When the pandemic struck, Creation Theatre needed to rethink their business model, as they could no longer perform in front of a live audience. They needed immediate support to transition their services to an immersive online experience.
Significant funding was sourced to help Creation Theatre launch a series of new products. A research collaboration was also formed with Cambridge University to facilitate research into audience demographics and research.
Creation Theatre are experts at bringing stories to life in very special spaces and have been delighting audiences for the last 24 years with shows including Shakespeare’s The Tempest in one of Oxford’s industrial estates, Dracula in the enchanting rooms of The London Library, and Don Quixote in Oxford’s iconic covered market
When the pandemic struck, Creation Theatre needed to rethink their business model. They could no longer perform in front of a live audience. It was time to do some innovative thinking! This led to their journey with OxLEP Business.
In March 2020, they quickly took their productions online, broadcasting live via Zoom. Professional actors broadcast live from their homes, with the help of fantastical virtual backgrounds, innovative props and stunning costumes.
Lucy Askew from Creation Theatre explains: “We did our first digital production of The Tempest within the first three weeks of lockdown. We then discovered that we’d stumbled across a whole new income stream and a way to make work and connect with different people. It’s taken us from being a very local and geographically limited business, with a lot of physical limitations on how your business can grow, to having a global reach audience with no limits.”
This dramatic change from live theatre shows to digital shows meant Creation Theatre were in need of some financial support. They reached out to OxLEP Business and were quickly signposted to the ISfB programme. Due to innovative nature of these digital shows they found themselves eligible for a ‘Go-Create’ grant and were successful in receiving funding. This support was crucial in helping them take their live shows into the digital world
“We’ve always been aware of OxLEP and the work they do as I regularly receive their newsletters,” Lucy continues. “But performing physical shows meant we weren’t eligible for grant funding before. When we saw their ‘Go-Create’ grant, we realised we now fell into a new category of innovation and business support. It was very exciting.”
Lucy Askew, Chief Executive & Creative Producer, talks about the various aspects of support she received from OxLEP Business.
The grant funding was used to support the technical innovation for Creation Theatre’s Christmas show. As a result, they were able to carry out digital work over the Christmas period. “The grant allowed us to move into using vision mixing technology for the first time and we were able to purchase the computers and equipment we needed to put them together.”
Lucy continues: “It gave us the ability to decide that we could create a normal family Christmas show, two hours long with an interval. It also enabled us to be able to do more training and support including talks and webinars for other people within the sector.”
Before they applied for the grant, they received 1:1 support from one of OxLEP’s professional advisers who talked through the application process. “There is quite a lot of detail that you have to provide for grant applications, but they’re very supportive at coming back and helping you understand everything. The whole process in every aspect is brilliant!”
“I really believe OxLEP’s advice also helped us secure our Innovate UK funding as well. I was able to say the right things regarding innovation. For someone who is from the arts, this language doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s been transformative for us to exist in a slightly different arena. The support you get is just exceptional.”
When asked about what the future hold Lucy states: “We’re continuing to focus on our digital work up to the end of June. We’re building our own digital theatre platform, an alternative to Zoom. We hope do a physical summer show – if we can find a venue where public activities are permitted. The future is looking good and hopefully if our live shows start up again soon, we’ll just get stronger and stronger with the continued use of digital shows alongside that.”
Creation Theatre have also received further support from OxLEP Business with a Kickstart grant.
“We also applied for a Kickstart grant this year and we’ve been successful in receiving it. The whole process was just so painless. It’s difficult to get funding that supports capital purchases within our sector. OxLEP’s support and advice have helped Creation stay ahead of the curve to continue being sector leaders in digital theatre.”