Tim Wilson, Associate Producer at PW Productions, knows a thing or two about innovation in theatre. The Nunhead resident, who founded VAULT Festival – a ‘carnival of experience’ in the tunnels below Waterloo station – is now leading the renovation of the New Arts Theatre
Words: Ivy Bridges
In a city brimming with the arts, it can be difficult for creative minds to stand out. Tim Wilson discovered his talents early on with a stint working in immersive theatre: ‘People’s careers wiggle in mysterious ways. With my time spent with Punch Drunk I realised I wasn’t a performer. I wanted to help people bring their creativity to an audience.’
After changing his direction, Wilson was on the path to something, he just didn’t know it was VAULT. The festival was the product of two pieces of work; Silent Opera’s first major work La Boheme, an immersive theatre experience, and Kiln Theatre’s FURIES, an operatic heavy metal theatre show. Both were extremely modern adaptations of classical works, that Wilson wanted to showcase back to back. An old Punch Drunk contact told him to check out the tunnels beneath the Waterloo station, and after that the Vaults and the festival were born.
The festival grew quicker than Wilson imagined, largely due to the unique nature of it. With its eccentric venue underground, talented emerging acts and non-stop entertainment, he found that people couldn’t stay away: ‘We’re building an audience of 40,000 people – we’re spilling out of the venue for the first time and into the surrounding parts. I think the mark of an event that begins to attract London’s attention is when the event starts to be bigger than itself.’
This trend continues for the 2017 season, as VAULT has already received twice the amount of entrants than they anticipated. Improvements are underway, with better food options and additional live music being added for 2017.
After great success with VAULT, creativity and innovation are what Wilson aspires to reproduce and cultivate in the New Arts Theatre at Leicester Square. This 400-seat theatre will present a very different type of building to the conventional West End theatres we know; it will be all about quality, boldness, innovation and connectivity.
‘The Arts Theatre is such a historically loved building – we’re expanding it significantly and rewriting the footprint of the venue and turning it into what it should be – one of the front players in exciting buildings in the West End.’
The Arts Theatre is such a historically loved building – we’re expanding it significantly and rewriting the footprint of the venue and turning it into what it should be – one of the front players in exciting buildings in the West End
Wilson is part of the trio at the heart of PW Productions, the producers behind the New Arts Theatre. As renovations commence, Wilson promises new ways of producing theatre, with an emphasis on quality, ethics and, as he puts it, ‘a spherical experience’.
‘The way we will run theatre is more inclusive and lateral,’ he says, ‘using network strength to engage people in a meaningful way, not just in social media, but to engage people financially and culturally, so people have a real stake in what happens and also the success of the theatre as well.’
People are at the centre of what Wilson does and he is determined not to let the profit motive become a destructive force in his directing. With the customer at the centre of the experience, the guest has a more personalised and memorable experience.
‘Whether you’re buying tickets or food, so often you feel like you’re engaging with an impersonal machine – with the spherical experience, you’re put right into the heart of things and it’s up to you to decide how you do things.’ Wilson hopes that this mindset will set the New Arts Theatre apart from its competitors.
I was born in London and have lived in 12 different locations throughout – and Nunhead is by far my favourite
As a born and bred Londoner, Wilson has lived all over the capital, but has now settled in Nunhead. Some of Wilson’s favourite haunts include The Ivy House pub – which he recommends for its local arts and amazing line-ups of musicians – and the much raved about (and raved in) Bussey Building in neighbouring Peckham. ‘I was born in London and have lived in 12 different locations throughout – and Nunhead is by far my favourite.’