Society of Independent Theatres launched

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A membership society for fringe venue operators has been launched in a bid to represent the interests of independent theatres and createa better trading platform for them.

The Society of Independent Theatres aims to support venues with up to 300 seats by sharing marketing materials and audience data, as well as by recycling costumes and props.

It also hopes to create partnerships between its member venues to encourage tours of shows between them. This will extend production runs so that critics are more likely to review fringe shows and create publicity for the venues, according to the society’s board of directors.

SIT is also in talks to form a centralised box office for selling tickets, and wants its website to become a resource for audiences by listing fringe venues and theirproductions across the UK.

With around 26 members signed up so far, including Jermyn Street Theatre, Finborough Theatre and Theatre503, the society is open to any small independent UK venue. Yearly membership costs £50 and the body’s first annual general meeting will take place in May.

SIT is run by a board that includes artistic directors Anthony Alderson of the Pleasance in Edinburgh and London, Michael Kingsley of the White Bear Theatre and John Plews of Upstairs at the Gatehouse, both in London.

Plews said: “SIT is specifically for venues – all types of small, independent theatres – both those who produce in-house and those who are receiving houses, as opposed to being for theatre companies.

“We, as theatre owners, want to promote ourselves as a venue, especially with local audiences, to encourage them to come to our space regardless of the show.”

Alderson said the society had been formed to celebrate the fringe sector and make others realise the value it holds within the industry.

He added that since the decline of repertory theatre and the middle-scale touring circuit, the work that used to be produced in independent theatres to feed that circuit is now becoming more concentrated in the fringe sector.

“These institutions are the foundations of our entire industry and we have to tie them together to really give the thing stability. This isn’t a stepping stone for most. We’re [the society] not trying to create a ladder up and out of independent theatre,” Alderson said.

He added: “The value in bringing these theatres together is in trying to create a proper trading platform for the great many people who are very happy working at this level.”

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