Ten years of free theatre comes to a close.
A project that has given children born at two Birmingham hospitals the chance to see free theatre for the first decade of their lives has come to a close as the children celebrate their tenth birthdays.
Through REP’s Children, Birmingham Repertory Theatre invited all 400 children born at Birmingham’s City and Sandwell hospitals in October 2004, as well as their families, to a free theatre experience for the first ten years of their lives. 240 children were signed up.
The ground-breaking project was set-up by Birmingham Repertory Theatre in partnership with Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust with the aim of engaging with families from some of the most deprived areas in the city and giving them access to the theatre.
Every year for the past ten years the children, and their families were invited to a theatre performance specially developed for them. The first performance took place in Spring 2005 when the babies were just six months old with the multi-sensory Open House. Other theatre performances included Dreams Come Out To Play performed in large tent on the main stage, Princess And Ginger created by the REP’s Children and their families with theatre maker Peter Wynn Willson and the fun and interactive Lick.
Steve Ball, Associate Director at Birmingham Repertory Theatre says of the project: “It only feels like yesterday that we launched our first REP’s Children project and those babies have now grown up into ten year olds. REP’s Children is a fantastic opportunity to give children and their families, who might not otherwise have the chance to come to The REP, or think it wasn’t for them, an experience of live theatre.
“It’s been wonderful to engage with the children and their families over the last ten years and we hope they will continue to come and see shows here and continue their journey through life with The REP. It’s also been an amazing creative challenge for us to develop high quality and engaging live theatre for babies, toddlers and school-age children. When we started there were very few productions available to appeal to babies and toddlers, so we had to create it from scratch.”
Alison Fuller, who daughter Amaya was born on 1st October 2004, was one of the first families to join the REP’s Children project said: “The last 10 years of being a part of REP’s Children has been an absolute privilege. The REP’s vision was so forward thinking and I believe the project has achieved what it set out to do, making the theatre accessible for all, regardless of race, culture or social status.
“It has had such a positive effect on all of my family, including my three older children. Two of which have graduated in drama and theatre and professional practice respectively while my other son spent three years at Birmingham School of Acting. Amaya is also very artistic and truly adores the theatre.
“I want to thank all at The REP for the wonderful memories that my family and I have been able to create at this special place that we will continue to attend for our lifetimes.”
REP’s Children was funded by SureStart, Heart of Birmingham PCT, The Baring Foundation and Birmingham City Council. A second REP’s Children project was launched in 2013 as part of the theatre’s centenary celebrations.