When this Fringe finishes, it will mark the end of an era. Since 2012, as part of its goal to support young people at the start of their creative careers, charity IdeasTap has awarded invaluable funding and support to new work chosen by a panel of theatre professionals to go to Edinburgh. Now, however, IdeasTap has been forced to close – due to a lack of funding itself.
The IdeasTap Underbelly Award has been “about giving people going [to Edinburgh] a ‘wow’ opportunity,” says Amanda White, IdeasTap’s strategic partnerships director. Besides money, this has included “lowering the red-tape, to make it easy for anyone who has an idea to enter,” and mentoring – “knowledge you only get from people who know the ropes.”
This year’s winners are Izzy Tennyson’s Brute, a play exploring female friendships in a state school setting; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Family, a spoken-word piece written and performed by Ben Norris; The Eulogy of Toby Peach, about facing cancer at 21; and Bethany Pitts’ Much Further Out Than You Thought, which brings together Britain and frontline Afghanistan.
Luke Barnes, whose Chapel Street won the 2012 award, credits IdeasTap with launching a writing career that now sees him commissioned throughout the UK. “[It] allowed us to share our work with more people, the press, and the industry,” he recalls. “Without it, I think I would literally have disappeared into nothingness.”
Liverpool-based Barnes is gutted by IdeasTap’s closure, seeing the award as a rare opportunity for theatre-makers from outside London—or other than white and middle-class—to get their foot onto a notoriously slippery ladder. “The money thing is a massive issue,” he says. “How do you create something which is going to attract people to pay you in the future?”
White, who has chaired the judging panel, has particularly enjoyed it when “before a company comes in, people go, ‘where did they train?’ And they have attitudes, but then they’re blown away by what they see. Everybody’s got a fair chance.”
Sadly, IdeasTap’s focus (since founder Peter De Haan started it in 2008 with his trust) on younger, new talent rather than established, bankable names could be the reason why, in spite of concerted efforts, it ultimately failed to find the commercial sponsorship it needed.
But White refuses to be downbeat. “Many of our members are now working within the industry and have carried over our ethos,” she says proudly. “They’re casting the net a bit further, looking across disciplines – being accessible.”
Besides, £100,000 worth of IdeasTap-funded opportunities will still be available through online networking site Hiive, as will its archive of interviews, guides and podcasts. And there’s still this year’s line-up of Edinburgh award winners. Who knows? You might end up watching another star of the future.
Where are they now?
Luke Barnes is just one of several IdeasTap award winners to have forged a successful career.
From 2012, Charlotte Josephine’s Bitch Boxer won the HST Edinburgh Fringe Award 2013 and went on to tour the UK. Josephine was also part of the Lyric Hammersmith’s acclaimed Secret Theatre ensemble, which brought two shows to last year’s Fringe.
Cat Jones’s Glory Dazed won the HST Edinburgh Fringe and Adelaide Fringe Awards in 2012, as well as Critic’s Circle Best in Fringe. Jones has since worked on two series of Prisoner’s Wives and written for Doctors, Waterloo Road and Tatau.
Other winners include Misfit’s Karla Crome, whose Mush and Me won the 2014 HST Edinburgh Fringe Award, while Suba Das (Hope, Light and Nowhere) is currently an associate director at Leicester’s Curve.
Amy Mason had only performed her show The Islanders twice before winning the 2013 award. Since then, she has won the 2014 Dundee International Book Prize for her debut novel, The Other Ida.