| Niamh Hicks

Looking back and forward: Reflections from BPT’s Artistic Director

As 2019 comes to a close and people inevitably reflect on the year they have had, we thought it might be nice to do the same for us at Brighton People’s Theatre AND to let you know some good news about some new funding we have had.

Firstly – some thanks.

Thank you to everyone who has engaged with us throughout the year, 2019 has been BIG for us. Over 150 people have participated in a range of activities we have put on.

Thanks for taking a risk on us. We hope you had fun and will come again. People have come from across the city, from all different backgrounds. This is really important to us.

Thank you to all the amazing artists who have worked with us this year. We have been privileged to have hosted some incredibly talented and humble artists who have inspired and challenged everyone in a gentle and thoughtful way.

Thank you to our arts partners. Big shout out to the Brighton Dome and Festival, the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, The Theatre Royal Brighton and The Old Market. The Theatre Royal generously supports our play reading group and provides pizza for people to eat while we read a play and chat about it on their stage. The Old Market hosts theatre clubs.

We don’t have a venue. But we do have great relationships with some of the brilliant theatres in our little city. This year we have become an Associate Company at both the Brighton Dome and Festival and the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. As well as generously hosting theatre clubs and workshops, they are waiting to see what emerges from our work next year in the hope that new shows will eventually find their way onto their stages.

Thank you to our community partners. Big shout out to the Hangleton and Knoll Project, Due East, Serendipity, the Crew Club, The Manor Gym, Whitehawk Inn, St Cuthman’s Food Bank and all the residents in Hangleton and East Brighton who have worked with us on both Our Place 2019 AND our ongoing research into what the arts means to people in these neighbourhoods. We can’t wait to share our findings with you at the City Council’s Cultural Summit in 2020.

We couldn’t achieve any of what we do without the support from our arts and community partners.

Thank you to our funders. Especially the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the City Council both of whom have taken a risk and invested in a kitchen table start up to take us to where we are today.

Thank you to our team and board. We are blessed with an exceptional team of people working behind the scenes at BPT. Every one of them makes BPT a pleasure to be a part of. We absolutely punch above our weight. Collectively we are the equivalent of just one full time member of staff. This needs to change next year if we are going to continue to realise our ambitions.

So 2020 – what does it look like for us?

We are pleased to announce that we have just received a substantial grant from the Arts Council of England to keep our regular offer of weekly workshops, play reading groups and theatre clubs going until the end of this academic year. Thank you ACE. We’re going to make some magic happen.

We are really impressed with the new Arts Council draft strategy for 2020-2030 and hope that we can play a significant role in enabling people in Brighton And Hove and beyond to discover their creativity. We have been monitoring who has been coming along to our workshops and while we are really pleased with the diversity of people in the room, we think we can do better.

So next year, in partnership with the Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership, Possability People and the GBMET we will be holding open workshops inviting people of colour, people aged between 18-30 and people who identify as having a disability to come and play and see what theatre might mean in their lives.

Following on from our first People’s Inspiration Meeting at the start of December where we talked about ideas for new shows, we are going to start workshopping these ideas to see what has promise. If you want to get involved in this, just come along to one of our weekly theatre workshops. You just have to be over 18, have a BN postcode and not work professionally in the arts. We hope that by the end of 2020 we will have one or two shows in development and close to being ready for an audience!

We are also hoping to open up different aspects of the theatre making process to as wide a diversity of people in the city as possible. This means we are going to be looking to create backstage opportunities as well as on stage ones. If you are reading this blog and think you might be interested in getting involved in other aspects of theatre making: lights, sound, directing, producing, stage design or marketing please get in touch.

We’re going to be applying for a lot more funding to create as many opportunities as possible for people with the fewest chances to get involved in being creative with us. Over the long term, we would love to have a presence in community centres across the city.

On a personal note, I will be reducing my hours to only working one day a week at BPT from February – July 2020 as I am soaking up the mighty privilege of my Clore Fellowship. This means that we are currently recruiting for a new Executive Director to work alongside me and the rest of the team to develop and strengthen BPT. If you know anyone who might be suitable for the role please send them our way!

Hope you have a restful and enjoyable festive season.

Naomi Alexander

Artistic Director