Running a theatre company, whatever the size, requires patience, passion, and perseverance. Running a theatre company that still relies on project-to-project funding, has no salaries for either director or is always under the constant threat of closure is just…well, I’ll leave that up to all your imaginations. For eight years now, the company has been building steadily, producing work that we are immensely proud of and which has been produced in London as well as the regions. Our Ardent8 programme has supported sixteen graduates thus far, with a further eight just beginning their journey, and this support has given them access to numerous industry professionals in the form of workshops, as well as issuing them all their first professional Equity contracts. We have survived through limited core funding from charities whom we have built an excellent relationship with over the years, private donations from various people who simply believe in us and the work we’re doing, especially for young graduates, and some funding through the Arts Council England.
Raising funds for various projects is part of the process, and rejection is something we have become used to. It means that, for the most part, we are only able to think about the future of the company in the short term. We raise money for the next project, and once that money has been secured, we do that project, and while that project is happening, we start raising money for the next. And so on. And so on. It’s constant, it’s relentless, and it’s essential. The constant threat of closure hovers in the wings…always.
As we embark on our next project and subsequent fundraising campaign, we find ourselves in a particularly difficult situation. We find ourselves asking people for money when the truth is that so many of us are terrified of turning the central heating on because we have no idea how big the bill’s going to be. This is a reality. For so many. This is a situation that we at Ardent can’t ignore, but it’s also a situation that must not shut us down. Since the pandemic, the arts are in one of the worst positions that they have been for years; outreach programmes and funding organisations have been dramatically cut, freelancers took a massive hit with a lot not ‘qualifying’ for support, and tragically we have also lost so many artists because they simply couldn’t afford to stay within the profession.
However, despite all of this, and for as long as we can, we will continue to raise money for our various forthcoming projects because we have made a promise to ourselves that Ardent Theatre must continue to keep the doors open to the artists we believe in and who believe in us and our vision. A space to keep exploring new ideas and provide platforms on which they are allowed to make mistakes. Projects that focus on the story of the outsider. Artists who might not have found their way in yet.
As politicians and purse-string holders wrangle and debate the merits of trickling money up or down, we must keep going. The cultural sector plays an important role in growing the economy – the extra tourism it attracts, the additional spending on food and drink that ensures local cafes and restaurants survive, and the taxpaying workforce that goes into making and delivering a show each night. Theatre is not just escapism from our daily lives for a few hours; it’s also a place of community and support, a place we can come together and have a good laugh or cry. If we want it to exist through the darkest times as well as the good, we must keep banging on doors and asking for money. We must. Because if we don’t, then we, and companies like us, will fold. We want to keep going because we believe in the work we’re doing, and we know that so many of our beloved supporters believe in us too. Through the kindness of others, we will continue to build the company, and we will aim to provide opportunities for artists that we believe deserve the chance of a platform coupled with a living wage. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
Ardent Theatre is currently attached to the BIG GIVE CAMPAIGN, which is a brilliant fundraising campaign that matches any donation. So, if you give a pound, it gets doubled, and the company gets two.
The generosity of people has been humbling, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us in the past, but we ask that if you can, please keep supporting us. We can’t survive if you stop. We will make the promise to keep banging on doors if you keep the promise of opening those doors up when you can.
The Big Give campaign for our production of STRIKE! ends on 30th November 2022. Every donation made online will be matched by Sir Ian McKellen until we hit our target. To find out more, CLICK HERE.