North Somerset arts development charity, Theatre Orchard, has been awarded a grant of £34,140 by People’s Health Trust using money raised through the Health Lottery South West.

The funding will enable a two-year project ‘Theatre Forum’ to be set up, offering a new weekly, open access drama provision in Weston, that provides a forum for in-depth exploration of social issues. This will result in a community showcase performance in 2022, created and shaped by the participants.

The first phase of the initiative will offer people the chance to take part in digital artistic experiences, inviting discussion through dance, drama, film, mixed media and art.

The overarching theme of the project is ‘Home’ and what that can mean to different people facing a diverse range of social and emotional issues in their everyday lives. It is a creatively led opportunity for people to be heard and experiences to be shared. It also provides an opportunity for confidence building and the development of nurturing community connections.

Theatre Forum will reach out to local groups and organisations and form key partnerships to ensure an inclusive representation of voices in the community are heard. Sessions will build towards community performances and group discussions, plus film content will be captured for a wider digital audience.

Led by Theatre Orchard’s Engagement Manager, Angela Athay-Hunt, Theatre Forum develops an existing provision, ‘Open Door’, the organisation’s free, drama group for adults.

Members of the group, many of whom live in the South Ward area of Weston, expressed a desire to create theatre that was fully inclusive, linked with all community sectors and provided an opportunity to explore issues more deeply. This would offer some release from on-going social issues that affect their lives, made more prevalent by the impact of Covid-19.

Angela Athay-Hunt, Engagement Manager at Theatre Orchard, said: “Theatre Forum has been borne from a performance about loneliness devised by ‘Open Door’ in 2019, where some members identified feelings of isolation and other social issues through the creative process. A desire emerged to develop a new group where such issues could be explored more fully within a safe and supported environment, gaining more control over negative experiences through drama and opening conversations with the wider community to increase understanding. Thanks to money raised through the Health Lottery we are now able to bring this important initiative to fruition.”

Later in the year, interested participants will be invited to join the Theatre Forum group and explore a variety of skills from writing, acting, directing and designing to front of house, production and set building, with on-going training and personal development opportunities.

This will culminate in a range of collaborative, creative experiences in 2021 and 2022.

If you are interested in being part of Theatre Forum, please contact engagement@theatreorchard.org.uk.  For updates visit theatreorchard.org.uk and follow on social media.

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