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Reaching out to audiences

  • Date: 3 June 2014
  • Artform: All
  • Area: North
Common Wealth Theatre's production of No Guts, No Heart, No Glory Common Wealth Theatre's production of No Guts, No Heart, No Glory, Christopher Nunn

Our mission at the Arts Council is Great art and culture for everyone. We have five strategic goals to help us achieve this. Goal 2 aims to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience and to be inspired by the arts, museums and libraries, irrespective of where they live or their social, educational or financial circumstances. Here we show how some of the schemes that help us achieve this are being rolled out in the North.


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Involving young Muslim women in Bradford and Manchester

The Arts Council is supporting Common Wealth Theatre in its development of a site-specific performance event based on interviews with Muslim female boxers - in particular Ambreen Sadiq, a former national champion. No Guts, No Heart, No Glory explores being young, fearless and doing the unexpected and challenges the assumptions and expectations held of young Muslim women in both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. It is performed by four 16-18 year old Muslim performers, recruited following a series of workshops in Bradford schools. They helped develop the script alongside Pakistani new writer Aisha Zia. None of the actors has been involved in either performance or boxing before and Ambreen Sadiq has been coaching them in boxing skills.

Common Wealth always seeks to stage its work right in the community, being - as Director Evie Manning puts it - 'really really committed to non-theatre audiences'. No Guts, No Heart, No Glory is supported by a wide range of participatory audience development activities and the play itself premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August and runs at Huggy's Gym in Bradford from 9-20 September.

Working with the Ukrainian community in Bradford

Freedom Studios, the Bradford based theatre company, seeks to ignite passion for live theatre, bringing in people who don't usually watch or work in it. The company's close relationship with the Ukrainian community in Bradford began four years ago, during research for their site-specific project The Mill - City of Dreams, based on the stories of local and migrant wool workers. Interviews with people from the Ukrainian community contributed to the creation of a Ukrainian character featuring in the final production. The Ukrainian's community's reaction to the portrayal was positive. As Deborah Dickinson, Freedom Studios' Creative Producer, puts it: 'They felt we had got it right. It was true to their experience.'

Freedom Studios kept up the connection and when researching their 2014 production Home Sweet Home - about the experiences of growing old in contemporary Britain - went back to the community for help. Deborah Dickinson explains what emerged:

'The older women enjoy singing traditional folk songs at their Wednesday meetings and we commissioned Josh Goodman, a composer and choir leader to work with us and them in shaping something for performance. We spent time with them listening to their songs and understanding their meaning and importance in the lives and culture of the women. The songs had been part of their lives from birth, during the trauma of Stalin and upheaval in their homeland, in the German prison camps, and in Britain where they were relocated as 'aliens'. The songs had given them courage and continuity as the world around them changed. We decided to focus on bringing out the emotional meaning of the songs for audiences who did not understand Ukrainian.'

'In the final production four older women come on during the last scene in their beautiful traditional blouses and sing unaccompanied. Despite being in their late eighties, they were determined to perform. It is incredibly moving.'

Focusing on those places of greatest need

Through the Creative people and places programme we are focusing on parts of the country where peoples' involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average. The programme takes a new approach by allowing communities and grass roots organisations to play a leading role in inspiring others to get involved with the arts. There are nine diverse and innovative Creative people and places projects throughout the North area:

Time to engage with art in Northumberland
bait - the Creative people and places project in South East Northumberland - is working with partners to support people to create and take part in quality arts activities and experiences across the area. The consortium has been awarded £2,461,400 and some of their current and future projects include a partnership with the Royal Voluntary Service to set up a new friendship group for older people in Seaton Sluice; a scheme with New Writing North to launch a new writers group to support young people to develop their writing skills and Market Stall, a co-commission with C-12 Dance Theatre, first seen in South East Northumberland and now on a UK tour.

Leftcoast programme raises engagement in Blackpool and Wyre
LeftCoast, Blackpool and Wyre's Creative people and places consortium, which we are supporting with a £3 million grant, has launched its programme to bring 'great art to everyone' on the Fylde Coast. The project is just seven months old but past and future initiatives already include two acts programmed as part of Showzam, Blackpool's Festival of Circus & Variety held in February 2014: Acrojou's Wheel House, a rolling theatre directed by Flick Ferdinando and commissioned by Without Walls; and Les Enfants Terribles Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie. Another is a flagship international collaboration with the Grand Theatre to bring Danish Physical Theatre Company Neander to the theatre in summer 2014 for their only UK performance with the aim of introducing new local audiences - particularly  teenage boys and men - to the theatre.

Going Right Up Our Street in Doncaster
Iconic and experimental art will be going Right up our street thanks to a Creative people and places grant of £2,570,924 towards developing arts bases in five communities across Doncaster. 

Turning a canal into a creative corridor
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is set to be the centrepiece of a creative corridor for the arts following a £2 million grant from Arts Council England's Creative people and places programme to a consortium led by the Canal and River Trust. The money will be used to connect the communities that live on and alongside the canal, and beyond, in Pennine Lancashire through high profile, world-class arts and events.

Celebrating St Helen's cultural heartbeat
Two iconic emblems of St Helens' heritage - glass and rugby league - are at the core of an ambitious arts project after a consortium led by Saints Community Development Foundation secured a £1.5 million grant from the Arts Council. Public art, dance, music, theatrical displays, creative writing, digital and visual arts will all be on the agenda to celebrate themes that have been described as the town's 'cultural heartbeat'. The scheme will build on the success of Dream, the 2008 Big Art commission by Jaume Plensa.

Exploring Hull's rich cultural and social histories
Roots and Wings is a programme to be delivered by a consortium in Hull led by Artlink following receipt of a £3 million grant. The project, which has three exciting commissioning strands - Producing City, Discovery Programme and Made in Hull: Celebrations - will draw inspiration from Hull's rich cultural and social histories, and be driven by existing and emerging creative talent in the city.

Making a Scene in Kirklees
Hundreds of arts and cultural events will be delivered in North Kirklees over a three year period thanks to a Creative people and places grant of £2 million made to a consortium led by The Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield. The Making a Scene programme will support the development of long term relationships between local communities, artists and arts organisations. It aims to create a permanent change in the way the arts contribute to the quality of life for people in North Kirklees.

Shaping cultural experience in Durham
£1.5 million from Creative people and places programme will provide a huge opportunity for the people of East Durham to shape their cultural experience over the next three years. Generating inspiring, engaging and quality arts activity - festivals, exhibitions and events - for people living and working in East Durham, the scheme will make the most of the area's unique towns, intriguing villages, dramatic landscapes and sweeping coastline.

A cultural Spring Awakening in Sunderland and South Tyneside
A consortium led by the University of Sunderland has been awarded £2 million for a scheme entitled The Cultural Spring which sees communities in Sunderland and South Tyneside working with local, national and international artists and producers on a series of transformational arts events. The Great North Passion - the BBC's flagship Easter broadcast 2014 - was the scheme's launch event: devised in partnership with the BBC, and made possible with an extra £100,000 awarded to the BBC from the Arts Council's Exceptional Award scheme. Current Cultural Spring projects include Summer Streets and a series of art taster sessions for summer 2014. 

Follow the Herring: bringing inspiration to the East coast

In 2011 the Arts Council launched a £45 million Strategic touring programme which  is designed to encourage collaboration between organisations, so that more people across England experience and are inspired by the arts, particularly in places which rely on touring for much of their arts provision.

It is this source of funding that has helped launch such imaginative projects as Follow the Herring. Thanks to a grant of £218,832 from the programme a life size knitted boat is touring  to 13 towns the length and breadth of the east coast of Scotland and England celebrating our coastal heritage through a combination of theatre, singing, arts and crafts.

Follow the Herring is a co-production by The Customs House and the Guild of Lillians theatre company.

Providing cultural experiences for youngsters in rural areas

Youngsters in rural areas are benefiting from the presence of another organisation supported in the North by the Strategic touring programme. Under the Create Tour programme run by the Rural Arts rural touring scheme three professional performance companies work with young people to create a short curtain-raiser performance that then tours with the professional company as part of the ON Tour scheme. For example, Phoenix Dance Theatre Company became involved in this rural touring scheme for the first time in 2013. In 2014, Phoenix spent four days working with local young people at Brooklyn Youth Centre, Norton to create a short piece to be performed as a curtain raiser for their REfined tour.

2014 has also seen the launch of Rural Arts ON Tour's Young Promoters Scheme in association with Contact Theatre Manchester, and the National Rural Touring Forum. Under this scheme groups of young people have taken on the task of promoting Sarah Willan's solo show The Novel Detective to their own community via social media.

Putting 'real people' centre stage

All the world will be on stage - from toddlers to those in their seventies - in the latest production by National portfolio organisation Quarantine, a company that uses the lives and experiences of real people as the starting point for all their shows.

Summer, Quarantine's new large-scale production, premiering at The Warehouse, Regent Trading Estate, Salford in June 2014, is about 'being alive, right now'. It involves 45 locally recruited performers aged between 18 months and 78 years, from all walks of life including an electrician, a joiner, a journalist and school children. None of them has ever been involved in a performance of this kind before. A company policy of sharing a meal before each rehearsal gives all the participants a strong feeling of a collective ownership of the play, which itself opens with the cast doing the same thing as their audience: eating and drinking.

Summer is the first part of an exciting quartet of performances that look at the human life cycle, to be created by the same artistic team at Quarantine over the next three years Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring will be made in four separate parts and then played as a marathon event from 2016.