Cornerstone supports acta’s programme and mentors a new generation of facilitators; sharing learning, improving practice; extending our programme of participatory theatre to offer more opportunities for both first-time and existing participants.

Cornerstone supports our acta associates, providing support and experience to both sustain careers in the sector, and to open up new community theatre opportunities with new communities.  It has provided a new Foundation Workshop Assistant post, Maryam Rutter, to include drama workshop delivery, theatre-making, engagement and participant support, monitoring and evaluation, project and partnership development; to provide the learning and experience required in order to identify, initiate and develop successful participatory arts projects. Read Maryam’s blog here.

The Cornerstone outreach programme will be ongoing throughout the three years (20 – 22), and work with partners to initiate a range of short-term projects, tasters, mini-projects and courses. These short projects will work with people facing disadvantage – refugees, migrants, asylum seekers, disabled people, people living in disadvantaged areas, socially isolated older people. Red more about one of these brilliant short projects “Performing Harts” below.

New Daytime Theatre

Starting in September is a new, open access theatre group for adults. On Tuesday 14th September, we will hold our first FREE taster session. No experience needed and no auditions, this is a friendly, open group where everyone is welcome. To book a place or find out more, please contact Clare at [email protected] or call on either 0117 953 2448 or 07946 415167.

Performing Harts

Performing Harts is a free drama group for children in Hartcliffe and Withywood, founded by Sarah Fowles, a long serving member of the community who has herself experienced the transformative impact of participatory theatre. Sarah joined acta’s Hartcliffe school group aged 13; “I was a very unsettled child, I had a difficult time growing up and taking part in acta was my one consistent thing.”

Hartcliffe is the most deprived ward in Bristol containing neighbourhoods listed in the top 100 most deprived in the country. Sarah explains “Hartcliffe has a bad reputation and there aren’t many opportunities to show the positive but there is so much potential. The group is free, so it doesn’t matter if you’re from a big family with a small income- you can take part and show the world, and yourself, all the great things you have to offer.”

Sarah took part in out facilitator training (curtailed by the pandemic) alongside acta Foundation worker, Maryam. Thanks to funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we were able to continue this learning for them both ‘on-the-job’, supported by an experienced acta facilitator.

Together we have delivered Performing Harts first 10 sessions, and have been blown away by the journey of the young people involved in that short time. acta’s Sara Snook adds: “each week has been a delight; watching them grow in confidence, learn new skills and take pride in what they achieve.”

We are in the process of securing funding for the group to continue until the end of the year, by which time we hope to have more long term funding in place, in order for Performing Harts to be the consistent creative opportunity that is so needed in the area.

Keep up with Performing Harts on their Facebook page here.

Performing Harts
Performing Harts group at the end of Term 1 celebrating their achievements!

Summer 2020

Last summer, produced two afternoons of live theatre, music and making – a community arts trail through and around the acta centre, for all the family. The Home at acta trail is part of this Cornerstone programme, and took place on Weds 26 & Thurs 27 August. Watch the video of it here:

In September, we also managed to perform a brilliant, sell-out performance trail: The Museum of Unsung Heroes“leave your Brunels’ and Frida Kahlos’ at the door, and share with us the heroes that we’ll never know we never knew. They may not be found in history books or museums, but that’s why it’s time for us to record their stories…” For one night only, on Thursday 17 September, the acta centre was transformed into a living museum, where audiences of six moved from room to room, watching a different theatre story; each inspired by a real life hero. Read more here, or watch the video below:

Seminar series

In terms of networking and developing opportunities for national debate about community theatre, Cornerstone is developing the popular acta seminar series, which has already attracted hundreds of attendees to engage with nationally and internationally renowned and respected speakers. The Company will continue to invest resources into the wider sector, to encourage the sharing of work and ideas, to promote discussions, to improve practice. The acta seminar series has provided regular opportunities for practitioners, participants, students and academics to hear from experts in the field, and to discuss and debate some of the issues, challenges and concerns for makers of participatory and community theatre.  Seminars are also key to acta’s commitment to sector development, and will form the basis of our initiative to encourage improved sector communications.

acta has always recognised the importance of a strengthened sector, and has a history of being proactive in this, leading the sector in the creation of a seminar programme, instigating and coordinating collaborations, events, touring productions, celebrating and debating the work in national and international festivals. acta’s Foundation programme in particular has attracted interest from around the sector, and inspired a range of companies, academics, funders and practitioners following the development of the programme.

Take a look at the three seminars which have taken place online, or are shortly take place during Covid-19 restrictions:

30 June 2021 | Bridging the Generation Gap: see here

17 March 2021 | A Brave New World: see here

25 Nov 2020 | The Art and Process of Making Community Theatre: see here

24 June 2020 | Keeping Stories Alive: Heritage and Theatre: see here

Engaging & Attracting audiences

Cornerstone also has audience development at its heart, supporting the acta mission to increase audiences for theatre, by co-creating relevant, reflective and accessible theatre which will connect to and attract new audience members. acta believes that creating a new audience depends on creating new theatre, and involving that audience in that process.

A highlight of the Cornerstone programme is likely to be a new Festival, taking place at the acta theatre in 2022. The Festival will include performances from acta’s new theatre group and various associate projects, with international guests from the RAPPORT project. Other national companies will also be invited to bring work.

Cornerstone is an approach as much as an individual project, and is tied into the entirety of the acta programme, in that it is developing the impact and importance of improving diversity in the workforce as a means of promoting intercultural working, and increasing participation among diverse communities. It will enable acta to engage more people through tasters and outreach, the establishment of a new integrated theatre group, and the development of short-term and specifically targeted associate projects.