The Sharing Project case study

The origin of the Sharing project

Derby city has a vibrant sector of professional theatre practitioners, who, up to December 2009 were inadvertently competing for funding and opportunities.  In January 2010, seven companies joined up to form Derby Independent Theatre Network.

In February 2010, Ben Spiller (1623 theatre company) and Paul Smith (Lostboys Productions) met with Derby Arts Forum Coordinator Antoinette Burchill (Arts Team, Derby City Council) to discuss how to develop the network.  Network members had identified they needed to evolve their ways of working to meet the challenges presented by the changing economic climate, without compromising artistic vision or business integrity.  Sharing skills and resources within the network would benefit the individual companies, the network and the sector.  The ‘Letts Scheme’ was discussed as a model for trading points (instead of cash) in exchange for goods and services.  Ben and Paul adapted the Letts model and formulated the Sharing Project.  Trading between the member theatre companies began in March 2010.

There were 13 trades in 2010-11, with a total value of £16,200.

The average value of a Sharing Project exchange in 2010-11 was £590

Sharing Project trading examples

  • Venue hire for public performance in exchange for directing services = 270 points or £360
  • Combat choreography services and fight direction in exchange for funding application guidance and advice = 90 points or £180
  • Rehearsal space hire in exchange for movement direction = 200 points or £100
  • Acting work in exchange for directing services = 810 points or £1,620

By using the Sharing Project, Lostboys Productions were able to reduce their production costs.  This enabled them to reduce the ticket prices.  The diminished financial risk also increased their annual output from three shows in 2009, to sixteen shows in 2010. These Sharing Project benefits cascade directly to audience members in reduced ticket costs and a greater cultural choice and vibrancy.

1623 has taken the ethos of the Sharing Project and struck a deal with QUAD – Derby’s centre for art and film.  QUAD is exchanging office space and resources for 1623’s proactive input into QUAD’s artistic programme, events and education/participation activities.  This cash-free, mutually beneficial transaction places 1623 at the heart of a thriving arts organisation with an international reputation.

“The Sharing Project fits into a new world of funding and partnerships where, whilst money is in short supply, good will and ambition is not. The Sharing Project was a contributory factor in QUAD thinking about how it can help sustain an arts infrastructure in the city and this led directly to QUAD and 1623 setting up a partnership of mutual benefit. It’s evident that more projects of this nature will need to be developed to sustain the arts through what is likely to be very difficult period of change.” – Keith Jeffrey, Director of QUAD, Derby.

Impact and value for network members

The Sharing Project has:

  • enabled greater creative freedom and experimentation for the network members
  • diminished the financial risk of exploring new ideas and ways of working
  • cemented working relationships proactively between members
  • supported professional, personal and network development
  • facilitated the network taking advantage of new opportunities, e.g. The Theatre Store – an empty shop on Derby high street that was transformed into a temporary theatre which hosted workshops, open rehearsals, demonstrations, installations and experiments in September 2010.
  • given the network greater professional credibility e.g. membership of the Cultural Programmers Group (an invite-only sub group of the Derby Arts Forum).

Impact and value noted by members and partners

The Sharing Project demonstrates partnership working at its most creative and resourceful.  Since its inception, it has been noted that:

  • Some of the network members are more economically resilient.
  • Grant applications include skill and resource trades, replacing previous cash expenditure.
  • Formalised peer mentoring has increased artistic quality.
  • Skill sharing has increased financial, creative and collaborative capacity.
  • Capacity, strength, energy and visibility of network members (and their sector) have increased.
  • Relationships developed through the network have enabled members to respond to significant opportunities collectively.
  • The sector has a coherent voice, experience and the skills to embark into new partnerships and consortiums.

Most importantly, member companies can now identify and place a financial value on their skills, experience, knowledge and equipment.  The confidence, determination, ambition and vibrancy of member companies and the independent professional theatre sector in Derby is palpable.


The next steps:

  • The network is developing an assets database and can trade both internally and with external customers.
  • Branding and logo development are close to completion.

Further information:

Paul Smith  Derby Independent Theatre Network Co-Chair
Ben Spiller  Derby Independent Theatre Network Co-Chair
Antoinette Burchill  Arts Forum Coordinator, Derby City Council

Terms of Reference for Derby Independent Professional Theatre Network:

1.    Advocate professional independent theatre in Derby with a cohesive voice.

2.    Support emerging local theatre practitioners to invest in the future of theatre.

3.    Share resources and skills to give best value to potential funders and partners.

4.    Cross-market productions to develop audiences for independent theatre as a whole.

Derby Independent Theatre Network members:
Fifth Word
Maison Foo
Sustained Magic

Derby Arts Forum

The Derby Arts Forum is the principal advocate of the arts and their value, raising their profile in the region.  It is also the over-arching strategic lead for the arts in Derby.  Derby Arts Forum members meet twice a year to encourage collaboration, networking, information and knowledge sharing.


QUAD is Derby’s centre for art and film, on the Market Place in Derby city centre. QUAD is a gallery, cinema, café bar and workshop that anyone can use. QUAD is a partnership between Derby City Council, Arts Council England, EM Media, European Union, East Midlands Development Agency, Derby and Derbyshire Economic Partnership, Derby City Partnership and Derby Cityscape.

Author: Antoinette Burchill

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