Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Children's theatre's struggle to survive...

The news that the NYT is in real financial difficulty was swiftly followed by the announcement of the closure of Hampstead Theatre’s education department – all entirely predictable yet sad outcomes of the huge cuts in funding to young people-orientated Arts. This is further exacerbated by cuts to important organisations like Trestle who have supported educational programmes strongly as part of their funding commitments.

Money talks. For organisations like Trestle there was a strong element of compunction about their community programmes – not that this was resisted at all. It just meant that Joe Taxpayer got some kind of value for the (admittedly tiny) proportion of government revenues dedicated to the Arts. But that’s gone and the life in the beautiful Trestle building is fighting to survive – it’s very sad to see.

But there is still some really good stuff going on there, particularly the youth theatre work of Tip of the Iceberg (TOTI). They receive no funding but as well as running Trestle’s (Taking Part) Youth Theatre programme they take important and impressive work into schools and community centres, delivering accessible messages around bullying, relationships, drug use, the internet, self esteem, emotional wellbeing and literacy,. In many ways it’s ‘Theatre-in-Education’ old school and rightly so! Their founder and leader (Creative Director) Lisa Schulberg has been working with us at Best recently on our holiday programmes and she brings an amazing level of creativity and imagination to her work. But most of all she brings an absolute passion (a much overused word but applicable in this case) for children’s and young people's drama to everything she does.

It is that kind of passion that will see the ‘children’s theatre’ sector through these difficult times. As funding dries up further there will need to be new ways to support those young people who are serious about drama and these will come from people like Lisa and, we are absolutely sure, from Best Theatre Arts.