Can’t Sit Still

Cultural Impact Development Fund

Can’t Sit Still is a small, innovative theatre company from the South West. The organisation will use its investment to scale up their stage adaptation of the award winning children’s book Oh No, George!

© Paul Blakemore

Can’t Sit Still

Region: South West
Discipline: Theatre and performance
Investment Size £35,000 (£25,000 loan, £10,000 grant)

The Organisation: Can’t Sit Still (‘CSS’)  is an arts organisation based in South Gloucestershire, that devises performances and projects using physical theatre, circus and live music. The organisation delivers social impact projects in the local areas of South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire and Bristol and produces touring theatre shows for venues across England. At the heart of the organisation are three core values that centre on “radical care, disruptive generosity and stubborn accessibility.” Through their work, CSS aims to disrupt social inequalities and connect communities by performing in unusual locations and working with those who may feel the arts are not for them. CSS’s audiences and service users include children and young people, people with learning disabilities, people on the autistic spectrum, D/deaf people as well as new mothers and birth parents with babies.

The Opportunity: In 2019, CSS won a commission to adapt the award winning children’s book Oh No, George! (“ONG!”) by Chris Haughton. The 2020 tour was well received but cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, so CSS recorded the show for online audiences whilst theatres were closed. CSS wanted to reignite the tour in the Spring of 2022, alongside development of a choose-your-own-adventure digital adaptation using an interactive storytelling platform. Historically, CSS toured in smaller venues, with the production funded through upfront fees from the venue and match funding from ACE. Based on the success of the previous tour, the CSS team were looking to scale up and perform in larger, more commercial venues, where they’d receive a box office split plus royalties for each show. This revenue model however means payment from the box office is received after the show, which would create a cash deficit in early 2022 due to upfront costs for artists, theatre crew and other production outlay. Whilst this scenario presents a riskier financial model than upfront venue payments, there is potential for CSS to generate significantly higher returns from each performance. The organisation approached CIDF for an investment of £35,000 to provide a line of credit and protect the CSS cashflow during the tour period, whilst also providing a small contingency in the event of lower ticket sales. This investment was financed through a blended package of grant and loan. 

The Process: As CSS were scaling up and testing a new financial model, the CIDF team had to work closely with management to understand the key assumptions around ticket revenue and production costs once Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. This involved analysing previous ticket sales and modelling different financial scenarios if ticket sales didn’t reach the desired targets. As part of the due diligence, the CIDF team also analysed previous financial accounts and forward looking projections and were impressed with the quality of the financial information that CSS provided. CSS used the 2020 lockdowns to streamline and professionalise their financial management processes which helped bolster the investment application and reassure the CIDF team that good governance was in place.

The Impact: The CIDF investment will allow Can’t Sit Still to scale up its previously successful production and experiment with a new business model that has the potential to be transformational for the organisation. The ambition for CSS is that Oh No, George! increases the organisation’s earned income and therefore unrestricted reserves, which can be used to fund research and development for their social impact programmes, alongside developing a continuous season of theatre productions. Becoming less reliant on grant funding for the R&D stages of these projects will allow for more freedom in their approach and allow the team to build on their existing relationships within the community. The CIDF grant of £10,000 will cover additional staff time and allow CSS to develop their long-term organisational strategy and monitoring and evaluation practice, helping the team to assess the impact of their new business model on wider company objectives.