We’ve been thinking quite a lot recently about change and the future.

On 6 March we said farewell to our Artistic Director Lorne Campbell, my co-CEO. 10 days later, while Lorne began his first day at National Theatre Wales, we unexpectedly cancelled a Young Company rehearsal and, on the advice of Government, closed our theatre to the public.

So began one of the most challenging weeks in our theatre’s history. Every day brought new information, sometimes unsettling information, and every day we made a new plan to respond. Practical plans – contacting audiences and participants, companies due to visit us, insurers and accountants. We built an intranet, and in 2 days prepared 50 staff for remote working.

Our team were brilliant throughout, finding reserves of energy to tackle each new obstacle.  And, without prompting, they prioritised care – for each other, for our friends and colleagues across the sector. They picked up the phone, checked in on social, joined a zoom call. They recorded a podcast. They began to imagine how keep Northern Stage alight while our physical space was dark.

We are still in the middle of a seismic change and dealing with immediate and pressing needs: securing cashflow, salaries, creative fees, and future projects. We need to stabilise the company in the short term so that we have a healthy organisation ready to face the future once this crisis is over.

We are also prioritising our work in two key areas:

1. We’ve been working in partnership with communities, individuals and organisations in Byker for the past two years, and so this continues to be one of our main priorities.  Much of our work there has been based around team building, making food together on a weekly basis and supporting individuals on their own creative and training journeys.  Now, we're trying to find ways to contribute to the necessity for access to food in Byker, in collaboration with the local community trust, the police and our partners in Byker. We're looking to support the making and delivering of meals every day. Last summer the work that Jill Adamson, Louie Ingham, and their team undertook brought about a 55% reduction in anti-social behaviour and so we know that we can help if we meet the demand of a community and it's primary need of being fed and feeling recognised and looked after.

2. We've spoken to all of our artists that we work with either through our Associate Artist & NORTH programmes and our Young Company.  We aim to continue these conversations in a way that helps us begin to understand what the need is and how we can help. We’re holding conversations with our local and independent theatre companies and freelancers, and with the network of producers and associates at regional theatres across the country, to connect and share the wide range of knowledge that exists in the best resource of our sector – our people.  We all have much to learn and to offer as we adapt to this new world, and we’ll be finding ways that we can work together as a sector.

Change of this scale can feel overwhelming, so we’re taking a moment to take stock.  Over the next couple of weeks we’ll continue our conversations so we can understand what the need is and what we can do to help.  In the meantime, we’ll be signposting to resources we think might find useful, and we’ll collate all of these on our, website, Twitter and in regular email updates.

What will follow is space: to think, to talk, to share and to listen to what stories need to be told, and when they need to be shared.

Wishing you all safe times and our best wishes,

Kate Denby
Executive Director