This week, at an event at the London Palladium, a new campaign was launched, calling on the Government to enable every child to attend the theatre at least once during their school years.
Led by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, the Theatre For Every Child campaign proposes that the Department for Education and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport set aside up to £34million per year to send 800,000 children on a theatre trip annually, with the hope that voluntary contributions from those parents who can afford it, and other funding sources or sponsorship, will allow that figure to be halved.
The benefits of being exposed to live theatre, at a time when more and more of us are spending hours attached to screens, have been well documented, from the opportunity for cultural enrichment and improved quality of life to enhanced well-being.
However, the proposal suggests that the trips will also increase awareness about backstage jobs in theatre, supporting the need to fill a skills gap that has only got worse post-Covid.
The potential for theatre to have a transformative effect is one of the reasons that we are so delighted to welcome the Coram Shakespeare Schools Festival back to Greenwich next month.
Over four nights, up to 16 primary and secondary schools will present abridged versions of some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, with the students having also benefited from a programme of workshops to help them understand the process of creating theatre.
We are just one of many, many venues taking part across the country, with thousands of young participants benefiting from involvement in the festival.
While some schools are finding the resources to participate in programmes like CSSF, others are struggling to have any engagement with live theatre.
Research has shown that cuts to school trips and outings more than doubled in the past year, with the increasing costs both of the trip itself and of running large school buildings all contributing to those financial decisions.
Until Government step in, for many children the only opportunity to attend live theatre is at the weekend or in the holidays with their families, many of whom have the same financial challenges as the schools.
That is why at Greenwich Theatre we strive to keep prices for families and young people as affordable as possible, with family theatre foregrounded in every season.
This weekend’s storytelling treat The Girl And The Dragon, which comes to Greenwich from the Edinburgh Fringe, and next week’s Miniature Travelling Circus from the Little Angel Theatre, both have children’s tickets for just £7.50, while the annual pantomime is still one of the only pantomimes in the capital to offer half-price tickets for children on every single performance.
Cheaper tickets like this are essential if the industry genuinely believes in making theatre accessible for all, but reductions can only go so far when some families are struggling with the cost of living itself.
It is easy for us to assert that theatre should not be a luxury, but if families are forced to resort to using food banks to eat, there is no way that we can charge for tickets and still claim to be completely equitable in our offer.
With theatres struggling to make ends meet as well, a scheme like Theatre For Every Child offers the perfect way to support venues and ensure that children have at least a brief moment of exposure to the magic of live performance.
Picture: Little Angel Theatre’s Miniature Travelling Circus. Picture: Ellie Kurttz
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