On Monday 11 November 2019 Without Walls brought together partners from across the network to share practical advice on programming large-scale outdoor productions. This workshop followed the presentation of the aerial performance As the World Tipped by Wired Aerial Theatre on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 November at Wentworth Woodhouse, as part of WE Wonder Noir festival organised by Without Walls touring network partners, WE Great Place.

The session aimed to support the ambition of organisations that are considering programming large-scale outdoor productions by providing some successful examples of shows delivered by other organisers, practical tips for planning, and an opportunity to share knowledge and build connections with other partners.

The session explored a range of examples that covered the definition of large-scale in the broadest context; genres, audience reach, impacts, and infrastructure.

Here’s a rundown of top tips for programming large scale work:

Be clear why you want to do large-scale work and what this means for your organisation – especially articulating this to funders. Be clear on your objectives for doing it for your organisation and your audience. Scale could be created through quantity rather than one big off show.

See the work before you book it! Quality is important; both in the overall experience and individual performances/artworks.

Scan what is already happening in a place. Are you doing something different and who can you work with that is doing positive things already? Grounding work is important to ensure the relevance of the work with the place you are bringing it to.

Infrastructure is incredibly important. Think about security, parking, and access for audiences as well as your production team. Sometimes you need to create some disruption to the city. For example, closing a road might be integral to the performance – you need to be willing to fight to deliver the work as it should be. Get support from those at the top of the local authority to help make it happen.

Budget for everything. The company’s presentation fee often represents only around 30-40% of the total cost. There are lots of hidden and easily overlooked costs such as, royalty fees when working with foreign companies and security costs which can escalate the larger your event is and depending on where it is sited.

Risk assess for different weather conditions.  It goes without saying for wind and rain, but hot conditions can be just as problematic for performers and audiences alike.

Ticketing. If you chose to ticket your event it needs to be straightforward and clearly communicated. You will get a more accurate idea of audience sizes and a small charge can be good for VAT claims – sometimes you can’t claim back VAT on free events.

Marketing and PR needs to be clear and relevant to the people you want to reach. Be responsive and active on social media to answer queries promptly.  Look for opportunities to talk to audiences both in advance of the event, during the event and afterwards.