Funding boost for Yorkshire theatre companies bringing ground-breaking shows to new audiences

An image from Mind the Gap's previous production of Stig of the Dump.
An image from Mind the Gap's previous production of Stig of the Dump.
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THREE theatre projects will bring ground-breaking shows to new audiences across Yorkshire after they won a slice of £382,772 in Arts Council funding.

The money is aimed at offering arts opportunities to those who may be geographically isolated, or experience a lack of local artists and arts organisations.

Leeds-based Red Ladder theatre company, which lost its core Arts Council funding in 2014, was awarded £186,463 to tour eight different productions at 15 on-traditional venues such as pubs, social clubs, rugby league and sports and social clubs to maintain and develop new audiences across the region.

Producer Chris Lloyd said: “With the decline of clubs and pubs at such a rate, the hope is to breath a bit of a different life into them by bringing in new audiences, but also giving existing members the chance to experience a live show. Watching a show in such an intimate environment, where you can see the whites of the eyes of the performers, is very different to going to the theatre. It broadens the mind.”

Red Ladder is hoping to build on existing links with rugby league clubs such as Leeds Rhinos, Batley Bulldogs and Hull KR and FC, that initially came about through a tour of its play based on commentator Eddie Waring, Playing The Joker.

Five of the eight plays have already been produced, but three will be new to the company. Each will be shown at each host venue, with one production every four to nine months over the next two and half years.

Thirsk-based Rural Arts North Yorkshire will use £104,948 to bring high quality, ethnically diverse productions to Richmond, Ryedale, Redcar and Cleveland.

Young people will be given the chance to work with professional companies to create and tour a performance.

On tour assistant Joe Hennessey said the company was “absolutely chuffed” to receive the funding, which had been “fiercely fought for”.

Bradford’s Mind the Gap received almost £50,000 to tour its production, Contained, at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, Halifax’s Square Chapel, The Lowry in Salford and Newcastle’s Northern Stage.

The show, which brings to life the real stories of nine learning-disabled artists, incorporates live performance, original music and films.

It will run alongside workshops for people with learning disabilities to “help give them a voice”, executive director Julia Skelton said.

“It will also illuminate to the world a vibrant, diverse and engaged community of people who generally have very little access to telling their stories on stage,” she added.

Director of touring at Arts Council England, Michelle Dickson, said: “It’s vital that no one is deprived of excellent art and culture just because of where they live. Social spaces are incredibly important for any community: these are places where stories are shared, made and enjoyed.

“We’re really glad to see organisations thinking creatively around this, and I’m sure it will lead to a legacy of fantastic art and new audiences everywhere.”