Up Close & Personal with Daniel Bates
An Interview with Daniel Bates
Chief Executive, Sheffield Theatres Trust, England
- Could you tell us more about the current arts scene in England, and what you see as Sheffield Theatres’ role in the development of the arts industry?
Sheffield Theatres Trust is UK’s largest regional theatre complex, which produces extraordinary theatre in Sheffield and across the UK. At Sheffield, we believe that we can change peoples’ lives through the power of live art and are working hard to make sure everyone can experience, enjoy and participate in our work.
Like most people in the UK, we are entirely focused on funding, be it health, education or the arts, but above all, the word on everyone’s lips is Brexit and what it will actually mean for us all. Central government funding is being squeezed, and proving our worth is a vital and important part of our lives now. The pressure is also on our local government, with funding cuts raising questions about how they will provide for an aging population.
To keep us ticking over, we need an average of around 7,500 people to attend the theatre each week, and our daily focus is on how we provide for our audience, and whether they will ‘take some risks’ with us.
- Share with us some of Sheffield Theatres’ key programmes.
Sheffield Theatres is home to three theatres: the Crucible, the Studio and the Lyceum. In recognition of our success in creating new work, our bold approach to new classics and accessible ticketing policy, we were named Regional Theatre of the Year 2017 by The Stage for an unprecedented third time, adding to wins in 2013 and 2014. We are all really proud of this accolade.
We produce a diverse programme of work spanning a range of genres: classical revivals, new work, large-scale musicals, and innovative and immersive theatre experiences. We also present the best shows currently on tour in the UK and work with theatre artists locally and nationally to nurture and develop new creative talent. It’s the combination of classic and contemporary programming with a bold and ambitious approach that has firmly established us as one of the UK’s leading theatres.
- What are your vision and goals for Sheffield Theatres?
As I write this, I am preparing to take a three-month sabbatical from the theatre to explore new partnerships internationally, with a view to co-production, collaboration and sharing ideas across Asia. This is going to be an amazing trip, but before I go, we are launching a new Cultural and Educational Partnership across the city, as well as rehearsing the world première of Chicken Soup by Kieran Knowles and Ray Castleton, which marks the struggle of providing food during the miners’ strike through to the large number of very necessary food banks today. We are also in rehearsals for the regional première of Frost/Nixon and our co-production with the Donmar Warehouse of The York Realist – it’s a busy time.
Having just completed all our Business Plans for the theatre to 2022, it’s very clear what we have to do – continue to produce incredible theatre to the best of our abilities, to nurture new talent, create new work, and support and diversify our workforce to better reflect the city we work in. Children and young people are clearly part of our audience and how we can encourage them to be cultural leaders is something I want to explore and develop.
- Could you share with us how you came to Sheffield Theatres?
I have worked in the theatre industry since graduating from college in 1985, and for thirty years, I have been based in Yorkshire, starting in Leeds (West Yorkshire Playhouse – Executive Director), then York (York Theatre Royal – CEO) and now in Sheffield (CEO of Sheffield Theatres), where I am voted No. 11 in the Stage Top 100 most influential people in UK Theatre (alongside Daniel Evans – previous Artistic Director).
Since joining Sheffield Theatres in Sep 2009, the organisation has grown and developed, improving the quality of the work on stage, improving conditions for staff and winning many awards.
In addition to my work at Sheffield Theatres, I am a Board member of Welcome to Yorkshire, English Touring Theatre, UK Theatre, Sheffield Cultural Consortium and the Sheffield Business Improvement District Company.
- What inspires you to pursue a career in this industry?
So, what inspired me to become involved in theatre, as there is no family connection to the arts at all! It all goes back to school – to the brilliant teachers I had – to their encouragement, dedication and passion for their work. Every day of my life I think about those times in school, and the inspiring people I have worked with – if I can be a little bit like them, then I will be happy. My dream for Sheffield is to encourage all staff to build connections with a school or one of the universities. Spending time with young people is inspiring and helps us focus on what is truly relevant within our work, both now and for the future.
Visit Sheffield Theatres Trust’s website here.