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Chris Grady: Do you like SOUP...

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There’s a new energy in the air and it is caused by the buzz of independent creative producers working together and separately to bring new theatrical ideas to life.

I was at an Open Space Technology event hosted at the Young Vic Theatre last week where there were around 50 producers exploring the future. I was introduced to the art of SOUPing – the gathering of Some Of Us Producers over a coffee to share skills, experience, fears, and process. I was really pleased to see a number of Arts Council officers also there exploring what is needed to support this new (or newly energised) wave of creativity.

So what is a producer? I often get kicked under the table when I describe myself as someone who pushes paper around in a theatre. Its my shorthand way of explaining that I’m not an actor, not a dancer, not a director, not a playwright, not a celebrity, and not a banker. But it also belies the creative role which a producer plays. You can’t have a great meal without ingredients, but someone has to select, prepare, and blend those ingredients – so a producer is a bit like a chef I suppose.

At the Young Vic there were around 50 of us, a couple of grey-haired guys like me, and mainly an energised cohort of young creatives, mainly women, determined to make work happen. To realise their dreams many worked on multiple projects, some had day jobs in the arts or in other fields, all worked crazy hours to make things happen. None of them were West End Producers (SOLT members) and none of the ones I talked to seemed to be aspiring to be “on the Avenue”.

They seemed excited by multi-artform work, reaching new audiences, taking work on tour to communities across the UK, partnering with local and regional theatres, understanding how to collaborate across Nations, and all together making stuff happen. I came away humbled by the shared passion, delighted at some of the ideas being suggested to connect creative producers across the UK, and looking forward to enjoying life with SOUP.

There are plenty of reports being written at the moment and being posted on this site, there’s a fledgling blog place exploring SOUP, there are plans for gatherings in London and Newcastle, and I for one will be recommending to all my CGO Surgery visitors that they try a simple SOUPing recipe. Slurp / Chris

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