Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The joy of theoretical giving

Well not a lot happened yesterday which I suspect will be reflected in the brevity of this post. I didn't get a show in Covent Garden, and that always means I have to do two things: 1) be philosophical about it all; and 2) go home and do some admin. I spent most of the day looking into how we are going to fund one of our pet projects,The Royal National Theatre of Fools. We are working non stop at this around other work and we are burning the midnight oil some nights in a frantic effort to actually get this thing off the ground. Our targets are venue by the beginning of next month, fund raise in Octorber and open mid November. I say this not to impress you, or indeed interest you necessarily it's just that if a publicly state it, I have to try and do it. But I digress (as usual).

I was perusing some crowd funding websites, where people with big ideas and no capitol (I like think that's us) ask for funding in return for rewards. I must say it was heartening to see at all of the other guys out there who are in our position, and I got the sense that wee are not alone. I was looking at a funding campaign set up by Crooked Pieces Theatre Company who wanted to stage a new Sarah Kane play. They had only reached 50% of their target with days to go. Surely it was disaster for them. I navigated away and looked at another page, and when I returned a few minutes later I was amazed at what I saw. They had reached their target with one sizable donation. This had happened RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY VERY EYES. In fact I got so excited about this that I imagined that this money was flooding into our bank account. I don't know whether or not this is a spectacular exercise in visualizing my wealth (I'm sure there are a few gurus in California who are recommending that one), or just unrealistic optimism but I confess it was fun.

Like I said before crowd funding is all about giving away stuff in return for donations So I decided to make a list of what we could give away. I discovered that giving can be a lot of fun, especially if it's all theoretical. In that case the sky's the limit, so on my own, at my computer I managed to give away virtually all of the company plus some pretty cool things that we don't actually have. Yes it was a bit of a laugh, but thank God for the intervention of Grisel later on in the day. I imagine that you're getting the idea that Grisel is the more practicle one in the business partnership and it was one of our smarter moves to give her ultimate control over money. That certainly should not be left to me. To be cavalier with ideas is one thing, but I've learned the hard way that to be at all reckless about spending money is quite another. I still have the emotional scars and some of the debts to prove it. Our discussion on the subject was fruitful and we ended up with a series of rewards that were generous enough to reflect the value of what we were giving away, but not so generous as to double the amount of money we would have to raise, just to pay for them. It pains me to say it, but again all credit goes to my finance.

Although this is all very well on paper, that's all it is at the moment and I confess to being a little scared of the whole process. What if we don't get anything? Oh well I suppose we have to try. I've always been a little uncomfortable about asking for money and I'm secretly jealous of those folk who have enough confidence to be very up front about this. I remind myself that I've been performing street theatre since the late eighties, so I've based a whole career on asking for donations. How hard can it be? I'm determined to find out. Our fund raising campaign is not quite up and running yet so I don't want to give away too much, but just to say that our gifts range from a thank you party at a West End venue (Yes, I've called in a big favour from a friend for that one!) for everyone who funds up to a years free entry to the club and a signed original artwork of the inaugural poster if you are feeling very generous. So watch this space and get involved. The least you'll get is a party. My God, I think I just asked for money. Perhaps this will work out after all.

Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancĂ© Grisel Tarifa. They hope to open a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools in Peckham in the winter.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. Mike is also busy writing his one man show, Clowns, Coulrophobia and Me for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. Go to for more info.

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