Cyrano de Bergerac at Northern Stage. Photo: Mark Savage.

Founded in

1970

Artistic Director

Lorne Campbell

Since 2013

Northern Stage logo

Profile

Northern Stage creates and presents stylish, imaginative and accessible theatrical experiences of international quality and ambition. From our home in Newcastle upon Tyne we present a performance programme of classic and contemporary drama, dance and comedy across three stages. Each year we produce 7-8 in-house productions, co-productions and tours, and present the best in local, national and international touring theatre on the small- and mid-scale.

Over the last four years we have developed an innovative artist development programme, supporting a diverse range of artists to create ambitious and adventurous theatre. We are increasingly working in co-production or in association with these artists to produce, present and promote their work in Newcastle and beyond. Each summer we run a venue at the Edinburgh Festival, supporting artists from across the region to present and promote their work at the largest arts festival in the world.

Northern Stage strives to be at the forefront of re-imagining the possibilities of what a 21st century regional producing theatre can be, and we take a considerable strategic and developmental responsibility for artists and companies from within our region.

+ www.northernstage.co.uk

We tour work and perform in our own building (three auditoria)

Company Type

Building based

We tour work and perform in our own building. Stage 1 (449 seats), Stage 2 (160 seats), Stage 3 (90 seats).

Northern Stage - Total subsidy from Arts Council England in the 2015/16 financial year

Public Funding

£1,562,496

Total subsidy from Arts Council England in the 2015/16 financial year

Newcastle

Location

Newcastle

Productions

7

Staged in the 2015/16 financial year

Staff

Staff - Northern Stage

Our Question

What are the specific needs of small, female-led, non-NPO* companies in relation to sustainability and growth that can be met by a regional producing house?

Northern Stage has developed a successful and robust programme of artist development for both emerging and established companies within the North East. We recognized, however, that our contributions towards the creative development of mid-career companies in the North East – most of whom are female-led – did not appear to fully address the operational issues they were facing, and that many companies would get to a certain level of profile within the industry before appearing to plateau. We were interested in better understanding what the barriers to sustainability and growth were for these female-led, mid-career artists and companies, and how we might use the resources of a regional producing house to address them.

* National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) are those in receipt of core funding from Arts Council England, for the period April 2015 to March 2018

What We Did

“Working on Tonic Advance confirmed many of the observations we had about business planning and development within the independent sector, but also challenged many of the underlying assumptions we had about why this situation existed. The opportunity to listen and reflect – not only on our own area of focus but also the experiences of colleagues in the cohort – was invaluable in helping us to develop an appropriate response to the challenge we set ourselves.”

Investigation

We held a workshop session for a number of female-led artists and companies based in the North East, through which we began to unpick some of the issues that they face with regard to sustainability and growth. This workshop session was followed up with interviews with these participants, and other artists and companies from beyond the region. The research identified a number of headline needs shared by mid-career artists, and in separating actual from perceived needs, the research has enabled us to develop a response that we hope will have real impact. It has also identified opportunities for Northern Stage to develop ways of working more collaboratively, by identifying needs of Northern Stage that can be met by those artists.

What We Learned

We discovered that many female-led non-NPO’s in the North East had made purposeful decisions to work in the independent sector, as it was felt to be liberating artistically, personally and politically. However, an unhealthy culture had developed (both within the North East and beyond) of small/independent companies being encouraged to view Grants for the Arts as a primary source of income, rather than a part of a mixed funding model. This made them financially fragile: they had few assets to rely on, minimal reserves, little contingency, and were vulnerable to unfavourable decisions. Working within independent organizational structures meant that they rarely got to see how other people ran their companies or planned for growth and sustainability, and they ran the risk of becoming isolated in a narrow frame of reference.

We also recognised that Northern Stage’s own artist development schemes had been focusing on development of the creative work, and there had been little investment in proper business planning to support the structures underpinning the art. While we were trying to encourage artists and companies to think in a long-term, strategic manner about their future, we were not providing the skills to be able to deliver this approach.

What We’re Doing in Response to What We Learned

We plan to introduce a strand of our artistic development activity that is focused towards supporting the organizational development of companies in our region. We will work with female-led companies to identify skills and common interest in delivering projects with Northern Stage, to develop more sustainable income streams. We also intend to collaborate with Newcastle University to facilitate access to business planning support and expertise.

Is This Work a Step Towards a Bigger Goal?

Northern Stage is the largest producing theatre in the North East, and as such we feel a keen responsibility for the theatrical eco-system in our region. We want to identify ways for the organization’s resources to be at the service of audiences and artists in the North East, supporting the growth and sustainability of the sector. Over time we would like to develop many more opportunities for integration of our own activity with the ambitions of artists in our region.

Northern Stage creative team statistics

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