Theatre for Life CIC was set-up by Artistic Director, Michelle Smith, to raise aspirations of young people through live theatre.
Through my training at the Institute of Education (UCL) and working in formal education for 17 years as a Performing Arts teacher, I’ve witnessed first-hand how the arts can:
- raise aspiration amongst young people;
- empower students;
- build their confidence; and
- introduce them to the transformative world of live theatre!
I have seen so many young people flourish within the arts. They are defying the odds and overcoming both economic and social barriers. These rewarding experiences, both as a teacher and youth theatre director, lead me to want to continue working with young people. The aim:
- to change their lives;
- engage with wider audiences;
- provide powerful, informative theatre community projects
Choosing our company structure - Why CIC?
As a social enterprise working to help the community, becoming a Community Interest Company in 2017 was a natural choice. Offering industry workshops to local performers allows us to fulfil our community initiatives. The aim, improving accessibility to the arts while ensuring we can fund our free youth and community groups.
We rely heavily on income from the workshops and funding to support our free community groups. We were so grateful to secure two sources of funding from:
- Southampton City Council; and
- The People’s Postcode Lottery Trust in 2017
- Crowdfunder: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/silent-mind---mental-health-theatre-project
Through our workshops we have built a community of young performers who:
- value our work;
- the opportunities we create; and
- how we help them with their professional development within the arts.
They enjoy the high-quality training with:
- industry professionals;
- in their local community; and
- how this has removed potential expensive travel costs to London.
Using theatre for change
Alongside our extensive industry workshop programme we want to create challenging and life changing theatre projects. In July 2018, we successfully performed our first Youth Theatre production in a professional venue to a live audience. We worked with 25 aspiring performers from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our 2018 Youth Theatre production was reviewed by a local newspaper as a resounding success.
The cast were fearless on stage, successfully communicating hard hitting themes such as sexuality, male suicide and grief which left their audience members empathetic and moved by the storyline.
(Daily Echo Newspaper, August 5th, 2018).
Our second community project is called ‘Silent Mind', an interactive theatre piece which will showcase our actors’ creative journeys and exploration into mental health prevention.
With a rise in mental health statistics we feel more confident than ever our piece ‘Silent Mind’ is relevant to audiences of all ages across the UK. As a society consumed by social media and device addiction, being able to switch off and control overthinking is imperative for good mental health. Creating the ultimate ‘Silent Mind’ is very hard to achieve. However, promoting mindfulness and meditation in our piece may provide an early intervention for some of our audience members. They will not only be able to engage with our actors and their personal storytelling, they will have the opportunity to address their own lives and how to manage triggers that can lead to mental health issues. This will include:
- exploring beliefs and values;
- using interactive meditation and breathing exercises; and
- helping reframe anxiety, negative thoughts and emotions.
As a cathartic and informative piece of theatre we hope we can make an impact upon our audiences lives long term.
Inspiring the next generation of theatre makers
As a CIC we want to both inspire the next generation of theatre makers and, function as a social enterprise. Our long-term goal is to:
- set up a professional touring theatre company
- help young actors from 18-25 gain valuable work experience.
This will enable us to continue engaging with our actors and reaching wider audiences across England with life changing theatre projects such as ‘Silent Mind’.