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We need more theatres willing to support emerging companies

As Incoming Festival is announced, its co-director Eleanor Turney looks at how the New Diorama Theatre has enabled it to happen

Incoming Festival is for emerging theatre companies. We work really hard to offer these companies a supportive, fairly-paid showcase for their work, and a temporary London base from which to launch. But Incoming itself, now in its fourth year, is still developing, too. In order to support 20-odd companies every year, we need a theatre base that nurtures and supports us. And boy, did we strike lucky with the New Diorama Theatre.

An 80-seat black box theatre near Euston, half-hidden in an impressive wind-tunnel of tower blocks, NDT has been our home, haven and champion since 2013. NDT's commitment to emerging theatre companies really is second to none, and it's fair to say that Incoming could never have happened without it. Although most theatres have some kind of artist development programme, and many support emerging companies with space or seed funding, very few offer the level of consistent, dedicated support found at NDT. And actually, companies need more than rehearsal space and small cash injections - they need advice, cheerleaders and shoulders to cry on, too.

In the first year we didn't really know what we were doing, but NDT guided Incoming on its way

The whole festival came about because of the generosity of David Byrne, NDT's artistic and executive director. I would bet money that there's dozens of shows and companies which would say the same. Jake Orr and I were running A Younger Theatre, and around 2012 were increasingly exploring ways in which AYT could grow from being a publication into an organisation that supported emerging creatives in other ways. We'd been batting around the idea of some kind of festival for a while, but it felt out of reach.

Several conversations with David later, and we found ourselves with a week to programme at NDT. Incoming was born.

To be completely honest, the first year, Jake and I didn't really know what we were doing. We'd never programmed a festival before and the responsibility was terrifying. Exciting, but terrifying. But every time we got stuck, NDT unstuck us in the nicest possible way, and never made us feel stupid. Not even when we counted something in the budget twice and had to find £600 very, very swiftly. From insurance to contracting, tech rehearsals to programme choices, running workshops to ensuring that the bar didn't run out of gin, NDT guided Incoming on its way.

Companies need more than rehearsal space and small cash injections

I can't imagine another artistic director whose commitment to emerging creatives and companies would extend to gifting their own theatre for a week to two new producers. I can't imagine a more supportive environment in which to make Incoming festival happen, and I absolutely can't imagine a more dedicated, patient and good-humoured team than that which is found at NDT.

David practically lives in the theatre, offering constant advice, expertise and contacts. The companies selected to work with NDT are lucky indeed to have such a stalwart champion. Executive producer Sophie Wallis is a force to be reckoned with, and producer Helen Matravers is so efficient that "Matraving" has become office shorthand for getting stuff done.

Incoming was born at New Diorama, and through its careful parenting, has blossomed into a bright-eyed and exciting four year-old. I can't imagine a better place for a theatre festival to grow up.

Incoming Festival runs at the New Diorama Theatre between 2 and 11 June.

Eleanor Turney is co-director of Incoming Festival, and a freelance arts consultant, editor and writer. @eleanorturney; eleanorturney.co.uk


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