Cultural Ambassadors

The Big Imaginations Festival features stories, voices and performers from around the world, and we want to do everything we can to create audiences as diverse as our programme. Our festival is a welcoming festival, which means that we want to break down the barriers that lead to families and communities thinking that theatre ‘is not for us’. To help achieve this goal, we’ve launched our Cultural Ambassadors programme, which we’re very proud of and hugely excited about! Our Cultural Ambassadors are all experienced artists and educators who represent communities through culture, family, or experience – and often all three. The aim of the programme is to reach out to communities who might think that children’s theatre does not speak to their experiences. Our cultural ambassadors come from very diverse backgrounds and have very different methods of engaging communities, but they all have the same aim: to introduce not only children, but also their families, to the joys of children’s theatre. After engaging families in exciting workshops and activities, our ambassadors end the programme by inviting families into their local venue to see a show.

Reaching communities

One of the focuses of the programme are the South Asian communities of the North West and Yorkshire, who historically have been underrepresented both in audiences and on stage. Of our nine shows, no less than three have direct links to South Asian cultures and experiences. Child of the Divide tells a story of a boy caught up in the turmoil of the Partition of India (in this 70th anniversary year). Tales of Birbal shares stories that have been treasured across the Indian sub-continent for generations. The Musical Director of Tales of Birbal, Arun Ghosh, also has his own show in the festival, Big Imaginations Jazz Club, where he and his band delight family audiences through a fusion of his many musical influences, including his own British-Asian experiences growing up in Bolton. In fact, we are delighted to say that Arun Ghosh is one of our cultural ambassadors!

Removing barriers to the arts

Arun is not only reaching out into South Asian communities, he is also running workshops with families connected to the Higher Folds community centre in Leigh. The communities he will be working with in Leigh are very diverse culturally, but many of the families share a common feeling that the arts and culture that happens in our venues is ‘not for us’. Arun, and all our other wonderful cultural ambassadors, are striving to change those opinions. For many communities, the biggest barriers of all are financial barriers. Often, the problem is not that families cannot afford the theatre, but rather that theatre tickets can seem too expensive for something ‘new’. Whatever their situation, we want all families to feel welcome to our festival. After participating in the Cultural Ambassadors programme, families will be able to purchase £1 tickets to a show in their local venue. The £1 fee 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.

The UK’s only regional festival of theatre for children and families

Big Imaginations, the first children’s theatre festival in the North West, has always prided itself on creating firsts. In that spirit, and in the spirit of childhood, we want to give every family the opportunity to experience the magic of children’s theatre for the first time. We want every family in our region to do more than feel welcome to the festival, we want them to feel that their voices and experiences are part of our festival, and that our festival is an experience that we are creating together – to be shared by us all. With the help of our amazing cultural ambassadors, we are doing everything we can to make this dream a reality. We can’t wait to see new smiles and hear new laughter in venues across our region. A lifetime of love for the arts shared by all our diverse communities will be a wonderful legacy indeed.


Meet our Cultural Ambassadors

Arun Ghosh

Arun is an award-winning clarinettist and composer of music for Big Imaginations Festival shows Tales of Birbal and Child of the Divide. His melodies and rhythms draw together jazz, hip-hop and South Asian music, with clarinet, double-bass and the dazzling, percussive sounds of the tabla. His sessions aim to bring family groups together by learning uses of instruments and storytelling, combining stories and sounds.

 

 

 

 

Sarah Atter

Sarah trained in Manchester as a classical flautist at the University of Manchester and RNCM. Since graduating she has broadened her horizons into the fields of music in healthcare, music in the community, music in education, music in criminal justice and collaborative cross-art form projects. She now works both as an independent practitioner and in partnership with other organisations and is experienced in working with hard to reach audiences, using music as a breaker of barriers.

 

Francesca Waite

Francesca is a theatre maker, performer and freelance participation facilitator in the north west. She makes theatre that is accessible to those who wouldn’t usually think theatre was for them and is passionate about increasing engagement with the arts, especially amongst young people. Her sessions aim to ignite interest in theatre and open new avenues of thought around the practice of performing arts.

 

 

 

Joe Ford

Our Art Cart ambassador Joe Ford is a visual artist based at Islington Mill in Salford. Her work often uses analogue print and photography techniques to create ephemeral worlds of dream and imagination. Joe has also been teaching visual arts workshops throughout Manchester and the North West for over six years, she is well versed in connecting creatively with communities across the region.

 

 

Kirsty Gbasai

Kirsty Gbasai is one of our visual arts CA and Art Cart facilitator. Having grown up on the outskirts of Hulme throughout the 1980’s, Kirsty is familiar with the notion of inaccessible arts and theatre. This combined with her working background in arts events and work with children, she is a firm believer in the importance of creativity within communities and the positive benefits it reaps.

 

 

Anna Daly

Anna is an independent community dance artist and trainer with over 20 years in professional community practice. An Associate Artist with both Ludus Dance and Earlyarts UK – Anna is well experienced in designing and delivering for very young children and their grown ups. Offering quality, fun, creative, full bodied engagement for real movers! (Early Yrs and Primary)