In a time where youth unemployment is at its highest, more and more students are taking it into their own hands to create work for themselves. Incidentally this is the path that me and my colleagues chose to take.
Whilst we were in the third year of our BA Acting course at the University of Northampton we were set the task of creating a brand-new show from scratch. This was to be our dissertation equivalent project and we were required to set up a company, write the script, hire the venue and create all of the marketing material for the project. In the very early stages we realised that we had the potential to turn this into something bigger. From there, we set about making plans to create a full-fledged theatre company. But putting on shows wasn't enough. If we were to take this seriously, we had to make sure that our company was not only profitable but sustainable.
We were fully aware that we were not business people. We were actors with a passion for creativity and showmanship. We needed help. So we approached the University and asked for their assistance, hoping that we might acquire some sort of funding or mentoring to help us with the business side. We were quickly introduced to the concept of social enterprise, a middle ground between charity and commercial business and also in my opinion, the perfect format for any creative arts company.
From there, the University not only provided us with a start-up grant, but also with endless mentoring which continues to date. In fact, our entire advisory board contains members of university staff. Fundamentally, this allows us to pitch brand-new ideas which we are incredibly passionate about and from there receive the guidance to make the ideas better, and far more ambitious.
If you had told me five years ago that I would be creating a theatre company and social enterprise that would result in me writing articles such as this one, I would probably have laughed at you thinking that such things were for people far greater than myself. But my experiences have taught me that anything is possible if you really put in the hard work. It is not easy, and it takes up a huge amount of time. But if you love what you do, and really want to make a difference, then there is no reason that you can't. And if you are worried that you don't have the skills or the capital to set up your own social enterprise, then don't be afraid to ask for help. If we hadn't then we certainly wouldn't be in the position that we are today. So don't be afraid or too proud because with a little help you can achieve so much more.
Founder, Tap The Table Theatre Company
Wayne Ingram established Tap the Table Theatre whilst studying BA Acting at the University of Northampton. The university provided support in the form of a Social Enterprise Development Fund as well as continued business mentoring, with many members of University staff being members of Tap the Table's Advisory Board, as part of a university wide focus to support social enterprise. www.tapthetable.com