Today has been a long time coming. By some of my own estimates this is really what I should have been doing since 20 July 2015, the day after I published a blog post boldly, somewhat naively, titled Manifesto for better theatre websites stating that the ability for each arts organisation to build a website and meaningfully connect with their audience was broken and I was the person to fix it.
The fortunate reality is that I haven’t regretted a day of the past three years. As the birth of my son loomed I didn’t pivot from freelance project management to launching a business, I instead joined the immensely hardworking team at Red61.
The bad news is that everything I’ve learnt over the past three years working in that business, each box office manager, artist, and marketing manager I’ve interacted with, has taught me that there is still a huge gap needing to be filled.
There has been a proliferation of website building tools, from the shiny to the shite, but there is still no clear path, no definitive toolbox, for how artists around the world creating and curating work can present themselves online in a way that does their storytelling justice.
Almost more importantly, there’s no easy way for them to clearing and consistently connect with an audience that will consume and support their craft, paying them to continue creating.
And so now, to the first day of the rest of my life. I’ve returned to the working world after a two-month break in the States as someone who styles themselves a business owner, an entrepreneur.
We’ll be working to solve the problems we see in theatre websites, arts marketing and communication, building a product and launching a business that better connects artists and audiences. I say “we” as the best bit is that my wife, Connie, my best friend, has agreed to join me on this journey and we’re going to be building the business together.
Back in my Liverpool student flat I would write long, badly edited blog posts about how theatre didn’t understand the internet late into the night. That endeavour landed me my first West End job with Terri Paddock at Whatsonstage.com and permanently imprinted on me the importance of my own writing and sharing my own story. So here I am, I’m sitting in Codebase, a tech co-working space in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, writing this. I suspect I’m the only person in here with Jason Robert Brown and The Greatest Showman on their wireless headphones. I’m totally ok with that.
Starting this business is going to be a journey. I suspect it will be a long and trying one. But I’m determined to document it. I’m determined to write down what I’m feeling, what’s happening, how we’re developing a product, finding customers, building digital connections into business relationships.
A business is just an idea until you take a chance, make the leap, embark on the journey of building it. That journey starts today, the first day.