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Bringing a bit of theatre back during COVID-19

Barry Robertson
Creative Entrepreneurship Student Barry Robertson won an Innovative Idea Prize from the COVID-19 Student Innovation Challenge for supporting creatives who were left struggling as a result of lockdown as venues shut and the curtains closed on theatre opportunities.

Run by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, the COVID-19 Student Innovation Challenge awarded five student projects that helped to ease the effects of lockdown with a package of support and £500 funding from the RGU Foundation.

Barry’s project is to work collaboratively with creatives to produce audio dramatizations of theatre plays as an additional performance avenue after their venues closed. Find out about Barry and his work in this Q&A.

Why did you decide to set up this project?

I decided to start my business idea in early 2019 when I was running my social enterprise: a theatre company in the west of Scotland. Time and time again young people were asking about making our work available digitally. I was not sure what the business would be, but I had the question: “what would theatre look like without a building?”

After support from Scottish Enterprise, and working with consultants and existing businesses in London, I understood how the company would operate and had a completed feasibility study before COVID-19.

How did studying at RGU contribute?

The Creative Entrepreneurship course was perfect timing, as it supported me before the launch of the company. Each week, the course brought something new to me that helped support my business idea and goals, and it is something that I will be taking with me within my business practice.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business and personal life?

We started our business during the outbreak. We had to pivot with the recording studios closed, but it worked out well as everyone works remotely. So far, we have worked on seven audiobooks, with 21 actors and supported seven playwrights.

What does winning this award mean to you?

This award was a surprise! During the outbreak, there’s not been much time to pause. But also, when you are gearing to launch, you can be unsure if the product is of benefit. This award to me shows that there is opportunity to support the creative sector digitally through our organisation.

What do you hope to do next with your business or project?

We are nearing launch! Our first Audiobook will launch in August 2020 with a new audiobook being released each month after that.

Judges’ thoughts on the project

Barry Robertson's audio dramatization of theatre plays brings together communities of creatives in a unique and positive way during a time when theatres are closed and no live performances are possible. Barry has demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and worked on an innovative commercial solution to meet the needs of audiences currently starved of theatre entertainment.

You can find out more about Barry’s business at https://www.thegreyhill.com/home. You can also subscribe to free updates from the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group using the Innovation@RGU email subscription form.

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