central-central, it wasn’t hard to get to which made things quite useful. The spaces were very fun. The R&Ds we got in were much more about the ideas in people’s heads rather than how you switch a space to become something, which was really great to focus on that rather than going, we can make this beautiful space for you or allow you to make this beautiful space. It was, what I do is, do you want to play about with, what mechanics do you want to get going before you let your peace fly somewhere else.

Joanna Bucknall

And Bethnal Green is becoming a little bit of a hub actually. For a little while there was loads of nice immersive stuff happening there and it’s out but actually not that bad to get to from Central London. It’s not very far at all, like you said, on the tube, which is cool. Tom, and of course, Joe, Jury Games has just got its own permanent home in Central London after becoming, let’s face it, a global success online doing that pivot during lockdown. Can you talk us a little bit through the process of … because you’ve been in a few different places with it and had to move around because of that precarity, but now you’re going to have a much more permanent home. So can you talk a little bit about the process of how you got to having that relationship with Deli and how you got that permanent space?

Tom Black

Certainly. Yes, as David has said, our permanent home is now one of these studios in Theatre Deli. But in terms of how we landed there, as you say, yes, the show was born online, born as a Zoom show. Once the world began reopening, we thought, “This is still going.” As you say, it had success. The core idea of the audience, interviewing actors and comparing that with information you get and so on to figure out what’s going on in the case, that’s if you don’t know Jury Games, that’s what we do. There was no reason that couldn’t translate to something in person. The initial thing we did was we actually made a pop-up version of it where there were … It was not designed for any specific room, but we had and we still have these versions of it that basically fit into suitcases and we pop up in different people’s, be they upstairs rooms in pubs or meeting rooms in offices, and it became quite a popular private event for that regard.

Then we did it in various places, did it at some festivals and so on. But we had a feeling as we came in 2023 that we wanted something more permanent or something that could pop up and see if actually what we haven’t done in a long time is sell tickets directly for this. We are doing all these private bookings, but actually putting tickets on sale, we use Design My Night but selling out to the general public, that we hadn’t done in a while and we’re like, okay, let’s give that a go again, but we’ll need somewhere fixed to do that. I should have mentioned in my introduction, David directed a piece of mine back in my pre-immersive days a long time ago. 2017 I think it was.

David Ralf

Yes.

Tom Black

Goodness me. It was about Brexit. That must have been post-2016.  Anyway, I come across David, and we’d come across each other. But crucially, I’d been in the Theatre Deli Leadenhall space when it was very new. I think I was working with Jim Rogers and another formidable immersive maker. He had booked a meeting room in there for us to do some stuff and I thought, okay, new Deli space because obviously seen the old one as well. It just was in my mind. Myself, Joe, Eddie and Ellie, the producers of Jury Games, we were just having a conversation about how we’d like to get this permanent base for the show, and I just remembered that Deli had these rooms and as David said, a lot of their spaces are offices basically that have been converted into black box theatres or black box rooms, at least with dance floor and so on. But not all of them get converted that way. As David pointed out, the room that we ended up using was one that had just been used as a normal office until very recently when we were having a tour of the building, and it was just a match made in heaven really. It was this lovely glass box style, off a corporate-looking office. And the very clinical feel that we had created through Jury Duty, the online version through Zoom and making it like this is an official government Zoom, all the emails have very official language and so on, that felt like it would marry very well almost celebrating the quite dry nature of this is an office with strip lighting and glass walls on it where you can look out and see the rest of the building.

It was just obsessed from the bar as well which was also helpful, I think, for all parties involved. So yes, it actually was one of the easier journeys we’ve made. I guess to say at the time, we weren’t actually there on an indefinite basis. We came along and were very open with Deli. David and your various colleagues, Esther and Irene, were also extremely helpful in getting it set up. But the deal was very much like well, we’d like to be here. Let’s see how this goes. Long story short, we’ve been there just under a year now, and very recently, we agreed we’d take over the room full-time.

David Ralf

We’ve had three different deals, I think, over the course of that time, but that’s what we exist to do, to be flexible, and there was some time there where it was very ad hoc and we were using the space for some other things as well. And now you guys have got enough momentum with it to take it more, quotes, “permanently.” But again, we’re talking permanent is a crazy word to use to describe anything we’re doing. We’ve got that space. You guys absolutely have got that space for as long as we’ve got that space, which is currently guaranteed through to September, hopefully longer.

Joe Ball

But also to loop back, the fact that you guys are so good at finding space was the other reason we wanted that relationship because we knew if you had to move or you have another space, that would also work for us. Like you say, Tom, it’s an easy one to pop up in the type of spaces you find. So having that continued relationship is also a very good thing for us.

David Ralf

There’s a thing about scale there as well because essentially, the way that Deli operates is it can afford to have quite a bit of my time spent just thinking about what the next venue might be, whether that’s several months away or a year or two away. I’m constantly developing a series of leads while also keeping the rails on the road alongside my amazing team on the ground. There’s a sense that I’m not in the same position as a newbie producer who’s going out and looking for that first space all the time. I’ve got a little bit more runway.

Joanna Bucknall

So you broker that because that is challenging as any new and emerging artists listening might not even know where to start. In a lot of ways, Deli brokers does that legwork, find those leads, and get those spaces. And so then the relationship with Deli becomes more important in reality than finding the spaces. Would you say that?

David Ralf

Yes, I think we’d love to be a place that makes things a little bit easier for artists who want to make that work, but also maybe not desperately excited to develop all of their venue skills at the same time. There are loads of different … We have big collaborative teams in this industry, and unfortunately, because of the parlous funding situation at present, people are forced to become experts in things that are not the reason why they got into this. I love this side of things and I’ve pivoted away from writing plays so that I’m focusing on this almost exclusively. But you can’t do everything and so while, yes, there might come a time where your show desperately needs its own bespoke space that’s going to be the right thing for it and you might have a team that can achieve that. If you’re scratching a work or you want to do a week-long or a few weeks run at something, maybe go and find someone who’s got some capacity in a space that’s already there. I hope that Deli can be that space for a whole lot of people.

Joanna Bucknall

That’s amazing. And the other thing … there are two things actually, I wanted to pull out of that. The idea of the actual nuts and bolts of those leads and how you develop those leads. But actually, first, I wanted to just talk a bit about relationship building and how absolutely crucial that is in this sector and in this artistic space. Because everyone who’s been talked about this morning who isn’t at the table, we all know and know very well. And so, from the outside, we can look a bit incestuous, but actually, it’s much more about being a community I think, and a collaborative community and all the things you’ve talked about. Tell me that relationships are really central. I wondered, especially Joe and Tom, if you can talk about how important it is and how long it takes to develop some of those really important relationships as a maker.

Joe Ball

We were talking about it a little while ago. It is about who you meet and then they introduce you to someone else, they introduce someone else and someone along that line knows how to do something vitally important to what you do. I’ve worked with a guy called Kai Oliver who coded a bespoke board game for one of my early shows. I met him through work with Coney that did this and then we just collaborated on it. Venue-wise, the guy I ran into with Sam, both of us love the idea of running a space to try and get new work going. We both loved immersive stuff. So try and give a scratch venue for that stuff in a focused way. It doesn’t work when you have to do it on your own because the payback isn’t quite there financially or in whatever way. So the camaraderie definitely helps bring it through with the different expertise needed.

Tom Black

As a maker myself and with various companies I’ve worked with, I’ve actually made a lot of good connections through borrowing furniture in the immersive space. Especially given the surprisingly high percentage of immersive shows which are set sometime in the 1940s, there is, or at the very least the first half of the 20th century, there have always been opportunities to swap leather sofas with people. But jokes aside, that has actually been … For example, David is someone who lent us some furniture for, Crisis? What Crisis?When we did that, that was in the 70s. Bertie Watkins is someone who I’ve connected with both on a venue hire level for R&D and for shows. I’ve also been in shows with him, which as a performer is also a bit self-explanatory, just getting out there and auditioning for stuff, getting in with people.

If you are a … what’s the word? Actor-creator like I am, that’s a great way obviously to get loads of experience and connect with people who either have venues or are connected with venues themselves.  But the swapping furniture thing is just one example of how there’s probably someone out there who has something that you could use, that you therefore don’t need to hire or at least hire for a very high rate, certainly not buy yourself because of everyone out there. Overhead projectors. There’s definitely never going to be more than one show running in London that needs an overhead projector. Parabolic Theatre has two working overhead projectors, for example, and people can come and…

Joanna Bucknall

I have one in my garage.

Tom Black

Is it ours?

Joanna Bucknall

No. It hasn’t got a bulb at the moment which is…

Tom Black

We found that out this is the thing about speaking of things that we didn’t think the skills we got into this industry to learn. But that’s been a great way to genuinely collaborate with people and make their lives easier. But also, in the end, whether it’s Bertie or David, people who I’ve worked with in various different ways, in ways that may have begun as quite openly transactional and helping each other out, do actually lead to, certainly the case for Jury Games, are really long-term relationships. Finding ways to collaborate with people and help each other out, it’s a bit self-explanatory, but that’s a great way to connect with people.

David Ralf

Just listening to you there, I’d love to extract two things out of that, two takeaways. One is that while it may sound like all of these relationships already exist and how can I possibly break into the bar for a relationship is exceedingly low. It may well be, “Can I borrow this chair?” And actually, the fact that you brought that chair back, that’s pretty good. That’s pretty good. For Theatre Deli, we’re constantly haemorrhaging furniture and all sorts of things. Bringing a chair back, that sets you up all right. But also generally, those bars are quite low because we’re all making work on very meagre budgets and we’re all asking favours of each other. So being there in the middle of it is enough to establish that trust and there is an element of trust involved in sharing these various different spaces and making those things work.

Then the second takeaway, I guess, is that… Oh, I really had something. Yes, here we go. The second takeaway is that if you’re feeling like you don’t have a lot of those connections, probably the people that you’re already making work with will continue to be the people that you have relationships with for a long time to come, and that will end up in positions where they can help you out or you can help them out, and that’s the constant story of this part of the industry and also just actually existing in the world.

Joanna Bucknall

Yes, and this is the thing. There are catalysts that are space but moments, and I think Deli, the factory have been central because and like you said, it was that moment for those makers at that time that were all operating in there and I hope that people listening will already, without them even knowing what’s happening, those things will be evolving and more of those things will start to happen. Because I think Deli and the factory were of their moments really important catalysts, and not just because of the space, but like you said, because lots of people moving in and out of those spaces and everyone could try to do similar things. So it is about community and I think communities have to be authentic and emerge out of something often unexpected, I think as well. Actually, those things do take time to evolve and to develop and these were things that happened back in 2010, the start of a lot of this and developing out of there and now we’re all sitting here on the table talking which is very exciting.

David Ralf

It also feels like for all that, there’s lots of bad news at the moment for immersive and interactive. It feels like a really pregnant time, a really exciting time. We got the IEN, the Immersive Experience Network which you’re currently tuned into. But we also have Interactive Soup which is a really rich community which has been developing over the last year, several months. We got Void Space Festival of Interactive Work coming up at Deli in a little bit. It feels like a time where people mainly maybe because they’ve been forced through funding things to work in a slightly different way. There’s a lot of community building at the moment, which I maybe not actually seeing in other areas but is happening in immersive and interactive.

Joanna Bucknall

Yes. I think because of the DIY nature, because of not being part of the infrastructure in the mainstream, we’ve been very agile, I think, as a creative community in navigating the challenges in a way and being able to pivot in ways that I think traditional venues really struggle to do for all kinds of organizational operational reasons. I think maybe that DIY pop-up nerves of us is actually at the moment something that will keep us together and keep us going.

Tom Black

Definitely. My bit of advice actually generally, perhaps predictably given the nature of Jury Games shows, but also things like, Crisis? What Crisis? is that if you can make ideas, get involved with making ideas that can credibly pop up in any generic office space because Deli is obviously a fantastic source of such basis, there are other offices, the office market in London and around the UK has been an interesting place even before COVID. Actually, it’s not easy, none of this is ever easy. But in terms of availability of spaces that are going to be potentially more doable than your perfect venue in your head of some grand 1890s mansion or whatever, have the show in your head for what you’d do if that landed in your lap. But also build something where if you don’t want the audience to have to squint and pretend, build something that could work in a perfectly modern or maybe even slightly rundown, as in the case of Crisis, office. It may not be everyone’s idea of fun and that’s fair enough, but I’d urge people to think about that if they have got ideas.

Particularly if it’s all about the interactivity, there’s plenty of things you can do with a setting but ultimately … because a lot of things operate out of offices, be they governments, be they arts, organizations, businesses, community centers. There’s loads of stories you can tell in basically a room with strip lighting and white walls and some tables and chairs. It does make things easier to take immersive as well on that bigger level to new audiences as well if you’re not having to say like, okay, now pretend we’re X. It’s like when you’ve walked into a … It goes back to the thing we’ve done with Jury Games in that brilliant room that David showed us on that day, all those months ago of like, this is… If the Ministry of Justice did decide to do all the things that it does in that show and outsource jury service and have deliberation rooms in random offices around London, the rooms would probably look like that. People can come in, and again, basically, they don’t have to squint at my shorthand. They can credibly be like I’m immersed already without having to go oh, okay, bla bla bla. So that’d be my suggestion.

Joe Ball

I think it’s smart of going, what’s the show you want to make? What’s the mechanics do you want to play with and where do you want to take an audience? Fully immersive stuff is beautiful. It’s fantastic to dive in. But what are the steps on the way to making that happen? What’s the exciting bit for an audience to play around with? Why does that work in the space that you can get out there? And build up towards that future stuff, that is absolutely great.

Joanna Bucknall

Well, even and I think it’s hard to remember. Punchdrunk didn’t start where they are now. They did start in pop-up unusual spaces. Actually, I saw some announcements literally today about potentially going back to some of their roots with work. So my other question before we move on to start to talk about money, the dough side of things, boo, I know, but still important. A lot of it is London-centric. There’s no two ways about it.

The community at the moment exists in London, in the spaces in and around London. Just to get your thoughts, so if people that, and we know that over 40% of people who have even signed up for IEN are based outside of London, but they produce and present their work in London, which is in terms of sustainability probably not a great way to keep moving forwards. So we’re going to just get your thoughts really on, if someone sat in Nottingham right now thinking that’s great but I can’t afford to constantly get myself to London to take part in lots of the things that are happening there. What would be your advice, if any, for people who are sat regionally for trying to meet other people who might have a similar, making this happen? I know there’s probably no serious answers, but just your thoughts would be great.

David Ralf

Deli also works in Sheffield, so there’s starting point in there. Even though we’ve recently announced, which is heartbreaking, that we’re going to have to pause quite a lot of what we’re doing in Sheffield, which is again right down to money, there are spaces. Exactly the same forces that are meaning that lots of office space is empty London is written across office spaces and high streets up and down the country. There’s also a real pivot at the moment to make high streets much more cultural spaces. So there’s lots of schemes and interest in driving footfall, reactivating to use the property parlance, reactivating those errant areas. There’s definitely opportunity. There’s always that question about where your audience is coming from. But in London we have a sense that we can advertise a show and we can draw from a really, really wide area.

There exist local audiences. We have a fantastic local audience in Sheffield. You need to learn the tricks for that hyperlocal space. I remember someone, and it’s a London example which is disastrous for this. But I remember even someone doing a tour around different boroughs of London found that there were different tactics that some places the only thing they needed was a flyer. Some people would only take a flyer if you’d hand-scrawled something on it and other people wouldn’t take a flyer if you paid them. Those patterns can be written across very, very close areas with all kinds of weird predictors that you wouldn’t necessarily expect until you actually get out there and find out who your audience is. That’s absolutely the same up and down … Sheffield is a very specific audience that we’ve got to know very well over a long period of time. Gosh, I hope we can re-open that space really soon.

Joanna Bucknall

Yes. I was going to say write a show for a shop in the same way that office space is becoming empty.

Tom Black

I’d love to do a show in a shop, in a high street shop, you’d have so many stories you can tell there.

Joanna Bucknall

So many and so many different kinds of shops as well that are currently sat, as we know, empty and councils are keen to have people inside those doing things in them.

David Ralf

The rifts of this world and Pie, Mash, Sweeney, Todds, we’ve had these things and unfortunately, we seem to be bouncing back into recession so frequently that these become really viable choices. This study was bought in the recession. Here we are again. So this will continue to be a really viable considerations.

Joanna Bucknall

I was just going to jump in to talk about Boomtown just a little bit because, of course, that’s not London. It’s a very different proposition. What’s the difference of working in that more open field space?

Joe Ball

They’re very much a Bristol-based company. So there is a little bit of a community popping up around there that definitely is worth following up. Wake The Tiger I think is their semi-permanent venue, Bristol. It’s huge numbers of people, revelers having a great time at festival. They’re some of the most engaged audience members we’ve ever played with and that’s even above paying audiences.

Joanna Bucknall

Wow.

Joe Ball

I think there’s something about being at a festival and wanting to have experiences and get involved and stuff. People just want to play and it’s up on the wilder side. It is a festival, a big bassy music festival but people love playing. We run three venues and the narrative, one of the districts and there are six districts in it. It’s a massive city of interactive theatre. They call themselves the biggest interactive theatre event in the world. It’s great. It’s a whole lot of fun. Working in tents is stupid. Never choose to do that outside of a festival. You have no control over anything. Power is stupid.

Tom Black

What I said about the toilets.

Joanna Bucknall

I was going to say toilets but I’m assuming that isn’t your problem for immersive event like that.

Joe Ball

There was a venue last year that got a bee swarm halfway through, which is not what you want.

Tom Black

It’s like a cartoon.

Joe Ball

It’s like a cartoon. Seeing that pillar vibrating with bees in the middle of a venue is the stuff of nightmares

Joanna Bucknall

How do you build for because obviously it pops up and most music festivals are three, four days a week?

Joe Ball

This one’s four days. They build it for a couple of months. The set is incredible. They have some incredible designers that make some beautiful stuff. But we get on site the week before to build our three spaces. They’re all about how an audience can get involved. Last year we made a film using punters and actors, which was great fun. Edited it on a Sunday just in time for the premiere at the festival, and it’s been nominated for a couple of awards.

Joanna Bucknall

We always celebrate the wins, honestly.

Joe Ball

It was a very silly win, but it’s very good. It’s a great festival. If you like most theatre, it’s definitely worth going. If you’re not an immersive basehead, it’s still a lot of fun.

Joanna Bucknall

You can just spend all your time.

Joe Ball

The day times and then you can go to your tent at night.

Joanna Bucknall

You can go back to sleep. I’m going to just pivot slightly to talk about finances really and how this works because we’ve all been saying wielding small budgets or doing … What does that actually mean? Some of the people listening might be like, “Well, what is a small budget? Is it £20? Is it £200? Is it £2,000? And so, David, what costs might companies expect or need to cover for themselves if they’re coming into a hosting venue or having a relationship with somebody like Theatre Deli?

David Ralf

I think the most important thing to say is that it really does vary so much and that’s not a helpful thing to hear. Maybe can we talk hard cash money about Jury Games? Is that all right? That might be useful.

Joanna Bucknall

If you’re allowed. Absolutely.

David Ralf

Let me tell you about the Theatre Deli side of it first and then we can pivot to the specific example of Jury Games. Leadenhall Street is not a typical Theatre Deli venue, but there have been so many different … We’ve had 15 venues over 15 years, 16 years. There’s not a lot that’s super typical. The main benefit that Theatre Deli offers to landlords is the fact that we are a charity, and therefore, we make the business rates disappear. That is super useful for us and for organizations that have a slightly longer run at things and can broach the idea of becoming a charity if their actual goals do align with that. It’s not something you can do for the tax benefit. It is something you do because your organization has those goals and is able to then meet the various different obligations and work of becoming a charity, which all sounds very sonorous but it is a lot of work and that benefit is not just passed out to anyone willy-nilly. It’s certainly not something that I advise startup theatre companies to go just become a charity, you get all of these benefits.

Joanna Bucknall

It has to be embedded in that statement, that ethos, and the approach and those objectives?

David Ralf

Absolutely. We make 80% of the business rates disappear just the moment that we become a tenant, which is super valuable to landlords because empty rates are huge, especially when you’re then talking about somewhere like the City of London. We’re talking about five, six-figure numbers very, very, very quickly.

Joanna Bucknall

You just wipe those off the board for them?

David Ralf

For them, yes, and we might have to pay the 20% and we might even be able to apply for discretionary relief to make the last bit of that disappear. Now, anyone can apply for discretionary relief, but your chances of getting it, you’re essentially asking for a big…

Joanna Bucknall

Evidence as well, because I know I’ve been involved as well in providing and helping with evidence to, one, prove the company you are like a theatre company, but also then evidencing the fact that you are working in that space.

David Ralf

It’s just very hard to know ahead of time whether or not that’s likely to be successful. I do suggest if you do want to go down that path and you want to look into relying on discretionary relief, start talking to that local authority really, really early before you get in there and have finished budgeting up things because it’s such a massive part of the cost of festivals.

Joanna Bucknall

Are they accessible? Is all their information publicly available?

David Ralf

Really depends on local authority to local authority. Unfortunately, in the now, lots of those, it’s very church and state. The business rates department, and for instance, if you went and talked to someone from culture at a local authority, these people will not talk to each other. You need to develop a number of different relationships at a local authority to be able to rely on that thing. We don’t have to stress about that too much because 80% of it goes straight away. In lots of spaces, we’ve had a deal that basically just revolves around that. So we’re either then not paying anything because we’re creating such a saving for the landlord. We’ve even been … we haven’t done it for a little while we’ve been paid to be in spaces, so they pay us the 20% of the business rates that’s left and a bit more.

There are also spaces like Leadenhall Street where we don’t pay any rent, but we do pay a big whack of the service charges. To give a sense of that, the service charges are also a ridiculous amount every year. We’re currently paying about 65,000. I’m giving you numbers. 65,000 a year for the service charge in that building. That is less than a third of it, I think, that it would be for those two floors that we have. So these are big numbers and those are going towards the security on that building, lots of the infrastructure. On top of that we pay electricity and we manage our own HVAC systems, the airflow, and the aircon systems, which are just huge costs on top.

Actually, I would say aircon- I know we’ve already mentioned airflow- I’d say that is one of the things where if you’re going into a building and you are responsible in any way for an aircon system, it’s probably an old air con system, and that is one of the things we just don’t skimp. You get a maintenance contract in place, that’s not something you’re going to be able to fix yourself. It doesn’t have to be a huge cost to maintain it, but once it goes, you’re certainly into, well, either my audience can’t breathe, or they’re in on untenable temperatures.

Joanna Bucknall

I’m going to try and pin you down to … so 65k on the services, then you have got the aircon and then you’ve got all the gas electric all that. What would you say ballpark a year then that amounts to?

David Ralf

The electricity for us at the moment, and we’re talking about a 19,000 square foot space, that’s the other thing, so we are not talking about…

Joanna Bucknall

Not talking about a two-bed setting.

David Ralf

No. We’re not talking about a single company coming in and having to manage those costs. We occasionally do weekends where people will take over the whole space, but we’re normally at that point not charging them everything that we would be paying. Because again, we exist as a charity, and we’re trying to create these things. So we’re taking on these costs so that other people don’t have to take on all of them. I’ll try and ballpark it. I don’t have these in front of me.

Joanna Bucknall

That’s fine.

David Ralf

We’re probably spending about 40k on electricity at the moment, plus about a year, so you’re already at 100k. The air con, if we were properly maintaining, would cost us quite a lot more. We’re currently only paying a few grand for that. But it’s also not working properly, which, you know, again, sometimes you have to do a … our ventilation is fine, I should say. But the actual temperature control is not great. You end up having to make these difficult decisions because you’re investing in a building that you might not have past September. So there comes a point where I can’t drop 50k on a new condenser.

Joanna Bucknall


Because you might not … You might be paying it for someone else. That’s the thing, within a month or so.

David Ralf

Exactly, or even worse, paying it for a building that’s about to be torn down or re-developed or whatever. You have to make these decisions and in our case, we’ve really invested in some heaters and we’re exploring exciting options where we find some old equipment and stuff.

Joanna Bucknall

Build it into the aesthetic of things as well. This is the other thing you do; you absorb stuff into, “It’s cold in here so let’s build that into the story walls.”

David Ralf

I would say it’s before my time but in Sheffield for a long period of time, people were given blankets when they arrived for a show. And you know what, you just set audience expectations around what you have.

Joanna Bucknall

Exactly. I think it’s cold actually, I think I can manage a bit more than 42 degrees, which is what you … you very rarely get a comfortable temperature.

Tom Black

You know how I mentioned earlier that the Jury Games room is a glass box? I’m just going to leave that one.

David Ralf

It’s been a variety of different climates in there.

Tom Black

It has. But David is right, the AC is in much better condition than our first couple of weeks. There were some spicy days, I’ll put it that way for now, it is much more tolerable now.

David Ralf

I’ll pass over to the specifics of Jury Games in a second, but just to give a sense of … so we take on those costs, we then hire out at various different spaces, some of which are set up for some theatre stuff, some of which are just set up as rooms for rehearsal at a really, really wide variety of different pricing. Some of that space we’re giving away, some of that space we’re charging and members rock up on the day and they spend £5 an hour for that space, and then they go up to … For our non-members, for the biggest spaces, we’re looking at £25, I think, so, a big range.

Joanna Bucknall

Which is incredibly reasonable for London space. That’s mad.

David Ralf

It is the thing whereby we’ve set that up to be pretty frictionless so that new people can find us and make a booking, and it can be pretty affordable because almost everyone that reaches us is an artist or a producer who is making that work. If we had a whole load of people from the city of London Council start booking with us, or we had a whole load of corporates that found us…

Joanna Bucknall

Then you might need some corporate rates.

David Ralf

Then we might put some … technically, in our terms of conditions, they’d have to get in contact with us, but again, we make it as frictionless as possible, and then you adjust to the circumstances that you actually find. So yeah, we might have to put some more friction in place if people suddenly … we’re using it for different things. But that’s what that shakes down to, and we’re able to provide those spaces. But that’s by-the-hour rates. How much are we charging you at the moment for a studio 14, also known as Jury Games home?

Joe Ball

The Jury Games room.

David Ralf

The permanent home now.

Tom Black

Permanent with an asterisk. Speaking of daily generosity, you’ve charged us for the first month £1200, and that will go up to £1500 pounds if we continue, which we’re going to. But part of our consideration when we … Actually, guys when we had the conversation about it was we weren’t 100% sure this was going to work. If there’s anything you can do on making that decision a little easier. And you’ve heard us in good faith, and you did. That’s typical of how relationships work between us daily. The room is, just to clarify, as David was saying earlier, the room until recently was used by us and we had a special arrangement where some of our props could be stored in the room along the wall. And then whenever our actors arrive to set up a show, they would get those props out and move the furniture around to make it another room.

From now on … and then when we weren’t using it, it was able to be used by other people booking it on the basis that David was just talking about. That’s no longer possible because we’ve got it firmly set up like us. That does give us … Well, there’s obvious benefits to that. Our staff in particular have a lot less admin and moving furniture around, which was one of the big motivators. There’s just a lot less hassle, so we can guarantee that the room is always available for our bookings, because while we do have our ticketed shows, I think my big financial advice, inverted commas on all this, is that we have quite a nice symbiotic relationship between our ticketed public shows and our private shows now, in that, ticketed shows, on the one hand, are subsidised by the private bookings that come in. Because ticketed shows are the times you’d go to the theatre, which was actually not a huge amount of the week in terms of raw hours, putting this into consideration when you’ve got a room full time, but we actually do have now a good whack of people who are looking for like, “Oh, I’ve got a team away. Could you do a show at 3 pm?” Yes, we can, and so on and so forth.

What that does is not only does that therefore subsidise the ticketed shows, it’s usually chosen, in turn, to serve as advertising for those bookings. One of our favourite dynamics is when someone is bought a ticket or comes to see the show, whatever, for a birthday, and then afterwards is like, “Can I grab a flyer because my work would love this?”

Joanna Bucknall

My boss.

Tom Black

Exactly. And many times, that has converted into a, right, we then get a nice private sale out of it. The cycle continues.

Joanna Bucknall

I’ve spoken to loads of companies since 2016 about some of these things in detail, and so much of this work and I don’t think the public, the audiences, realise that all of that corporate engagement is what’s now subsidising those ticket prices. Because what’s your average pricing audience, like general public audience, might pay for Jury Duty on December night?

Joe Ball

I mean, ops manager is to my right, but I think we’re sitting around the £40 pound ticket.

David Ralf

£40 to £50.

Tom Black

And we have discounts if you buy all the tickets for a single show. You end up having a private show in a public booking, which is … If you’re listening, the most efficient way to get a private booking. But yeah, it’s about £40.

David Ralf

It’s so good. If people are listening to this and they haven’t seen the show, I’m clearly biased, but I was blown away by it. I think it’s so much fun.

Tom Black

Bless you. Thank you very much.

Joanna Bucknall

Really good length as well in terms of like it’s not just 20, 30 minutes, you’re talking it’s over an hour, isn’t it?

Joe Ball

It’s an hour and a half.

Joanna Bucknall

Yeah, exactly. Hour and a half.

Tom Black

We have three shows now, actually, I should say this. But one of the reasons this room really works out for us is because all three of our shows, because we practice what we preach, they all slot in nicely to that setting of a meeting room, and they’re all broadly speaking, you are all members of the public gathered to solve something. But yes, and they all have different things. Going back to learning how to do it on Zoom, because if you can structure a story to tell it with twists and turns, as David says, on Zoom, it’s actually easier to then do it in person, because you’ve got so much more control over where people are looking in person and what information is shown. But, yes, and they’re all 90 minutes, and they’ve all got almost a uniform style now. That’s been great, but again, made possible by the partnerships we’ve had with venues and so on.

Joanna Bucknall

As a company, thinking about, so you have your venue costs, which pay through to Deli, and that’s supported, that’s also subsidised in different ways, and performers. Are there other costs as a company you need to think about when moving into that venue?

Joe Ball

Yeah, so we’ve spent a lot of time talking about ethernet cables. I’m so sorry. There’s little bits like that. We moved again from Zoom to the real life, so we had a whole building of our props, making our props, designing those props, those props pop in a way that they had to in that space. Because it’s so … as it was found, we really wanted those props to feel like something interesting.

Joanna Bucknall

Did you hire a set designer, or did you literally get in the garage and…

Joe Ball

We have to. We’ve hired some set designers, different ones across the time, I think to do different bits from memory.

Joanna Bucknall

Do you have really set costs each month that you know are going to be in there? Are they predictable so you know what you then need coming in?

Joe Ball

Yes, definitely. We know how much our actors will cost for all the shows, we know the rent on Zoom that we still use and other different little…

Tom Black

There’s various tools like shift booking software. If you’re working with a lot of freelancers, you’re going to need a serious out-of-the-box solution for booking people in and so there’s a few software subscriptions.

Joanna Bucknall

I was going to say do you use Design My Night for public ticket sales?

Tom Black

We do, yes.

Joanna Bucknall

I guess there’s a percentage that comes off with using that platform as well.

Joe Ball

Yes.

Joanna Bucknall

Is the venue really central to having a sense of those fixed costs that are predictable? Is the venue important in being able to manage that?

Joe Ball

I would say so, yes, because the … in fact the benefit of … obviously, well, we’re now paying more than we were for the full-time use. We now know it’s a fixed cost. Whereas before we had the more agile agreement where we were able to book the room like other people. But that brought its own problems, logistically, but also financially, it was like, well, we don’t know exactly how much we’ll be spending on venues this month.

David Ralf

I think if you’re taking on a space that is underused, it’s sitting empty or it’s a room above a pub that only gets used for functions, those things, you can create something whereby your schedule can be a bit flexible like we had for months with Jury Games. Then suddenly, all of your costs become quite elastic, quite scalable, to how frequently you have bookings and have availability from the rest of your team. So it’s a great way to start.

Joanna Bucknall

Thank you so much for really digging into numbers, because it’s always the most challenging thing to get people to actually put a number to something.

Tom Black

We shouldn’t have moved when you mentioned money earlier.

Joanna Bucknall

No, I know. Money is…

Tom Black

That isn’t how I think. I actually do think we just need to have conversations about money a lot more in theatre, generally.

Joanna Bucknall

Yeah, I think in the arts. It’s a really dirty word, or it’s considered … but actually, the more we understand it, the more we take ownership over it, and the more we can learn and be better and come up with more creative solution, we’re creatives. So creative ways of managing those things. I think the more open conversations we have like this, the better actually, and I know it’s more complex with when IP gets involved and non-disclosures and lots of … Then when there’s investment in that kind of thing. This has been nice to have that frank conversation. Do you have one little nugget of advice for a neuroimaging in terms of venue and space? Just one thing that you’d be like either do not do this, or do this, absolutely try this.

Joe Ball

I mean, the big one is talk to venues, just speak to them and try and work out how it will work out. Having done a little bit of running a venue, as long as someone comes and goes, “Here’s a really cool idea. Here’s what we have. Here’s how we could make that work,” it’s easier to say yes or to find the right solution to stuff. So honest, frank conversations would be the quite obvious first answer that they’ll dive in with.

Tom Black

I would reiterate my point about have a look at the venues that are potentially available to you and build shows around that because if you … I have shows that I’m keeping in my back pocket until somebody says, “Hey, do you want to make a show on a full set version of the White House?” Certainly, I would like to do that. But until such a day, there are various shows that I’ll be making in the meantime because there are venues that are available, or at least more accessible. And so yes, think about what excites you and what you want to get an audience to do. I think Joe, actually, you put it that way. Think about what you’re trying to get an audience to do and see whether a shopfront, an office, the basement of a pub, if we’re going back there, could be a suitable place to do that and build something where it makes sense for the story to be there. Because an audience, especially a new immersive audience, you want to as far as possible avoid that confusion of like, “Okay, so it’s not really immersive because I have to pretend I’m not where I am.” Whereas if you’re in an office, and you’re like, “Welcome to the Office of X, Y, and Z,” cool, I’m at an office, that’s good.

Joanna Bucknall

I know. That’s great, or even the street as well. There’s been plenty of work that has unfolded-

Tom Black

That’s a great point.

Joanna Bucknall

-across, but you also do have to get permission from council, so do be mindful of that, because you don’t get fined.

David Ralf

I think for me, the main thing is, find out what benefit you are providing to these spaces. So I already talked about the benefit that charities can offer. What comes with that piece of information is that landlords are losing, every day their space is empty. They’re losing money. So go into those negotiations over space knowing that you are taking on something that is perhaps undesirable to some of their normal tenants. That is maybe not in the best condition. That should be factored in when you’re trying to work out what that space is worth to you, and therefore what you should be paying for it. Have a really good sense of where they’re at with their … as much information as you can get about how they’re using these spaces, or who is using that space alongside potentially you, and think about what will happen if this show doesn’t happen here, and what impact that might have for the landlord of the venue that you’re working with.

Joanna Bucknall

Thank you very much, everyone. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you here.

David Ralf

Thank you.

Tom Black

Thank you for having us.

Date of article - March 28, 2024
Updated - April 12, 2024

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