Free theatre for children in Stockton

Peter Lathan

Over the last few years theatre attendance among primary school children has fallen dramatically across the country but by working with the local community, ARC Stockton hopes to counteract this decline by offering a free theatre trip to every child in the borough, funded by donations from the public and businesses in the region.

Annabel Turpin, ARC’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director, hopes the campaign will remove typical barriers associated with attending the theatre.

“Often people can be put off by the perceived cost barrier,” she said, “or because they aren't sure it's for them. With A Theatre Trip for Every Child, we hope to encourage local children to build a lifelong relationship with the theatre, and culture more generally, to be confident in going into, and making use of, our public, cultural spaces.”

The scheme, which is initially scheduled to run over two years, will offer places to every year 1 child (age 5 and 6) child in the Borough and, as the scheme develops, this will be expanded to other age groups.

“We are asking our community and visitors,“ Turpin added, “to donate an extra £10 to give the gift of the theatre to a local child.”

A £10 donation will cover a ticket for a child, and ARC hopes that individuals will contribute over the coming two years to make a real difference for the school children of the region. Donations can be made in person at ARC Stockton, or online. Businesses are also asked to consider donating and details can be found on the corporate giving page.

Councillor Norma Wilburn, Stockton Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Arts, Leisure and Culture, said, “in this 21st century where much of even our very young children's creative experiences of the world are through TV, iPads and other electronic media, this opportunity to introduce the amazing world of live theatre to every 5-year-old in Stockton will give all of our children a new and different perspective and one that I believe will last them a lifetime.”

The initiative has been developed in partnership with The Albany, a cross-arts venue in Lewisham who are working together because of the similarities between their areas.

The two venues are supported by Arts Council England and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to pilot the initiative until March 2019, with the view to making A Theatre Trip for Every Child a national scheme in the future.