After being unceremoniously kicked out of their former Stoney Street home, in favour of luxury flats – gah – The Television Workshop are in desperate need of dollar to renovate their new space. After churning out talent like Vicky McClure, Bella Ramsey and Joe Dempsie, it’s now down to yow lot to keep the training ground for young actors alive. Well, at least without a flooded basement…
The Television Workshop moved premises in January 2017, from your old digs at Stoney Street which was home for the last 32 years, as the building is being turned into flats. How has the move been?
It’s been hard because we wanted to do it in the summer holidays and re-launch in September so we’d have time to work on the building. We’ve had to do everything as we go, so when we got in it was a bit scruffy. But, over the summer we’ve had a new floor put in, had it painted, and we’re having work done in the basement where there’s some flooding.
You’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise £15,000 to refurbish the space. If you get the money, what will it be used for?
We need new a new lighting rig, stage curtains, seating blocks and a sound proofing solution. We’ll be working on the basement space which is currently just for storage, and flooded. We want to turn that space into a rehearsal room, and to house our office there and have dressing/green rooms. It’s also important to us to make improvements so the space is accessible for all; participants and audiences.
What’s the main priority?
Making it into a real studio theatre and rehearsal space that can be used by other companies, so it’s more professional and we can offer it out to people that want to hire it. That’s started to happen already; we’ve had adult learning classes, art classes and drama courses in the space. It’s about connecting with local people and seeing what they might need. People looking for rehearsal space want it to be cost-effective, and we’d like there to be a mutual benefit to our students. We’re looking to be able to offer the space with companies offering to run a workshop for our members in return, so the students see the benefit from those creative partnerships. We want to collaborate more as we know it really enhances the learning experience and opportunities for our members.
What kind of organisations would you be looking to invite into the space post-renovation?
There’s lots of local theatre companies that we’re in touch with and lots of really interesting theatre-makers and film-makers in the region that struggle to find places they can develop their work. So hopefully we can fill a gap in the market.
Are you hoping that the renovation will give The Television Workshop a bigger presence within the city?
Before, we were in a basement and people would walk by and not know what was happening. Now we’ve got big windows facing out into the street; there are people walking by every day, already people are popping their heads in to see what it’s all about and what we’re doing. It’s really exciting to have greater visibility. And we can advertise our shows and events in the windows so people know what’s going on now, too. We’re trying to get more businesses to sponsor our members who receive bursary places, and promote this support in the windows too.
The Kickstarter campaign is all or nothing. So if you don’t reach the target, you don’t get the money.
That’s the scary bit! If we hit the target we’re gonna be able to make the most professional changes we possibly can. If we don’t… there’s not much of a plan B!
You been involved with the Workshop since the age of 7 and you’re 29 now. How has the Workshop shaped your life?
It’s a second home, and it’s shaped my life immeasurably. I’ve met most of my best friends and built professional relationships through Workshop; you’re drawn to people because they share a passion for drama. It’s incredibly close to my heart because I know what the current members are going through; I know what it’s like to be a young actor. That’s it. I’m sympathetic and know what it takes to be a pro, and the more opportunity we can offer, the greater the reward.
Have you had any big name pledges so far that you know of?
We’ve had agents and casting directors who’ve used Workshop and have invested back in the company. It’s not just actors; former students have gone off into all kinds of different careers but still credit Workshop as building their character, communication skills and confidence. It’s nice to see them come back and pledge to say thank you for everything it’s given them.
Tell us about the rewards on offer…
I think the great thing about Kickstarter is that you’re not just asking somebody to give you money. You’re investing and getting something back. We’ve got 100 theatre seats, so you can sponsor a chair, a bit like in Broadway cinema. We’ll have exposed brick walls, so you can sponsor a brick and have your name on the walls forever. We’re reproducing a sweatshirt that everyone at Workshop used to wear, so there’s a sentimental, retro reward in there, too.
You’ve raised almost £6000 since the campaign went live. Are you optimistic that you’ll reach the target?
I’m eternally optimistic anyway! We’ve had about 100 backers, and there are hundreds of people connected to Workshop that still haven’t pledged, so we’re trying to reach out to them. The threat of us not reaching the target is quite scary. It’s behind where it needs to be in terms of the target, but we’re hoping for a late surge. What we don’t want people to do is wait until the last minute and shred our nerves. We want them to get their pledges in now.
Support The Television Workshop by donating to their Kickstarter Campaign.
The Television Workshop website