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Bringing professionalism to the small stage

Small-scale theatre companies in the UK have been helped to survive and thrive by instilling a sense of commercial leadership in their ranks.

Although little data exists about the finances of this community of companies, they are a vital part of the entertainment world, whose national worth exceeds £2.5 billion a year.

However, very few of these companies receive Arts Council funding and survival rates are low. An expert in small business management at Brunel Business School, Professor Keith Dickson studied the community and highlighted the need for a commercial agenda among practitioners.

The research identified a ‘commercial blindness’ behind the sector, which became particularly damaging in a highly competitive and complex market and meant small-scale theatre company managers invested more passion and emotion into their work than professional acumen.

The research has led to networks and support groups being established to break down isolation experienced in the sector, venues and skills being shared, and the further dissemination of sector-specific knowledge.

Results have influenced training and programme development within drama schools inside and outside of Brunel.