“Creative sector is not considered as an industry by Government itself and that’s the root of other problems” - Entrepreneur Kuljeet Singh of Atelier Expressions
Tell us about Atelier
Atelier is a platform to explore and evolve. The idea is not to freeze the idea. As the logo suggests categorically, Atelier is an expression of "movement" and "space". It fundamentally creates space for all sorts of expressions, primarily in Arts. The loose moving arms are the "intentions" to gel in with people from all walks of life and the central circle is the neutral-unbiased-space we had created and would intend to create for artists and humankind. Be it theatre and performing arts or visual arts and cinema, we are very clear on our ideals: Equality, Innovation and Concern for all and every thing.
Atelier offers various kinds of workshops for theater enthusiasts. Can you tell us about the programs in details.
There are three different programmes for different age groups:
Weekend Theatre programme was started after receiving enormous number of requests and suggestions from the friends of Atelier who are working and want to follow their passion alongside, devoting time in a constructive vocation. Atelier took a call and designed the paradigm unimaginable, yet realistic. It’s a perfect mix of theory and practise, suits the needs of a working professional in the age bracket of 18-80.
Atelier Kidz is a complete programme catering to the needs of school children. We develop a theatre club in school where we work and prepare students for stage.The summer dream is a part of Atelier Kidz programme and a structured programme for summers only.
Atelier Repertory offers an intensive production oriented programmes and meant for people who have professional approach towards theatre.
What motivated you to start this? Tell us your back-story.
I was working as a freelancer(theatre practitioner and researcher) after my post graduation in Literature from Delhi University in 2002. I directed a few plays with schools and developed a story for myself and met a few like minded people with diverse backgrounds. That was the time when we felt the need to have an umbrella organisation where we can devise better communication and reach out to larger cross-section of people. In 2004, Atelier was formally registered under the Societies Act 1860 as Atelier Theatre Society with the clear agenda to make theatre a viable force through performances, workshops and productions.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was a science student till school days and wasn’t much satisfied with what I was doing. After a year's gap I took up English Literature at Khalsa College, University of Delhi and met some fantastic teachers who connected me to the world of theatre and films and then I was completely in love with it. I married theatre subsequently and started working with schools and college students. After a gap of few years I reinvented myself while writing my M Phil thesis on the history of Campus Theatre. I got a job in a college where I studied in the same department and am happily continuing with it. I am presently working on a Doctorate programme.
Where are you based? How big is your team?
Presently, we are a team of 8 core members and we outsource artists for our productions through auditions.
How has the response been so far? Would love to know a few success stories.
Like any other organisation, we faced teething problems in the first 5 years and as they say the normal life span of a theatre group is 5 years and then they vanish. Fortunately, we have broken the jinx and we are in the 8th year now and we look forward to be here for years to come.
AYTW aka Atelier's Youth Theatre Week, which is now Asia's Biggest Theatre Fiesta deserves to be called a success story. With lots of apprehensions and doubts, we started it in a small way in 2007 and it received great response as the focus was Campus Theatre. In 2010 we took a big leap by initiating the Mumbai episode and now in 2011, AYTW is a pan India property travelling to Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore along with New Delhi. Details of 2011 are available on the web-page.
Atelier Kidz Programme has provided us revenues to run our regular shows. As we all concede that theatre shows in India are still struggling to stand on its feet and it requires funding from government or corporates to run the show which also becomes very difficult at times. Atelier started a new module to have both: audience and funds through this programme. We are proud to be associated with 16000 school children till date.
What are the major challenges you faced while starting up Atelier?
Structure was an obvious challenge like any organisation. Regular funding never happened till 2008 and in 2009 we started budgeting our year based on the calendar which wasn’t the practise before that. Most of the actors have to do something to take care of their livelihood as what we were offering was meager and therefore disruption was obvious. This is another challenge which we have to still overcome.
Let us know about the partnerships that you have and how have they helped you scale?
For our festivals, we partnered with corporate houses like SUZUKI and IDEA Cellular Ltd. in the past and the energy of theatre was felt in the corporate circuits. For our productions, there are a very few sponsors and we are figuring out strategies to follow them up. Next 2 years, we are sure we will be having a few regular funding agencies with us.
What is your revenue model?
Major revenue is generated from School Programmes (Atelier Kidz and Annual Productions). Now festivals have also started saving a bit.
How did you raise money to start this?
I had invested my savings and salary to initiate. Then the other members also pooled in and it moved on. Slowly and gradually we were able to move it fast and created a small office. Atelier core members weren't taking anything back home, then. Now, we have a full-fledged theatre studio with 6 workstations for back end processes and a rehearsal space for our productions. We would like to create a Corpus Fund for Atelier to enable it work effectively and the the processes are in the pipeline.
Would love to know your expansion plans!
2011 will see our work in 4 cities: Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi. We plan to move to the second level cities like Jaipur Chandigarh and Lucknow in 2013.
What are the challenges faced while being a creative entrepreneur in India? How do you think we can overcome them?
Primarily, creative sector is not considered as an industry by Government itself and that’s the root of other problems like funding, spaces and consistency. Creative Entrepreneurship is also suffering from the same challenges of acceptance as a status of industry with structured laid out policies to obliterate exploitation at all levels. The only way to overcome this is to infuse professionalism in the sector by making sure that artists get paid sufficiently well for their work.
Lastly, share with us about your experience with The British Council’s YCE.
YCE is a magnanimous idea and its a great channel to connect with people who understand your work!
We at YourStory.in had a great time getting to know Kuljeet’s work!