About the Rag Factory
A little bit of history
When the Rag Factory was first set up in February 2006, the objective was fairly simple: to provide affordable rehearsal space for people to use, because experience of working with actors had shown that many projects fell at the first hurdle for want of an affordable space in which to rehearse, let alone perform.
A lovely building that had previously been in use as artists' studios by two prominent Turner prize nominees was found, the doors were opened... and - hugely encouragingly! - people entered and started adopting the space for their own purposes.
'Supporting the creative fabric of London'
This was the strapline from the day the Rag Factory opened, and we're proud to say it applies as much today as it did then. The Rag Factory is not run to make a profit, it's run in such a way that it covers its costs and can be self-sustaining. This means we have to charge something, but it's not as much as many commercial operations might be charging.
How we support the people who come here depends on the individual or group concerned. For some, it's sufficient that we exist and provide affordable rehearsal space in a central location. For others, it's been about getting advice or having a sounding board, or even using the various props and furniture we have on site to create film and theatre sets, on-site or off. The important thing, as far as we're concerned, is that even people starting out in the different industries know that we won't think they're daft for asking a question. If we can help, we will, and have done ever since we started up. The difference, these days, is that we've also learnt a great deal from the process, and can share that increased knowledge with people if they wish.
Yes, but, really - what's the point?
Here it is in a nutshell: finding a drafty church hall or a high-priced studio isn't hard. Finding a community is a little harder. We're developing a space where people from the entire creative fabric of London can come to work, train, rehearse & meet... & ultimately work together to create projects that are significantly more than the sum of their parts. A space where people support each other. A space where you never know who you'll meet, you never know what idea you'll form or where it will take you. And the creative fabric? Think of it more as a trampoline than just a parachute.
Affordable rehearsal space
We have a fair range of productions that come here to rehearse. Some are fully commercial, others funded by bodies like the Arts Council, while others are either charity projects or completely unfunded productions. For this reason, we have a two tier pricing strategy: given our objectives, we feel it's only right that those with bigger budgets should contribute more than those who are starting out - we think of it as our Robin Hood pricing strategy.
Prices can start from as little as £40 per day (10am-6pm) for a small room to hold one-to-one auditions, or less than £70 per day to rehearse in a room with a playing area equivalent to, say, the stage of Arcola 2, the King's Head, Courtyard Theatre, Hen and Chickens or the Old Red Lion. We offer a 10% discount for a 3 week rehearsal run (15 sessions or more) passing along the cost saving of not needing to seek multiple bookings for that period straight back to you, and we're always ready, willing and able to explore alternative deals to keep the burden lower.
Affordable exhibition space
Perhaps surprisingly, given the building's artistic heritage, there wasn't really an intention to make the Rag Factory an exhibition space: it's not an area in which those involved were particularly well-versed, and felt they couldn't offer as much as other venues with properly qualified curators.
There's an extent to which that is still true: we don't pretend to be experts in fine art, but we are good at running a space, one of the co-founders of the project has a background in engineering that has made the difference to a few installations over the years, while the other has a background in marketing that has also been of service to the groups and individuals choosing to exhibit their work in our galleries.
We now have so many exhibitions coming here that we have started an email list for people who would like to be kept informed of new shows taking place at the Rag Factory, which means we can provide a very practical means of helping people promote their show.
But we still try to keep our prices as low as we possibly can.
Affordable performance space
Becoming a performance venue in our own right was never something that was actively considered, either, but, once again, it has become something that has happened from time-to-time. Performance events here have ranged from theatre and dance to classical music and decidedly avant-garde promenade performances.
We don't have a public entertainment licence, but Temporary Event Notices (TENs) cost very little from our local council.
Performance is an area which excites us, but every project is very specific, so you really need to contact us if you'd like to explore the options.
The future of the Rag Factory
The Rag Factory wasn't set up because the founders were rich - far from it! - or because somebody cut a blank cheque to renovate the space - they didn't! Everything done here to date has been out of operating revenue or the personal investment of the founders; changes and improvements continue. While most of the wall demolition has probably finished, we think there's still a couple that might need building, and the spaces are regularly redecorated, not least because of the number of exhibitions coming through the buildings.
Ultimately, the future of the project will be determined by the needs of the majority. We don't feel we want to impose solutions on people if we can learn and make things better. Also, while the Rag Factory was the brain-child of just 2 or 3 people, there's now the basis of a new management structure to enable things to move forward. There will soon be a board of trustees with expertise spanning the full range of art forms we host here (if you'd like to be involved in that, and think you can help, please do get in touch). It's an exciting time, and we look forward to making the journey with like-minded people.