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New opportunities for young people in the Black Country to become theatre producers

  • Date: 10 June 2014
  • Area: Midlands

Walsall-based theatre company Little Earthquake has joined with Black Country Touring, Arts Connect and the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton, to run an ambitious, year-long Young Producers project supported by investment from the National Lottery through Arts Council England’s Grants for the arts programme.

Over the 2014-2015 academic year around 150 pupils from Black Country primary schools will become Young Producers, working with Little Earthquake and Black Country Touring to commission and create a brand-new piece of theatre for family audiences. The finished production will embark on its first tour in Summer 2015, with public performances in each of the partner schools and in a range of venues across the Midlands.

Each of the four Young Producer groups (in Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley) will be heavily involved in making collective choices about every aspect of the new production.

Between them, the Young Producers will select which show is developed from three as-yet-unmade ideas. After this, they will help to recruit the performers and creative team; work with these professional artists and contribute to the story, script, music and design; develop their own promotional campaigns with marketing professionals and sell and host the performance when it visits them during the tour.

Little Earthquake’s co-Director Philip Holyman describes the project as “a massively exciting chance for us, as Walsall-based theatre makers ourselves, to nurture the creative potential of young people in the Black Country. By the end of the project, a new show will exist which can engage and entertain audiences of all ages, not only in the Midlands, but also further afield in the UK and overseas — all thanks to the ideas and imaginations of these Young Producers. We hope this experience will open their eyes to their own limitless possibilities and will plant the seeds for a whole new generation of future Black Country artists.”

In 1999, Black Country Touring were one of the first organisations in the country to develop and sustain a strand of work which allowed young people to become actively involved in choosing, promoting and hosting professional theatre and dance for their local communities.

On the existing Young Promoters scheme, they get invaluable first-hand knowledge of how the professional arts work, as well the confidence and self-esteem that is built by being part of a successful event that they have organised for their community. The Young Producers project will extend the reach and impact of this work even further.

Steve Johnstone, co-Artistic Director of Black Country Touring, said: “This new partnership with Little Earthquake means the young people involved will get even more direct hands-on experience of how the professional arts work — this time as producers of a small-scale touring show. A show that they will eventually promote in their own school hall — for their audience, but which will also have a further life as it tours to other venues, in the Black Country and beyond. They will have the opportunity to observe and be part of the creation of this new fully professional touring show, and it is a unique opportunity for them. We hope that in fifteen years’ time, we will be talking about our Young Producers in the same way we talk now about our Young Promoters.”

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England, said: “Through our Grants for the Arts programme, we invest in a variety of cultural projects which give people access to great artistic experiences. This project will see Little Earthquake, Black Country Touring and the Arena Theatre create more opportunities for children to get involved in the arts in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. I think it will be a great experience for those children who take part to see their opinions and ideas influence the creation of a professional piece of theatre which they can then enjoy with their families.”

Find out more

The Young Producers project will be officially launched on Monday 1st September 2014 and its dedicated website — www.young-producers.com — goes live on the same day. The site will act as a hub for sharing news, images, videos and blog posts about the activity at every stage, with contributions from the Young Producers, from the artistic collaborators, from audience members, and from anyone else who has anything to say!

The chosen show will be announced on Monday 3rd November 2014 and full Summer 2015 tour dates (including booking information) will be announced at the beginning of next year