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Belgrade Theatre Wrapped in a Message of Hope

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Belgrade Theatre Wrapped in a Message of Hope

Coventry's Belgrade Theatre has been wrapped in a message of hope as part of a national initiative responding to the crisis in live theatre and the arts.

Forming part of the Scene Change campaign, an installation has been created by local designer and Talking Birds Co-Artistic Director Janet Vaughan, using specially made barrier tape printed with the words "Missing Live Theatre".

The project was started by members of the theatre design community, who have been uncomfortably aware of the sadness of the visual imagery surrounding theatre buildings while they remain unable to open for performances. Venues that are typically teeming with life and serve as creative hubs for the community have been left looking stark and bleak, with some even shut away behind hazard tape to prevent gatherings earlier in the year.

In response, designers have come together to spread joy and solidarity by wrapping closed buildings in bows and other elaborate designs, creating custom barrier tape to transform a negative image into a positive one.

As lockdown restrictions have begun to ease, the Belgrade has been able to open up its foyers to cafe patrons, and is planning to start its first in-person drama workshops next month, so along with the news of a government support package for the arts, there are now more reasons than ever to be optimistic about the future of live theatre in Coventry.

However, the crisis is far from over, particularly for smaller companies and freelancers who remain at risk as long as performances cannot take place - which in turn has a knock-on effect on the ability of big theatres to create and programme work once restrictions ease.

By pairing large venues with local designers, the scheme highlights the interconnected nature of the UK arts industry, with big organisations relying on a thriving network of artists, freelancers and independent companies to survive, and vice versa.

Belgrade Theatre Deputy Artistic Director Justine Themen said: "While we welcome the government's pledge of £1.57 billion to support arts organisations through this crisis, as Coventry's biggest theatre, we feel that it's vital for us to make the case for smaller companies and independent artists to receive urgently needed support as well as big venues like our own.

"We've worked with Janet and Talking Birds on a number of projects in the past - most recently on our Young Company show Like There's No Tomorrow (which finished just before lockdown started), so we're delighted to be teaming up with her again as part of Scene Change.

"At the Belgrade, we regularly work with freelancers and producing partners, so our own success depends on this wider arts ecology. Now, more than ever, it's important for all of us to be pulling together and supporting each other so we can weather this storm and come out ready to deliver an exciting City of Culture programme, with all creative hands on deck."

Janet Vaughan said: "Theatre is as much about the freelancers, artists, audiences and communities who make it happen as it is about buildings. Coventry is incredibly lucky to have a wealth of fantastic independent artists and theatre-makers as well as a great range of performing arts venues, including Shop Front Theatre, the Albany and Warwick Arts Centre as well as the Belgrade. Every one of us is facing the same threat of extinction, and if one fails, all of us suffer because we are all connected."

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