Meet The Producers #2: Sarah Jane Leigh – Producers Place Oct 11th

Sarah Jane Leigh is a guest on our panel discussion on October 11th at Chapter.

Name  Sarah Jane Leigh
Age  27
How do you describe what you do? I am inspired by the artists I work with and have a passion for supporting them to make and promote the work they are compelled to create.

I am interested in exploring the way that art forms can collaborate and inform each other. It is important to me that all of my work is digitally connected, because I see the internet as an exciting and innovative space for the Arts to create within, share work and explore.

I have a practical knowledge of the performing arts which means that I have a diverse range of skills to offer the creative individuals and organisations I work with. I strive to combine creativity with structure and efficiency, making sure there is a balance between the two elements of my work. It is my responsibility to create organised and strong structures in which creativity can flourish.

How did you get started? I went to University at Goldsmith’s and studied Drama and Theatre Arts as a degree and then did a Master’s in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy. I worked for a small theatre company as an Assistant Producer for free to gain experience and then started to gain experience through National Theatre Wales TEAM and working for individual artists.
What work are you proudest of?  Can’t choose 🙂
What’s been the most challenging? Working independently outside of an organisation.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone wanting to do what you do? To just do it. Gain as much experience as possible by shadowing and gaining work experience, and then just going out there and doing it. Don’t be afraid to not know the answers, it’s all about problem solving and finding them!
What’s your ambition for theatre from Wales? I would like for the talent of Wales to be shown internationally. I would like to see artists be supported to be more challenging and inventive with their work, and to be paid fairly to do this.
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Meet The Producers #1: Tabitha Milne – Producers Place Oct 11th

Tabitha Milne is a guest on our panel discussion on October 11th at Chapter.

Name  Tabitha Milne
Age  33
How do you describe what you do? I am an arts marketing and communications consultant working with a range of arts organisations, enabling them to engage their audiences in meaningful conversations about the work that they do
How did you get started? I started off in the charity sector, and made the move to the arts sector as a marketing assistant at St David’s Hall
What work are you proudest of? A range of audience development successes at Wales Millennium Centre – most importantly the increase of and engagement with dance and circus audiences.  This success was down to a progressive way of working between the Centre’s programming and marketing teams which placed the audience next to the art at the heart of the approach.  It proved that by re-establishing marketing and communications as a creative enterprise, rather than a commercial one, we were able to create and sustain real relationships with audiences, deepening the engagement with and impact of the work that we were presenting.
What’s been the most challenging? The restructure that moved away from that progressive approach – needing to adjust to the changing shape of an organisation and my role within it.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone wanting to do what you do? Always ask yourself, how would I respond to that style of communication?  Would I phase it out, or would it engage my interest?  Spend as much time thinking about your aduiences and their attitudes as you do actually communicating with them. Think about communications as stories and conversations rather than sales pitches or persuasions, and always place your knowledge of your audience at the heart of your approach.
What’s your ambition for theatre from Wales? That it continues to reach out across the broadest cross section of society, that artists and producers are able to access information and ideas about the audiences that are engaging in their work, using that knowledge to shape and form ideas and make theatre about the people watching it, as well as the people making it.

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Producers’ Place #4: Meet The Producers: October 11th

First, it was going to be a conference, but that sounded a bit grand. So we thought it should be just a mini one. Not teeny. But definitely mini.

Then someone said it could be a hack day, but nobody else knew what that was. They were one of those cutting edge digital producers and – let’s face it – nobody knows what they get up to.

So someone else said, “What about a Producers’ Garage?” There was a pause. Then someone said, “Is that really a thing?” And they replied, “Well, no. But it’s like – bring your old banger, let us check your oil, fix your engine, while you have a look around the showroom, and maybe get a new model.” There was another pause. “It’s a metaphor.”

Then the sensible one said, “Maybe we should just call it Meet The Producers.” “Why?” “Because it would be a chance to… erm… meet producers.”

“Okay, but shouldn’t it just be Meet Producers then? With no The?”

“Meet Producers. Doesn’t that sound a bit…you know…?” “What?” “Well, hearing it, you’d think it was for a butcher’s.” Silence. “I mean, doesn’t context matter in anything, anymore?” Someone said a little too desperately.  

“Yep. Meet The Producers, it is then.”  

A lot of work goes into our meetings. And this is the result.

Our next Producers’ Place is a whole day event on Saturday October 11th at Chapter. It doesn’t matter whether you are a producer or an artist looking for solutions or in the early stages of establishing your company.

 1100 hrs:              Meet The Producers: Forum Sessions

  • Come along to our sessions where members of our steering group will share, chat, moan, rant, discuss and problem solve with you. You can get great advice, ask basic questions or have wider discussions on subjects as varied as Booking a Tour, The Artist and The Producer and Going to Edinburgh.

1245 hrs:               Lunch

1330 hrs:              Meet The Producers: Platform Discussion

  • A panel of producers (including Sian Thomas and Sarah Jane Leigh) working at different levels and with different perspectives on theatre in Wales talk about what they do and what they see as the opportunities and challenges.

 1530 hrs:              Meet The Producers: Talk and Q&A

  • An inspiring presentation from Fiona Baxter who is the Producer of Caravan and Deputy Director at Farnham Maltings. Fiona works with artists such as Little Bulb, Analogue, Inspector Sands and Victoria Melody.  

Producers’ Place is a new network for producers in Wales. The network aims to strengthen links between people who self-identify as producers in the arts (whether they have that job title or not) – to foster dialogue, share ideas and offer practical support to participants.

Venue:            First Space, Chapter, Market Road, Canton, Cardiff CF5 1QE

This event has been made possible through support from Arts Council Wales.

This is a free but ticketed event. Please book here to attend:

Refreshments and food will be available. We look forward to seeing you there.

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Producers’ Place #3

If you are working in the arts and making things happen (whatever your job title), the Producers’ Place network and its events will be of interest to you…

What are producers doing in relation to creating a sense of place through cultural activity? How is the producer working with artists where art, regeneration and the environment interact? How are producers sparking dialogue across communities and igniting new strategies for energising struggling urban areas where Mary Portas’ magic wand has failed to spark transformation?

The next Producers’ Place session will take place on Monday 30 June in Swansea at Volcano’s 229 High Street venue from 7pm-9pm

At this session, Producers’ Place will be hosting a discussion between Seth Honnor ( and Paul Davies ( where they will talk about how the multi-faceted role of the producer can shade into that of a cultural activist, future thinker and radical entrepreneur.

Seth describes himself as liking “to play a lot and make stuff” and as “being one, several or all of the following: an artist, designer, choreographer (not a real one), theatre maker, sportsman (#captseth), teacher, musician, facilitator, consultant, husband, dad.” He is the Artistic Director of Kaleider based in Exeter and Director of online performance network albow. He is an Honorary Fellow at University of Exeter and on the Steering Board for the AHRC funded REACT Hub which is a collaboration between Universities of Cardiff, Bristol, West of England, Bath, Exeter and Watershed. He was the founding Director of Theatre Bristol stepping down after 6 years in April 2010 to make work as an artist again.

Paul is a writer, performer, deviser and director who holds a doctorate in Politics and a black belt in karate. He is, with Fern Smith, one of the founder members of Volcano and is now its Artistic Director. He has performed in many Volcano shows, written three plays for the company and directed or devised a number of others. He has directed work in Montreal and Croatia and taught in various academies around the world.

Producers’ Place is a new network for producers in Wales. The network aims to strengthen links between people who self-identify as producers in the arts (whether they have that job title or not) – to foster dialogue, share ideas and offer practical support to participants.

This event has been made possible through support from Arts Council Wales.

This is a free but ticketed event. Please book here to attend:

Refreshments will be available at the event. We look forward to seeing you there.

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show business

Fiona Baxter – Creative Producer at Farnham Maltings – is coming to speak to The Producers Place network in October.  In the meantime, she has asked that I pass on details of this event to anyone who might be interested…

show business, Thursday 19 June, National Theatre
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a one-day symposium towards greater connectivity between commercial and subsidised models in theatre’s independent sector

Thursday 19 June 2014
National Theatre

Aimed at producers, theatre companies and venues working at the small to mid scale, show business will explore how the commercial and subsidised sectors might work better together.

With examples of best practice, provocations and discussion, this symposium considers the potential for greater resilience, fairer pay and larger audiences that might result from mixed models and unlikely alliances that borrow the best from both worlds.

Speakers include:
Nick Starr (National Theatre), Neil Darlison (Arts Council England), Eleanor Lloyd (Eleanor Lloyd Productions), Lyn Gardner (The Guardian), Charlotte Jones (ITC), Robert Noble (New Adventures), Peter Wilson (PWProductions), Jo Crowley (1927), Richard Jordan (Richard Jordan Productions Ltd), Julius Green (author of How To Produce a West End Show)

£35 London delegates (within zones 1-6)
£25 Out of London delegates

Book now via eventbrite
Earlybird Discount: £5 off tickets booked by Sunday 1 June

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Producer Sarah Jane Leigh talks about her walk with Lucy Davies

A couple of weeks ago I was given the chance by Simon Harris to go on a walk with Lucy Davies. The route of the walk had to be chosen by Lucy and be a walk that has provided her with inspiration.


Since meeting Lucy a couple of years ago, whilst being part of National Theatre Wales TEAM and by carrying out work on small projects for the company, she has become a very big inspiration to me and my career, but before the walk I hadn’t realised quite how much.


I’d never really chatted to Lucy because the occasion hadn’t really arisen, as Lucy was always incredibly busy doing the work that Executive Producers of National companies do and I hadn’t wanted to waste her time, or get in the way, or say something stupid. Basically, I hadn’t had the confidence.


When Simon ask me whether I’d like to go on a walk where I’d receive informal mentoring and advice from the Producer running my favourite theatre ever, I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe that  I was the best suited person for the experience.


Whilst arranging the date and time of the walk via email with Lucy and Simon I couldn’t quite believe that it would actually happen, and after months of arranging around busy work schedules, bad weather and family lives, the day arrived.


I sat on the train to London trying to think up appropriate and interesting questions to ask Lucy, and in my head they all sounded clichéd or like nonsense. By the time I’d got the tube and was standing there early looking up at the big red neon signs of The Royal Court Theatre I was a little petrified. Why would Lucy Davies want to speak to me and pass on her wisdom?


I went to the box office and then they directed me to the stage door. So I sat there and waited for Lucy’s PA to come and collect me. So many times I had sat in that café or in that auditorium but I was now deep behind the stage in a lift ascending to Lucy’s office.


After all that build up I was finally met by a massive smile and gigantic hug – all those feelings of inadequacy and fear vanished. I was talking to a real woman in her real office at the real Royal Court. I’ve been in many offices before but here I could feel the history of the building and see all of the old show posters on the walls.


I’d run out of power on my computer and needed to do some work on the journey home and so timidly asked if I could charge my computer. I placed my laptop where Lucy’s had been and we had a joke along the lines that I was taking over which ended in a selfie showing me sitting in Lucy’s chair. We were laughing and having fun!


Sarah and Lucy 1

 Lucy gave me a tour of the building and we even ventured out onto the stage. The stage where so many unheard, exciting, genre creating voices had been heard and had done their bit to change the world we live in.


We left the Royal Court and walked through London until we reached the Donmar Warehouse, which is where Lucy’s producing career had begun. Lucy told me all about her career progression, the tough decisions she’d had to make, the opportunities she’d grasped and she also reminded me that as well as being a producer I was a woman. I’d never thought about what would happen if I decided to have a family. I’d never really thought of the realities of being both a Wife and a Mother whilst still working. But Lucy is proof that none of those roles are mutually exclusive.


Lucy questioned me not only about the work that I help to make but also about me, and since meeting her I have a list of very practical things I want to do to develop and strengthen the business elements of what I do and am starting to think strategically for the future.


We talked a lot about endings and pondered about what made an ending good. We never came to a conclusion but I think that this is something we will both continue to think and hypothesise about.


I have found that being a producer can be quite isolating, especially as I work freelance, but when I was talking with Lucy I no longer felt alone. It became apparent that she had either had, or was having, similar worries to me and was coming across similar issues and problems. Knowing this has left me feeling more positive about the work that I am doing and feeling less isolated.


Lucy is such a generous person. She made me feel completely at ease and like I was having a gossip with one of my best friends. The advice and insights she gave me have motivated me and made me feel more confident in my own process as a producer. I feel completely inspired by Lucy and her career to date, and am looking forward to our next meeting.

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Guided tour No. 5# with Lucy Davies

Sarah and Lucy 5If you’re writing your first play, here’s my advice: take it to someone just starting out at the Donmar who will one day become Executive Director at The Royal Court. That’s what happened to me. Lucy Davies was a young producer working with Sam Mendes at the Donmar and came to see a show based on a novel I’d adapted and directed. She asked what I was planning next and I began talking about this mad comedy set in a second-hand goods shop. It eventually became my play Badfinger, which featured Rhys Ifans, Jason Hughes, Bob Blythe and Richard Mylan. From that point on, Lucy backed the idea against all the odds. She found us the money to produce the play, she recommended me to a great Literary agent and I got nominated for a London Evening Standard Drama Award. Lucy has been an amazing supporter and advocate ever since I have known her. As a producer, she doesn’t just makes things happen (as all producers should) but makes impossible things possible. And she does so in the most positive and radiant way. I’ve been lucky to have worked with her and kept in touch, as she has moved from the Donamr to film production to the RNT Studio back to the Donmar and via National Theatre Wales to The Royal Court. I couldn’t think of anybody that I’d rather have or who could be better as a mentor to a young producer. Lucy took Sarah Jane Leigh on a walk from Sloane Square to Covent Garden – both areas she has come to know well on her professional journey.

You can see Lucy’s introduction to her walk here:

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