‘Shop for rent’ signs adorn the high streets in ever increasing numbers as retailers, banks and small traders continue to close down premises. The internet is of course primarily to blame, whether for on-line buying or internet banking but there is also the issue of smaller traders such as butchers or grocers often finding it difficult to complete with the large stores and supermarket chains.
The above may be facts of life, with the main winners seeming to be coffee shops and cafes but there is an opportunity here which could benefit both community life and the arts. With a huge growth in bespoke food and drink outlets, should there not be a corresponding rise in performance outlets?
Also, couldn’t some empty shops be utilised to provide cheap rehearsal space? This idea was put forward at an arts industry conference held at the Theatre Royal in York over five years ago.
Enterprising cafeshop owners have shown an increasing willingness to let their establishments be used for entertainment and certain cafes have now become established venues in their own right for short plays, performance poetry and stand-up comedy. Check out Nexus Art Cafe on Dale Street, Manchester as an excellent example.
If you are starting off as a writer/producer and the prospect of hiring a proper theatre seems daunting whilst getting into a festival may have too many restrictions, there could be a willing venue and appreciative audience closer than you think. Why not check out your local cafes and bistros and have a chat with their managers?