For several years research and reports have highlighted the challenges of entry routes into the industry for people with protected characteristics. Women, racially minoritised people, those with a working class background, people with a disability, and those living outside of London, are all significantly underrepresented in the creative industries, particularly in senior decision-making roles*(1)
Producers are key decision makers in theatre and the pathway to becoming a producer for many people can feel unmanageable and unrealistic. This has been deepened by the pandemic which has emphasized the need for structural change and for EDI to be the responsibility of everyone in the organisation. It has sparked conversations for theatre to be actively taking action and prioritise not only who is in the room but who gets to make decisions that have a large impact.
"This was a life-changing experience for me, it really helped my confidence as a new producer, and has shaped the way I think about making theatre. Let it help you too. Apply!! And tell your new producer friends!" - Jafar Iqbal
What did Stage One do?
In 2018 Stage One launched Bridge the Gap, an initiative to train 10 producers from under-represented backgrounds each year. This includes bespoke workshops, mentoring, tickets to shows and places on other Stage One workshops.
This producer programme now sits alongside outreach ‘Intro to producing’ events and a 12-month paid trainee producer placement. The placement targets people who may not have considered a career in theatre or who have struggled to access full time employment. They are also part of the Bridge the Gap producer programme and receive support and training alongside their work at the venue. This year the placement is with Gate Theatre and we are actively encouraging people who identify as Muslim to apply.
"PRODUCERS GET ON THIS!! This is truly the golden ticket of producing, cannot recommend it enough. Mentorship, workshops, grant opportunities, theatre trips, work coaching, and a fab network of other producers/pal" - Matilda Wilde
Who are the Bridge the Gap Producers?
Bridge the Gap has seen 30 producers come through the programme, 80% are actively producers as freelancers or in a venue. They have come from across the country including Liverpool, Sheffield, Luton and Wales. Four of these have now been awarded Stage One bursaries to support their independent work, and two have been placed on full time Stage One placements. Ameena Hamid became one of the youngest producers in the West End when she associate produced Death Drop and founded Ameena Hamid Productions. Nisha Oza, having been involved in all our development schemes is now a Stage One board member actively making decisions about the progression of the schemes.
"Applications are open! This year-long training scheme has been incredible & I've learnt so much. 1:1 mentorship, workshops, opportunities to see West End shows, a kick-starter project grant and networking opportunities all for FREE" - Zoe Gibbons
What have we learnt?
It is clear that finance remains one of the biggest barriers for producers entering the industry. This sparked us to introduce the Kick Start Grant where producers can apply for up to £5,000 towards their development or the development of projects. We also include an access fund to cover travel, childcare or any other barrier to accessing the programme.
As the producers are the spearhead of the company, we felt they would benefit from pastoral support and offered coaching sessions to instil confidence and provide a space to talk through problems they needed to solve. We are also now recruiting an external contact point should the producer need support and does not feel able to talk to anyone in the team or their venue.
Lastly, listening to feedback from our cohorts, we have learnt that peer to peer learning and support has been one of the most valuable parts of the programme. We now build in time for them to spend together and frequently review their needs.
"I cannot recommend this Programme enough. I'm coming to the end of my year and it has been incredible!!! If you're thinking about it, apply now" - Tanisha Spring
Bridge the Gap would not be possible without the support of the industry. People who have taken their time to be mentors, workshop leaders, offer free/discounted tickets and attended our events are invaluable to our success. If you want to get involved please do reach out.
Likewise if you are considering or currently run your own positive action programme and would like to learn more about the learnings from Bridge the Gap, drop an email to Siobhan Walsh, Outreach Leader at email@example.com
Applications for the Bridge the Gap Producer Programme are now open- Deadline 12pm on Monday 9th May at 12pm- find out more here- https://stageone.uk.com/bridge-the-gap/the-producer-programme
1- Creative Majority Report, Kings College London- https://www.kcl.ac.uk/cultural/projects/creative-majority