Our Head of Arts and Culture Nicola Walls last week attended the Theatre 2016 conference in London. Billed as the most important conference in a decade for 'anyone who cares about theatre', the delegates included theatre makers and management from across the UK - although there was a robust debate on social media about the ticket price excluding many theatre practitioners.
As one of a few architects in attendance Nicola found the conference extremely insightful in highlighting the issues faced by many theatre practitioners - and the fact that our theatre buildings are commonly perceived as being part of the problem - Inflexible edifices that reinforce hierarchies and do not easily support new types of work.
As a practice renowned for breathing new life into old buildings it was hard to listen to others suggesting that some historic buildings should be allowed to fail.
The main lesson that Nicola came away with is that as architects we need to ensure that we have engagement with all building users at the early stages of a project. In our performance venue projects to date our conversations have tended to be with the executive management, patrons and audience - very rarely the theatre maker - and that more dialogue may foster a better understanding, mutual respect and trust for what each other can contribute to ensure that 'theatre' continues to thrive.