The Hive

Our Artistic Director, Thomas Guthrie introduces a new vision for a national network of safe, exciting pop-up performance spaces.

Join our campaign to get the cultural sector back on its feet in a safe but radical new way by signing our open letter to Oliver Dowden

Click here to view the letter

Alexander Armstrong and Thomas Guthrie discuss the extraordinary benefits and features of The Hive
Design: Aidan Ridyard, Burrell, Foley and Fischer


What if, alongside our great theatres and concert halls, the best live performance – theatre, dance, comedy, and music – was woven into local life; what if you didn’t have to travel far to see it, it doesn’t cost the earth, and there was variety and the highest quality; what if every schoolchild had regular access, and everyone felt welcome, no matter their age, background, religion or race?

What if every live performance fostered a sense of belonging, processes were shared, creativity encouraged, and storytelling did what it has always been there to do: bind, identify, entertain, educate, stimulate?

What if culture worked with and for people in the heart of their communities in a safe and environmentally friendly way?


Introducing a new national network of safe, exciting pop-up performance spaces. Suiting a multitude of art forms, each pop-up ‘Hive’ is made from beautifully fitted recycled shipping containers, and is movable, adaptable, modular, and affordable. 

Each venue has social distancing built in, and yet still feels atmospheric and exciting. It provides what all good theatre and storytelling needs, in a safe, sustainable and accessible way. 

Each building can be located in disused buildings – such as disused theatres, or atria of disused office blocks – parks and urban centres, and, when linked to a national network of similar spaces, will provide a platform for a wide variety of the highest quality touring and local shows: live theatre, opera, comedy, film, community shows, chamber music, folk music, bands, talks.  

There is potential for local involvement and decoration, but technically each one is the same, allowing for greatly reduced get in/tech time for touring companies and bands.

Globalism and quality on a local scale, economically and culturally viable.  

A safe, entertaining future.

Tom Guthrie, Artistic Director of Music and Theatre for All

Design: Aidan Ridyard, Burrell, Foley and Fischer


Why are they needed?

  • currently both amateur groups and professional companies have nowhere to perform safely and in both an economically sustainable and artistically satisfying way. Equally most of those wishing to go out to enjoy live performances are unable to do so  

How do they help?

  • providing affordable and exciting local performance platforms in the heart of communities, these allow national companies to perform alongside local amateur and community groups within a safe as well as environmentally and economically sustainable model. They are designed specifically to encourage good atmosphere and engaging work 

Who benefits?

  • audiences, performers, companies, national institutions, schools, amateur and community groups, communities, crews, agents – anybody and everybody connected with live performance on and off stage 

How much do they cost?

  • one of these state of the art, recyclable, dynamic performance spaces costs in the region of £1m. 100 cost £80m. This may seem a lot, but it is less than a fifth of the current Seat Out to Help Out proposal, and with a far longer shelf life and legacy. They could be sold on, recycled or moved at any time 

How do they work?

  • locally managed, multiples of these form a national network of spaces which can be decorated individually and placed within existing buildings, in urban spaces and parks. Like cinemas, they are technically identical, allowing for greatly reduced get-in times, meaning that touring is streamlined and simplified, and companies can play in more than one venue in a single day. This increases revenue and enables high quality content to reach and engage with the largest number of people 

How long do they take to build?

  • following the initial development, tender and build, each subsequent space would take less than two weeks to be ready for their first performance 

What do you see going in them?

  • these are perfect venues for storytelling events of all kinds where connection and a sense of belonging is desirable
  • classic theatre alongside new live work and operas, comedy, music of every kind, TED talks, with everything engaging at a grass roots level; family friendly concerts, acoustic bands – a hugely diverse and representative output 
  • group activities, creative workshops, old spaces revitalised, new places found. Storytelling where it works best – in and for the community 
  • the community making their own shows (along the lines of our Urban Opera Project) which run alongside arrangements of @E_N_O’s Magic Flute or @RoyalOperaHouse’s Katya Kabanova, or @NationalTheatre’s Othello or @The_Globe’s Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • @alehousefiddler’s Alehouse Boys playing on the same day as Roddy Williams or Gwyneth Herbert sing a recital backed by local school kids
  • cinema showings with live musicians and acting troupes inspired by @secretcinema alongside live readings of poetry 
  • performers rehearse a show and tour it round the country, playing two dates a day since venues are not that far apart
  • an hour might be the ideal length for a show, and stories and plays could be serialised
  • a project that gives work to thousands, binding communities, giving them both a platform and inspiration 

Thomas Guthrie is on Twitter here: @bastianboytg