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Guest Blog: Calum Finlay On CHATTERBOX and The Value of Youth Theatres

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Guest Blog: Calum Finlay On CHATTERBOX and The Value of Youth Theatres
CHATTERBOX Series Two features actors
George McKay, Aimee Lou Wood,
Sope Dirisu and Abubakar Salim,
playwright Laura Wade and
Shadow Culture Secretary Tracy Brabin

On 12 June we launched Series Two of CHATTERBOX - an online and interactive interview series which gives young people and youth theatres the chance to interact with renowned artists and industry leaders. It's a project that was launched by the youth theatre I attended, Playbox Theatre in Warwickshire, where I am now an Associate Artist.

I've been asked to write a few hundred words about the importance of engaging young people in the arts during lockdown. What I'm about to type is going to sound highfalutin. But...

The type of theatre we recognise started with the Ancient Greeks (and an actor called...Thespis!). Ancient Greece was pretty great if you were a man. If you were a woman, a child, a foreigner or a slave, things weren't so easy; you couldn't vote or speak in the Senate and your voice wasn't heard. But every single surviving Ancient Greek play we have is named after a woman, a child, a foreigner or a slave. Perhaps, then, theatre started as a place where the unrepresented were represented, where the unheard voices could be heard.

I remember feeling like that as a young person. I couldn't vote, the curriculum dictated which books I had to read, and five days a week I was told when to eat my lunch. But Playbox Theatre gave me an opportunity to feel heard. It gave me time and space to create and perform. If I'd wanted to work backstage, make a film or join the circus, Playbox would have enabled me to express myself in those ways. I was made to feel like my perspective was unique and one that deserved to be given centre stage. It was empowering and it gave me confidence to use my voice.

As Ned Glasier wrote in The Stage, youth theatre isn't just about theatre, it's a place where young people come together to reflect on the world as they see it and to create a vision for the future they hope to see. At its best, youth theatre can be, as Ned writes: "a place of community, radical art and social change".

We launched CHATTERBOX during lockdown to remind young people that the arts are still there for them. We hope that by giving them time and space to ask questions to industry leaders and artists they admire that we'll help them to continue to feel heard.

We've partnered with over 25 other youth theatres because we want to reach young people all over the country. If you're a youth theatre reading this, then reach out to us: you can share all of our live CHATTERBOX interviews with your members - for free.

At this crucial moment, youth theatres need support to continue delivering their commitments to young people. Playbox Theatre, for example, has had to freeze memberships, cancel shows and close its cafe. It's in the middle of a £50,000 fundraising appeal which is absolutely critical to its survival - it needs that money to ensure that, when things return to a new normal, it is still exists.

Often, youth theatres need support in kind: help with chaperoning, costumes, selling ice creams. Today, youth theatres need financial support. They need all of us to reach into our pockets and give whatever we can, to show them how valuable they are.

Let's make sure that when lockdown is over, youth theatres still exist and young people continue to be heard.

CHATTERBOX airs every week on Fridays at 4pm until 31 July. Youth theatres can sign up to co-stream CHATTERBOX for free by emailing chatterboxpartners@gmail.com to register interest


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