18th Sep 2019
Bakehouse @ The Parliamentary Review 2019
We’ve come a long way since the days gathered around our Director’s kitchen table! Recently, Kate spoke to The Parliamentary Review about how Bakehouse has been highlighted as a shining example of Best Practice within the events industry. Read on to find out more…
Originally established by a group of three creative friends with a passion for immersive events, Bakehouse Factory provides theatrical productions on behalf of retail landowners, public spaces and corporate clients. Offering these experiences for free to the public, they have become a benchmark of quality in their industry. Instead of using third parties to source their props and components, they manufacture them all inhouse to ensure cohesion. Managing Director Kate Statham tells The Parliamentary Review about how their combination of skillsets has driven their success and their expansion into ticketed events.
We were established seven years ago and at this point, we were very much a kitchen table business. I formed the company with two friends and each of us had different, but well-suited, skillsets and a shared background in event production and performing arts. I had worked for many years brokering collaborations on behalf of cultural institutions and artists with media partners, commissioners and corporate organisations. This provided us with an understanding of both the public and the private sector. Hannah was our performer, choreographer and director; and Dan was our fabricator, designing and building anything we required. We began the business because we identified an opportunity to create truly immersive and magical events that could communicate directly and meaningfully with an audience; providing a transformative experience for them while also conveying a brand message, helping to define a place, or create awareness of an issue. We were determined to deliver only the best quality theatre in places where it was least expected. This remains our core focus and for the vast majority of events we work on, we are invited by a client to create something that will be placemaking or set them apart from their competitors.
Our combination of skills is a key element of our appeal: Dan can create a set for any location, Hannah can infuse the set with magic through performance and I can liaise with clients to find ways to design events that will fulfil all of their aspirations. Between the three of us, we are uniquely placed to answer corporate briefs with creative and authentic theatrical solutions. Most of our events are offered to the general public for free and this will always be at the heart of what we do. Beyond fulfilling the objectives of our clients, this means we can offer theatrical experiences to those who would not usually visit the theatre, going to where they are in their day-to-day lives and pulling them into another world.
As we have grown the business, we have also come up with concepts that we are so passionate about we are looking to host and promote them ourselves, branching out into ticketed events. We are equally excited about the prospect of producing our own installations as we are those for our brilliant clients.
We have never worked with a client just once; every client works with us again and again. Retention has been a key way of growing our customer base and ensuring continued business. We have won numerous industry awards and are recognised as a benchmark of quality within the industry. We are also not afraid to contact those we think we could work well with: we are always hungry to reach out to more people, expand our network and introduce ourselves to potential clients.
A key element of our best practice is how we select and work with our performers, the vast majority of whom hold equity cards, and our commitment to always remunerating them fairly. We search for the very best performers in their field because with immersive theatre, only the best experiences delivered by the most effective performers succeed. We support, nurture and pay all of our staff properly and are proud to be able to offer both performers and makers a regular income. We never treat staffing as an afterthought. All of our customers, among both the corporate sphere and the general public, immediately identify the talent, passion and commitment of our whole team.
When it comes to creating magical immersive theatre, the devil really is in the detail. Having a cohesive nature is key to our events. When you are working in a temporary environment, it can be tempting to buy dissonant parts and cobble them together. We take a polarly opposite approach. We treat every production as if it were a touring theatre show and we hand craft all of the necessary components. We bring in the highest quality craftsmen to support this. We are also extremely rigorous in all of our health and safety procedures and planning. As we are dealing with the general public, we are committed to ensuring they are protected and that our productions are accessible and available to all. In order for the production to be performed at the highest level and often in very high footfall locations, this preparation is essential.
In addition to proudly programming many events that have a strong eco message, we are also always looking at ways of making our business more sustainable. We therefore repurpose as much as we possibly can. If you deal with the amount of props and set that we do, finding affordable storage space will always be a challenge. We have an Aladdin’s Cave of sets, props and backgrounds which means we have to find storage space which incurs significant cost. This is something that remains at the forefront of our planning.
We have not struggled with recruitment as we naturally attract those that are passionate about what we do. Our base in Bristol supports this as the city has a rich and diverse scene of creatives who understand our world. We adapt our team’s skillsets to each job we take on and we constantly challenge ourselves to try new build techniques and adopt new technologies.
As we continue into the future, we are looking to take on larger challenges, mainly related to the size of our productions. This will span both our retail briefs and our own projects. This does not necessarily mean a greater volume of work but we will try to balance these larger projects with our roaming characters, a part of our portfolio we never want to give up. The key will be striking the balance between the two while achieving strong growth.
Immersive theatre gives both us and our clients a credible, authentic and creative way to engage with people and build long term relationships with customers. We are seeing competitor event companies with a shallower engagement model leave the industry, as audiences expect and deserve more.