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Here’s how you can support an award-winning theatre company’s mission to develop new acting talent

Box of Tricks Theatre Company has been nurturing talent for over 18 years - but now they need your help to continue
Box of Tricks

Adam Quayle is the joint Artistic Director of Box of Tricks, which has been both celebrating and nurturing new talent for 18 years.

But with funding cuts and complicated application processes, and a cost-of-living crisis, they have had no option but to ask for help to keep the lights on.

This means that new writers can continue to get their work seen and heard through the PlayMakers Network and other schemes that Box of Tricks offers.

Box of Tricks
Adam Quayle

We caught up with Adam to find out more about Box of Tricks and how you can help, if you can.

What is Box of Tricks?

Box of Tricks is an award-winning theatre company based in Manchester that celebrates Northern talent. For 18 years, we have discovered and produced new plays; empowering new voices to tell new stories that reflect the world we live in today.

We tour new work locally and nationally.

But Box of Tricks is about more than just producing plays. We offer a home for playwrights; our PlayMakers Network (launched during the pandemic) is a creative and collaborative community of 750+ Northern playwrights, theatremakers and offstage artists.

Theatres and theatre makers are struggling at the moment. Can you tell us a bit about what you have had to lose, as a result of cuts to funding?

The landscape is incredibly challenging right now. We survived the pandemic and naively thought we were out of the woods. But the effects of that time, plus Brexit and the recession, have made it increasingly difficult to keep the lights on.

The increased competition for ever-decreasing funds means there have been many high-profile casualties in recent years. As a project-funded company – we don’t receive a penny of Arts Council core funding – this is the hardest time we can remember in our 18-year history.

Following various big funding knockbacks last year, we’ve had to streamline operations and our team of eight is now a team of two. Inevitably, the result is reduced capacity and fewer opportunities for Northern playwrights and theatremakers.

Looking back, can you tell us some of the ways that you have helped and supported people within the community?

We pride ourselves on being friendly, approachable and accessible. Our ever-growing PlayMakers Network has over 750 members right across the North and offers a creative home for Northern playwrights and theatremakers.

Our support can be light-touch – a cuppa and a chat about a project, support with a funding bid, reading a script – or longer-term – our PlayBox programme for early-career North West playwrights, our Accelerate initiative for writers aged 35+, our New Tricks commissioning model.

That support is now in jeopardy as we’re forced to make difficult decisions about what we can and can’t do.

What has been the biggest impact of the work you do?

That’s a difficult question to answer! Over the last 18 years, we’ve put playwrights at the heart of everything we do. We’ve toured new plays right across the UK, often giving playwrights their first full-length production.

Highlights include seeing David Judge’s debut play SparkPlug broadcast on Sky Arts. Or taking Becky Prestwich’s Chip Shop Chips on a sell-out tour to pubs, village halls and community centres.

Or winning a UK Theatre Award for Best New Play for Lizzie Nunnery’s Narvik. None of these moments would have been possible without long-term investment in the incredible talent we have up here.

What are the top five on your wish list as a result of crowdfunding?

Coming of age this year, we launched our 18th Birthday Appeal to raise £12,000 to support our PlayMakers Programme over the next twelve months. If we don’t hit our target, we’ll have to scale back on what we can offer. You can donate to that by clicking here

Giving a top-five wish list is tough as there’s so much, we want to achieve!

-We want to keep offering a home to Blood Beats, our monthly group for LGBTQ+ writers.

-We want to launch an international Pen Pals exchange programme for UK and Singaporean playwrights.

-We want to combat ageism and offer a step-change for writers aged 35+ with our Accelerate cohort.

-We want to curate Creative Jams for local artists of all disciplines to come together and play.

-We want to offer 500+ hours of free space to local theatremakers in our PlayMakers SPACE at The Yard Mcr.

-In short, we want to keep offering a vibrant creative home for Northern talent.

There is a cost of living crisis, so if someone is only able to chuck in a couple of quid, will it make a difference?

Absolutely! That’s the power of the crowd! We know how tough things are right now, but every pound makes a real difference and takes us a step closer to reaching our target.

More than that, as a charity, we can get 25% more at no cost to you if you Gift Aid your donation.

If you’re not in a position to give right now, we’d really appreciate people helping spread the word on socials and amongst their friends and family.

What would you like to see change with regard to arts funding?

A levelling of the playing field. Funding applications are complex, daunting and time-consuming.

When you’re an artist-led company, you’re investing hours, days, and weeks into writing applications speculatively with the hope you’ll secure vital funding.

Without core funding, all of this time is completely unpaid and takes you away from making theatre. It’s like gambling: you’re always one big bid away from bust.

More than that, each application will be going up against bids written by experienced professional fundraisers and well-staffed development teams at venues.

This creates a Catch-22 where you struggle to secure funding and, therefore can’t expand your team or realise ambitions.

But if it’s hard for us, it’s even harder for freelance artists and early-career creatives; I don’t envy anyone embarking on a career in our industry right now.

What are you looking forward to the most with regard to the plans that you have made?

First and foremost, an ability to keep on keeping on! For us, new plays are the lifeblood of theatre and we’re determined not to go down without a fight.

Now more than ever, we need to keep creating opportunities for Northern playwrights and theatremakers if we’re not to lose a generation of talent.

We want playwrights not just to survive, but to thrive.

With your help, we look forward to developing and staging new plays, nurturing new voices and ensuring that the writing’s not on the wall for new talent.

If you want to find out more about Box of Tricks and how you can help, please click here

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