The End of the Old Theatre

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Epiphany by THEATRE IS and Throwdown UK

As a young person with a voice within the arts, I often feel I am preaching a message that has been heard and ignored.

As a young person I have a voice, an opinion, an experience and desire to engage with the arts that I want to share, but I am not alone in this. A Younger Theatre was set up with this very ethos at it’s heart.

Young people aren’t quiet, they don’t just sit and watch theatre for the educational experience, they do it because – and this might shock some people – they love the experience. They thrive off the creativity and as cliche as it sounds to write, the magic that theatre has to offer. We hear countless times that young people need to engage with the arts more but it’s not always because they lack the conscious decision making to be able to attend the theatre, it is because they go, they engage and their voices aren’t always heard about it. A Younger Theatre is the platform for young people, and one we are proud to stand up and shout at those older people who have fluff in their ears when it comes to theatre for young people.

It is with great praise I can write of Stuart Mullins, Creative Director of theatre company THEATRE IS… with his current article in this weeks The Stage defending the need for young people to be at the heart of theatre work.

“What we need is a national entity which would provide the strategic leadership and focus necessary to make theatre for young audiences in England consistently world class.”

With the recent axe wielding of ACE in the funding cuts seeing the end of schemes such as Creative Partnerships and A Night Less Ordinary, young people are ruthlessly being cut from the arts. Mullins bravely stands up for the belief and promotes a rallying cry for young people to be placed at the heart of creativity, one which A Younger Theatre whole heartedly supports.

In a time where we can celebrate organisations/shows such as The Unicorn, Fevered Sleep, the National Theatre’s War Horse in pioneering a new generation of young audiences as Mullins suggests as the “crown of British theatre” – what more can be done to truly make young people heard and counted for? When will young people matter?

These companies are beginning to explore their connections with young people. On Ageing by Fevered Sleep at the Young Vic, and Contact Theatre’s mission of incorporating young theatre in the bulk of their work begins to place young people within the creative spotlight  – but how does this convey for the future ask Mullins.

I welcome the cry for the introduction of a “national hub for theatre for young audiences” – a place where as Mullins suggests a possible “international festival which brings together young people and the leading artists from around the world” to enhance equally shared creativity.

I welcome strategies, consortiums, discussions, voices to be raised for young people in the arts.

I welcome change, and the commitment of fusing young people in the heart of creativity.

Artists, organisations and theatre going people need to stop with their beliefs that young people should be seen and not heard, it’s dated and echos an era gone past. Theatre is not purely an educational tool for young people. If you want to excite, engage and thrive off the creativity that young people can bring, don’t just seek funding from arts bodies to tick off a box for audience outreach – actually begin to talk, engage, and believe in us.

The introduction of young people boards at the Lyric Hammersmith, Broadway Theatre Barking and the Take Over Festival at York Theatre Royal goes to show the creative and administrative input that young people can have towards theatre and art. Only time will see if this is a continued investment.

We still have a long way to go before we can reach our European counterparts such as Ontroerend Goed and Victoria whose recent work have fused young people as not only the stars but whole creative sources for new ground breaking work.

I welcome Mullins rallying cry for a national hub where we can, as young people, be invited to be young and creative. But when will young people be fully recognised as artists themselves, whose creative talent and imaginations can drive and fuel a new way of theatre making that destroys that of the old middle class theatre? And as Mullins final comments remark, could lead to a theatre “for the many and not the few”.

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