New appointment and young people’s programme expansion at Northern Stage

Peter Lathan

Jill Adamson has been appointed as the new Director of Participation at Northern Stage, coinciding with the theatre’s expansion of the work it does with disadvantaged young people aged 16 to 21 in Gateshead and Newcastle.

Jill Adamson has worked as a freelance theatre participation and learning consultant for a range of arts organisations including RSC Education, Frantic Assembly, Rose Bruford College, Salisbury Playhouse, Derby Theatre and Darlington Civic (now Hippodrome). She worked as Director of Engagement and Learning at Hull Truck Theatre and was part of the senior team working on Hull City of Culture 2017.

From 2002 to 2007 she was Director of Education at York Theatre Royal and, from 2007 to 2013, she was Chief Executive at the National Association of Youth Theatres (NAYT), the development agency for youth theatre in England. She was a youth theatre director for 20 years starting at Sheffield Crucible before becoming Artistic Director of Youth Theatre Yorkshire in York.

As well as working directly with young people, she has worked strategically at a national level to influence and develop policy and practice in relation to cultural education.

“It feels so good to be back working in the North East,” she said, “and to be part of the team who will lead and deliver on Northern Stage’s vision for increased social equality. In the current climate, the work that cultural organisations are doing with young people and community engagement has never been more important. The arts are a powerful tool for challenge and change.”

A key programme to achieve the company’s commitment to reach and engage more young people in areas of economic disadvantage is Northern Stage’s Young Company. Supported by £150,000 investment from the Clothworkers Foundation, Associate Director Louie Ingham was appointed to lead and expand Young Company to give more 16- to 21-year-olds from disadvantaged communities open access to a diverse and innovative programme.

Membership of Young Company offers opportunities to explore key roles and areas of theatre making through practical workshops in theatre design, composition, directing, production and stage management.

During the summer of 2017, more than 50 young people from across the North East worked with the creative team to create a virtual Greek chorus for David Almond’s A Song for Ella Grey. Now, for spring 2018, the Northern Stage Young Company will present Where Do We Stand? (25 to 28 April in Stage 2). Collectively written by a team of professional writers, and co-produced and co-authored by young people from across North East England, the production will combine spoken word, live music, physical and virtual landscapes to tell stories of what it is to live, work and dream in Newcastle in 2018.

Northern Stage has also just expanded its NORTH artist development programme beyond actor training to include staging and touring a new production, offering four emerging actors from the North East the opportunity to perform professionally with the theatre on a regional tour in Spring 2018

Investment from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation in 2017 will enable Northern Stage to provide a three-year programme of training, advice, guidance and mentoring that will address the financial, educational and social barriers faced by young people from working class backgrounds. NORTH will target talented working class actors and theatre makers who have expressed an interest in training, or who have undergone some training and aspire towards further professional development but are currently excluded from accessing it.

The first NORTH production will be a new adaptation of H G Wells's classic sci-fi story of survival The War of the Worlds (opening at Northern Stage 31 January to 10 February), written by Laura Lindow (Key Change, Open Clasp) with sound design by Mariam Rezaei (A Song for Ella Grey, Northern Stage) and directed by Elayce Ismail, recipient of the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme’s pilot Associate Directorship to prepare directors for artistic leadership.