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Exclusive: Independent producers join forces to boost bargaining power

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Independent theatre producers are combining to launch an association that will represent their interests in negotiations with theatre managements, in the face of worsening trading conditions which they say threaten to put them out of business.

The League of Independent Producers will lobby and negotiate on behalf of its members with other trade bodies or with theatre owners directly, with the stated aim of “improving the lot of the independent producer”. The body, which is in the process of being constituted and registered, has grown out of a more informal group – the Society of London Theatre’s independent producers forum.

Greg Ripley-Duggan, one of the founding board members of LIP and its acting chair, told The Stage: “It was suggested to me that we should revitalise that now defunct body. In response to that, I sent a round-robin email out and to my surprise 50 people turned up at the first meeting, which suggested to me that (since in the old days we’d only get ten or 12), the climate had changed somewhat.

“There’s a general view that trading as a producer is getting harder and harder. That very delicate balance that you tread as an independent between your obligations to your investors, your artists and the work you’re creating, on the one hand, and the relationships with your landlords and the buildings you are renting or going into on tour – it’s becoming a very hard balance to maintain. It’s very, very hard to make money doing it, to make a living doing it and that’s why 50 people turned up to that meeting: because they don’t think there’s a long-term future in it unless the conditions can be changed somehow.”

LIP has launched with a 12-strong board. In addition to Ripley-Duggan it features: Edward Snape, Robert Fox, Adam Spiegel, Carole Winter, Nick Salmon, Dafydd Rogers, Caro Newling, Kim Poster, Rachel Tackley, Mark Rubinstein and Mark Goucher.

Rubinstein and Tackley’s inclusion means that the board features the current presidents of both SOLT and the Theatrical Management Association. Rubinstein stressed that he did not regard the body as being in conflict with SOLT or TMA. He added: “The interesting thing is that there are a lot of people who are keen to be part of it. The response was wide and significant – there’s clearly an appetite to have a forum that considers the interests of producers independent of those that are shared between theatre owners and theatre producers.”

LIP will be a paid membership organisation, will meet six times a year and will be open to independent producers operating at all levels of the business from the West End to the fringe. The membership costs have yet to be confirmed, but Ripley-Duggan said they would be kept “affordable, so that fringe producers can afford to become members”.

As well as representing producers in trade negotiations, the body will also share knowledge and educate producers starting out in the business. It will launch a website and official logo in the next few months.

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