Earlier this year UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) along with Inspiring the Future (part of the charity Education and Employers), launched “Inspiring the Future of Theatre”, an initiative to showcase the range of careers available in theatre to young people in schools.

The project has come about as a direct result of UK Theatre and SOLT’s 2017 review of the theatre workforce. This report, based on conversations with employers and workers in the industry, found that many employers were frustrated by a shortage of people with the skills for off stage roles. It recommended that more should be done to show young people that there were exciting, rewarding roles within the industry that don’t involve performing.

The industry must connect with young people from across all areas of the country and society as they are beginning to think about their future careers

The report also gave very clear evidence that the theatre industry in the UK must improve the diversity of its workforce, to become more representative of the population as a whole, if it is to remain relevant and resilient in the future. To do this, the report recommended, the industry must connect with young people from across all areas of the country and society as they are beginning to think about their future careers.

At the same time theatre organisations in the UK have been finding it ever harder to maintain connections with schools, which are finding budgets challenging and are also being asked to concentrate on subjects not related to arts or culture. As we know that many young people have their first or only experience of theatre through their school, we were also looking for a way to improve the connections between schools and theatres across the country.

So “Inspiring the Future of Theatre” aims to nurture new generations of theatre-makers and audiences from school age, and connect schools with local theatres.

Inspiring Future Theatre - Scarborough Event - Photo by UKT 2 crop
Inspiring the Future of Theatre was officially launched on 11 July 2018 with an event at Northstead Community Primary School in Scarborough and a social media campaign which trended all day in the UK.

“Inspiring the Future of Theatre” shows young people that there are a huge range of job roles in theatre, just as they’re starting to think about what they might do in the future. People from our industry, from a wide range of off stage roles, are going into local schools to talk with children about what they do day to day, and what helps them to succeed in their role. Talking with the Inspiring the Future Ambassadors helps young people to see that every lesson and every day of school is a building block to their future success. Talking with people who are working in theatre helps make careers in the industry realistic and attainable.

SOLT President Kenny Wax mentioned the call for ambassadors at this year’s Olivier Awards on 8 April:

‘Our goal is to sign up 1000 Ambassadors from across the industry, to include technicians, designers, actors, creatives and administrators – with particular emphasis on roles behind the curtain – to commit to visit a local school once a year to talk about what they do – to open the eyes of children and inspire them to consider a role in the theatre.’

Over 700 professionals from all areas of the industry have already signed up to be Inspiring the Future of Theatre ambassadors, and to talk with young people about their career path.

Most volunteers will take part in individual Inspiring the Future sessions, organised between the school and ambassadors themselves. We are also holding 15 flagship Inspiring the Future of Theatre events, focusing on areas of the UK prioritised for social mobility and cultural development.

Theatres participating include Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Hastings White Rock Theatre, Staffordshire’s New Vic, Cast in Doncaster, Peterborough’s Key Theatre, Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre, Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre and Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre – with more to be announced in different regions of the UK.

A social media campaign took place on 11 July, with #InspiringFutureTheatre one of the top UK Twitter trends as many of the country’s theatres and arts organisations and industry professionals shared their own inspirations, education work and career success stories.

Any theatre professional in the UK can sign up to be an Inspiring the Future of Theatre ambassador. Visit the Inspiring the Future website.

Cassandra Chadderton

Head of UK Theatre, Society of London Theatre/UK Theatre

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