Backstage with Team Scary – May’s peek behind the Curtains

Do you ever draw in your breath a little at the price of a theatre ticket? Ever think about how much it costs to put on a show? Ever sit in the theatre and count heads and tot up how much a show takes (is that last one just us?)

This month, in our behind the scenes blog, we explore how work like ours is funded.

Through the pandemic, we created our Salon de la Vie shows, funded by the incredible Arts Council. Running from April 2020 to December 2021, we described these 20 minute (or so) bite size shows as…

a series of fortnightly 20-30 minute extravaganzas of songs, storytelling, merriment and conversation, focusing each time on an awe-inspiring, remarkable and brave human from the world of film, music, literature and history, drawing parallels with the achievements of activists today, to celebrate how people positively embody the change they want to see in the world, for themselves and for others. And we’re super proud that each salon has a custom illustration provided by the wonderful Jacky Fleming.

In each show, Artistic Director Becca explored the work and life of (usually) one woman, occasionally one man, occasionally one event or movement. The shows were initially broadcast live, and like many others, we quickly learned that streaming is more complicated than we might have thought!

The shows were broadcast or filmed from Becca’s home or a garden, and featured Becca and her ukulady, with occasional guests and contributors. There were costumes, props and frequently cocktails!

How many people do you think were involved in each 20 minute show? What jobs do you think had to be done? Have a think…

So…there was Becca doing the research, the writing, the performing. There was a producer supporting idea development and scheduling. There were our collaborators, performers who spoke, sang, chatted, shared their thoughts and research. There was a website manager looking after the site which we put the information up on, ensuring the event calendar worked, and advising on how best to engage with YouTube. There was a digital marketer writing the event info, creating the events on eventbrite, and then promoting regularly on Facebook, Twitter and through our newsletter. There was an artist creating the gorgeous event images and a digital marketer turning those into graphics for the online info. There was tech support for camera, light and sound during filming.

Did you work out all of those? That’s at least seven people for every 20 minute show. And do you remember how much those shows cost to attend?

Well done to all those of you who remembered £0! Apart from occasional specials, which we charged at the princessly sum of £5, they were all free.

All the people listed above do this work as their job. It’s not for fun (even though it is fun – aren’t we lucky to enjoy our work) – it’s what pays our bills. So how did those people get paid, when you, beloved audience, were not paying?

If you’re not part of the arts and culture world this next bit may surprise you.

Very few arts, cultural and heritage events and activities ‘pay their way’ through entry fees or ticket sales. Almost all of them are supported by grants and government funding. Think back to the last play you saw – how many actors and actresses were there? How many behind the scenes and venue staff might there have been? If even a one woman show filmed at home requires a minimum of 6 other people to create, support and promote, how many people does that mean a theatre needs?

And… what we didn’t include above in the list of people and jobs was the fundraiser and the fundraising. Supporting all that work was funding we secured, by filling in application forms and asking organisations to support our work. That’s what paid for your ticket.

The Arts Council in particular supported Salon de la Vie. Their work is hugely important and we are hugely grateful to them. It distributes funding to arts and culture organisations – museums, theatre companies, galleries – enabling us all to create, curate, and provide the arts and culture you love. Some of that funding is generated through the National Lottery and we are grateful to all who play for, indirectly, supporting the arts and culture sector.

Alongside funding from the Arts Council, we also apply for other grants – from local authorities, independent grant making bodies – and we work with paying partners to develop work.

It can come as a surprise to many people that ticket sales does not equal either the cost of the work, or pay for the work. What it means for us and organisations like ours is that we often find ourselves with ideas, and we then have to apply for funding to turn those ideas into a show. This means theatre is a long process. We might have an idea in January, roll it around and develop it, apply for funding in February, get a response in April, start work in May… see how the time just rolls out?

As well as The Arts Council we have also been funded and supported in the last few years by Awards For All, Cornwall Council, FEAST, Going Greener, Heritage Lottery Fund and Youth Music – we are grateful to them all and hope you have enjoyed the work that we do with their support. We also hope that this jaunt through how our work works gives you something else to think about next time you are in a theatre – perhaps at one of our Mayven Festival events?

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