Community Media Cafes can be of a variety of types and a variety of venues. Any suitable place, may it be a library or a coffee shop and everything in between can function as a Community Media Caffee. It is not so much the place but rather what is happening there. Of course, some spaces are more suitable than others in terms of atmosphere, friendliness, ethos and sound or noise levels. In fact, if the venue is too noisy it prohibits any meaningful communication and becomes thus unusable as a Community Media Caffee.
On 22 January 2019 John Coster, our tutor and module leader for the Community Media module of our Communication Arts course at Leicester De Montfort University, arranged for a guided tour of the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester by the Theatre Manager Adam Durnin. The Haymarket has of course a Twitter presence.
The Haymarket Theatre, even though in the heart of the City, is tugged away above a large flight of stairs leading to the foyer. An unsuspecting visitor would not easily find it.
This theatre is the biggest theatre stage in the UK, by square footage. There are a few that a wider, there are a few that are deeper, but this is the biggest. And it is designed that way for a reason. It is designed as a prototyping theatre. A lot of very famous producers like Cameron Mackintosh used to bring their shows and start them here – Adam Durnin, Theatre Manager
We were introduced to the manager of the Haymarket Theatre, who was our tour guide throughout. The first leg of the tour was the foyer. It immediately struck me that the foyer was a suitable venue for a Community Media Caffee and I had a feeling that it was greatly underused on the days where no events were scheduled. There was a comfortable and soft seating arrangement with benches and single seating units. The room was well lit as natural light came through the large glass entrance door.
There was also a coffee counter, however, the mobile payment system didn’t work, so I got my drink for free. I wondered how this would play out once hundred guest arrived for a screening.
The foyer was spiked with many posters and roll-up banners advertising forthcoming events. Clearly, the marketing was in full swing. It seems to be their strong side.
The following is an interview with Callie. She is a DMU alumnus who, after an initial placement, got a job at the theatre. She speaks about her wide-ranging experience in her field.
Interview with Kelly – audio: Gerhard Haas
The next stage of our tour was the theatre itself. One gets the impression of an experimental stage, everything in black, although the theatre is anything else but experimental. Big names of the theatre world have performed here. The stage itself is supposed to be the single largest stage in the U.K. by square metres with many pulleys and counterweights with heavy equipment, lighting arrays, backdrops and more.
The Haymarket Theatre is quite an old theatre. It is a solid build structure with thick walls of concrete. It would probably serve as the best bomb shelter in the city. For many years it has been disused or at least not used to its potential. Now it hosts even an international gaming competition. All in all, it appears well managed.
The Haymarket has a dedicated media room. However, it is not what I expected, namely a room with a view to the stage, computer screens, office furniture etc. No, it is a bare, unfriendly, dark room with ample space for racks of gear. We were told it would be completely packed with rows of equipment when a major event is scheduled, such as the international gaming competition.
The theatre features a number of classic dressing rooms one would know from the movies, with rows of light bulbs, racks for keeping costumes and mirrors of course.
I felt the foyer would be suitable as a Community Media Caffee of a special kind, with a bit of an upper-class theatre goer atmosphere for artists and connoisseurs and cutting edge events such as the gaming competition in real time. One thing is important, the foyer is acoustically quiet because it is sheltered from the busy High Street by thick concrete walls.
I can imagine a Community Media Caffee at the Haymarket foyer, although, comparing it to other locations visited so far I would definitely prefer Graff HQ due to its ethos of the alternative scene in Leicester. It is a much more hands-on approach. It seems to tick all the boxes ranging from recycling, sustainability, community involvement, organic gardening, living plastic free and much more.
The Haymarket Theatre is also involved with the well known Leicester Comedy Festival.
So that's @LeicsComedyFest done for another year & we had great fun with all the shows both on our main stage & in the studio and can't wait for next year! Thank you to all the comedians, the festival team & all of you who came & made our first year such a laugh! #bringon2020
— Haymarket Theatre (@Leicester_HT) February 25, 2019
The Haymarket space may be suitable as a Community Media Café, but the ethos was not what I would value in a Community Media Café. This is mainly due to its exclusivity as a upper class venue for theatre connoisseurs. Judging on the roll-up banners it is a mainstream and special niche venue, in short, it is there mainly for entertainment. Comparing it with Graff HQ there are worlds in between them.