BRISTOL OLD VIC PROGRAMMING POLICY 2022

Our mission is to inspire, delight and surprise the people of Bristol and far beyond with excellent live theatre in an atmosphere of creativity, belonging and adventure.  

To achieve this, we aim to programme high quality, progressive, inspiring, relevant, and representative work which revels in the presence of a live audience.    

Our priority is to tell stories which entertain our audiences and help us to understand our world, which represent experiences from every part of our rich and complex society and present a balanced and varied programme across the year.   

Most of the work we programme is produced or co-produced by Bristol Old Vic, but we also programme a range of visiting work in the Theatre, Weston Studio, Courtyard and occasionally offsite. Below we’ve outlined our policy and process for getting your work programmed at Bristol Old Vic.  

Please send all programming submissions and invitations to view work to programming@bristololdvic.org.uk 

A man and woman onstage for the show Touching the Void. One, a man, is dressed in mountain climbing gear. The other, a woman, wears casual clothing. They look upwards towards a light.
Touching the Void

HOW DO WE DECIDE WHICH WORK TO PRODUCE? 

Our programming team meets monthly to discuss the new programme proposals against the aims set out above. 

The work we produce is sometimes generated by our own creative team, sometimes proposed to us by independent artists, sometimes co-produced with companies who inspire us, and sometimes developed through our New Work Department, Ferment, e.g.

  • Touching the Void was proposed by Artistic Director Tom Morris to co-producer and writer David Greig of the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh 
  • Jane Eyre was proposed to the theatre by Associate Artist and director Sally Cookson 
  • The Red Lion was proposed to theatre by local artist Joe Sims 
  • The Princess and the Hustler was co-produced with Eclipse 
  • Wuthering Heights is co-produced with Wise Children, The National Theatre and York Theatre Royal 
  • Outlier was developed through Bristol Ferment in 2020 and programmed in the theatre in 2021

Photo from Barber Shop Chronicles - a group of Black men huddle, reacting explosively (some joy, some shock, some frustration) to something above them
Barber Shop Chronicles Credit: Marc Brenner

HOW DO WE PROGRAMME VISITING WORK?  

We are always on the lookout for visiting work that can inspire our artists and audiences and compliment, balance and challenge our produced programme. This helps us to achieve variety across the programme with a range of artists, stories, themes, tone, and form. 

When considering visiting work, we use our guiding value that the stories we tell should fully reflect our society so that our community feel Bristol Old Vic belongs to them.  

Examples of shows and companies which have visited Bristol Old Vic include 

  • Barber Shop Chronicles (Fuel/National Theatre) 
  • The Encounter (Complicité) 
  • Tristan and Yseult (Kneehigh Theatre) 
  • The Suit and A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream (Ballet Black) 
  • Political Mother (Hofesh Schechter)  
  • Madam Butterfly (OperaUpClose) 
  • Zog (Freckle Productions) 
  • Orpheus (Little Bulb Theatre)

HOW TO PROPOSE AN IDEA FOR A NEW SHOW TO BRISTOL OLD VIC 

Please write, introducing yourself and the idea to programming@bristololdvic.org.uk

It is most helpful for us to see examples of your work, a single page description of the project and a script or other materials as appropriate. If we do not already know your work, please let us know when and where we might be able to see it.


HOW TO PROPOSE A SHOW WHICH MIGHT TOUR TO BRISTOL OLD VIC 

Please send a single page proposal about the piece of work together with a script or any other relevant supporting materials. 

It is most helpful to us if you can include an invitation to see the finished piece of work at least 3 months in advance of the performance, although we understand this is not always possible. 

Two women, Alice and Annabel, are dressed in period clothing. Alice wears an extravagent tudor gown and ruff with a thick gold medallion. Annabel wears traditional tudor menswear - a jerkin, shirt and breeches. They stage onstage, gesturing to one side.
Wild Swimming by FullRogue Credit: The Other Richard

HOW DO WE MAKE OUR PROGRAMMING DECISIONS? 

We are lucky to receive a huge number of programming suggestions, invitations and new ideas.  Some are for finished shows looking for touring dates.  Others are for scripts or production ideas looking for a home.  

All proposals we receive follow this process: 

Step 1. Your proposal is received, acknowledged, and assessed against this programming policy. 

Step 2. If your show aligns with our programming ambitions, we will take the show to our monthly programming ideas meeting for discussion. Please note that the agenda for these meetings is heavy and sometimes proposals have to await a second meeting.

Step 3. If the programming team agree that we’d like to programme your show, a member of the team will be in touch to progress the discussion. If your idea is for a production or co-production, this would lead to an exploratory meeting which might progress to a production. If your proposal is for a touring show, we’d discuss the show’s availability and aim to pencil some dates. 

Step 4. (Visiting work only) Technical information packs for the stage and show will be exchanged. 

Step 5. (Visiting work only) A deal is made and drawn up into a deal memorandum, which will be passed to you for checking and signature. Once returned, a full contract will be sent to you. This contract will include the dates you have programmed with us and all the information you’ll need for your time at Bristol Old Vic. 

HOW DOES PROGRAMMING DIFFER ACROSS OUR DIFFERENT STAGES? 

Your idea might be for a specific space, in which case please read the following information.

A view of the theatre from the Dress Circle

THE THEATRE 

Thrust stage/Proscenium Arch | Capacity 459 – 531 

Basic Dimensions Proscenium Height 6.196m, Proscenium Width 7.66m, Stage Depth 13.3m 

5-8 Major productions or co-productions a year, usually a mixture of new work, adaptations, revivals and classic drama drawn from our talent development work, collaborations around the country and ideas proposed to us by artists.  We programme visiting work (which makes up approx. 20% of the programme) around our produced shows in the Theatre. 

Programmed 12-18 months in advance.


View of the thrust stage from the proscenium arch Credit: Fred Howarth

THE WESTON STUDIO 

Thrust/Flexible | Capacity 118 – 188  

Basic Dimensions 5m x 5m 

Dedicated to the Theatre of the Future. 

A space to present work from Bristol Ferment, our Young Company, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School Productions and a year-round programme of work for young people and inspiring, studio-scale visiting work.   

Programmed on a season-by-season basis, 6 months in advance. Here are the seasonal periods and programming decision deadlines for the Studio: 

  • Spring (Jan – Apr) programming decisions made by end of July 
  • Summer (May – July) programming decisions made by end of Nov 
  • Autumn (Sept – Dec) programming decisions made by end of March

The Courtyard space at Bristol Old Vic

THE COURTYARD 

Thrust/Flexible | Capacity 110 seated – 173 standing 

Our newest stage for programming. In the Courtyard, we present gigs from musicians, bands, poets, dance and more. Usually one-nighters that work for a bar atmosphere, but we’re open to exploring longer runs in the programme. 

This space is programmed sporadically throughout the year dependent on availability, which can be given upon request.

DIGITAL 

We present digital work through our ‘Bristol Old Vic On Screen’ programming strand. This is most frequently Live Broadcasts of our produced work, but we sometimes host ‘digital touring weeks’ of shows from other companies (Can I Live? by Fehinti Balogun, produced by Complicité, is a recent example) or commission new work for our Sudden Connections strand of short-form digital programming. 

In addition to Live Broadcasts, we also look to make our productions available to digital audiences On Demand; for example, re-releasing much-loved past shows in a virtual boxed set.  

Any opportunities to apply for digital commissions will be listed on our For Artists page.

Bristol Old Vic On Screen

OFF-SITE 

We very rarely produce or programme work that is off-site or site-specific due to the year-round programme in our theatre spaces, but we make exceptions to this where possible for projects of scale (Sally Cookson’s Treasure Island in King Street and Wise Children’s Malory Towers in The Passenger Shed are recent examples). 

We are also able to act as a ticketing agent for specific projects, whereby our Box Office can sell tickets for your production or project (a recent example is The Wardrobe Ensemble’s ‘The Theatre on The Downs’). 

We charge a 10% plus VAT commission on gross sales to cover administration and staff time involved in providing this service. 

Please contact programming@bristololdvic.org.uk to make an enquiry.

The interior of the Theatre on the Downs, an arcing large tent-theatre with festival seating
The Theatre on the Downs

THE TYPES OF DEALS WE DO 

Our productions and co-productions are budgeted on a shared risk basis and increasingly incorporate opportunities for live broadcast and distribution of the show to national and international marketplaces. 

Most visiting work is programmed by offering a guarantee or first call against a split on the box office.  

IF BRISTOL OLD VIC ISN’T THE RIGHT FIT FOR YOUR IDEA, WHERE ELSE MIGHT YOU TAKE IT? 

If this doesn’t seem like the right fit for your work, please explore the websites of our neighbouring presenting organisations and buildings in the city & region, all of whom offer opportunities for artists.

These include:

In Bristol: 

In the South West: