16 for 2016: Jez Bond

As part of a fascinating new series for 2016, Glen Pearce is speaking to 16 Artistic Directors and Chief Executives from across the country, looking back at the past year and looking forward to the coming year.

Following a six-yearLondon-widesearch for a building, Park Theatre opened inMay 2013. The project and theatre were the brainchildren of Creative Director Melli Bond and Artistic Director Jez Bond. Here, Jez Bond looks back at 2015 and ahead to 2016 and beyond.

What have been your theatrical highlights (and challenges) of 2015?

2015 saw us enter our third year of operation, winning The Stage ‘Fringe Theatre of the Year’ and receiving our first Olivier Nomination for Tanya Moodie’s performance in one of our co-productions. I am proud to say that Tanya has recently become an Ambassador for Park Theatre. We delivered a broad programme of work – with a number of high-profile, sell-out shows. One of the biggest successes took place outside our building. Entirely organised by Park Theatre staff, with support from an eclectic gala committee, our fundraising gala at Stoke Newington Town Hall was hosted by Ian McKellen for 300 guests. The event was attended by many leading names in the industry – including Gillian Anderson, Orlando Bloom and Derek Jacobi – with other well-known supporters, including local MP Jeremy Corbyn putting in an appearance. Thanks to the generosity of our guests and kind auction sponsors, the event raised approximately £200,000. This was a vital fundraising initiative and will give us stability for another 18 months.

What do you see as the highlights (and challenges) for your organisation in 2016?

We are programmed until Spring 2017, although only currently announced through to the middle of 2016. Some feel this is an enviable position – and certainly we’ve got a number of fantastic pieces of theatre coming up. However, programming so far ahead, while providing financial stability, has its disadvantages – such as when an amazing play wants to transfer from further afield or when a well-known ‘name’ actor has a break in their schedule and asks if you have availability to do a play with them in six months’ time. We are very keen to get to a position where we are producing more shows ourselves, which means that we would have more artistic control and wouldn’t need to programme so far ahead. But, financially, we’re only able to fully produce a handful of productions in-house at the moment. The challenge for the coming year is to build up our resources, increase the reserves and get to a situation where we can produce more work.

What is your theatrical New Year’s resolution?

My theatrical resolutionis to get out of the building more – both to see more work and to visit regional producing houses to forge relationships. Partnerships are hugely important – both creatively and financially – and this is an area that I would like to explore more as we move forward.

Excluding funding, if you were Minister for Culture what is the one aspect of the arts sector you’d like to change?

For an organisation like ours, and I suspect many others, it is only funding that’s the major game changer.

Park Theatre has a physical space and a wealth of creative skills in its personnel, but what we need are more funds in order to do the work that we want to do and engage further with our community. If I was Minister for Culture I would seek to implement ways by which arts organisations can be considered more in terms of their individual needs, to determine what solution is best for each organisation on a case by case basis. In our specific case (and I imagine others) there are areas of the charity where an injection of funds could likely result in a recoupment of those monies – but, as we don’t have the cashflow to resource these in the first instance, we are unable to explore such options.

I would like to see an initiative from the DCMS, or its associated body, Arts Council England, to enable these exciting possibilities. If we were granted a pot of money to invest in the organisation, we could, for example, fund an extra development post, which would likely generate more in income than the cost of said salary. We might alternatively fund an education project that broke even, or – now that (after operating for two-and-a-half years) we know what sells best in our venue – we could fund a smaller scale production that would recoup. Perhaps the monies can be granted as restricted to the initial project applied for and, when recouped, continue to roll on to the next project. This way, as an organisation proves that they can keep reinvesting, the money stays with them. This is of course not the solution for anyone because, while breaking even is not to be sniffed at, theatre must also be allowed to lose money; there are far more valuable benefits of the arts than financial reward and profit must not be the yardstick by which we measure success.

For more information on Park Theatre visitwww.parktheatre.co.uk


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