Q&A with Ali Pritchard | Living North

Q&A with Ali Pritchard


Ali Pritchard, Artistic Director of theatre company Alphabetti Spaghetti, has one month left to raise money for a new independent theatre in Newcastle
‘My personal highlight is the theatre play as we get brand new playwrights and many of them haven’t ever had a professional commission before. They’re always fantastic’

You’ve found a venue – how are preparations going?
We signed for the new venue in December and we have it on a trial basis until June 2015, then possibly longer as a yearly rolling contract from June. So far, with donated materials, wood and things we had at the old venue, we’ve built a stage, a bar and a technical area. We’re painting and installing lighting this weekend.

Where is it?
It’s on New Bridge Street West, near the City Library, but we’re saving the announcement of the place for February 1st as a treasure hunt, so people have to find it as a game. We’ve got some signs up and the first 60 people to find it and tweet us a picture of them by the entrance get a free ticket!

Why did you move from the old premises?
We’ve been working above The Dog and Parrot pub for the last 18 months and we decided to move out of there in September as we couldn’t raise enough money to put anything on. We were hitting the wall and the new owners wanted to turn it into a nightclub anyway, so we started to look for new venues.

What performances can we look forward to when you open in March?
One show is called The Frights which is a minimalistic piece all about whether there is ever a right time to tell a lie. Our popular monthly show is called Alphabetti Soup, a variety night, which has two poets, two comedians, two musicians and a brand new 10-minute play that we put on. It’s affordable like all our events, which are always under £10 – this one is £5 and you get a free cup-a-soup with it! It’s on every second Sunday of the month.

My personal highlight is the theatre play as we get brand new playwrights and many of them haven’t ever had a professional commission before. They’re always fantastic.

You had an acclaimed show at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival – how was that?
We were on the top deck of a double decker bus, so I think people were instantly curious. We then had some really good preview shows where we got some really good quotes and we were called ‘The New Monty Python’ by the BBC. There were always queues coming out from the bus so as soon as someone sees a queue in the Fringe, they tend to go towards it. We also had a good location and a ‘pay what you want at the end’ show.

You set up the independent theatre after struggling to get bookings in Newcastle following your Edinburgh success – why was that?
When we first started, there wasn’t this belief here that Fringe theatre was the most important thing. When I came in saying, ‘I’ve got a comedy show, it’s a little bit different,’ venues weren’t interested. I went and found a venue, ended up getting a really good audience for all our shows and now the bigger venues have turned round and realised this is really important.

Why are you crowd-funding for the new venue?
We put in for Arts Council funding but there is less and less money every time you apply because cuts are going through the roof. But we’ve seen lots of other people becoming quite successful at crowd-funding in the past and I think it’s an amazing project to get behind and get involved in as there are some good rewards in it. Ultimately, unless we can get people who want to fund the venue there’s no real point in having the venue, if you’re not going to have an audience.

How successful has it been?
If we can raise the £2,500 from crowd-funding, we’ll have the venue sorted and all the Arts Council pay for is a tiny chunk of money to get us up and running. Then, we could be self-sufficient and run everything just from the bar profits and the snacks we’ll be selling. Hopefully we’ll get a bit of a push towards the end with people thinking, ‘I do want to fund this.’

Any advice for those starting out in the performing arts in the North East?
If they are in Newcastle, come and talk to us! We see our role as a stepping stone for emerging artists. If you’re a student, get involved in everything while you have your student loan! Getting involved in as many things as you can will give you experience which is invaluable when starting out. The more people you talk to, the bigger your circle and network will be and the more work you’ll get. The more experience you have, the better you’ll become.

To read more or if you want to help out with Alphabetti Theatre new venue funding, head to http://www.ideastap.com/crowdfunding/project/alphabettitheatre

Published in: January 2015

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