Female Entrepreneur: Amy Clamp
Company Name: Jackdaw Theatre Company
Industry: Theatre Arts
Age Range: 20s
Tell us about your company.
Jackdaw Theatre Company consists of female Artistic Director Bethan Dear, Designer Holly Seager, Production Manager/Producer Amy Clamp and Stage Manager/Director Ben Karakashian.
We came together for the sell out production of The Goodnight Bird at the Finborough Theatre in May 2011. Bethan had been the Resident Assistant Director at the theatre for 12 months and following her successful term she was offered the chance to stage her own production. Having studied with Holly and I, she asked us to come on board. At the time Ben was an intern at the theatre looking for a new challenge so we took him under our wing and it was a great success so we have been working together since!
We were very excited to get our first production at the Finborough Theatre but since then finding venues and money hasn’t been easy. There is a lot of competition in the theatre world especially in London and we have been up against it trying to prove that, as a company, we deserve to be seen even though we aren’t yet well known.
You gained amazing funding from the Arts Council for your latest production, how did you go about that?
Having applied for Arts Council funding on numerous occasions and having been knocked back, we decided to seek a lot of advice whilst writing our application for our latest production, Hindle Wakes, and approach other investors for money in the hope of making our chances of getting financial backing much greater. We searched and applied for funding in both Northern England, where the play is set, and here in London such as The Bearder Charity in Hebden Bridge. We also approached individual investors in the hope of receiving support this way, but as we are not likely to make any returns it was very difficult to attract people’s interest in the project from a financial point of view.
It has meant so much to us getting this grant, it has reassured us that we are doing the right thing and that we have something to offer the theatre world. Having been rejected on a number of occasions it is a real confidence boost and gives us a lot of faith for our future work! The £10,000 from Arts Council has meant that we have been able to pay our cast National Minimum Wage and increase our set and costume budget from £1700 to £2700 which has made a huge difference as it is a period play needing very specific and flamboyant Edwardian costumes and furniture!
It took us about 6 weeks to complete the online application, accompanied by no end of phone calls, emails and letters to seek as much advice as possible. We spoke to the Arts Council at least once a week and also contacted all the producers and directors we knew that had ever received funding to get as many tips as we could.
What is a day in the life of you like?
Whilst preparing for our production of Hindle Wakes, a day in the life of Bethan would start by arriving at the rehearsal space in Pimlico and setting up the space along with Ben and the show’s assistant director, Dan, ready for the arrival of the cast. Once set up she would probably reply to any urgent emails such as giving her opinion on the latest poster drafts. Once the cast arrive at the space, Bethan will begin the rehearsal exploring the text and working with different combinations of actors throughout the day. On her lunch she would call me to ensure she had any updates regarding costumes, furniture and anything else of significance to the rehearsals, as things change all the time especially when there is a limited budget. At the end of the rehearsing day, Bethan will probably be approached by members of the cast looking for individual feedback and advice and following this Bethan would leave the space. On arrival home it is back to emails and phone calls to ensure she is up to date with what has gone on outside of the rehearsal room during that day and finally ensuring there is a detailed plan in place for the following day of rehearsing.
How do you stay motivated and organised in the theatre world, which is so fast paced?
It can be hard to stay motivated when you aren’t getting paid and working every hour god sends, to ensure you’re doing everything you can to bring your ideas to life, but at the same time it is hugely rewarding and we have been lucky enough to secure an incredible cast for our production. Organising the castings was taxing but we are very proud to say we ended up casting the project without a casting director. Bethan ran all the auditions with various assistants and I scheduled the castings. This had its problems of course as Bethan didn’t have someone to bounce ideas off, but we made it work and we came out with a great cast that seemed to all enjoy working on the project and getting paid a fair wage for the hours they were doing.
Tell us about your current production.
Hindle Wakes was written by Stanley Houghton, who was one of the Manchester playwrights along with Allan Monkhouse and Harold Brighouse, in 1910. The play was hugely controversial at the time of its writing as it is a very feminist script about a young mill worker who goes on a dirty weekend with the mill owner’s son!
It’s holiday week in the Lancashire town of Hindle, just before the First World War. Fanny Hawthorn, a spirited, determined mill girl, has just returned from a weekend in Blackpool with her friend Mary Hollins. At least that’s what she tells her parents. In fact, she’s been spending the weekend with Alan Jeffcote, a wealthy mill owner’s son who is engaged to someone else. When Fanny’s parents discover the truth, they set out to ensure that Alan will do the decent thing and marry her – only to discover that Fanny has her own ideas on the matter.
One of the first plays to have a working class female protagonist, Hindle Wakes was hugely controversial at the time of its writing.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start their own business?
For someone looking to start a business we would say that you have to be prepared to sacrifice and commit as much time as physically possible to your work to ensure it’s a success.
Do you have a favourite quote?
A quote that could sum up our attitude as a company:
“You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however.” – Richard David Bach
Who inspires you?
We are very inspired by theatre company, Tangled Feet. Although they make quite different work to us, they come from the same background having studied at Middlesex University and they have achieved so much. We seek advice for them and hope that we will be as reputable and respected as them within the next couple of years… that’s the plan anyway!
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