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In 2019 10 women began a 12-week front of house training programme with staff from the Royal Exchange Theatre and Jigsaw Homes Engagement Team.

Jigsaw Homes recruited the women through Tameside Women and Families Centre, the Jobcentre and other support services in the Dukinfield and Ashton area.

The project was led by a facilitator and front of house manager from the Royal Exchange and supported by a Tameside Ambassador and Jigsaw Homes tenant.

The women learnt teamwork, communication, and customer service skills as well as increasing their confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing. Jigsaw Homes accredited the project through the delivery of a Teamwork Qualification.

7 women completed the project which saw the group operating the front of house for the Den in Stalybridge. 2 of the women plus the assistant have now gone on to gain employment as Technical ushers at the theatre.

“I’m proud of myself for how far I have come, and the journey has been amazing, I have loved every little bit of it.” Project Participant

“I wouldn’t leave Tameside; I was stuck in a rut. I actually visit Manchester now which I wouldn’t do because I had such a big fear of Manchester and terrorism and all the hype and because it is so busy and now I’ve even taken my family members in to Manchester…Even my husband has said “I’ve got my wife back”. I’m just so proud, and it just shows no matter what’s gone on in your life, no matter how down you’re feeling, get some help, leave the house, break the stigma – you can do it” Project Participant

"As part of Jigsaw Homes Neighbourhood Engagement Team supporting people back into education and training is a priority for us in line with meeting the aims and objectives of our Neighbourhood Plans. With high unemployment levels locally compared the national average, creating opportunities to increase employability and opportunities to learn is a must. We are always looking to build on our employment and skills provision by partnership working, skill sharing and peer learning. This project working with the Royal Exchange Theatre and the participants from the Tameside Women’s and Families Centre was a ‘resounding success’ and provided a pathway for job opportunities within the theatre and created an enabling positive learning environment for the women to succeed and enjoy together." John McGlynn, Neighbourhood Engagement Officer - Jigsaw Homes Group

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In Summer 2019, Tameside based artist/writer Hafsah Bashir began CAV MILL WRITES. The project was developed to bring residents of the apartment block together and connect with each other.

It began when Hafsah posted brightly coloured envelopes through the doors of each flat. The letter was an invitation to meet the artist and to meet each other – it also included poetry and quotes and was the first step in connecting residents.

Over 90 residents responded and across three days met with Hafash to share ideas and thoughts. From this she developed a poem using their words and conversations which was projected onto the side of the Mill for 3 month.

It was launched with a Christmas get together of food, songs and a reading of the poem.

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From November 2019 to February 2020, Jigsaw Homes funded a 12-week sewing and costume project with women at Holy Trinity Church & Community Centre (HTCCC) in Ashton.

15 women worked with members of the Royal Exchange Theatre’s wardrobe team to develop their sewing skills and learning about the process of costume design and making for the stage.

This included sessions in our wardrobe department and at the Swan Street Costume Hire, helping to open up the theatre to new people and share what goes on behind the scenes to make our productions. The group have been working on the costumes for Wuthering Heights, attending a design meeting, creating their own designs and learning new sewing techniques and period styles.

Lucy Woodcock from the Wardrobe department has led the project:

“I have thoroughly enjoy working on this project. It's been a pleasure to work with such lovely people. I really hope the ladies have found it as enjoyable as I have and have learnt new skills for the future”

Carl Kelsall HTCCC Centre and Project Manager:

"The project has been one of the highlights of the year for the women at Holy trinity Centre. The group have had an amazing time developing new skills interests and friendships, for some this has been their first theatre experience I have witnessed their enthusiasm and skills grow and development on a weekly basis. Friendships have been formed from a diverse group of people from many different cultures and backgrounds and it just goes to show that if we bring people together around a mutual interest we have far more in common than that that divides us".

Project participants:

“I loved all the different opportunities to learn and get to know people - women who I would not usually meet - so it was worth every minute.”

“I really enjoyed it and always looked forward to coming to these sessions. I enjoyed working with the group which was really worth the experience, I learnt a lot from it and would want to take part in these kind of projects in future too.”

“I feel that I have learnt so many techniques. I feel it has bought us all close together by supporting each other”

“Excellent, once in a lifetime unique opportunity. It was a privilege to be a part of it.”

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Since Christmas 2018 we have been working with residents of Dukinfield. Activities have included:

• Creating a Christmas Message for Dukinfield and creating a family Christmas get together in December 2018

• In Summer 2019 residents and volunteers cleaned up and replanted the community allotment with Plungebloom creating children’s performances and meeting residents with their vegetable nannies.

• A group of residents created a Dukinfield Story which was performed in the Den in Stalybridge in August 2019 – creating a live map of the area and bringing the stories and people of ‘Duki’ to life.

We set up a mobile box office in the Pantry with patrons and volunteers attending shows including The Producers and Gypsy. The Pantry provides much-needed food and household goods to people who find themselves in need in the area. In 2020 we are now working with volunteers and patrons of The Pantry to develop a weekly drop-in arts session and café with artist Sam Edwards.

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LEADERS are graduates of the Elders Company who volunteer to support the Elders programme and shape its development.

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Playwriting Prize for Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley

As part of The Den coming to Leigh in August 2021, the Royal Exchange Leigh Ambassadors ran a local playwriting competition to engage with local writers, and then ran it again to encourage creativity during the 2020 lockdowns. Open and targetted workshops were ran to engage anybody new or old to playwriting.

The task was write an orginal 10-30 minute play and be in with the chance to have your work produced and performed in the Royal Exchange Theatre's Den at Spinners Mill.

The winners of the first round were Pegeen Murphy, Alison Ormrod, Charlotte Kirton, Mary Berry and from the second round Amy Drake, Lumen Hirata-Smith, Tom Stocks and Sarah Teale.

Winner Tom Stocks said...

“I am absolutely over the moon about winning. I never thought that after just scraping a C at GCSE level I would ever be the winner of a writing competition by The Royal Exchange. I grew up attending the Exchange so to now be part of their programme is just a dream come true.”

Suzanne Bell, The Royal Exchange’s award-winning dramaturg and LocalTALE judge said…
"We were bowled over by the submissions to this year's competition and excited to read such a broad range of responses to everything that happened in 2020. Writing a play from scratch and sending it out into the world for other people to experience is a brave act and I would like to thank everyone who submitted for the dedication, ambition and imagination they brought to their work. We are delighted to announce the four winners whose plays opened up new worlds, made us see the world in new ways and showed the power of human connection. As things begin to reopen and we hope to soon welcome audiences back into theatres, the power of imagination and human relationships is more important than ever and we look forward to sharing these stories with you."


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For those inspired to write their own play, download the research pack here.


You can also find writing resources on the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting website WRITEAPLAY.CO.UK.



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Playwriting Prize for Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley

Leigh Ambassadors Playwriting Competition

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Originating from work done with Valuing Older People in 2007/8 and funded variously over the last decade, during 2019/20 the Manchester Culture Champions was an Ambition for Ageing project, delivered by the Royal Exchange Theatre in partnership with Greater Manchester Ageing Hub, Manchester Age Friendly and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

During that time, both existing and new Culture Champions were encouraged to meet, socialise, be creative, learn more about the city’s cultural offer and were supported to initiate and lead their own new projects across the city.

‘When I think of the Champions, I think: dynamism, cultural commitment and social drive’ Jane Goetzee, Manchester Culture Champions Coordinator

Below, is a brief overview of the seven fantastic projects that were initiated, and the outreach work we undertook. To find out about the full programme of activity including how to get involved in the legacy projects, please download our summary report.

Culture Champions can contact Deborah Ward at Manchester Museum for updates regarding the future of the Manchester Culture Champions Project. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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No Experience Necessary Play-Readers Miles Platting
Led by Culture Champion Mike Bishop
An extension of East Manchester Theatre Trippers a new play-reading group has been established as a friendly introduction to drama through regular play-reading.
To get involved contact the St George’s Centre

Welcome Centre Music Sessions Cheetham Hill
Led by Culture Champion Andy Steele
Based within the Welcome Centre this is a drop-in music session for the people of Cheetham Hill.
To get involved contact the Welcome Centre

Brunswick Mill Studios Music Sessions Ancoats
Led by Culture Champion Glyn Treharne with Mike Rikard
Weekly sessions where people can learn to play guitar, ukulele, drums or keyboards with experienced and practicing musicians. Soon to include singing.
To get involved go to the Music Sessions at Brunswick Mill Facebook page

Cheetham Hill and Crumpsall Culture Creatures Woodville Centre, Crumpsall
Led by Culture Champion Ruqia Allana and local facilitators.
Based within North Manchester Black Health Forum this is a weekly creative group providing facilitated sessions for making lovely things
To get involved email Ruqia Allana: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

My Generation Club Nights Matt and Phred’s in the City-centre
Led by Culture Champion Joyce Gill
Initiated ten years ago, these 60s club nights for ‘baby boomers’ aim to combat loneliness in older people, offering a chance to go out in the city, see live acts, socialise, dance and enjoy themselves.
To find out about their latest events go to My Generation Club Nights Facebook page

World Music Bus Tour Manchester-wide
Led by Culture Champion Geli Berg
A bus tour around Manchester through Rusholme, Levenshulme, Moss Side and Cheetham Hill, taking passengers through places away from the city centre where our world music flourishes, with live performances along the way.

Burnage Buddies Community Food and Music Event Burnage
Led by Culture Champion Saira Qureshi
To celebrate seven years of Burnage Buddies community achievements, this feast of music and food brought together their volunteers and supporters and highlighted the work they have done in drawing older members of the community to social and cultural events. The local older generation male singing group Jazbaa (meaning ‘passion’) also performed.
To get involved contact Burnage Buddies

To contribute to the creative life of older people who live in retirement schemes and care homes, we led two projects called Recount Record to offer a supportive and ‘stay at home’ means of getting involved in theatre through drama and story-making. Theatre director Joe Gilmour Rees and writer Rebekah Harrison led weekly creative sessions in partnership with Sonder Radio. The Royal Exchange will continue to work in partnership with these settings into the future.

In response to the pandemic restrictions, the Culture Champions set up the Culture Champions United Whatsapp group which will continue to maintain the friendships that have flourished over the year. And an exhibition of photographs is open for viewing on the Culture Champions United blog.

If you would like to find out more about the Manchester Culture Champions 2019/2020 please email:
Royal Exchange Theatre, Elders Programme Manager This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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