At the launch of The Albany’s new campaign, A Theatre Trip for Every Child, Lewisham & Deptford’s MP Vicky Foxcroft recalled her first trip to the theatre. Travelling down from Lancaster to London, she watched Starlight Express, sparking a love for theatre, and ultimately changing her academic fortunes – she “didn’t do well at school”, but went on to study performing arts at college and Drama & Business at university. Now, Foxcroft is a politician, a career that might at first seem unrelated to treading the boards but, as she told us, many see as the ultimate performing career. “This campaign,” Foxcroft said. “will touch and change some children’s lives forever.”
A Theatre Trip For Every Child is exactly what it says – a new giving scheme to provide a free theatre ticket for every 5-year-old in the Borough of Lewisham (which is about 400,000 children each year). Businesses and individuals can donate to give a local child the chance to experience the magic of theatre. Funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Arts Council England and founding sponsors L&Q covers all the administrative costs of the initiative, so that every donation received will go directly towards tickets.
The campaign’s Patron is Jude Law, the multi-award-winning actor who actually grew up in Lewisham and attended John Ball Primary School. He too is excited at the scheme’s capacity “to positively impact the lives of young children in Lewisham. It is crucial for the future of our communities that we find creative ways to nurture and support the next generation. Theatre has the power to inspire children and we must encourage them to follow their dreams, no matter how big.”
The impact of A Theatre Trip for Every Child is, as both Law and Foxcroft say, potentially huge. It could inspire careers, create lifelong theatre lovers, or encourage families to attend arts events together. For many, it will offer access to a new and different experience. Child poverty affects 34% of children in Lewisham, which is one of the 25 local authority areas in England where poverty and deprivation were found to be greatest. Those with lower incomes often have least access to opportunities in the borough, including arts engagement. A Theatre Trip for Every Child aims to improve access to the arts for children across the borough from an early age.
For Gavin Barlow, Chief Executive at the Albany, this early introduction to theatre is key: “We are passionate about every child having the chance to enjoy high quality theatre in their local area. Early access to the arts contributes to a child’s development, sparking their curiosity and giving them new perspectives on the world. We believe every child should have the opportunity to benefit from that experience.”
Also newly launched is a parallel campaign at ARC Stockton, a theatre and arts centre in Stockton-on-Tees. For their Chief Executive, Annabel Turpin, the local aspect of the scheme is particularly important: “Giving children access to incredible arts experiences on their doorsteps creates a sense of possibility and a very special sense of place locally. Discovering the thrill of theatre at an early age is inspirational for many children as they grow and develop, and life changing for some.”
The campaigns at the Albany and ARC Stockton are, Gavin Barlow hopes, just the beginning; he and the Albany are “committed to helping other boroughs and venues to do this too”.
Now that the Albany’s campaign is live, people and businesses are able to donate here. The hope is that the locals of Lewisham, and perhaps other parts of London, will come together to support the scheme. Vicky Foxcroft MP has no doubt it will be a success: “In this community, this is what we do: we come together, to make sure everyone has the best chance”.
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