As theatre makers without a building, it can sometimes be a challenge to communicate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, especially when we don’t have a show on the stage. This is especially true at the moment when the focus is rightly on venues whose doors are currently closed and on how the arts and audiences will function post Covid-19. As an artist led organisation and an Arts Council National Portfolio organisation, we are committed to supporting artists in these uncertain times.
At HighTide we always aim to be transparent, and as such we want to share that we’ve been in the privileged position of being able to make brand new work and support artists, when many cannot. We are a team of four and are now all working from home to deliver our free Lighthouse Programme, a range of creative initiatives to support artists during this time that we launched in March.
To date we’ve achieved the following:
- Invited our six writers already under commission, Sonia Jalaly, Dawn King, Debris Stevenson, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Ben Weatherill and Aisha Zia to create our Love In The Time of Corona online monologues, creating an artistic document of the lockdown and further employing five actors, with over 2,300 views at time of writing.
- Created a digital youth theatre with Company3, (a theatre company of seventy-five young people led by a team of professional theatre-makers) and 4YP (a Suffolk based charity, which provides support services to young people). This has engaged the region’s most vulnerable young people and employing Suffolk-based theatremaker Kirsty Tallent.
- Produced three educational films starring Diana Quick, Anna Koval and Amanda Wilkin for The Norwich Opportunity Area a bridge organisation providing opportunities for children and young people to raise education standards in local schools.
- Partnered with Guildhall School of Music & Drama to workshop 12 new plays by HighTide alumni writers, including new commissions by the National Theatre, Bush Theatre and Manchester Royal Exchange to support the entire country’s new writing sector and to keep creativity going. We have employed 10 freelance directors and supported 25 students graduating students emerging into an uncertain sector.
- Appointed 12 of the UK’s leading emerging to our Playwright Crisis Support Programme. Supported by a HighTide alumni mentor, the cohort of writers will explore and create the future of new writing.
- Run a free weekly Write That Play masterclass with HighTide Writer and BAFTA Nominee Dawn King for 60 emerging writers predominantly East of England and/or lower socio-economic backgrounds.
- Created a writer’s network of over 70 writers, attending regular Q&A’s with industry leaders.
- Opened our script submission window twice, receiving over 150 plays with feedback given to 50 writers so far. Our innovative process allows writers to give a preference as to which script reader reads their play, ensuring that they will understand and connect with their work. This helps to demystify the script reading process and helps removes invisible barriers.
- Created our Cancellation Catalogue; over 40 new plays which were due to be produced during quarantine but had to be cancelled, with a view to giving them priority programming for next year.
- Contracted 35 artistic freelancers (37% of whom are of colour), spending £7,000 on their fees, equating to 53% of the company’s total expenditure over the past three months (excluding salaries).
- Planning our artistic programme for the next year, how we present a festival of work safely and in the times we live in.
- Examining how HighTide can better support the Black Lives Matter movement to ensure Black voices are centred and heard in our organisation. Please see our response to TheatreCTA here.
- Fundraising for this work and for our future activity to support artists, in very uncertain financial times, securing £17,000 from individual donors and supporters of the arts.
So far the Lighthouse Programme has supported over 150 artists. We’re trying hard to do what we can to support our artists and our sector. Please don’t think that just because theatres are closed that we are as well. And if you feel there is something we should be doing more of then please let us know.