Tell us a bit about your role and how it supports the business?
I have run Theatre Workout since I created it, for the most part single-handed. I have a fantastic team of talented practitioners who run most of the workshops and courses with me, and it wouldn’t be possible to deliver the diverse range of experiences we offer without them. I am constantly inspired by their passion and dedication, and their support allows me to create new workshops and courses, and to run all the marketing, partnerships and planning required to make it all happen.
I set the company up because doing a workshop, just like the ones I run now, while on a school theatre trip in 1993 changed my life and I’ve worked and trained in theatre ever since. I love creating and running workshops, teaching performance skills and inspiring children and young people. Creative learning is so vital to their development in both education and in life, and so positioning Theatre Workout across the theatre, education and travel industries combines three inspiring sectors in one.
However, after 14 years Theatre Workout is still a micro company and I am its only actual employee, so without me it wouldn’t exist, but it constantly challenges and inspires me and I hope I do that for my team and students I teach.
What has been your career highlight to date?
There have been so many:
- Developing education programmes for major West End productions which I have loved. My favourites have included The Lord of the Rings – The Musical (controversial choice in some circles), the 39 Steps, 1984, the Lion King, and Shrek.
- Popping out between performances at the National Theatre to teach 3000 people how to do the Mambo before a screening of Dirty Dancing in Trafalgar Square
- Directing and producing a student production of Fame
The most rewarding aspect of my work is seeing young people being inspired to step out of their comfort zone, to create something, and perform it in front of their peers, especially when I know they’ve never done anything like this before and I know they will remember it forever.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Don’t let someone saying “no” stop you. Do your research, plan, be adaptable, and go for it!
If you were not working in this sector what other industry would you have pursued a career in?
I’ve started working in theatre in the early 90s and started working within educational travel with the creation of Theatre Workout. I find education fascinating so perhaps I would move into teaching full-time, but whatever I did instead it would have to be within some aspect of the creative industries.
What are the emerging trends within your sector?
A few months ago, everyone was second guessing what was going to happen next. Plans have formed and things are starting to come together, but nothing much has really changed.
In education, it feels that this term is a write off. Teachers have enough to deal with and, on the whole, they’re not planning any school trips. That, combined with a frightening move away from creative learning in recent years, doesn’t bode well.
Theatres are starting to reopen, or at least are planning to reopen in early 2021, but like the travel industry it will be a long time until they’re back to any semblance of ‘normal’.
My sense is that school groups will be a significant influence on theatre’s return to normal as they shouldn’t need to be socially distanced within their group, only from other people. They can therefore fill more seats. But, I don’t think they’re really going to travel before Easter 2021, and I doubt the international market will travel to the UK before next summer, so realistically it will be at least 12-18 months until the travel industry can see a significant return to business.
What is coming up for your company in the next 12/18 months?
After a period of simply not-coping well with the potential demise of my company, and loss of everything I’d worked so hard for, things are looking up!
We’ve had a lifeline in the form of a Cultural Recovery Grant from the DCMS and Arts Council England which will ensure our survival until at least March 2021. We are very grateful to DCMS and ACE for this. As long as schools start booking again in the New Year for trips post Easter, we should be OK.
We’ve started to adapt and diversify our brand with a few new offerings, which hopefully will place us in good stead to deliver a broader range of services to schools and the group travel industry:
- We’re developing a programme of online workshops for individuals as part of our Academy programme
- We’re expanding our Outreach programme to go into schools
- We’ve launched a few new websites for specific services and brands we offer:
CreativeDMC.com showcases our DMC services, aiming to appeal to clients who aren’t naturally drawn to theatre, but who want engaging and creative educational programmes. Creative DMC offers creative learning opportunities across the whole curriculum, packaged with all the usual activities such as accommodation and travel, meals and attractions, and covering the whole of the UK.
Teambuilder.london produces team building events, developmental training, conferences, events and corporate hospitality packages for corporate clients
WestEndWorkshops.com focuses on our West End programmes
LondonWestEnd.London will, once developed, specialise in ticketing for West End shows and attractions, but that is still in development.
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our industry, what is the one thing that you have learnt personally or professionally during this time?
I have some amazingly friends, family and colleagues who have supported me, my family, and our business.
As we head towards recovery what do you think the challenges and opportunities are for our sector?
Travel will change. Costs will go up, demand will be reduced, but it will still be necessary, and the opportunities will lie in the ethos of individual players.
I think there will need to be greater collaboration, more honesty, more support for clients and partners as we collectively lift ourselves out of this mess and rebuild consumer confidence.
It has been wonderful to have so many positive conversations from clients, new and old, who want to work with us, but it all rides on consumer confidence. It’s going to have to be a fine balancing act to ensure businesses can survive, while also looking after staff, clients, and partners at the same time. I think the cowboys will be called out and not tolerated in quite the same way.
How do you think Covid-19 will change our industry (if at all)?
The sector has already lost so much and there is talk of ‘travel’ being non-existent until 2024! I don’t think it will be that bad, but it will be changed fundamentally.
I think lockdown has taught us the value of community, of the hardship of others (even before Covid), and people have embraced what creativity and culture they can access. As restrictions are lifted I believe people will travel again, but the focus will be to engage with creativity and culture, to rebuild communities, and to feel a part of something bigger.
Name three positives to come out of lockdown
Lockdown has not been a positive experience for me overall, but in terms of our global and societal change there have been some big changes, which I think were needed.
I used to dream of culture and arts getting the exposure in the media awarded to sports, which we have now had. The streaming of plays and musicals online has helped raise the UK’s profile globally, while engaging a new generation of supporters. There have also been masses of creative resources developed and the creative and cultural sector has outdone itself, a success helped in some part by the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, but soured by their unwillingness to support individual artists and freelancers. I think there will be a surge of creativity when the venues and organisations which have been supported, are finally able to support artists in turn.
The environment will be grateful for the respite and it is wonderful to see the Ozone repairing and pollution declining, not least to see nature returning to urban areas.
Huge swathes of the population who have been fortunate enough to be furloughed have had the opportunity to learn new things and spend more time with family. I work from home anyway and my son is in part-time nursery, so I spend a lot of time juggling work around time with family, so not much has changed, but with the reduction in work I have done a lot more baking and eaten lots of cake!
Find out more about BETA Member Theatre Workout here
Published 01 October 2020