16/04/2013 11:04 HRS

Next month will be two years old.

For those of you who haven’t come across the project yet, in essence they are a Freecycle for theatre.  Set up as a reaction to funding cuts and as a way to reduce waste and promote sustainability within the industry, the project aims to to help them share their resources and help others while helping themselves.
So how does it work?  Contrary to some beliefs, they do not have a huge warehouse of props and they don’t have a fleet of trucks driving around the country collecting old sets.  They are a website based on the Freecycle model.  They provide a platform where you can advertise items of set, props, costume, lighting or anything theatre related that you no longer need and make them available to the wider theatre community.  Rather than throwing your set in a skip at the end of the get out, it provides an opportunity for you to offer any useful items or materials that someone else might be able to reuse in their production, be it some flattage, a set of treads, some spare timber, a show floor, a carpet, a sofa, or a staircase.

This site is completely free to use, the only condition is that any items you offer must be offered for free.  The grand concept is that in giving away your set and props after a get out you reduce your disposal costs and reduce landfill. The person who wants the item you are giving away takes responsibility for the cost of collecting the item, but they get something for nothing for their next production.  They reuse, they share our resources, and they get a little bit closer to making our industry more sustainable.

They have had a huge range of items posted and re homed through the site, including a stage revolve, 500 tip up theatre seats, staging, flats, an ice cream van, various sofas, hospital beds, 50 par cans and numerous small pros and full sets.  Anything goes and it’s more than likely that someone out there will want what you’re giving away.  Venues involved to date have included the Royal Court, Manchester Royal Exchange, the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne and the National Theatre, down to the many smaller commercial and fringe venues around the country.  They also have the involvement of a number of set builders who regularly post items after a clear out of their stores.

They also allow the posting of ‘wanted’ items where you can put a request for items that you are struggling to find, in the hope that someone might have that 1930′s cigarette machine lurking in their props store that they are willing to lend for your production.

The project was set up to benefit everyone on the community we work in. There is no vetting policy to sign up and join in, and we actively encourage everyone to get involved, be it production managers, set builders, stage managers or props supervisors. We currently have over 1400 people signed up and using the site, but the more people they can get joining in, the bigger the benefit to everyone involved. By signing up you can opt to receive regular emails whenever a new item is posted on the site, or you can follow their twitter feed, @setexchange.