Tuesday 31 August 2010 | By

Nicola Hazelton, Bedlam Theatre: You don’t have to be mad to work here

ED2010 Festival People ED2010 Interviews

Nicola Hazelton

Notorious for its varied programming, cheap drinks and massive red doors, the Bedlam has for many years been a bastion of accessible and affordable quality shows during the Fringe. Nicola Hazelton is managing the venue this year, so Thomas Martin threw her a few questions.

TM: So, how did you start managing the venue?
NH: We are a unique venue in that our management team changes every year, with different people being offered the opportunity. I have been involved with Bedlam since I began studying at the University of Edinburgh in 2007, and this is my third Fringe here. I began as Box Office casual staff, and then last year I was the Press and Publicity Manager. This year I decided I fancied the challenge of running the Venue, and so applied for the job and was appointed in January. It’s been fantastic, especially now that the Fringe is properly under way.

TM: The Bedlam has a diverse program of events – what’s your strategy when picking shows?
NH: My aim when programming was to have something for everyone, while at the same time having shows that complimented each other and would work well together. I think we’ve struck a good balance between straight drama, comedy and more physical theatre and dance. When it comes to actually picking, all of our managers get together and read through the many applications that we receive. We then draw up a shortlist and from that begin to compile our programme.

TM: As far as you can tell, what are the differences in managing the Bedlam as opposed to other Fringe venues? How does the Bedlam change when the Fringe comes around?
NH: I think one of the biggest differences is that we have just the one 90-seater auditorium, and a relatively small staffing team so both staff and shows all become very close-knit by the end of the Fringe. In some ways I imagine it is an easier venue to manage because it is a permanent theatre; instead of having to build the space in the run up to Fringe we are able to concentrate on making improvements to what we already have. This year we were able to carry out some significant renovation projects, which I think have benefited the theatre enormously. Bedlam is also unique in offering these kinds of management opportunities to young people just starting out in their careers, and that in itself is extremely valuable.

TM: This August, the Bedlam celebrates thirty years at the Fringe – doing anything nice to celebrate?
NH: Back in January when the Bedlam actually turned thirty there was a big party in celebration, but given that the building was originally converted into a theatre with the Fringe in mind, I feel that the whole of August is a celebration in itself. With all the work that has gone on in the building in recent months it feels almost like a new venue, and I feel very lucky to be able to run it this year especially.

TM: Arts cuts… How does the Bedlam anticipate changes in programming and development over the coming years?
NH: Because our team changes every year, and because of the level of control that the Venue Manager has, Bedlam is constantly evolving. It’s difficult to say what it might be like in five or even one year’s time, but that is one of the things I most love about Bedlam. There is always a fresh energy and enthusiasm amongst the team that makes Bedlam a very exciting place to be during August.

LINKS: www.bedlamfringe.co.uk

Photo by Kate Edwards.

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