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The 503Studio: where we are at and where we are going

You may have seen that recently we announced there would be a 2-day take over of the shell of our 503Studio space in June with a series of in-person writers masterclasses covering a range of playwriting themes. These will run alongside our usual online playwriting courses and masterclasses.

We  are inviting writers into the shell of the space we are building for them. It is the perfect moment to share where we are at, where we are going – and how you can get involved!

For context, back in 2021 we announced that we’d won our bid for a cultural anchor unit within the new Nine Elms development in Battersea. The 503Studio will be a development hub for early career writers – think the NT Studio but where every play being developed is a debut.

This is the biggest project we have ever undertaken and in embarking on the journey, we know it would take as long as it takes, as with so many capital projects that have come before us.

We often describe this as the most expensive gift we’ve ever been given. What we won was the shell of a building – the outside walls and 320 square metres of space in between them, with £1.3m needed to fit it out to be the centre to playwriting we dream of. The developers, Galliard, awarded us with just under 20% of the funding total, and we are in the thick of raising the rest and planning for our future.

Whilst we’ve been fundraising, we’ve finished the design process with our brilliant architects t-sa. We’ve gone to tender on the build. We are ready and raring to go.

   

 

Where are we now?

 

Because of this, we took a bit of the funding we have and we laid down the floor. The same floor that will be there when it’s open fully. We’re taking a phased approach to the build and activating the space as much as we can along the way. 

Through Phase One, we’ve reached a stage where we can invite you, our brilliant writers, friends and stakeholders, into the 503Studio for activities like these masterclasses. The next phase will be to install everything we need to hire the space out to others for rehearsals and rehearsed readings. After that will come the creation of the rooms and rehearsal spaces on the ground floor, and finally the mezzanine level with its library and digital suite. With a 99-year lease, the 503Studio will become a permanent home for dramaturgy, script reading, courses, rehearsals, and importantly – community.

We are incredibly excited and we are also being realistic. We know it’s going to take us a while to raise the outstanding £646k – it’s the biggest project we’ve ever had! But we aren’t willing to sit on pause whilst that happens.

For Theatre503, the 503Studio not only represents a huge opportunity for us to deepen our connection and work with writers, but also our journey to financial sustainability. The reality is that as a 64-seat unsubsidised fringe theatre that punches well above our weight, many elements of our current financial model are less viable than we’d like. Because of the quality and scale of the work we produce, we spend almost ten times the Box Office potential on the production costs of a play and are dependent on the brilliant support of our friends, patrons and stakeholders to help bring the work to life. Alongside this, and like so many across the sector, we’ve seen our success rate with Arts Council project grants drop from 80% to less than 10% over the last 18 months – not only affecting us as an organisation, but the individual producers working with us. 

 

So what does this mean? 

 

What it means is that it’s slow progress – but progress IS being made. We have crossed the 50% line of our target, and at the same time we’ve also been given the keys to the shell of the building and we’ve been itching to start using the space. Everytime we step inside those walls, our vision of what the 503Studio will be in its biggest and best form becomes clearer. 

The 503Studio represents a future where debut writers have a home. 

You are always told to live in a home before you make changes – you understand how the building works, and I like to think that’s what we are doing here. We are opening up the doors to this huge, beautiful space that is brimming with potential (just like the writers we work with), and we are bringing you in to play, learn, experiment and more.

So that’s what this takeover weekend represents – a sneak preview, and first look. 

We can’t wait to welcome you as we open the doors to our future.

Emily Carewe, Executive Director

May 2024

Woebegone

24 Jul — 25 Jul
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lenny.

26 Jul — 27 Jul
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