Behind the curtain: parliamentarians visit National Theatre | IPT

On 27 February 2020, the Industry and Parliament Trust arranged for a cross-party  group of parliamentarians (Patrick Grady MP, Rupa Huq MP, Tracy Brabin MP, Baroness Bonham-Carter, David Amess MP, Sharon Hodgson MP, Lord Crathorne, Nigel Evans MP and Pauline Latham MP)  to visit to the National Theatre in London. This visit allows parliamentarians pursuing a fellowship to learn more about and expand their knowledge of the UK cultural arts industry. IPT strives to benefit the public by informing parliamentarians about UK businesses. The key objective for this visit is to learn more about the work of the National Theatre and how it contributes to the UK economy.

            Upon arrival, the parliamentarians met at the National Theatre Studio where they learned about the New Work Department and Immersive Storytelling Studio. The National Theatre aspires to reach the widest possible audience while being open, inclusive and diverse. They invest in the future of theatre by helping to develop talent, creating bold work, connecting with audiences and creating partnering relationships with other theatre and theatre companies. The New Work Department was created in 2015 and is the engine room for projects in development with last year having about 1000 artists working on around 200 projects. The Immersive Storytelling Studio is where the National Theatre works with artists and emerging technologies, Virtual Reality, for example, to develop new dramatic work and experiences.

From there, the visit continued where the parliamentarians went on a backstage tour, discovering the intricacies of the work that goes on behind the scenes at the National Theatre. After the Backstage tour the parliamentarians met with a member of the National Theatre’s senior management team where they were asked questions about what had come up during the visit so far.

The night neared an end after presentations: there was a small reception and parliamentarians were invited to a viewing of The Welkin play by Lucy Kirkwood. The visit to the National Theatre helped give the parliamentarians in attendance insight firsthand into the theatre industry and how it contributes to the UK economy.

This visit was relevant to several of the attendees’ parliamentary work and interests as it pertained to the art form of Theatre and its workings within the economy. This includes Tracy Brabin MP, a former actress and screenwriter, who is now the Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Baroness Bonham-Carter who is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Pauline Latham OBE MP, the Prime Minister’s Ambassador for Performing Arts.

Speaking of their time at the event Patrick Grady, MP for Glasgow North, commented:

“We were literally behind the scenes at the National for a real insight into the scale of the operation as they work to make theatre accessible for audiences and communities across the UK. We had a some great discussions about how new and increasingly diverse talent can be attracted and supported in the industry, and how different audiences can be introduced to theatre and drama. The IPT programme of visits like these is a fantastic way for Members of Parliament to learn more about different industries and their connections with policy-making and democratic processes.”

Whilst Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, praised the visit saying:

“It was great to visit the National Theatre for a backstage tour and see what happens behind the scenes to put on a production and the amazing opportunities that are available. There are 350 jobs backstage, many of whom take on apprentices from carpentry to painting to set design to technicians.

“Where arts education is declining in schools, which needs to be urgently addressed, it was great to see arts and craft training and work in our creative spaces thriving.”