The Venue Hunter

Venue hunting is hard. Especially when you’re not a professional (is there such a thing as a professional venue hunter? Yes. I think they’re called ‘scouts’, but ‘venue hunter’ sounds cooler). In small, independent theatre companies though, everyone’s a venue hunter. First port of call? THE OLIVIER, NT. Maybe not. Scale it down. Local pub. No, really.

Performing in rooms above pubs is certainly not a new thing, Wikipedia reckons the first theatre in a UK pub was the illustrious King’s Head, Islington, established 1970. I’m not convinced though – performance and beverages have gone hand in hand since time immemorial, it just makes sense that one would feel most at ease watching a bit of thespy goodness, in comfortable surroundings, pint in hand. I bet they were doing it in Edwardian, nay, Elizabethan, London*.

Perhaps more importantly for hard-up creatives (all creatives), rooms above pubs are very, very reasonable (and sometimes free). Accessible for an audience, often surprisingly spacious and accommodating, the good ol’ public houses of our local neighbourhoods are the unlikely saviour of the British theatre scene. I’ve found that Pub landlords, managers and staff are (more often than not), pleased to have something new and exciting come to their bar, bringing in a new audience, making a mid-week shift more interesting. They’re willing to move around chairs for you, they’ll warn you when the pub quiz might be a bit rowdy, they’ll ask how rehearsals are going. They’ll love the boost in their gin sales.

We have held our New Writing Nights at the room above The Horse Bar for 2 years, we’ll be performing our WAFF double bill at the Selkirk Upstairs in May, and they have both been ah-mazing. The Selkirk’s given us use of the space for auditions, and rehearsals, AND they even gave us an alternative room to use when the Banjo Club’s booking clashed with ours**. I just hope that rooms above pubs continue to be accessible to the artists of Britain, for surely, without them, we are lost (and thirsty).

*Not real history

** Yeah, BANJO CLUB. Amazing.

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