Suba Das is artistic director of Hightide and talks about HighTide’s Lighthouse Programme, which consists of free, brand new projects and programmes for artists, audiences and communities, specifically created to bring light in the weeks ahead.
HighTide are the first NPO to launch such a comprehensive programme of support for the sector, offering a range of programmes to help artists. These strands reflect the values that sit at the heart of HighTide: to introduce audiences to new work that speaks to the times we live in by the most exciting and diverse writers in the UK; to support emerging writers on their journey; and to engage communities in their home region in Suffolk.
More information about Hightide and The Lighthouse Programme can be found here.
What can you tell us about Hightide and your role with the company?
HighTide is one of the UK’s leading producers of new plays, having helped launch the careers of now world-renowned playwrights including Jack Thorne, Nick Payne, Ella Hickson and Vinay Patel; alongside directors such as Michael Longhurst, Kate Wasserberg and Roy Alexander Weise. We commission, produce and present the most exciting new work we find in an annual festival in Suffolk, East England.
I’m HighTide’s Artistic Director, having taken up the reins last year as the company turned thirteen. In addition to directly supporting writers in the rehearsal room and creating new productions, my job really is to help create circumstances for as many writers as possible to thrive.
How is the current pandemic affecting Hightide?
Although it hasn’t been quite the first year I envisaged, we’ve found ourselves reinvigorated by the pandemic. Of course many plans have changed or been postponed, but we’ve had an opportunity through this to dig deep into our values and ensure that everything we do helps take care of the people we care about the most – the UK’s incredible community of playwrights and our audiences and communities in the East of England.
You’ve created a comprehensive programme of support called the Lighthouse Programme, what does it offer?
The Lighthouse Programme comprises seven strands of activity ranging from simple playwriting tasks people can do at home (in partnership with the brilliant team at Nick Hern Books), through to a digital youth theatre for the most vulnerable people in the East of England, through to mentorship, script-reading and regular classes. All of these opportunities are provided for free thanks to the incredible support of our donors, including our Principal Corporate Partner Lansons, and Arts Council England.
What inspired you to pull together such a far-reaching programme?
I was actually on a conference call with about 20 other of the UK’s artistic directors as the Prime Minister gave his first daily press conference, which led fairly immediately to the closure of theatres across the country. HighTide doesn’t operate its own theatre venue, rather we focus on the development of work that then slots into theatres in the East and across the UK.
Consequently, we did not face the sheer scale of disruption and devastation that so many of my peers have had to contend with – the immediate cancellation of shows, letting go of front of house staff, huge refunds and such like. So really, I knew how incredibly lucky we were in that moment and it felt absolutely imperative that we used that little bit of additional breathing space to get out there and do whatever we could to create a conversation about hope and the future in a fairly scary time.
What will be the biggest challenges for the Lighthouse programme?
That there’s a limit of course to how much we can do. Our programmes so far have already had literally hundreds of artists and companies register to get involved and we know we won’t be able to offer meaningful support to everyone. One particular strand is our “Cancellation Catalogue”, where we’ve invited writers and companies to provide details of any world premiere productions of British new writing that have now been lost due to the crisis.
As you might imagine post the cancellation of the Edinburgh Fringe, we’ve had so many people come forwards. We very much hope we can find the resources to ensure as many of those writers still get some opportunity to showcase their voices and talents to audiences and industry peers in order to take their next step. I am especially concerned that in these times, artists from financially precarious backgrounds will be the first that we lose, and I really think that those are the voices we need to hear the most from.
How can people get involved and support Hightide’s Lighthouse programme?
Full details of the programme and opportunities for artists and our next script submission window are online at www.hightide.org.uk. We’re humbled that having set an initial fundraising target of £10,000 to support this work, we smashed that target in just over a week. Any additional support we now secure will flow directly into our plans to rescue lost work and ensure artists’ hard work does not go to waste.