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Jamie Eastlake: ‘We want to be the next fringe venue that survives’

Jamie Eastlake is joint artistic director and executive director of Theatre N16, a new fringe venue that was launched this year. It was originally based in Stoke Newington but has recently moved to a space in the Bedford Pub in Balham, south London.

How is the new theatre space?

The fact that the building has been used for comedy and music over the years means that the management know how to work with artists, which is a good thing. Sometimes there can be difficulties when you are working in an environment which isn’t used for that sort of thing all the time. We’re starting to think about programming next year already so we are looking to be here long term.

What are your priorities as a company?

I left my job at the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton because I wanted to do my own thing and one of my biggest priorities was opening a theatre that had fairly low overheads. I had produced stuff over the years and found it difficult to break through doors, so I wanted to find a space that was cheap for us to set up and then cheap for artists and young producers. We wanted to target an area of London that didn’t have much theatre, and that’s how Stoke Newington first came about. Obviously that didn’t work out [new management meant that the performance space was no longer available] but finding this space here means that we can guarantee something longer term and not have any more issues.

Have you always been involved in theatre?

I grew up in a very small town in Northumberland, which had a massive amdram theatre scene, so I did grow up around theatre. It was my release from school in a way and I used to put on little plays for my peers. Growing up in that area I was influenced a lot by Lee Hall’s work. It’s a cliche but I come from a family who went and worked on the shipyards and down the mines. His stuff influenced me to write and express myself through theatre, so it was always an interest. I used to put on theatre nights around Newcastle and then I moved down to London to work as an actor, but I soon realised that I wanted to be the guy making the stuff.

What inspired the opera side of the company?

I hired Ella [Marchment, co-artistic director] at the Courtyard when I was producing there. She has an opera background and really wanted to have a space that worked as a fringe opera house with similar values to what I wanted, so we came together. She came on-board and we went from there really. We wanted to make something that made opera and theatre as accessible as they can be, plus it is really exciting to have them running alongside each other.

CV Jamie EastlakeWhat do you make of the climate for fringe theatre at the moment?

I think it’s quite an exciting time. We seem to be inundated with people who want to get in on our idea because we are so collaborative and it’s really important to us to keep costs down as much as possible. We want to have a relationship with the Bedford as far as we can see in the future. We have some really big plans for what we want to do and we want to be the next fringe venue that survives.