The annual Theatres Trust conference has proven a fertile ground for exploring ideas about the nature of performance, its appropriate stage and audience. This year was no exception with its focus on ‘community’ theatre. In our recent Monday presentation our colleague Nicola gave a resume of the conference to the wider office.
Peter Stark opened proceedings arguing that community theatre is not about buildings but about people. His overview of the origins of community theatre rooted it in the settlement movement of the 20s and 30s and their reformist aim of rich and poor living together, sharing a common outlet. The post war New Town movement built on this with the establishment of sports and cultural facilities as a priority for initial development, to build a strong sense of place. Contemporary experience suggests that these initiatives might be best supported by new hybrid organisations - part public, part private.
A host of organisations shared their lessons of engagement, funding and participation – too many to mention here. Connections to education, the passion of volunteers, the importance of creating social places not dominated by alcohol, the embedment of social and architectural history into the bricks and mortar of theatres – all this and more was discussed.
Provocatively, for architects, there was little talk about buildings, but interestingly this audience ‘community of a couple of hours’, can become a substantial foundation for reinforcing the sense of place and an opportunity to engage with the UK intergenerational disconnection - reconnecting the young and the old by grassroots involvement in the arts.