From Friday 11 to Sunday 19 August 2023, the Royal Exchange Theatre hosted 11 workshops, 17 performances, 320 participants, 794 audience members and 97 non-professional performers in our mobile theatre ‘The Den’ for the East Manchester Community Festival.
The programme featured workshops on photography, dance, music, circus skills and performances of ‘Today The Streets Are Ours’ a play inspired by M11, ‘Rum’ a play exploring masculinity and mental health, and ‘Chaos’ performed by Royal Exchange Young Company, and many more. The festival ended with a sober rave from ‘BORN FREE’ which is a regular fixture from the Resonance Centre, a local well-being hub in Clayton. There was family focused activity with performances ‘African Stories’, ‘Can You Help Miss Babbity Rabbit Henrietta Flufflehop?’ and ‘The Street Where I Live’, but also crafts and a treasure hunt for anyone passing by. Throughout the festival there were exhibitions and free food from an array of local businesses and communities.
On the lead up to the festival, there was plenty of opportunities to get involved. We ran Time For A Laugh, a series of comedy workshops which created the opportunity for local people to performing alongside professional comics on our opening night. There was also the M11 Young Playwriting Competition with workshops with local youth groups, our winner Enzo Hutchinson had their play developed with professional writers and joined the rehearsal room with a professional director and actors, their play ‘To Be An Actor’ was performed during festival. There was also an open call-out for the M11 Photography Exhibition which asked for photos that showed life in M11 and what that means to you, these photos were exhibited throughout the festival and are now displayed within the theatre.
We also commissioned a play written by local writer Josh Val-Martin, he connected with music groups across the M11 postcode and developed a play inspired by the stories he heard, this was performed as part of the festival by professional actors, four local choirs and a local Djembe group. We’ve ran Chatty Crafts in Beswick Library since 2022 to have conversations with local people about their area and give them a chance to get creative, they developed an exhibition of work that was displayed during the festival.
We also ran the Beswick Young Company, supported by One Manchester, which gave a space for young people to develop theatre making skills, they created a devised performance ‘Who Has The Power’ which was performed as part of the East Manchester Community Festival.
This festival could not have happened without our Beswick, Clayton and Openshaw Local Ambassadors who met with Royal Exchange Theatre staff monthly for a year to develop this programme of activity.
Interested in becoming an Ambassador? Learn more about it here