April 22, 2008

New BATS Theatre Programme Manager announced   

A holiday back home from the UK proved fortuitous for Steph Walker, the newly appointed BATS Theatre Programme Manager.

A celebratory break from London after completing her Masters in Arts Management lead to the opportunity to put what she has learnt to practise at BATS Theatre, the theatre Miss Walker previously worked in as a Front of House Manager before embarking on her studies.

Steph recently completed her Masters in Arts Management with Distinction at the University of Greenwich in London, where the bulk of her research was in to the programming process, the results of which will be invaluable for her new role: programming the shows on at BATS from all the projects pitched to the venue.

"I started off performing, went on to producing, marketing and front of house work, but this [BATS] is where I am really passionate about being able to make it all happen and helping audiences see all this amazing theatre we have in our country".

While Miss Walker saw many astounding pieces of work while in the UK, some pieces, she reckons, weren’t as good as those she has seen in the hallowed halls of BATS Theatre: "There was this one show I saw at the Battersea Arts Centre, on of the main fringe venues in London, that had won a top prize for being great and original, and I thought "BATS shows are way better than this stuff".

Walker, 25, comes to an organisation that has gone from strength to strength in recent years under the previous Programme Manager, James Hadley. In 2007 alone, BATS Theatre presented 64 different shows, 94% of those being New Zealand works – and tickets to all of these were $20 or less. The average audience size was 64% capacity – one of the highest audience percentages in the Theatre’s 19-year history.

It is the BATS ethos of affordability and accessibility that drew Steph to BATS Theatre in the first place. "With all due respect to other theatres, you aren’t going to attract new audiences to the theatre unless you make it as cheap as a trip to the movies, and have new exciting works that reflect what New Zealanders see and know in their own society – this is what BATS tries to do, and is so exciting about being a part of".

Steph’s first challenges are to programme the Dance Your Socks Off Festival, coming up in September, and the Annual STAB shows, a season of extreme innovation and pioneering work which BATS Theatre commissions with the generous assistance of Creative New Zealand. Also high on her list of priorities are further developing other ways in which BATS can assist new theatre practitioners, especially producers, designers and writers, as well as further reflecting the ever-increasingly multicultural country we live in.  

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