Early years theatre receives £100,000 funding boost


A pioneering regional early years theatre project aims to give more than 3,500 pre-school children the chance to develop their own theatre shows.

Somerset Arts organisation Take Art, in partnership with Surrey Arts and China Plate, has received funding of £92,000 from the Arts Council’s Strategic Touring Fund and £24,000 from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for the early years regional theatre project Hopper, to tour Somerset and Surrey in 2017/18.

Taking place over two years, Hopper is ‘set to reshape’ early years theatre by bringing specially created theatre shows into theatres, pre-schools, nurseries, libraries and children’s centres, focusing on children from poorer less advantaged areas.

Phil Gibby, the South West area director for the Arts Council said, ‘We’re really pleased to be supporting Hopper as we believe that all children and young people, whoever they are and wherever they live, should have the opportunity to experience the richness of arts and culture.’

Mr Gibby said that the 20-month initiative looked set to develop a local, sustainable touring infrastructure for early years work and build strong and productive relationships.

Hopper will also support seven theatre companies in developing more than 70 relevant performances. Children and early years staff will be invited to take part in the development process so that the companies can work with the under-fives in order to make the best shows possible for them.

Collaborating local theatres include The Brewhouse in Taunton, the Bridgwater Arts Centre, The Egg in Bath and the Camberley Theatre in Surrey.

Gina Westbrook, director of early years at Take Art said, ‘A significant part of Hopper is to stimulate greater interest among companies to develop new work and take it into early years settings. Hopper will also enable children to have a voice in how this new work is made for them.’

Take Art is a National Portfolio Organisation, funded by the Arts Council, and a pioneering arts charity serving the towns, villages and rural communities of Somerset, providing opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to experience, participate and work within the arts.

Hopper starts this month, with a year of development and planning, followed by three seasons of touring and performance.

Hopper will launch a national call out in mid-February to identify artists and companies interested in developing new shows.

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