The owners of Coventry’s Shop Front Theatre have opened an exhibition of their own work responding to the current crisis.
During this unprecedented time, where local arts and connections within the community have become more important than ever, Theatre Absolute have reflected and responded, bringing their collaborative and supportive approach to artists, writers and the communities of Coventry and beyond.
Throughout the initial lockdown Julia Negus (Producer/Artist), Chris O’Connell (Artistic Director/Writer) and Lisa Franklin (Project Co-ordinator/Performer) each created new artwork for the Shop Front Theatre windows, in part allowing themselves to respond to the crisis as artists and performers and in part to support their own well-being through the process of creativity. The window exhibition titled ‘Meanwhile’ is now on display and provides a new perspective for passers-by as they begin to return to the city centre in Coventry.
Supported by funds from Arts Council England and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation the company have also been developing other initiatives. Recognising the difficulties for young people, particularly college leavers and new graduates, to be able to make sense of the impact of the crisis as they start their careers in the creative sector, Theatre Absolute are providing on going zoom and mentoring sessions.
Producer Julia Negus commented: “It’s an opportunity for young people to share their hopes and fears for what next, to talk about their ambitions and where possible, we’re able to support and network them to local professional opportunities.”
The company have also been running a series of micro commissions and an online programme of writing sessions as part of their City Voices writing development work in partnership with City of Culture Trust. The sessions explore different genres of writing and have guest writers attending such as the playwright Liz Mytton and poet Liz Berry. These sessions are supported by Coventry writers Alexandra Johnson and Joshua Leach, both helping to create and lead work.
Another writers’ initiative is Theatre Absolute’s new partnership with Ola Animashawun – a dramaturg who runs Euphoric Ink and also works at the National Theatre, London. Both Chris and Ola are offering one-to-one sessions for writers of all levels who may want some direct feedback on plays they have in progress.
As lockdown eases, Theatre Absolute have also offered their Shop Front Theatre to artists to experiment with text and narrative in their Theatre Labs. Artist Jessica Timms comments: “I recorded an audio for a Mothers on the Mic / Spork! Podcast while I was there… I also produced a short art book which has enabled me to start to develop a narrative I am continuing to work on. I was delighted to have this time and space to explore in this special setting.”
Chris O’Connell at Theatre Absolute added: “The creative sector is facing huge demands and with the recent government support, there is a tangible sense of relief for some. Our goal here at Theatre Absolute, as always, is to reach out, connect and support where we can, and in doing so continue to demonstrate the positive impact smaller theatres and organisations can have for the future of theatre and the wider arts ecology.”
Keep in touch with Theatre Absolute and the Shop Front Theatre via twitter @theatreabsolute and the website: www.theatreabsolute.co.uk
Images credit: Andrew Moore