Consultant learning director
Stakeholder communications – Event planning and management – Change communications
In November 2009, Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre closed for a £15 million refurbishment. Throughout 2010, the priorities were to appoint new artistic leadership for all three spaces managed by Sheffield Theatres, programme a season of ‘made in Sheffield’ work to secure the Crucible’s place as one of the UK’s major producing theatres, maintain and build links with the local community, and prepare the theatre’s staff for the re-opening of the building in spring 2010.
UnderwoodWorks was responsible for delivering three one-off projects in the first half of 2010 which supported Sheffield Theatres Trust in meeting its ambitious objectives for the re-opening of the Crucible: a consultation with teachers about how they wanted schools to work with the theatres; working with volunteers to curate an exhibition of archive materials tracing the Crucible’s histort; and implementing a programme of customer care training for all permanent and casual staff.
Giving a voice to teachers
Sheffield Theatres has had strong relationships with some schools in the city for many years. However, its work with schools had started to lose focus. The aim of the consultation, the first the theatres had ever conducted with schools, was to give teachers a chance to say how they would like the relationship to develop in the future. All 300 primary and secondary schools in the city, in the state and private sectors, were invited to face-to-face meetings at the theatre, offered a visit to their schools, and sent an online questionnaire.
The overall message from schools was unequivocal. They are most interested in having what only a theatre can provide: opportunities for young people to experience live theatre as audience and participants, coming into direct contact with theatre professionals. The schools’ programme for 2011/12, put together by the newly appointed Creative Producer, draws on the consultation findings and includes ways of collaborating which are new for both the theatres and schools. A teachers’ working group, to steer the theatres’ work with schools and inspire new community-based projects, is now meeting once a term.
An iconic building’s history brought to life
Crucible Snapshot is an exhibition of archive material on public display in the Crucible foyer in Sheffield’s city centre. Over several November evenings, a small group of volunteers painstakingly sorted through hundreds of boxes of archive materials – programmes, photographs, prompt scripts, newspaper cuttings – and selected the best ones to tell the story of what was referred to in the 1960s as ‘Sheffield’s new theatre’. For theatre-goers and staff alike, Crucible Snapshot is bringing to life memories of a much-loved building, and of creating and watching the shows which have earned The Crucible a prominent place on the country’s cultural map.
New brand values take centre stage
Every member of Sheffield Theatres’ permanent and casual staff had a hand in developing a new brand identity for Sheffield Theatres. As a four-month recruitment drive began for front of house positions in late 2009, the challenge was to unite existing and new staff under the banner of the theatres’ new values: bold, passionate and enriching.
Applied theatre company Dead Earnest were chosen as partners for customer care training. Working to a detailed brief, they scripted a series of short scenes showing interactions between staff, members of the public and actors in the theatre’s box office, in the auditoria and on the phone. Professional actors were cast in each role and the scenes were performed in front of a staff audience in the Crucible rehearsal room. Members of the audience were invited to direct the actors, making changes so that the characters’ words and behaviour were consistent with the theatres’ new values.
The Crucible and Lyceum theatres, Tudor Square, Sheffield. Image © Craig Flemming
Crucible Snapshot, an exhibition curated by volunteers tracing the history of the Crucible. Images © www.marmalade-photography.com
Crucible Snapshot, an exhibition tracing the history of the Crucible, at the theatre in Sheffield.