Blog: Theatres Fit for the Future
Theatres Trust Director Jon Morgan sets out the thinking behind our refreshed vision and key priorities for the next three years.
Our three-year plan 2023-2026 responds to the new and even more challenging environment that theatres find themselves in following the pandemic and in face of the cost-of-living crisis. In developing this plan, we took the opportunity to revisit Theatres Trust’s mission and vision, to check that they accurately reflected our priorities and the scope of our work. The result of this exercise is that our mission and vision have been updated, and as you may have already noticed, we are using a new tagline – Theatres Fit for the Future.
The changes we’ve made are not radical, but they are significant. I see it is an evolution of our vision, our priorities and our work to best support theatres to meet the challenges of today and into the future.
When I took on the role of Theatres Trust Director in 2017, I was certain that for Theatres Trust to have a real impact, our focus must be on supporting theatre buildings for the benefits that they bring to their local communities, for their value as facilitators of human connection and creation. Protecting buildings for their own sake was not an argument that was going to hold much sway in times of austerity – and sadly times are now much harder and funding far scarcer than six years ago.
It is not that we no longer have a role or interest in protecting theatres that are or may become at risk, but that we recognise the best way to protect theatres is for them to be well designed and well run – to prevent them becoming ‘at risk’ in the first place. As we know all too well from our Theatres at Risk work, it becomes increasingly difficult to revive a theatre, the longer it has been out of use, so far better to proactively support theatres to be as vibrant, effectively designed and operated and as resilient as possible.
While we will continue to use our statutory remit in planning to ensure that theatres are well designed, we want to offer more advice in the early stages of capital projects, not just at the ‘final planning hurdle’. And we see our role as extending beyond theatre capital projects. We will further develop our advice service, supporting theatre owners and operators across a range of management aspects, focused on the four key principles of resilience, inclusivity, sustainability and placemaking.
We can offer advice on business plans and capital works that help reduce costs or generate more revenue – being a ‘critical friend’ who can give unbiased opinions, support that we know was invaluable to those theatres we helped in this way during the pandemic faced with emergency budgeting and refocusing. We have a wealth of experience within our small in-house team, but we are also able to draw on the skills of a wide range of external consultants.
Another major project for Theatres Trust is building the UK’s first comprehensive database of theatres with the Theatres Database Project Manager recently appointed to take it forward. The database will support information and knowledge sharing across theatres and the wider sector and form a full picture of the country’s theatres, enabling us to monitor trends and issues across the sector and giving us invaluable information to help advocate on behalf of theatres.
I hope that Theatres Trust will be able to support many more theatres to overcome whatever hurdles they may face and together we will create the very best theatres possible serving their communities across the country.
Although the times ahead will not be easy, I am looking forward to working in collaboration with theatres, partners and supporters and excited to see the results of our work come to fruition. If you work in theatre, I urge you to get in touch with us and make use of the free support we offer.
And whatever your connection to theatre, I hope you will share our ambitions for Theatres Fit for the Future.
Note: A longer version of this piece will feature in the next issue of Theatres Magazine, our digital publication for Theatres Trust supporters and stakeholders, which will be published in late October. Find out more about supporting our work.