The Theatres Trust


28 April 2014



City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds



Conference Chair: Henry Bonsu


Opening Address

Peter Stark OBE, Chair, Voluntary Arts Network


What is a Community Theatre?

Session Chair: Henry Bonsu

The conference opens with the question – what is a community theatre? Does the community need to be in control? To what extent does a community theatre need to provide general facilities along with the theatre? What level of community engagement makes a community theatre? What responsibility do community theatres have to reach out to all sections of ethnically diverse communities, and what special contribution do they make to community benefit and well-being?

Kully Thiarai from Cast in Doncaster outlines their vision as a ‘People’s Living Room’, Kirstie Davis from Forest Forge talks about their experience of touring into village and town halls, Louise Lappin-Cook provides an insight into the building of the Tacchi-Morris Theatre and its association with Heathfield Community School, and Gary Trinder reveals how the community restored and reopened the Stockport Plaza.

Kully Thiarai, Executive Director, Cast, Doncaster
Kirstie Davis, CEO/Artistic Director, Forest Forge Theatre Company
Louise Lappin-Cook, Director, Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre, Taunton
Gary Trinder, Vice-Chairman and Technical Director, Stockport Plaza Trust




Funding community theatres

Session Chair: Gwilym Gibbons, Director, Shetland Arts Development Agency

This session looks at a range of new and existing models for the capital and revenue funding of community theatres. Sir Peter Bazalgette introduces the role of Arts Council England and the Arts Lottery, John Lewis from Letchworth Garden City describes how they provide their community facilities through income from commercial assets and plans for a new capital project to create a new theatre through remodelling part of their existing cinema. Ben Greener from the Heritage Lottery Fund outlines its new Heritage Enterprise programme, and Bill Graham explains how Clifton Community Arts Centre Ltd has issued a Community Share offer to raise funds to purchase the Clifton in Wellington, near Telford.

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair, Arts Council England
John Lewis, Chief Executive, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation
Ben Greener, Programme Manager – Heritage Enterprise, Heritage Lottery Fund
Bill Graham, Chair, Clifton Community Arts Centre, Wellington, nr Telford




Community Rights

Session Chair: Ruth Eastwood, CEO, Blackpool Grand Theatre

The Localism Act passed in 2011 created a number of opportunities for communities to plan and develop the future of their local areas. These included the listing of Assets of Community Value under Right to Bid, neighbourhood planning and creating more incentives for Community Asset Transfers. How far do these initiatives help to sustain and develop community theatres? Sophie Michelena from Locality will introduce the range of opportunities on offer, John Caldwell describes how the Civic Group took on the Civic in Stourport-on-Severn through a Community Asset Transfer, Eileen Collier and Alan Williams from Brampton Arts Centre take us through their campaign to secure the future of Brampton Little Theatre at RAF Brampton, and Kevin Spence, Chair of the Little Theatre Guild outlines how members of the Guild are harnessing the Community Rights agenda.

Sophie Michelena, Development Manager, Locality
John Caldwell, Chair, The Civic Group, Stourport-on-Severn
Eileen Collier, Chair, Brampton Arts Centre
Alan Williams, Director, Brampton Arts Centre
Kevin Spence, Chair, Little Theatre Guild


Keynote Speech

Stephen Williams MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government




Community theatres – the future…

Session Chair: David Jubb, Artistic Director, Battersea Arts Centre, London

What capital initiatives are community theatres currently planning? The last four speakers introduce a range of projects which are each aiming to improve the extent to which their theatre builds its role as a community theatre. Sheena Wrigley from West Yorkshire Playhouse introduces their capital plans, Philip Thompson describes Saltburn Arts’ success in winning the BIG Lottery People’s Millions, and Deborah Bestwick introduces the Ovalhouse’s capital project which will mean it moves from its existing community in the Oval to a new building in Brixton.

Sheena Wrigley, Chief Executive, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Philip Thomson, Treasurer, Saltburn Community & Arts Association
Deborah Bestwick MBE, Director, Ovalhouse


Closing thoughts

Chair: Henry Bonsu

Round up of outcomes and conclusions from the day.




Conference Reception



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Conference Sponsors

The Theatres Trust

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