A host of initiatives, performances, workshops and events are set to create and support cultural communities across East Anglia and beyond over the next 12 months.
This is the pledge from Norwich Theatre’s chief executive Stephen Crocker as he unveils a number of new projects for 2020.
It begins today as Norwich Theatre is officially designated a Theatre Of Sanctuary, throws its weight behind a major initiative to promote positive mental health in business, and also prepares a major new programme of work with older people supported by a record-breaking Christmas Appeal.
Stephen said: “People can be creative at any stage of their life and I am absolutely committed to ensuring that everyone can have the opportunity to take part in cultural activity. In 2020, we are stepping up our work to engage, enthuse and excite the many diverse communities in this area.
“Every day, we hear more and more stories that paint a picture of a society in this country which is becoming defined by division, fracturing itself and focusing on difference rather than commonality. The only way to fight hatred and intolerance is with love and kindness, and the only way to stem the tide of division is by promoting a spirit of togetherness.”
His comments come, as Norwich becomes the second city after Leeds to have two Theatre Of Sanctuary designations.
Norwich Theatre follows in the footsteps of Norwich Arts Centre, Opera North, Leeds Playhouse and the Young Vic to win the status.
It helps mark the work already done through the Creative Matters seasons which run across Norwich Theatre Royal, the Playhouse and Stage Two and explored issues like Black British Identity and Sanctuary. It included workshops, performances and exhibitions both for and featuring refugees and asylum-seekers.
The ongoing work also helped the theatre win a Norfolk Arts Award for its work highlighting and reflecting diversity.
This long-term relationship is being built on over the next three years with other initiatives including:
- Weekly café conversations for asylum seekers and refugees to come to Norwich Theatre Royal and talk to staff and volunteers
- A monthly film club at Stage Two to watch world cinema.
- Offering at least two places on courses within the Theatre Royal programme to asylum-seekers and refugees as bursaries.
- The opportunity for groups that work with asylum-seekers and refugees to see shows at the theatre
- A commitment to explore issues around or work by refugees to be programmed across the Theatre Royal, Playhouse and Stage Two.
Samantha Patel, Norwich Theatre Royal’s community participation manager, said the awarding of this new title is important to the organisation. She said: “It comes from our ambition to engage people in meaningful cultural experiences, and support both well-being and social change. This is something which is not just at the core of our learning and participation programme but is also important to our work at welcoming new audiences into our buildings.”
Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre chief executive, added: “Receiving this status means that – through our artistic programmes, activities and events and the ongoing opening up of our whole organisation – we publicly pledge that we will live out the City of Sanctuary values and always offer a welcome for refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers and anyone seeking their own sanctuary.”
Tomorrow (Feb 6) sees Norwich Theatre hosting the launch of a Mental Health In Business initiative, which is being driven by Norwich-based entrepreneur Kieran Miles, and media company Archant.
Christened Ask, the idea is to support business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs to have a healthy conversation about mental health within the workplace.
Running initially for 12 months, it aims to have clear practical steps and objectives to give business leaders a new perspective on the condition.
Stephen Crocker said: “The performing arts is a sector where open conversations about good management of mental health are fundamentally important. Living this life comes at an emotional price and that is why we are launching a range of new initiatives to support our staff in actively managing their mental health and wellbeing, and helping them to build emotional resilience.
“This will include new approaches to our work environment, weekly yoga classes, growing our number of mental health first-aiders, emotional resilience training rolled out across our whole staff team, and introducing appropriate conversations about mental well-being into our year-round performance review cycle.
“There are many ways that we as employers can support our staff when they are experiencing issues and initiatives that can be rolled out to improve working environments. However, I truly believe that it is also our responsibility to look to the core of the issue and that is about building emotional resilience amongst our employees. This does not mean sweeping issues under carpets but it means equipping people with the tools to monitor and manage their own mental health and prevent issues arising.”
Norwich Theatre’s programme of work with older people has also enjoyed a major boost. Across the festive season during the theatre’s best-performing panto ever, audiences at all three of its stages dug deep to help raise just over £23,000 during the annual Christmas Appeal. As well as helping to fund new initiatives, it will also help Norwich Theatre’s ongoing work with older people including the Community Choir and Theatre Cares, a regular programme of activities for those with dementia to enjoy alongside their family, friends and carers.
The exciting 2020 plans come a week after the theatre unveiled a new website, booking system and visual identity. Stephen said: “We have a number of exciting challenges and projects coming up in the next few months. I am passionate about engaging with as many different communities and people as possible to ensure that everyone can share the joy and positive outcomes of engaging with theatre in all its forms.”