Hello again from Josh! The m¡longa cast and crew are currently on our (very bendy) journey back down to Newcastle so another perfect opportunity to catch up on the last few days of tour. In fact we’ve just crossed the border over to England, so not far to go!
I was lucky enough to visit the wonderful Edinburgh Festival Theatre on my previous tour with Danza Contemporánea de Cuba where I met a wide range of people within the theatre. This time round was no different, meeting Brian Loudon, Operations Manager, and Cerin Richardson, Head of Creativity and Diversity at The Festival and Kings Theatres. Previously living in Shropshire (like myself) Cerin was a really inspiring person to meet, her passion for inclusion within the arts as well as her goal to “enrich peoples’ lives” through her role was a really refreshing idea to hear. Her dedication to the programme has seen engagement and participation through outreach programmes increase from 5,000 people, to 28,000 people, per year.
Cerin spoke to me about the numerous projects that the theatre ran including START (an initiative to work with three “culturally deprived” schools, for three years, to increase their interactivity with the arts. This allowed children at the schools to come and see certain performances for free, with free workshops accompanying the shows ranging from dance to poetry to puppetry; and even clowning! Cerin discussed how this in turn had the added benefit of kick-starting ideas for teachers to use the arts in other ways within their teaching. Other education and participation initiatives include; removing access barriers (by providing platforms for disabled artists and programming dementia friendly performances), supporting emerging talent through The Attic Collective (a young persons repertory company who perform three shows a year), increasing community engagement (through question and answers sessions such as those provided by Dance Consortium, as well as creating a ‘vintage choir’).
As an aspiring producer, I asked Cerin about what commercial producers should be doing more of to increase creative learning and to widen participation within theatre. Her top tips for producers were:
- Prepare to take a risk with relaxed performances
- Have an open mind to creative learning ideas
- To realise a show shouldn’t ever just be a show
- To create resources packs and production pictures
- To be prepared to share scripts for education purposes