Artistic director, James Yarker, discusses entrepreneurship in difficult economic times

MA Media and Creative industries student, Racha Lothong talks to James Yarker from Stan’s Cafe to learn about entrepreneurship and creativity.

I arrived this theater for interviewing James Yarker, the art director of Stan’s Café. This theater company was founded since 1991. With the warm welcome from James, he gave me a tour of his and his team location. The Stan’s Café is not a physically theater as I imagined. It is a warehouse and has a lot of blocks connected. I believed that there are much more reasons for it.

Stan’s Café is an “indy” Theater Company, which is solve almost of questions in my mind. Stan’s Café is working with the keywords of creative and partnership. An indy theater production whith relies on networks and help from others indy theater. The problem of these indy businesses are all about budget and funding, I believed. James said besides the money from selling ticket, the money mostly comes from the government, such as from an Art Council and Midland Arts Center (MAC). However, with declining economic situation, government is likely to cut some amount of the funding. That make James and his theater works even harder. What is his solution? He told me that, Stan’s Café is not only in theater in Birmingham, there are a lot of mini theaters and running their business. They are competitors and also being partners. Stan’s Café has a large area for arranging their role-plays or art event, so these mini theaters rent the space and work for Stan’s Café in return as a barter system and they helping each other to create a creative project. However, Stan’s Café still has to deal with the rental and the utility cost.

Jame is person who believes in the idea of competition. He believes that competition is a good push for other companies and also energizing the market. He said if one theater is good enough, people will look for another theater and expected for a new fresh idea of show instead of stay at the same theater.

My next question was how can James and his team manages everything with the little amount of budget. He answered that with the little funding is allowing him to think more creatively, it doesn’t limit their imagination. There are various options for him to choose and think about.

The most interest thing is how he sells his product and how he competes with the mass production like Phantom of the Opera. James told me about the competition market that if there is a theater tour, which provide 10 shows per one trip, six of them must be mass show and two must for children. Stan’s Café has to fight with other theater companies to win one of two spaces for an indy show. James and his team work by sharing idea with each other and see the most proper one and work on it.

I admitted that Stan’s Café and it’s business is quite impressive for me. It is hard to survive in this time of economic situation but they use their creative to survive their business. However, Stan’s Café is going to have a Europe tour in these nearly months and keep produce the performance and art show. Creativity never lets you down.

By Racha Lothong

MA Media and Creative Enterprise student

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