We're overjoyed to announce that we've received a grant from amdram.co.uk to support us in running workshops for wannabe amdram techies and creatives!
From our conception, the Pied Pipers wasn't just about putting on amateur performances with a production quality to rival professional shows. The Club was also established to nurture the huge wealth of theatrical talent in the community of Cambridge and its surrounding villages.
This never just meant the performers on stage. Behind every amdram production are the key creatives – directors, musical directors, etc – and technicians – set builders, sound designers, etc. Without them, productions can suffer from a lack of organisation, clarity, and/or pizzazz – which is why we sought to nurture them too.
But it's been a growing concern for all Cambridge-based community theatre groups lately that many of the city’s most experienced "techies" and key creatives have been moving on – making it an increasing challenge to find all the necessary personnel for many productions.
Several amdram groups have resorted to paying for professional techies and/or creatives. But by its nature, community theatre has only ever been a “break even” endeavour – and when it began costing the members to produce, it was in danger of becoming unsustainable.
That's why the Pied Pipers seized on an opportunity provided by amdram.co.uk, the country's largest online platform for promoting community theatre performances, auditions, and other amdram-related news and services. Community theatre organisations use the site for free, but the site is supported with paid advertising from those who supply the amateur world, such as with design materials, costumes, etc.
And, in the summer of 2018, Jane – amdram.co.uk's chief operator – announced that applications were open for the first Amateur Theatre Grant, which would be funded by the site's advertisers. There were no specific criteria, but Jane's examples included setting up a youth section, replacing sound and lighting equipment, and improving disabled access – suggesting she hoped the grant would go to a project intend to support community theatre for a long while, rather than just a single show.
We thought this money would enable us to achieve a long-held ambition of the committee, i.e. to hold affordable workshops that would bring professional theatre technicians and key creatives to develop the skills of amateurs.
And, as luck would have it, Jane thought this was a brilliant idea too!
Jane herself told us, "Nearly 40 worthy applications were received for the first Grant, but the Pied Piper's proposed workshops stood out as something ambitious and different. The application was also putting money back into amateur theatre as well as helping other theatre groups in the local area. It's such a good idea and hopefully groups in other areas can be encouraged to do something similar."
Jane is personally guaranteeing the Grant to a minimum of £700, and it is hoped that more will be raised from amdram.co.uk's advertisers over the year (the final total will be known on New Year's Eve 2019). But even with Jane's guarantee alone, we expect to subsidise at least two workshops – perhaps even three – with participants able to learn from West End pros for as little as £5.
Cambridge's renowned Penguin Club, which regularly supplies many of the technicians for the city's community theatre groups including our own, will be working with the Pied Pipers to help promote, organise, and facilitate the workshops. It's hoped that those who participate in the workshops will soon swell the ranks of the Penguin Club too!
While the workshops will be open to all, preference will be given to those wanting to learn a new skill. All Cambridge community theatre groups with shows in pre-production will also be invited to pitch to the participants at the end of each workshop, in the hope of recruiting them straight into a production to exercise their newfound talents.
The subject of the workshops has yet to be confirmed – but we are inviting suggestions from all the citizens of Cambridge! Would you like a workshop on directing? Live audio producing? LX rigging? Musical directing? How about stage make-up?
There are many possibilities! Our only criteria is that it must be a workshop to develop backstage crafts – be it technical or creative. Let us know your thoughts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane expects the Amateur Theatre Grant to continue next year, when she hopes to support another worthy cause. If you haven't already signed up to newsletters from amdram.co.uk, give it a go now!
And if you'd like to add your own contribution to our workshops, you can do so via our JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ppworkshops