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About BATS

About BATS


Live art lighting-up lives.


To create safe spaces for artists and audiences to expand possibilities.

Click here to download our Strategic Plan for 2023-2029.

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Candid shot of people outside BATS having a good time.
Eugenie Aran

From a gorgeous three level repurposed historic building we nurture creative talent and showcase exciting new NZ performance. BATS is more than its building - he tangata, he tangata, he tangata. We value our people and the unique cultural identity and history of Wellington and Aotearoa. We seek to decolonise spaces and remove the barriers to success through working openly together.

BATS vision is to light-up lives through our work. We do this by identifying and realising the value BATS brings to its whānau, and developing new and dynamic ways to co-create. Through the meeting of digital and live art, bolstering BATS as a hub of creativity and showcasing diverse festival activity we support career sustainability and wellbeing for all.

Over the years BATS has been the spark that lit the careers of many household names. We’re the place to get up close to Aotearoa’s next generation of performers, writers, directors, designers and event technicians.

With a cosy boutique bar and art gallery on site, a night out at BATS is a unique and immersive Wellington experience.

Coming to shows at BATS makes you an important part of our vibrant, passionate, and dynamic community.

Nau mai, piki mai, haere mai!

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Alayne Dick & Aaron Pike in the Shrimp Cocktail Hour (2020)
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Rose Northey with her head in a cloud for 45 cents an Hour (2021)
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Daedae Lip Syncing in The Pit Bar 2.0 (2019)
Kristin Burns
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Ransom set Red dressing room
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How is BATS funded?

BATS is a not-for-profit and sustained with the support of our core funders Creative New Zealand and the Wellington City Council, and through the generosity of people like you.

In an increasingly challenging funding environment 
BATS relies more and more on donations from trusts and individuals.

The effects of COVID-19 and the restrictions on public gatherings has had a significant impact on BATS’ activities and abilities to generate revenue to operate.

As we continue to find ways to present live art to our audiences in this changing landscape, your support and engagement bolsters our enthusiasm and ability to deliver to our artists and community.

Find out how you can help here.

Who runs BATS?

A dedicated team of hard-working staff keeps BATS running. We have eight core staff and a brilliant bunch of casual box office staff, bar staff, house technicians and volunteers.

Our Chief Executive reports to BATS' Board of Directors who provide valuable governance of the business. We all work to keep our vibrant community of performance makers and art lovers at the heart of everything we do.

Find who's who here.

Who owns BATS?

BATS is operated by BATS Theatre Limited (formerly BATS Holdings Limited), a company wholly owned by the BATS Theatre Charitable Trust.

Our iconic theatre building is owned by The Wellington Film Properties Trust who purchased number 1 Kent Terrace in late 2011, generously securing the building for BATS’ use. They undertook strengthening work and an incredible renovation in 2013 and 2014.

BATS rents 1 Kent Terrace from The Wellington Film Properties Trust. BATS' landlords are not involved in the governance, operation or funding of BATS theatre, but we literally wouldn't be where we are today without their amazing support.

To hear more about BATS' incredible beginnings, listen to this great interview with Ken Duncum, recorded by Radio New Zealand in conjunction with the release of the anthology, BATS Plays, a collection of seminal plays produced at BATS in the eighties and nineties and co-written with Rebecca Rodden which you can buy here.

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BATS foyer in the 1980s
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BATS foyer 2001
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BATS foyer 2012
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2014 Foyer

Our Philosophy

BATS’ philosophy is at the heart of how we operate. It informs everything we do. Here are the most important things to know about how BATS operates:

BATS vision

Inspiring people, new ideas, innovation and exciting performance, nurturing the lifeblood of theatre practice in Aotearoa New Zealand.

BATS kaupapa

To provide a supportive, professional and accessible theatre venue that fosters the development of practitioners, audiences and New Zealand performance work.

BATS is not-for-profit; we’re a registered charity.

We’re not in it for the money and that’s how we like it!

BATS is an open house for artists and audiences.

Our open pitching policy and flexible hireage make it easy to stage shows here, and our low ticket prices mean that experiencing bold new performance is affordable for all.

BATS is a professionally run presenting venue.

We don’t create the work performed here, but we help make it happen! We support groups of independent artists with our time, energy and resources to get their work in front of an audience.

BATS average ticket price is just $15.

We believe that experiencing theatre should be affordable. A ticket to a BATS’ show is usually the same as going to the movies, or even cheaper.

The majority of money spent on tickets goes straight to the artists.

Coming to BATS makes you a champion of the arts as you’re directly supporting the artists you see on stage.

There are no up-front venue costs to putting on a show at BATS.

Hireage is only 15% of ticket sales, and we work to keep venue & ticket fees low.

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Our history

1923 - 1975

Back in the day

BATS Theatre is an intimate venue located in the former Manchester Unity Oddfellows building at 1 Kent Terrace in central Wellington.

The building itself has had a long and varied life, being built in 1923 for the Oddfellows Britannia Lodge. From 1944 to 1976 it was owned by The Savage Club, and used as a dance hall and venue for amateur theatre.

From the 1940s until 1975 Unity Theatre staged productions at 1 Kent Terrace. The Unity Theatre was a society with a tradition of left-wing political affiliations and a penchant for work by obscure European dramatists. Unity had a strong core membership which went on and contributed to the growth and success of both Downstage and Circa Theatres.

From 1976 1 Kent Terrace was owned by The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, a fraternal society that originated in London’s Theatre district in the early 1800s. Originally comprised of stagehands and technicians, membership to the group became more open over the years.

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1979 - 1988

BATS is an acronym for the Bane and Austin Touring Society, named after Rodney Bane and David Austin, BATS’ original founding members.

From 1979 to 1988 the theatre was administered by the BATS Incorporated Society. The Buffaloes used the upper floors of the building for their Lodge Room, games room and offices, while BATS occupied only the performance space at the rear of the ground floor.

BATS began as a prolific amateur theatre company, producing school tours and shows, achieving a string of main-bill successes. In the early 80′s however, commitment waned and BATS Theatre simply became a venue for hire, administered by BATS Incorporated.

During these years, BATS became the home for New Zealand Drama School productions and was used by a number of different co-operatives. In spite of its shabby cult status, neglect and a lack of funds meant that BATS was deteriorating rapidly.

To hear more about BATS' incredible beginnings, listen to this great interview with Ken Duncum, recorded by Radio New Zealand in conjunction with the release of the anthology, BATS Plays, a collection of seminal plays produced at BATS in the eighties and nineties and co-written with Rebecca Rodden which you can buy here

Black Monk
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