60 Seconds with Matt Pinches, Co-Founder and Producer at The Guildford Shakespeare Company
Please tell us about yourself and how the Guildford Shakespeare Company came to be.
Back in 2005, Sarah Gobran (another actor who went to the Guildford School of Acting) came to me and said: “there seems to be a gap in the market in Guildford for professional open-air theatre”. We felt we needed to reinvigorate the act of theatre-going. We work in a variety of buildings that are right at the heart of our community, whether that be a church, garden, barn, lake, or castle.
In 2006 GSC was born, we put on our first open-air show in the castle gardens, which was completely sold out! We did it again the following year and the year after that. It was in the third year that things started to change.
Sarah and I weren’t business people, to begin with - we were just two actors. Everything we have learnt about business has either been on the job or through generous time and experience given to us by local leaders who have supported us from the beginning of our journey. This support has helped guide us to where we are today, one of the largest producing theatre companies in Surrey.
What work does GSC do in the local Guildford community?
We do an enormous amount for the community, which we are incredibly proud of. Our main shows introduce new audiences to venues, and in turn ensure a continued, varied life for key parts of our town. As an example, we have been able to help Holy Trinity Church. Our continuous use of the space has enabled them to successfully apply for funding to install disability ramps and to re-do the roof.
GSC also has an ever-expanding education and outreach department. We go from primary school right up to university level, doing in-house clubs, workshops and classes.
This year we created a year-long apprenticeship for an emerging artist with Epilepsy. She is a brilliant creative individual, and we're honoured to be helping her get her first steps onto the career ladder as a trainee assistant director/producer.
Last year we launched a programme project called 'Brave New World', designed to tackle issues of social inclusion across our region. Six programmes were delivered including tours to some of the most disadvantaged primary and secondary schools in Surrey; a year-long residency in Kings College and a life-changing mental health project for teenagers and their families. One project, Spirit of Youth, saw ten children from a less-advantaged primary school in Guildford work with an elderly care home for two terms. Together, they put on a Shakespeare play. It was a pleasure watching eight-year-olds and ninety-eight-year-olds work together, and the response was phenomenal. Everyone grew in confidence and wellbeing.
This year our Education/Outreach Dept will have not only worked with around 5,000 people across Guildford and its surrounding areas but have created employment for over 130 people. We are now working on raising funding to ensure these projects continue in 2019/20.
Please tell us about your experience of being a member of The County Club.
I got to know this place through coming to networking events, and am enjoying the benefits having been made a member this year. It is a brilliant venue, with a perfect location right on the high street. It is part of Guildford’s heritage itself, not only the building but the club too.
Do you feel The County Club provides good networking opportunities for local professionals? If yes, how?
For us, as a charity, based right in the heart of town, being able to tap into this network of contacts is invaluable. Some of the community work and funding we receive is through the generosity of members at the County Club. It is also a great oasis of calm if you need to have a quiet meeting or some headspace to think.
For many Shakespeare is a bit stuffy, intellectual or out of reach - how do you respond to that.
Do you know what? The show we have on at the moment is a 400-year-old comedy, GSC also has an ever-expanding audience who are just beside themselves with laughter. At the end of the day, there is a reason Shakespeare has lasted this long: they are really great stories!
You have Shakespeare using the English language in a way that we still use every day without realising it, and it touches on every conceivable human emotion and situation.
By using non-theatre venues, we are giving our audience a whole new experience where they can see Shakespeare differently. We have had boats, motor cars, rope bridges, swings and trains. This sort of stuff makes these stories come alive whilst honouring the original words.
I would absolutely say it is not ‘stuffy’. Give it a go; I guarantee it’ll be the best night in the theatre you will have had in ages.
What do you love most about Guildford?
There are many things. I love its sense of heritage; it feels like a small county town, which has the outlook of something much bigger and busier. I love that people know and recognise each other and help one another, bringing together that sense of the local community.
Tickets for GSC’s next show, ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (12 October – 2 November), are on sale now. Shakespeare’s ‘fairy-tale for grown-ups’ is an enchanting story that draws on the classic themes of folk and fairy tales; with four extraordinary women at its heart. One of Shakespeare’s most intensely romantic plays, it is a powerful portrait of what it is to be unafraid to follow your dreams. The production will transfer to the acclaimed Jermyn Street Theatre in the heart of London’s West End following its Guildford run at St Nicolas’ Church. Tickets can be found here.
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