New Wolsey Theatre lands record grant for development of disabled touring

The Threepenny Opera - a Graeae Theatre Company. co production with the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswi

The Threepenny Opera - a Graeae Theatre Company. co production with the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. Directed by Jenny Sealey and Peter Rowe. This collaboration paved the way for the New Wolsey's latest grant as a pioneer in promoting disability in theatre. - Credit: Patrick Baldwin

Ipswich-based New Wolsey Theatre has been awarded a record £2.3 million by Arts Council England to pioneer a nationwide touring project that looks to change the way that disability arts provision is viewed.

Reasons To Be Cheerful - the critically acclaimed co-prduction between Graeae Theatre Company and th

Reasons To Be Cheerful - the critically acclaimed co-prduction between Graeae Theatre Company and the New Wolsey went from Ipswich to the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games. - Credit: Patrick Baldwin

The project, which also includes seven other leading regional theatres - including Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Nottingham Playhouse, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and Sheffield Theatres, is being lead by the New Wolsey in partnership with long-term collaborators Graeae Theatre Company who have together developed the critically acclaimed acclaimed Ian Dury play Reasons To Be Cheerful, The Iron Giant and Threepenny Opera.

Sarah Holmes, chief executive for the New Wolsey, said that they were delighted with the award which is the largest single award ever made through the Strategic touring programme and puts Ipswich and the New Wolsey at the heart of the Arts Council’s latest project to bring disability into mainstream theatre.

She said: “This project will change not only how theatre is produced but also who is employed and who comes to shows. Theatre should be inclusive and open to everyone. We hope to change the way that theatres stage shows and get them to think about who they are casting.”

The £2.3million will fund the first three years of the ambitious six-year project, it will create three new pieces of high quality touring theatre. Each venue will co-produce shows over consecutive years, aiming to give all the organisations direct experience at working with disabled artists and learning how to develop disabled audiences. This will teach each theatre how to integrate disabled people into everything they do going forward, create a collaborative circuit of regional theatres and tackle the current low levels of attendance by disabled audiences.


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Sarah said: “Our work, in mid-scale theatre, will be enhanced by the creative richness that D/deaf and disabled professionals can contribute, and will help the industry to uncover a wealth of new audiences who think that theatre isn’t for them.

“This project will reframe the way that theatre by and for disabled people is made and seen.”

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