Now, as the Hope Street theatre company prepares to take the production to this summer’s Edinburgh Festival, in a way life is imitating art (perhaps without so many togas). With times as they are and less cash to splash on the arts all round, Spike is developing ways of fundraising in keeping with their community ethos that they hope will get more people spreading the word about their work, too. And here’s a quick reminder of the show:
Spike is using We Fund, a new online donation service for the arts, to raise about 10% of the necessary cash to get the show up to Scotland. It relies on public pledges, however big or small, and has already made possible a handful of little projects in the UK. “It’s fantastic for small organisations with a good idea that just need that extra help,” said Spike’s Mark Smith. “It’s trying out a potentially new way of fundraising.”
As a theatre company, Spike is a registered charity well-regarded for its outreach work, which goes some way to explaining why they are so keen to keep anyone who donates in the loop. All pledgers will receive something for their donation; £100, say, might get you a pair of tickets to see the show when it gets to a town near you (after Edinburgh, the aim is to take The Games on tour). Those donating smaller amounts will be kept up to date on progress with special email updates, or get a mention in the tour programme.
But there’s a bit of a catch, which seems a bit mean – if their target amount is not raised by the deadline, they don’t get anything. Money is returned to the people who donated. We Fund says it is part of its model of “a community built on trust and reputation”.
Will people need convincing there is any use just handing over a small amount? “Even if it’s a fiver, like they say, every little helps,” said administrative director Adrian Turrell-Watts. “We know people don’t have an awful lot of money, and we don’t want them to be put off getting involved. If enough people give a fiver, we’ll make that target.”
Mark added: “And what people get from that is the knowledge they’ve played a small part in getting the show to Edinburgh and can share in that success. There will always be big shows – but independent theatre is very vulnerable, and for it to survive, it’s going to need a bit of help.”
And that is the problem at the heart of the issue, not just for Spike but for artists in general. Like everyone else, there is the risk of the company losing its Arts Council funding and the future is uncertain. What Spike and others like them do, they insist, is form a vital part of the “theatre ecology” – providing first jobs for talented graduates, taking a chance on creating inventive, experimental work, and being part of a network that will create the theatre stars of tomorrow, on and off stage.
Mark said: “A lot of ingenuity in theatre comes from small scale touring companies like us. Peepolykus [the company behind Christmas show No Wise Men] at the Playhouse – that just wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago. There is a real shift in how work is being created, and it’s not like the big theatres are just discovering it, it’s about the artistic directors at these venues having come up through our type of work.”
Spike took their time travelling comedy Madam I’m Adam to Edinburgh in 2005, but it wasn’t developed with as much long-term ambition as The Games, a show that was given the Inspire 2012 mark, the badge of the London 2012 Inspire programme, and hopes to become part of the Cultural Olympiad.
“To do that, we need to go to the biggest market in the world for theatre, which is still Edinburgh,” said Mark. “It’s a risky place to go, but it’s not like we’re premiering a piece of work. We know it works and we know it will go down well with that festival audience. We’re confident we’ll get to our fundraising target. It’s scary, but we’ve got to try.”
Their deadline is March 31, by when they will have to have had £2,750 pledged, or face losing everything contributed up to that point. Take a look at their We Fund page here.
Yet that isn’t the only way Spike will be out and about making the money to get The Games to Edinburgh. Look out for a forthcoming cabaret night, marathon attempts, as well as the return of their much-loved improvised comedy troupe Hoof!, regrouping for a special training event as part of their efforts.