INTERVIEW: BETTi Recommends | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Alphabetti Theatre‘s Ali Pritchard is a man who isn’t afraid of the impossible. As if juggling the demands of keeping a theatre afloat and stopping his toddler from climbing the walls wasn’t enough, he’s also taking on curating the internet. As we sit down to chat, I’m immediately struck by the enormity of the challenges he faces.

There’s no bones about it. Alphabetti, like the rest of the UK culture scene, is not in a great place. Being one of the first venues to close its doors, Ali admits that it’s been “pretty darn tough.” Yet it feels like if anyone can get through this, Ali can. “We’ve always been skint and never really known what’s coming next,” he explains, “so in a way, this whole situation isn’t new for us.”

Times might have changed but the theatre’s ethos certainty hasn’t. Alphabetti is all about providing a place where a diverse range of people can make their voices heard. “It’s an aspect of our work that we’re really passionate about,” says Ali. “It’s a place where Joe Public can take a gamble on some quality theatre without taking a gamble with their wallet.”

While it hasn’t been easy recently, as I spoke to Ali the green shoots of recovery could be clearly seen sprouting from the gaps in the theatre’s hollowed boards. As he recounted the scene of his stage manager tearing her hair out trying to serve socially distanced coffee at their recent script development workshop, I detected that, slowly, things were moving towards some sort of normal.

Alphabetti has always been a place to discover something new. We didn’t want that to stop just because the building has closed

Getting back to normal for Alphabetti is all about creating new work and it’s that aspect that’s driving Ali right now. He talks with real excitement about the series of micro-commissions he’s been able to offer to under-represented writers and the theatre’s re-arranged programme which includes the Aware Festival and Steve Byron’s new work, Sucking Eggs.

Ali admits that his aforementioned desire to ‘curate the internet’ is turning out to be quite a task. “Alphabetti has always been a place to discover something new. We didn’t want that to stop just because the building has closed.” It’s from that spirit that the theatre’s newsletter, BETTi Recommends, was borne.

Combining things to watch, listen, read and do, BETTi Recommends sails to the parts of the internet that you might not have been to yet. “We try to take people out of their bubble a bit,” Ali tells me. “Last week we introduced people to the Beverley Puppet Festival. It’s amazing what they do and we didn’t want people to miss out.” BETTi Recommends has actively engaged with Black Lives Matter and has tried to help its audience learn more about what is happening right now. “There’s some things in there that are quite hard to read,” Ali says. “But these are things that we think people should know about.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the UK culture scene, Ali is still filled with a relentless belief and positivity about Alphabetti’s chances of weathering the storm. “As long as we have an audience who wants what we do, and artists to help us do it, we’ll always survive.”

Sign up to receive the BETTi Recommends newsletter via Alphabetti Theatre’s website, where you can also donate to their fundraising drive

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