AYT founder, Jake Orr announces his departure from the company. Here, he talks about its journey from blog used to vocalise frustrations about the theatre industry to company that has been instrumental in supporting many young people and emerging companies. Here’s to the next decade and many more to come.
When I started A Younger Theatre in 2009, it was a place for me to vent some frustrations at an industry that felt like it lacked a younger voice. Fresh out of drama school and feeling like I knew the answer to everything, starting a blog seemed an easy first step. Little did I know that it would be the start of a journey that would take me through ten years of providing a resource that addressed a simple need: ensuring young people had their voices heard, loudly.
Looking back over the last ten years, I’m proud of what A Younger Theatre has and continues to stand for. The landscape of theatre journalism has changed drastically but we’ve been a constant, offering opportunities for young people to have their first steps into journalism and offering a unique perspective on the theatre ecology. Many of our writers have gone on to write for publications including The Guardian and The Stage. Those not choosing journalism now work at some of the largest arts organisations in our country as Dramaturgs, Marketers, Directors and Actors.
As of today, we’ve published over 9000 articles on the website, written by some 600 young people and include everything from opinion pieces, reviews and interviews with some of theatre’s leading figures. A Younger Theatre wouldn’t be what it is without those dedicated writers and an editorial team who edit and publish all the work. It is a labour of love, but one that has been instrumental in creating the space and time for young people to train, explore and have their work published.
Highlights during my time overseeing the company have included taking tens of young people to see their first ballet, opera and Shakespeare productions through partnerships with the Royal Opera House, English National Opera and The Globe. The annual Edinburgh Critics Scheme saw us house a group of emerging critics at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for free giving them access to the largest arts festival with professional mentoring. This has been an invaluable resource for hundreds of companies who have been reviewed by our teams across the years.
In 2014, with the support of New Diorama Theatre, A Younger Theatre expanded to include the annual Incoming Festival, providing opportunities for emerging theatre makers to showcase their work to new audiences. This year saw the festival take place simultaneously in London, Manchester and Bristol. Not bad for an idea sketched out on a napkin in 2013.
All of this couldn’t have been achieved without the support of tens of organisations who have taken out advertising with us, supported with workshops and mentoring, and given their unwavering support to the company. Tens years – a decade(!) and the company is still going. Who knew that the first (terribly written) review I wrote of Jude Law’s Hamlet would spark a website, a festival, an organisation and a unique space for young people.
A Younger Theatre is being left in the brilliant capable hands of its current Editor, Sam Sims, who has been with the company for years and has shown nothing short of passion and love for its cause. Incoming Festival continues with my wonderful partner in crime Eleanor Turney – who was instrumental in the running of A Younger Theatre from its inception and for some years afterwards. I owe many a proofed word to her.
Like many of the writers who have gone through A Younger Theatre, or indeed the companies that have passed through Incoming Festival, being part of the company has given me many a skillset and passion for the work I am currently doing. Organising young people’s nights through A Younger Theatre and partners was the kindling of my producing journey. Overseeing the finances and developing a love of spreadsheets definitely became an early indicator that perhaps producing was more suited to me than being on the stage. A Younger Theatre and Incoming Festival allowed me to grow as a producer, and now as I embark on a new phase of my career, as the Producer of Nottingham Playhouse, I’m proud that the company and the work we’ve undertaken supported my own passions in the arts and many, many others who engage with us. Whilst it’s sad to be stepping away from both A Younger Theatre and Incoming Festival, it is the right time to allow them both to flourish.
Thank you for the last ten years.