“Do you ever get sponsorship?”
“Would you mind having some?”
If only all fundraising were this easy (Arts Council, take note).
I’m on the door taking tickets for a show in Autumn 2011. Penny has been here a few times before, and we’ve nodded to one another but never spoken. She’s an instantly striking person, self-assured, precise. She fixes you with her eyes, interrogating. Apt, I suppose, as I later find out she’s a solicitor.
I’d never heard of Cartridges Solicitors, but when we meet the following week to talk over Penny’s offer, we find a similarity of values. Cartridges’ ethos is built around being an approachable legal firm. The fourth word on their mission statement is “friendly”. Both theatre and law (especially law) have reputations for being intimidating. Both of our organisations have achieved success rebelling against that.
Over a coffee, we agree funding of a few hundred pounds towards a new play that we’ll present in the Spring, Peter Kesterton’s Playing With Snails. When this draws to a close, Penny and I have another coffee and agree a bit more funding, this time for New Blood, a season of short plays. Off the back of this, on a caffeine high, I go for the big one. Could Cartridges support the core costs of Framework, our artist development arm, namely paying a member of staff one day a week for a year?
“How much would this cost?”
Penny discusses this with her fellow partners and the sponsorship is agreed. This funding has continued for three years. Last year, it enabled us to attract five times that amount from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, to increase the output of Framework.
It is impossible to overestimate the effect Cartridges’ support has had on the Bike Shed. This year, the back of our brochure is dotted with funders – Arts Council England, Exeter City Council, Clore Duffield and Esmee Fairbairn. However, when none of these were interested, when Arts Council seemed actively hostile, in stepped a small legal team from the wrong side of the River Exe. This has all happened as a result of Penny, who has since joined our board. Like a parent teaching a child to ride a bike, she’s there in the background, providing support if we wobble. I will always be grateful to her and the Bike Shed owes her a huge debt for her confidence in us, fast-decision making and clearly expressed values.