5d 13h 22m
23 January 2021
Cherwell Theatre Company is a creative home home for young theatre makers in Banbury. Our weekly classes engage 60+ people aged (5-24) and through creative projects, participants engage in hands-on training in acting; lighting and set; costumes; playwriting and a range of technical roles through to directing. I’m happy to say we have recently acquired a high profile patron; Sir Trevor Nunn, former Director of the RSC and National Theatre.
Since 2004 we have presented: fifteen family theatre productions; three festivals showcasing local young writers, directors and performers; two 'Theatre in Education' productions playing to over 100,000 school children in our district; and a number of street theatre and site-specific works such as ‘A Shakespeare Summer Soiree’ at Broughton Castle and ‘Myth’ which will tour parks and housing estates across the Cherwell District in summer 2019.
Every young person who wants to get involved in our activities is encouraged to do so and we are a diverse and inclusive group. Our youth steering board lead our activity, and we’re excited to facilitate their ideas. Approximately 30% of our members have a degree of Autism. They tell us they feel ‘at home’ and a valued member of the team able to express their creativity. Others come to us because they struggle elsewhere, lack self-esteem or are unable to keep pace in a traditional educational setting. Several are home educated and rely on our classes to forge friendships. One participant recently said to me ‘I always look forward to Monday nights, as that’s when I get to be myself’.
We award bursary places to any young person to whom there might be a financial barrier to taking part, covering these losses from our own reserves. Our board believe this is wholly necessary to keep our services accessible, though as a result, our classes often lose money. Our work is needed now more than ever and we rely on the support of charitable donations to stay afloat!
We strongly believe that engagement with the creative arts enriches our communities and brings people together. For our participants though, the effects can be life changing. Working with professional facilitators is vital to those who are interested in arts based jobs, and many our members have gone on train at prestigious drama schools (regardless of background) including RADA, Central School of Speech and Drama, The New York Conservatoire and Italia Conti. Others have enjoyed success in a variety of careers; one is currently studying a PHD in Educational Psychology, another runs an award winning ‘glamping’ yoga retreat. All attribute their confidence to CTC.
Those who now work in theatre return to mentor and inspire our youngsters on a regular basis. Our Chair of Trustees, David Adkin, is now a West End Producer but gives time every week, to ensure the sustainability of the company. David came to CTC as a teenager and says it changed his life; he knows first-hand the importance of building self-esteem and being valued.
CTC is was undergoing an exciting and ambitious period of growth, setting up new after school clubs in local primaries and running specialist theatre workshops in our secondary schools. Our five year business plan seeks to create stronger pathways through the organisation. Young people will first encounter our work in Key Stage 1, progressing through the company to join our Youth Theatre and Young Company, working with professionals to develop their practice, with some training as facilitators to later contirbute to the organisation as professionals, should they wish to. Our aim is to enrich the lives of any partcipant who works with us, empowering and encouraging them to be the person they want to be.
Sadly, many of our plans have been put on hold and we are deeply concerned, with the COVID-19 pandemic, that the vulnerable young people who rely on our workshops to stay creatively engaged, make positive friendships and feel less isolated will have no way to connect with each other and to take part in positive group activities. The same applies to children of key workers, other vulnerable groups and those in phased return to schools in Banbury. We’re determined to support these young people with interactive online workshops and projects and have responded quickly, creatively and with great flexibility to give young people agency during this crisis.
Through participating in our online projects, young people will:
• Stay engaged with extra curricular activities, keep a sense of purpose in these difficult, isolated times.
• Have an increased sense of connection with others during isolation periods.
• Learn new skills; vocal technique, movement, creative devising and improvisation skills, script writing etc.
• Have an increased sense of value and well-being from taking part in group activities where they can safely interact with each other in secure online platforms.
At present it is difficult to know how long social distancing measures will remain in effect in the UK, and whether restrictions may vary from month to month. With this in mind, we believe CTC must not simply create temporary solution, but a dynamic new model of working which excites and gives purpose to our young people, breaking new ground with the artists they know and trust to find ways to meaningfully engage with others from a distance and create art from this sorry situation.
Like many in the charity sector, we have lost significant income due to COVID-19 but have decided not to furlough our two core staff so they can continue to provide vital services to our young people and secure emergency funding, enabling us to return with community based projects for Banbury in the future. We hope we can rely on your support, which is needed now more than ever.
Mr Tristan Jackson-Pate
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