New Room Theatre in association with Showroom and Castle Craig Hospital – Blackout
Impacts: Community & social empowerment and Health & wellbeing
During the Creative Scotland application process, we discussed ways of attracting business sponsorship of this production, and the different types of companies who might be interested in being involved. We approached Castle Craig hospital which is known as Scotland’s leading 12-step recovery hospital, and indeed was the first ever in the country. Producer Callum Smith also had a personal connection to the hospital, with a family member having been resident there in the 1990s.
We made a simple email approach and Dominic McCann, development director, was enthusiastic about the possibility, which led to an agreed sponsorship deal to further the hospital’s community engagement and increase awareness. The subject matter of the play was closely linked to the hospital’s own aims, objectives and activity, which made it a perfect collaboration. We offered Castle Craig a “sponsored by” credit on our publicity materials in return for their financial contribution, as well as exploring the possibility of performing the show at the hospital.
In the end, Blackout was a moving and successful small scale theatre tour with extremely high production values, which visited 12 venues around Scotland for 17 performances, from Stornoway to Dumfries and Coll to Edinburgh. It was viewed by over 1,000 people, and we engaged with dozens of participants with a series of educational workshops. The show received positive critical responses, and overwhelming popular acclaim, especially from people with some experience of alcoholism and recovery. In particular, we attracted new and diverse audiences to theatres – many people in recovery came to see the show, many of whom had never attended the theatre in their life.
Arts/cultural organisation story
This tour was the first major project by Mark Jeary and New Room Theatre, and Showroom’s second major tour. The New Arts Sponsorship Grant allowed us to deliver this project to the highest possible standard – increasing production values, ensuring we could pay appropriate fees to all involved, increasing the geographic spread of our tour, offering educational opportunities for free, offering complimentary tickets to those in recovery without the financial means to pay for their own tickets and ensuring we could promote the show to a wide audience.
Equally, our organisation benefitted from producing such a high quality tour, and touring it around some of Scotland’s most prestigious venues. All involved with the project received a good deal of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) from being involved – improving their skills and improving their status within the sector. Writer Mark Jeary has already had several new project possibilities developed as a direct result of the tour of Blackout.
Castle Craig was credited as sponsor of the project (alongside support from Arts & Business Scotland) on all publicity material, on venue listings, in our programme and on all online listings. This included an electronic link to their page wherever possible. Furthermore, we offered a good deal of complimentary tickets to their staff and partners – these were used by Castle Craig as a “treat” for their staff, improving staff morale and providing them with a unique experience directly related to their careers. Many staff fed back to the management that they were grateful for the experience, and felt the piece had been a good reflection on their clients’ experiences of alcoholism.
Whilst we had hoped to perform the piece at Castle Craig, our theatre tour was so busy it wasn’t possible on this occasion. There were also practical concerns, given the high production values of the piece and lack of available facilities at Castle Craig. We hope to explore this possibility in the future should we tour the piece again.
Blackout was a high quality, thought provoking and entertaining piece of verbatim theatre, which was enjoyed by over 1,000 audience members at over 17 performances around the whole of Scotland. This was a unique addition to the programmes of many venues around the country, which exceeded the box office estimates of most venues. This was largely down to the large numbers of alcohol and drug recovery groups who attended the show, as a direct result of our engagement with Alcohol and Drug partnerships in every local authority we toured to. Many of these individuals were first time theatregoers, as is evidenced by the feedback we received from group leaders who organised the trips.
Equally, Blackout raised awareness of alcohol addiction as a disease, and of some of the means of treating it. The play was an informative (though not didactic) piece which both informed and entertained, highlighting the fact that alcoholism is experienced by people from every strata of society. The play’s focus on recovery as well as addiction ensured that it was not solely a piece about the depths of alcoholism, but also the hope there is in recovery. Through our six post-show discussion sessions, we were able to provide interested audience members with more detail about the show and the process behind it. These were attended by many audience members, often those with some experience of addiction/recovery who wanted to know more about the process and the people who were interviewed in the writing of the play.
Furthermore, we delivered four educational workshops to 44 participants in three locations around the country (University of the Highlands and Islands, An Lanntair community drama / writers’ and theatre society, Tron Theatre Young Company and Nicholson Institute, Stornoway). These workshops were generally about the play, the process behind it and gave the participants the chance to create their own verbatim pieces, led by facilitator Jack Stancliffe. These workshops have had a lasting impact on participants who were able to learn new skills as part of the process, and were tailored to the individual needs of the group to ensure a meaningful learning experience. Further, several more educational groups attended the show but were not able to take part in a workshop. We were also glad to be able to deliver workshops outside of the central belt, in Inverness and Stornoway, ensuring a good geographic spread not just of the production, but also our outreach activity.
Receiving a matched New Arts Sponsorship Grant allowed us to maximise the production values of the piece, ensure a wide ranging and effective marketing campaign and therefore deep audience engagement. It also ensured we maintained a good standing with our principal funder, Creative Scotland, by forging new and innovative funding arrangements to support the project. Moreover, we were able to engage with a relevant and unique business, and to forge a new partnership which will bear fruit in the future.