Theatre Cooperative supports theatres through the social cooperative model

Theatre Cooperative (Tiyatro Kooperatifi) is one of the recipients of our Culture and Art Fund 2020. Their project Regional Cooperative Project for Private Theatres (Özel Tiyatrolar için Bölgesel Kooperatifleşme Projesi) project aims to support the establishment of 5 social cooperatives for private theatres representing the 7 regions of Turkey. Since the model of social cooperatives is seen as an effective tool for cultural development, the representatives of the private theatres from 7 regions of Turkey will receive training on social cooperative development. The Theatre Cooperative will assist the establishment of the cooperatives which are aimed to be democratic and participatory with their own management and control mechanisms. Theatre Cooperative will provide capacity building activities and strategic consultancy for these new cooperatives to ensure their growth and sustainability.

Can you tell us about the aim and activities of the  Theatre Cooperative (Tiyatro Kooperatifi)? 

The Theatre Cooperative is working to strengthen private theatres economically, socially,m and legally in order to enrich their art production and make them sustainable. Our goal is to enable private theatres in Turkey to produce world-class plays and help them become economically sustainable.  In line with this objective, we offer mentorship to strengthen the capacity of private theatres in economic, legal, and social terms and organise various projects, campaigns, training, and seminars. In these processes, we cooperate with national and international cultural organisations, public institutions, the private sector, civil society organisations and academia. In addition to these, we carry out advocacy activities to make improvements in the legislation and to increase awareness of our field.

We know that the culture and art field and especially theatres are seriously affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures taken in this context. Can you tell us how private theatres are affected and what can be done to support them in this process?

To give you an example from the members of the Theatre Cooperative, 25 out of our 62 members, which are private theatres,  had their own stages before the outbreak. During the outbreak, 5 of these theatre stages closed.  We are not only losing our stages; the spaces for traveling theatres are also being lost and thousands of crew members working in this field are not able to even earn the minimum living expenses.  Currently, 10 of our members are running campaigns and selling souvenirs and collectibles through their online shops in order to generate income. We list these campaigns on our Linktree link. The support of each theatre enthusiast to such campaigns is invaluable.

We shared our demands from public institutions in order to minimise the negative effects of the process. At the same time, the support mechanisms to be established by municipalities and the private sector and the grant programs to be carried out by donor organisations in the field of culture and arts are of vital importance at this point.

As the Theatre Cooperative, you have implemented an online campaign titled #BizdeYerinAyrı in order to support private theatres at this difficult time. Can you tell us the scope and results of this campaign?

#BizdeYerinAyrı is a support campaign designed for 33 theatres among the Theatre Cooperative members. Within the scope of the campaign, theatre audiences had the opportunity to buy their tickets for future plays, while they supported private theatres whose activities came to a standstill during the outbreak. The campaign, which we started in order to alleviate the economic difficulties brought by this process to some extent, became an example of solidarity and strengthened the bond between the audiences and the theatres. The campaign attracted the attention of individual donors as well as corporate supporters. 

Theatre Cooperative received a grant from our Culture and Arts Fund in 2020, with the co-financing of the Turkey Mozaik Foundation. Can you tell us about the aim and activities of the Regional Cooperative Project for Private Theatres project you will implement with this grant?

When we established the Theatre Cooperative back in May 2018,  it was also one of our dreams to establish an alliance for theatre cooperatives in Turkey.  At the beginning of the pandemic, we have created a network of theatres across Turkey. We explained these theatres why we think the social cooperative model is the best solution to our common problems. Following these discussions, our first companion was the South Marmara Theatre Cooperative which was established in August 2020. It is important for the theatres in different regions of Turkey to meet under the roof of a social cooperative with the principles of decentralization, democratic participation and self-management in order to develop solutions in their own context.

Within the scope of the project, we aim to complete the official establishment of 5 theatre cooperatives in Central Anatolia, Aegean, Mediterranean, Southeast and Black Sea regions. We have already started our work; since 2018, we have been sharing our experiences with cooperatives at an early stage around Turkey. We provide consultancy to them and offer training programs on social cooperatives and the financial and legal aspects of the cooperative model.  Thanks to the Culture and Arts Fund, we will be able to reach our goal of establishing an official cooperative alliance in a shorter period.

As you mentioned above, the Theatre Cooperative aims to promote the social cooperative model in Turkey. What are the principles behind this model and its potential for the art and culture sector?

In Turkey, social cooperatives are not yet defined as a legal entity. Nevertheless, we are carrying out our activities in accordance with this model. In line with the principles of social cooperatives, we act with the mission of public benefit and work to create social impact. In this respect, the Theatre Cooperative has a unique structure.

Based on the presumption that art provides public benefit, we believe that the social cooperative model in the field of culture and arts will pave the way for the development of different collaborations with public institutions, municipalities, civil society organisations, and the private sector through the development of projects that will provide economic benefits to art institutions and strengthening the culture of solidarity in the field. In the long run, we dream of collaborating with cooperatives operating in different branches of culture and arts to establish a sustainable culture and art life in Turkey. We are also excited to follow the cooperative activities in the fields of publishing and cinema.

About Theatre Cooperative

Theatre Cooperative (Tiyatro Kooperatifi) is the umbrella organisation for 60 private theatres from Istanbul. It represents the collective voice of private theatres with the belief that art is a public service. Theatre Cooperative aims to find permanent legal solutions to problems faced by the sector and implements advocacy and capacity building activities in order to improve and professionalise all production and application processes in the theatre sector. The Theatre Cooperative provides economic benefits for private theatres by producing joint projects with public institutions, local administrations, academia, private sector, and civil society organisations.