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Arts Organisations – Rivals or collaborators

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Its been a pleasure over the last 3 years to work with colleagues at Aldeburgh Music, Smiths Row gallery, Eastern Angles,  St Edmundsbury Cathedral,  festivals and arts organisations in creating a collaborative programme to generate larger audiences for all the arts in Suffolk, supported by Suffolk County Council – check out www.insuffolk.com to see us all beginning to web-together. 

I think some people observing the arts think we are competitors, and rivals in some way. They find it extraordinary that the e-newsletter we issue from the Theatre Royal might feature a thriller playing at the Wolsey in Ipswich (which is only 35 minutes drive away – so a customer living in say Stowmarket could be at the front door of either of our theatres in 20 minutes.  Surely they think we should fight for the leisure pound.  No we work together.  We seek to build awareness of all the theatre in the region, and get people to try something.

In a few weeks time we will be putting the finishing touches to our Pantomime programme (oh yes we will), and the centre spread will be a double page map of Suffolk – and we will feature a flag for every pantomime and Christmas show we can find out about – community panto, rock’n’roll professional long-runners, and touring studio storytelling.  We want to celebrate the sheer act of getting out of the office, away from the tele, out from under the duvet – and enjoying live theatre. T

The mission for the Theatre Royal is enriching life and changing lives through theatre and performance. The challenge for us and all our colleagues is to get people to try it.  Within Zone 2 almost any major opening gets national press coverage, opportunities to get a couple of celebrities to pop in and make it glamorous, and collaboration in awards and ticketing schemes.  Here in rural Suffolk we have to make the buzz happen by ourselves (nobly supported by 3-4local critics, and some inspired feature writing by the amazing Andrew Clarke, Arts Editor of the East Anglian Daily Times).  We don’t have time to compete – we must work together.

That’s why we’ve all come together to take a stand at the World Travel Market this November at the Excel Centre entitled – Suffolk, Arts Heritage Culture and Beer.  The bottom’s fallen out of government support for Tourism, but it is still a lifeblood for the region. So its left to The Wolsey, Dance East, Greene King, the Angel Hotel, The apex and others to join together with us to cheer Suffolk,  chat up the travel press, and point the hidden county out on a map to those who are just not sure how to get to it.   The collaborators - shouting together to make a difference to all our business.

Next time you have a look at a programme or get an inside look at an arts organisation, dig through and see how many collaborations and co-operative projects they are doing to grow audiences, raise awareness of the power of the arts, and sharing things to survive and grow. And wherever you are in the UK, dear reader, check out the breadth of community work each theatre and arts organisation is doing to help boost business, health, activities, education, and fun in the area. You’ll be surprised.

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