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A Thank You to the Big Imaginations Festival Corporate Sponsors

Our amazing sponsors are helping us reach out to families and break down barriers with our Cultural Ambassadors, Art Cart, and Project Speak Your Mind programmes

Z-arts, 335 Stretford Road, Manchester, M15 5ZA

With the summer drawing to an end, we are beginning to count the days until the opening of our Big Imaginations Festival on October 19. It’s going to be a fantastic celebration of children’s theatre, and we can’t wait for the joy it will bring to children and families across the region. Though the stage curtains won’t open until late October, for many young people the festival has already begun. Thanks to our amazing corporate sponsors, we have been able to launch programmes that are helping us achieve two of our most important goals: introducing the magic of theatre to new audiences, and breaking down the barriers that prevent children and families from accessing theatre. These programmes are an important part of why we call the Big Imaginations Festival a welcoming festival. We recognise the beautiful diversity of the North West and Yorkshire, and we aim to create a festival that every child and family can enjoy.

One of the projects that we’re proudest about is our Cultural Ambassadors programme, financed through the generosity of Renaker, Bennetts Associates, Keir and the John Thaw Foundation. Our festival is a celebration of stories, performers and voices from across the world, and we want to do all we can to create audiences that are equally diverse. Our cultural ambassadors are professional artists and facilitators who, through workshops in venues and community centres, will help welcome and engage new communities into the festival. The emphasis is very much on reaching out to communities who currently, due to under-representation among other issues, do not feel that children’s theatre is ‘for their families’ or speaks to their experiences.

To help change these opinions, we’ve enlisted the help of amazing artists such as British-Asian musician Arun Ghosh. Arun Ghosh not only has his own show in the festival, his Big Imaginations Jazz Club, featuring music inspired from around the world, he is also written the music for Child of the Divide and Tales of Birbal, a show based on treasured Indian folktales. Arun will engage communities through workshops that will introduce children and families both to his work and to the festival in general, which also features the North West’s first performances of Child of the Divide, a play set in Pakistan just after the Partition of India. Through the Cultural Ambassadors programme, we hope to break down barriers to theatre and the arts, and to make communities aware that their voices, experiences and performers are at the heart of our festival – for us all to share.

For some families, the barriers to theatre are financial as well as cultural. The thought of spending money on theatre tickets can feel risky when a family is not sure what to expect. To help overcome this barrier, after engaging in our Cultural Ambassadors programme, participating families will be offered lower cost tickets to come watch a show at their local venue. The low cost ticket isn’t about making money, it’s based on research that shows that even the tiniest investment leads to greater participation and engagement in an event in comparison with free tickets. We have every hope that our Cultural Ambassadors programme will be a tremendous success, and it truly could not have happened in its fullest sense without the generosity of our corporate sponsors.

Another exciting festival project that launched in August is Project Speak Your Mind, sponsored by One Manchester housing association. The programme is intended primarily for children of the housing association, but it is open other eager children as well. The idea is to engage young people in theatre from a different angle: we want to provoke thought and create a new generation of critical thinkers. The participating young people will be invited to see a festival show, and afterwards they’ll review the performance as creatively as possible. That might be through words on a page, but it could also be through paint, dance, rap, film or song. Reviewing a theatre piece is a daunting task for anyone, but by the time the young reviewers take their seats in the theatre, they will have been through a course that has prepared them to engage creatively and confidently with whatever they’ll see. They’ve already had an inspiring workshop with arts journalist and theatre critic Catherine Love from The Guardian. They’ll also have a workshop focused on creativity with the fantastic writer, poet and performer Keisha Thompson from Contact Theatre. At the end of the programme, their responses and creations will be celebrated in an awards ceremony, one which will be as inclusive as possible of everyone’s efforts.

Finally, here is a bit about our Art Cart programme, sponsored by The Granada Foundation. As you look through the Big Imaginations Festival programme, you’ll notice that many of our performances will feature an art cart alongside performances. The Art Cart programme provides arts-based workshops and activities in a venue before and/or after a performance. Like the above programmes, it’s mostly about preparing young minds to engage in a theatre piece creatively and passionately. However, it’s also about introducing families to venues, and sharing with them the fact that our venues have much more to offer than simply a view of a stage. The Art Cart sessions, led by professional artists and facilitators, introduce children to the themes and stories of theatre shows in fun and exciting ways. This not only helps engage children who might have difficulty following dialogue or storylines, it also makes visiting the theatre a more enriching experience for the entire family. Returning to the question of value, programmes like art cart help families see that a ticket does not just buy you a seat, it buys you an experience of a venue, and a way of seeing the world that can stay with minds young and old forever.

These programmes have come to fruition through the efforts and resources of many people and organisations. However, in this press release we wanted to pay special attention to the important role of our corporate sponsors, who, in these times of financial uncertainty, have decided to selflessly invest in young people and their communities in such a tremendous way. Support for the arts, unfortunately, has been declining in recent times. In light of that fact, we feel strongly that the contributions of The Granada Foundation, One Manchester, the John Thaw Foundation, Keir and Bennetts Associates – alongside our funding from Arts Council England and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation – deserve particular praise and applause. If this humble page may be a stage, then please come to the front and take a bow.

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For further information, images, or for an interview / press review or ticket requests, please contact Laura Stevens at laura@z-arts.org or 0161 232 6077.

Laura

September 5th, 2017

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