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New Diorama launches ‘bank for theatre companies’

New Diorama artistic director David Byrne

A new fund described as the UK’s first ever “bank for theatre companies” has been launched by the New Diorama in London.

It is one of a raft of new initiatives being launched by the London venue aimed at helping emerging theatre companies to flourish.

The theatre, which this year marks its fifth birthday, is offering interest-free loans of up to £4,000 through its Cash Flow Fund, which is aimed at giving emerging theatre companies money to help with upfront costs that “may be a barrier”, such as wages, accommodation or deposits for venues.

New Diorama artistic director David Byrne said the Cash Flow Fund was effectively a “cooperative bank for theatre companies”, adding that producing theatre can often be unrealistic for young companies.

It is being funded by the theatre’s booking fees, which are currently 40p a ticket. The fund is aimed at companies that the theatre has already worked with, and aims to help them take their work to festivals such as Edinburgh or larger venues around the UK.

Byrne said: “We have found increasingly that companies are keen to take up bigger opportunities… on a larger scale, but lacked the basic financial resources to be able to do it.”

He added: “The fund means we can lend these companies these small amounts of money which really is the key vital investment at the right point, which they can pay us back out of earned income later on.”

He added that cash flow loans for start-up businesses in other sectors were common and that he was surprised theatre did not have one itself.

“In the arts we don’t really offer anything like that to our start-up groups,” adding that other theatres could consider launching similar funds.

New Diorama’s new fund has been announced as the London theatre consolidates a number initiatives it has previously piloted to help companies’ development into what Bryne has called its most ambitious artist development programme.

This includes the NSDF Pickles Fund, which helps fund up to six emerging companies to enter the National Student Drama Festival.

“It’s about looking at where you can make an investment that will make a big difference and helping a company go up to that next level,” he said, adding: “It’s great to be able to help some of the companies that don’t have resources and might have disappeared between that transition from education and working professionally, which is a turbulent transition. It means we can make that a lot easier and that little investment can go a long way.”

Meanwhile, the venue’s Graduate Emerging Companies Programme will offer a company the chance to showcase their work for free at the venue and keep 100% of the box office generated.

The theatre is also offering more established companies from the regions two nights of performances free of charge, under its Two Night Stands scheme. Companies can keep 100% of their box office from this.

Elsewhere under New Diorama’s development programme, it will provide money from a new Female Leadership Fund to assist female artistic directors at the head of an emerging company who want to take a leadership course to “enhance their skills”.

“Those courses can cost between £500 and £2,000, which… is really hard when you’re running a small theatre company. This fund means there’s no barrier to those exceptional individuals getting access to that sort of resource,” Byrne said.

The theatre is also launching a new rehearsal space, giving black, Asian and minority ethnic companies somewhere to rehearse for free.