BT's Support for Amateur Theatre
Dateline: 5th March, 2000
Barclays are well known for the Barclays Awards for regional theatre and for their Stage Partners scheme. Most people in theatre know that the RSC is sponsored by Allied Domecq and by numerous smaller companies in their tours around the country. However the name British Telecom does not coming trippingly off the tongue when we think about theatre sponsorship, but in fact the company plays a major role in a kind of theatrical sponsorship which does not grab the headlines - support for amateur theatre.
For the last ten years British Telecom has organised the BT Biennial, which takes place (obviously!) every two years. Through this scheme the company commissions a well-known playwright to create a new play which will be available to any amateur society to produce, free of royalties, so long as they abide by certain rules.
These rules are very simple: the society must register with BT, the play must be performed between specific dates, and all publicity must mention the BT Biennial. The latter is made much easier for the societies taking part, as BT supplies artwork for posters and leaflets and also provides PR support, targeting national and local newspapers with news and feature material.
In addition, the company organises regional workshops which offer advice and practical help to directors and PROs of the societies taking part.
The fifth Biennial takes place this year, and between 14th and 21st October societies across the country will be performing what has become known as the "BT play." The play is Sandcastles by Bob Larbey.
Larbey is the author of the TV comedies The Good Life, A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By, and did the dramatisation of The Darling Buds of May. He has also written two other plays: A Month of Sundays and Building Blocks.
Sandcastles is a comedy set on a British beach and centres around the proprietorial feelings of the owners of three beach huts.
You'll find details of the Biennial on the BT Website. Any society interested in taking part should contact Natalie Cousens on 0171 356 5267 or by email at email@example.com or write to
BT National Connections
The Biennial is not the only way in which BT is supporting amateur theatre. It also funds National Connections, a partnership between the education department of the Royal National Theatre and youth theatres throughout the country.
Again the commissioning of new plays is at the centre of the scheme. In this case ten plays are commissioned and each youth theatre chooses one to produce. They perform their productions in one of ten regional theatres and then up to ten companies are invited to perform at the summer showcase in the Olivier and Cottesloe theatres at the RNT.
In the past plays have been commissioned from writers as diverse as Alan Ayckbourn and Dario Fo.
This year sees the third "cycle" of this scheme, which began six years ago.
There are full details on the National's Website. Any youth theatre interested should contact the National's education department direct. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can contact Suzy Graham-Adriani, the Producer for Youth Theatre Projects at