Happy homecoming for new Shoreham Ropetackle manager
Shoreham’s Ropetackle is determined to be proactive as we ease towards the end of lockdown.
Thanks to cultural recovery funding, Mark Phillips is the new centre manager – a return to the venue where he was marketing manager for five years before setting out to travel the world in 2017.
He is confident the venue will be ready to reopen just as soon as it can: “We are planning as much as possible. We opened from August last year with a limited film programme and built that up to a few live performances and then in November we had to shut down again. But in December we were able to open and we actually managed to have about half our panto run, which was great. The audiences we were getting varied from 70 to 100 per cent capacity (on socially-distanced seating of 60), and the feedback we had for our safety measures was really, really positive. We sent out a survey and people were saying that overwhelmingly they felt really safe. They were really impressed with the measures and felt really happy with them.”
It all gives the venue the confidence to open just as soon as it can: “We have got a programme in place that we are working on with the agents and artists and trying to figure out what the reality will be. It feels like things are changing so much at the moment, but we have got used to the whole process of rescheduling things and mitigating things and trying to get good deals.”
For Mark it is all part of the positivity of the happiest of returns to the venue where he worked in marketing from 2012 to 2017 before three years of travelling, initially backpacking in India and then working in Australia and New Zealand on festivals including Fringe World (Perth, Western Australia), Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Sydney Festival and the New Zealand Festival of the Arts.
“I worked in Australia for a year and New Zealand for a year. I worked on quite a lot of festivals in Australia. They are quite seasonal festivals so I worked in Sydney and Melbourne and Perth, and then in New Zealand I worked for the New Zealand Festival of the Arts. I did my research before. I knew that when I got to the countries I wanted to be working in the arts. I didn’t want to do the farm work that the classic backpacker does so I researched the festivals. I thought festivals would be good things because they are temporary. The jobs are usually three months which would allow me to travel around Australia and work for short periods of time.”
New Zealand, as a much smaller country with fewer big cities, was a longer contract. And then it was time to come back: “I met my now partner in Hong Kong and we were long distance for that whole time. We didn’t want to be long distance any longer and she was able to come back over here.”
Ropetackle’s cultural recovery funding meant the venue was able to approach Mark and re-engage him, this time in the role of centre manager.: “I started in November and then we went straight into lockdown. But it has been non-stop really which has been great. Ropetackle has always had the feeling of a family, and after just two weeks I felt like I had never been away… in a good way! Working abroad was just amazing, but it is a testament to the strength and community that we have got here that even though I was away for so long I felt so welcomed and so settled so quickly when I came back.”