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Chichester’s Daniel Evans: Attracting talent is hard outside London, but increasingly in it too

The cost of living in the capital is even making it difficult for London theatres to recruit The cost of living in the capital is even making it difficult for London theatres to recruit
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Recruitment is an essential but complex process for any organisation, and the theatre is no exception.

The process, which has been made somewhat more complex since the introduction of the new GDPR laws surrounding data usage, involves honing job descriptions, setting salary levels, advertising in the appropriate forums, uploading relevant forms, reading applications, shortlisting, interviewing, and with luck ending in an appointment and an induction process.

Perhaps the most important of all stages in the process is attracting appropriate candidates. At Chichester, we are fortunate that, in many areas of the organisation, we have no dearth of applications. We tend to find that submissions for our entry-level positions are popular and highly competitive and indeed many of those successful applicants stay with us for a significant amount of time, building their experience and developing their talents. To be able to observe a staff member grow over a period of time is one of the greatest pleasures of leading an organisation.

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Yet attracting top talent in other areas can be a challenge. There is the inevitable recurring refrain from some quarters that leaving the capital is simply not on the cards. Of course, it is understandable. For some, London is where it’s at – whether it’s to do with lifestyle, salary level or friends and family. Nevertheless, it’s always a great disappointment to hear.

Recently, I have become a proselyte for living by the sea. I loved reading a recent study that showed a daily period of immersing oneself in nature increased life expectancy. It’s also well recorded that arts organisations outside the metropolitan areas are able to have an especially close relationship with their communities – connected and embedded. This was certainly true of my time in Sheffield and it’s borne out again in Chichester.

However, I recently heard that recruiting, even within London, is becoming increasingly challenging. For some organisations, a reverse image of our rural experience is seen, where successful applicants from outside of London are having to turn down jobs in the arts sector there, citing an inability to find so-called ‘affordable housing’ despite being offered the London Living Wage. For them, a London lifestyle is prohibitive.

This is indicative of an emerging and alarming picture for the younger generation of theatremakers – whether they are actors, directors, designers or composers – who, increasingly, are finding themselves unable to afford rental costs, let alone get on to the first rungs of the property ladder. One of the inevitable results of this iniquity is that only those from more privileged backgrounds are able to sustain a life in the capital. Without wishing to seem opportunistic, it is fortunate for us all that there is a world elsewhere.

Daniel Evans is artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Read more of his columns at: thestage.co.uk/author/daniel-evans

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