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Supporting people with disabilities and mental health ensures that everyone has a space to express their creativity. We think the arts are a great way to reduce social isolation, to gain confidence and to learn new skills! Nigel Lyons is an independent arts practitioner and a highly experienced Health and Care Professions Council registered professional, who has spent over 10 years managing and developing community residential settings for people with complex needs or significant behavioural support needs. For the past five years, Nigel has been making and recording music recording with people with Autism, learning disabilities and mental health here at The Old Courts. So, why is this important? For members of Nigel’s group, working this way has been transformational. “Since I’ve met Nigel, everything’s turned around. He’s encouraged me to get into drumming again, which was always my passion before being ill and he’s introduced me to a new way of looking at life in general. Music’s helped me a lot expressing myself, I didn’t have an outlet, obviously with suffering with depression and anxiety and getting my head round my illness, yeah, I had no outlet so just on the creative side, being allowed to do what I love doing in a safe environment and feeling like I’m part of something again, it’s just enriched my life completely.” – Participant. It is difficult for people with complex needs to access professional music making experiences in recording studios. Here, we welcome everybody’s personal experiences and develop skills, so when the group writes music together, it’s about the real-life experiences that are relevant to all of us. “The main benefit for the members of the group is social. The sessions are always motivational and very rewarding. These are the kind of benefits that ultimately help to improve people’s health and because we focus on what they want to do in the sessions, it gives them control and agency, which is also important for their wellbeing. When people have barriers to cross, creativity gives them a voice.” – Nigel Lyons, session leader. Nigel produces at least one song per session with his clients, so the achievements are quick and tangible. In the past, the group have produced and distributed their own Christmas album and would be looking to share their work more widely in the future. “We have no judgementalism in our sessions, there’s methods and means of working with people’s challenges that can be incorporated into the music. We’re not there to produce something perfect, everything’s quick and fast and fun!” The group has utilised a studio at The Old Courts for five years and we support Nigel and the group with subsidised rent so that they have a space that they can call their own. Working alongside Nigel and his group each week reminds us of the power of arts and culture to create, engage and inspire and to do this inclusively, to enrich lives and to provide hope.
Here's an exciting recap of how The Old Courts worked with the BBC to be transformed into wartime Manchester and Paris In July of 2018, our Sales Manager at the time, Jill was approached by Space Studios Manchester, a purpose built facility for TV production, who The Old Courts had previously spoken to about using our spaces as filming locations. They told Jill that they had recommended us to Mammoth Screen, a production company responsible for such TV shows as Poldark and Victoria. Mammoth were looking for space to shoot a new TV show and wanted to look at our Victorian Courtroom. After an initial visit from a locations manager, Mammoth returned a week later with a 12 strong team in order to do what they called a ‘reccy’. This means that the important people responsible for the filming of shows come along and decide if the space is suitable for their needs. After Jill had shown them the Victorian Courtroom and our Vault and Theatre spaces as well, Mammoth said that not only did they want the Courtroom for filming, but the other spaces too! From November until January of 2019, the whole Old Courts complex was bustling with people: runners dashing here and there delivering scripts and the all-important coffees, cameramen setting up and then packing down equipment and heavily secured wiring running through almost every corridor. It was great to be a part of something as complex, interesting and fundamentally artistic as a TV production and even though we had to suspend the use of some of our rooms, the BBC were keen to make sure that we didn’t lose any revenue from having them around. We asked our Sales Director, Becky Davenport about working with the BBC: “Having the BBC here at The Old Courts was enlightening. It was the first time that we’d had such a large-scale media takeover of our building, or worked with such a nationally recognised partner, but we absolutely lived for it and it’s relevant to what we do here at the Arts Centre. Staff and volunteers were inspired, the public were curious, and it definitely increased our hunger to work with TV & digital companies again in the future.” The TV series is called World on Fire and was shown on the BBC during Autumn of 2019.
The Old Courts is much more than just a venue – We champion local grassroots musicians, as well as other emerging musical artists, giving them a platform to take their first steps into the larger music industry. What is Friday Night Live? Friday Night Live is an event hosted at The Old Courts in which we provide a professional platform for local musicians, as well as musicians from further afield. The event offers the chance for local up and coming bands to rub shoulders and share the spotlight with more established musicians, giving them the opportunity to network and gain great insight into the music industry. Every Friday Night Live is different, with an eclectic mix of musical styles. It attracts ever more diverse crowds from all corners of our community, with no restriction on generation or background. Friday Night Live is an exhilarating event for everyone involved and The Old Courts encourages an open and inclusive philosophy, supporting all kinds of tastes and ranges of talent. How do we support emerging local musical artists? The Old Courts supports the local music scene by providing a venue in which local talent can showcase their skills. We also provide marketing for the artists, promoting them on our Facebook page, as well as in our What’s On guide. We use our marketing power to help spread the word about these emerging artists, providing them with an invaluable service. By offering this support, The Old Courts helps the bands to build an audience and a fan base, ensuring that as they grow and move through the industry, they have reliable attendance at their shows. Local band, The Lathums are a great example of a band who have enjoyed tremendous success having played Friday Night Live three times in the past. The band recently played at Kendal Calling, a popular annual festival held in the Lake District. They were handpicked by Charlatans front man, Tim Burgess. They are also due to play at the Bingley Weekender on the 30th August, another high profile gig for this talented local band. Friday Night Live is a vital resource to help emerging local artists create, as well as engaging the local community and by doing so, inspire them to discover new music and artistic styles.
GRIMM: ARTISTS TAKE FIRST STEPS INTO THE WORLD OF CREATING IMPROV FOR CHILDREN
The Old Courts is much more than just a venue –we are an organisation who are passionate about inspiring the children of our community. We will help them gain confidence and a love of performance and help them take their first steps into a world of art and creativity whilst supporting local artists to be able to make great work for children and young people.
What is Grimm? Grimm is a brand-new show for kids about Fairies, Goblins and well... you get to make up the rest. Blending traditional stories with ones the audience can shout out and make up themselves, Grimm is the gentlest introduction to Improvisational theatre for kids and their grown-ups. Ian Hayles, one of the creative minds behind the project says:“It is about imagination. Lots of imagination. In our world, Fairies are adults and Goblins are children. When you grow up and become a Fairy, you just do the rights things that are good and nice, and you forget your Goblin self. Your Goblin self is the naughty, subversive thing that can make up a fantastic story with Spider-Man and a jelly monster. A fairy would never write that story.” What Made an Improv Company Create A Show For children?
Grimm is the brainchild of Ian Hayles, the Artistic Director of Casino Improv. Created two years ago as The Old Courts own in-house improvisational theatre troupe, Casino deliver improv classes for adults, regular performances at The Something New Show and have recently started their own show, Baillaugh. Their style is anarchic, hilarious, and always utterly brilliant. They have spent the last two years developing and successfully hosting their shows, which up to now, have all been aimed at ages 18+. Grimm is Casino Improv’s very first foray into the world of creating work for children and young people. So,why did they decide to take this step? Ian explained to us the idea behind Grimm: “One of the reasons we made Grimm is that we are so passionate about improvisational theatre, but it’s actually quite hard to get improv to be considered a proper art form and more than just ‘that thing that happens in bars sometimes.’ It is much more than that. Children innately ‘get’ improv because they just do it all the time. Improv is play. It is actually us as adults who forget how to do that well.”Ian sees a pathway for children who first experience shows like Grimm as audience members then gaining the confidence and ability to participate in performance classes and groups. Only about 80% of the Grimm script will ever exist. The rest is made up by the audience on the spot. By encouraging children to play a part in the creation of their own story, Grimm empowers kids to keep on thinking, playing and making up their own long after the show has finished.Ian and Casino share the same passion as The Old Courts: that people can feel able to interact with the art, rather than simply be passively entertained.
Performing for HRH Prince Charles and brand-new audiences: Audience Reactions
On April 11th-13th 2019, Grimm was performed at The Old Courts in our Theatre. Each audience was a great mix of adults and children. Overall, 108 people viewed the performance, as well as 150 people who watched a special preview in which we were honoured by the presence of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, who also watched the show. Below are two quotes taken from some of the audience members:
“Took my 8yr old boy tosee Grimm, he thoroughly enjoyed it and so did I. We laughed all the way through, and he loved being able to shout out and take part. Well done to the two actors on keeping the kids and adults engaged and entertained throughout.” –Lisa S (Trip Advisor, April 2019)
“A fantastic experience! I took my two grandchildren (4&7) to watch Grimm. It was a superb interactive experience. I had never heard of this venue before (and would suspect many more haven’t). I will look each time I have grandchildren to see if anything is on! Great value, very reasonable drinks and treats! We will return!” -car0lann47 (Trip Advisor, April 2019)
How did The Old Courts support this project?
We have successfully supported Ian and Casino Improv develop The Something New Show and Bailaugh since 2017, and after several successful pantomimes here at The Old Courts, we approached Ian in 2019 with the prospect of developing an in-house pantomime. However, pantomimes take a whole crew of people to build and put on, so despite our best efforts, this just wasn’t feasible at the time. Instead, Ian proposed an improv-inspired panto-style show that could work year-round,and Grimm was born. We were able to fully support Ian as he developed Grimm, offering him the rehearsal space he needed to perfect the show. For emerging artists like Casino Improv, we offer support and guidance, putting them in touch with people from whom they can get advice and an experienced view of where they one day hope to be. For example, we put Ian in touch with renowned children’s theatre company, Filskit, who we able to offer advice on developing and touring children and young people’s theatre across the country and allowed him to shadow one of their performances. What’s next for Grimm? “Taking the show forward, I want some other members of Casino Improv who are interested in performing for children to learn the parts. This show is going to be anything but stale. Whatever we can do to keep it alive and vibrant. Touring is something that we would love to do soon. I see these people with their shows, like Kaleidoscope [during Wigan Arts Festival] – it was lovely! And they tour that. How do they do that?”The Old Courts will continue to support Casino Improv as they develop as an emerging improvisational theatre company. We look forward to seeing Casino Improv work on a funding application for further research and development of Grimm and wraparound workshops for children.
The Old Courts is much more than just a venue – We believe in giving every artist a chance to showcase their talent without stigma or prejudice. Who is Rik Jones? Rik Jones is a singer/songwriter from Wigan who has been making music since 2008 and who we have been supporting since 2015. Rik started his journey by playing in various pubs and at festivals around Wigan before The Old Courts existed. In Rik’s words: “The open mic nights and jam sessions were the only options I had back then because there was nothing like The Old Courts around at the time.” In 2015, Rik became the first artist with disabilities to perform at The Old Courts, and we have been championing his immense talent ever since. How has The Old Courts supported Rik? Our team was so impressed with the way Rik sounded, that he offered him a spot as a supporting artist to John Power from Cast when he played a solo gig here back in 2015. Rik told us: “I grew up in the era of Britpop/indie rock – Oasis and Blur and all that - so it was an amazing opportunity to support somebody like John Power! It was a great feeling because it was the first time I’d ever supported anyone.” Since then, we have invited Rik to support artists such as Steve Craddock and he has also independently supported The Songbook Collective and The Real People. Rik’s songwriting is excellent and now, it is being recognised for being so. In 2018, a radio executive recommended Rik’s song, Walk A Mile in My Shoes, to Dave Heeley, the first blind person to complete the seven-marathon challenge in 2008, and the directors of the film about his life, 7 Days - The Story of Blind Dave Heeley. Rik’s song is about having to understand what someone is going through, but it’s also quite open to interpretation and is a fitting end to the film which explores the challenges that Heeley faced as a blind man trying to complete “I’ve played that song a hundred times or more but sitting there at the premiere and hearing it in that context was something else!” After hearing about Rik’s inclusion in the film and his experience at the premiere, Our former Sales Manager Jill Challinor suggested to Rik that we show the film here at The Old Courts in our Theatre. The directors of the film agreed on the condition that the proceeds go to a charity of Rik’s choice. He chose Wigan and Leigh District Society for the Blind. On the night, Rik introduced the film to an audience of over a hundred people and performed an acoustic set before the film was shown, which included his song Walk a Mile in My Shoes. The evening was a sell-out success and ended up raising £500 for the charity. Rik told us: “When my tune came on at the end [of the film], the applause from the audience was unreal!” Rik is still a regular performer in our Bailiff Bar. We asked him what it was about The Old Courts that differs from other venues: ‘I really love the Theatre there because it helps focus on the audience. Usually, when you play in pubs, there are sometimes people who aren’t interested in music, but in a theatre setting, it’s different. I love playing The Old Courts because it gives me a chance to try out my own songs, old and new. A lot of places just want covers of songs they know. I love the Bailiff Bar because of the way the audience interacts and gets into it. Obviously, I can’t see them, so I have no idea how many people are in the room, but it’s great when they start to sing along. I’m just more confident in playing my own songs there. I love music and when you love what you do, it comes across.”
We are a charitable non-profit organisation focussed on developing the Arts in Wigan, and as such a keen interest in the Arts means a lot to our team. At the Old Courts we are always looking for Staff for our ever growing Events team, as each week changes we require a different number of shifts and as such are not able to guarantee fixed hours and all applicants must be prepared for flexible working. Shifts are made available 2 - 3 weeks in advance and you have the right to accept or deny a shift request without prejudice. We operate an online Rota platform where you can login and look at your shifts. All applicant must be over 18 with right to work in the UK Bar experience is preferred but is not essential as training can be provided. APPLY HERE
We caught up with Martin Spencer, the WATC director, to find out a bit more about the company and Martin himself. What inspired you to start WATC? Well, I was a front of house volunteer at the Bolton Octagon and most of their shows are in house casting and I thought while I was volunteering here at The Old Courts, "Wouldn't it be good if we had a in house theatre company for ages 18+?" The more I thought of it the more I wanted to do something. Recently, I got the go-ahead after a few talks with The Old Courts and it was decided that it would be good to do something different with a theatre company for the public. So, we decided that the main focus would be to be inclusive and to focus on autism. How did you come up with the name? Well it wasn't actually me who came up with the name (a shock I know as I am good at ideas!). It was my creative partner for the group, Sammy Holding. What is your favourite theatre show? Bat out of Hell: The Musical - there ain't a doubt about it! What person in theatre inspires you? Well, this is a very hard question to answer because if you were to ask me what what theatrical celebrity inspires you, then I would have to say Andrew Lloyd Webber. But I must say, everyone that I've worked with in the past on shows and who i'll be working with in future shows, they are the ones that inspire me. I think we all inspire each other to do the best we can to create a brilliant show for the audiences who pay to see us and give them a memorable time for that 2-3 hours on stage. We all want to give them a really good top quality show. What do you want to achieve with WATC? I would love to share the knowledge I have learned from working with other theatre companies around the north west and share that with members in the group and give them the best experience possible in WATC. You don't require any previous experience within theatre or acting. There are opportunities both on and off stage and you don't have to be autistic to get involved. We want to create an inclusive, safe and welcoming atmosphere for those who love theatre or want to try something new. Ages 18+ only. Like us on Facebook to stay up to date!
Wigan Autistic Theatre Company (WATC) is a new inclusive project set up by writer Martin Spencer and filmmaker Sammy Holden with the support of The Old Courts Arts Centre. The project launched back in June 2019 and is about to bring their first production – Wheeler Fortune to the stage in April. Martin had the idea whilst volunteering at The Old Courts that there was nowhere in the area specifically for people with autism, like himself, to explore their love of drama. So, he decided to do something about it. Now, almost a year later and their first production is gracing the theatre stage at The Old Courts on April 28th and 29th. The comedy written by Martin Spencer is set in the year 2026 and Wigan has grown into a thriving city. Outside of the city centre, not much has changed from how we know it to be today. The show follows the Wheeler family; Vera, Billy and Vera’s best friend Paris Dakota, as they are plucked from obscurity to become contestants on the exciting game show Cracker Quiz. Little do they know this is only the beginning of their adventure. The Old Courts are delighted to be supporting such a brilliant project and fortunate to host the first production. “It’s truly amazing what Martin has achieved with his vision and what he’s offering to the community. We’re all very excited about the show.” - Zak Bretherton Senior Graphic Designer at The Old Courts. Martin Spencer ready for Wheeler Fortune to take to the stage at The Old Courts WATC prides itself on inclusivity and has welcomed members with Autism, Tourette’s syndrome, Borderline Personality Disorder, Psychosis and Anxiety. Highlighting how WATC have adapted to the needs of members so that they can engage with the arts and perform. “Some people with Autism & Additional needs struggle to get on stage and we want members to be able to overcome that by creating a safe environment in which there’s no time pressure to learn scripts. We want to create high-quality performances in a relaxed environment” – Martin Spencer Co-Founder of WATC. Co-Directors Sammy Holden and Martin Spencer Proceeds from the tickets go back into supporting the project to run on a weekly basis and into production costs. WATC is free to join, making engaging with the arts more accessible. “I feel comfortable here. I don’t feel judged or anything and I can just enjoy myself. It’s really helped me build-up. I struggle with anxiety, but it’s helped my confidence a lot” – Alex Butler WATC Cast “I’ve always loved acting, it feels amazing. Absolutely amazing.” – Dominic Sharpe WATC Cast
The Old Courts is much more than just a venue – we are an organisation who are passionate about helping emerging artists to improve their skills, showcase their talents and connect with the community for a wider audience. Who is Sammy Holden? Sammy Holden is a twenty-seven-year-old Film Producer who started volunteering at The Old Courts in 2017. She graduated from The University of Central Lancashire in 2013 after studying Film Production. As well as continuing to collaborate with The Old Courts, she has gone on to study for her PGCE at Edge Hill University and is due to graduate later this year. How did The Old Courts support Sammy as a volunteer? Sammy Holden first joined The Old Courts as a volunteer when we were recommended to her by an existing volunteer. She initially began work as a volunteer in The Isherwood Gallery and at many other events, from theatre productions, to gigs and ticket sales. We asked Sammy how she felt about the support The Old Courts gave her while she was volunteering with us: ‘The Old Courts is a very comfortable place to volunteer, I always feel safe and supported and the level of communication is always top notch. I have never felt that there wasn't anybody there to support me whenever I've been looking for help. I believe that I began volunteering at the right time. It was through this volunteer work I gained the confidence to go into teaching which is going to become my career. As well as this, having a connection with the Courts allows me to work on different projects constantly, which I find very valuable as a showcase of my skills.’ How have The Old Courts continued to support Sammy? Sammy then went on to advance from a purely volunteer role, to shadowing another artist, Megan Porter, on her Play in A Day event which was hosted at The Old Courts. This is a great example of The Old Courts supporting artists by introducing them to other artists and helping them expand their network. We asked Sammy to tell us a little about her experience with Play in A Day: ‘Meeting Meg during Play in A Day meant that I forged a connection with her which then led to working with her on The Young Courts theatre project and with Film in A Day. The young people attending were all very enthusiastic and the planning of the day meant that it went off without a hitch. All attendees seemed thrilled to present their work to their friends and family’ As mentioned in her quote, Sammy went on to work with Megan on both The Young Courts Theatre project, a youth theatre group began and supported by The Old Courts, and Film in A Day, which was Sammy’s own project. This involved her collaborating with young artists from the community to script, cast and film a short film within one session. We asked Sammy how she felt The Old Courts supported her during the project: ‘I felt really humbled to be offered the chance to lead my own workshop, directly before I began teaching. I included this experience in the documentation that has aided in my achievement of a Distinction for my final grade [at university]. My assistants were extremely capable and useful, I definitely could not have completed the day without their help or without the wider help of Courts staff such as Derek, as the complexity of the set-up meant that I would have had to be in multiple places at once. Working on Film in A Day, the whole process of it, has left me with the eagerness to hold more workshops of my own at the Courts and I hope I get to do that.’ What is Sammy up to at the moment? Alongside long-time Volunteer, Martin Spencer, Sammy has just embarked on a new project here at The Old Courts, The Wigan Autistic Theatre Company. This is an inclusive theatre company for anyone over 18 of any level of ability, but with an emphasis on those with Autism. Seeing an opportunity to engage an underrepresented part of the community, Sammy and Martin created the group with the support of The Old Courts. The project was launched on the 10th July with their first session occurring on the 16th July. We asked Sammy to tell us about her expectations for the group: 'Although WATC is Martin's baby, we are co-founders of the group. I enjoy working with Martin as his outlook is very creative and his ambitions are major, I feel like we're a good creative team and although the process is long and involved, the group should pull off a wonderful show. It has already managed to surprise me, and I intend to do all I can to see the group succeed.’ The Old Courts are committed to supporting them with the project and to helping them grow by offering free rehearsal space, and once the group is ready, a place to perform the plays they create. We believe that engaging with the community is the best way to spot new emerging artists and support them. Thank you Sammy, you are a pleasure to work with!
Stanleys are a four-piece indie band from Wigan. Formed in 2017 and influenced by a wide range of music, ranging from 60’s guitar music to 90’s Britpop, the band is composed of Tom Concannon (Vocals), Jake Dorsman (Guitars), Harry Ivory (Bass) and Rob Hilton (Drums and Vocals). The band first got together when the guys met at Winstanley College, although Jake, Harry and Rob had been jamming together since high school. Their early demo tracks got airtime in 2018 on the BBC Introducing shows on BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Merseyside and they played live in the studio on the Dave Sweetmore Show on Revolution Radio. Even more impressively, the band also got their first US air play with their song ‘The Martyr’ on California’s KX 93.5 FM that same year. How did The Old Courts support the band? Stanleys first played at The Old Courts on 21st September 2018, at one of our Friday Night Live events. Friday Night Live is a night of live music which showcases the best bands from the local area, as well as spotlights up and coming talent, programmed by Lindsey Holding. Since then, Stanleys have headlined loads of our FNL nights and have opened for Shaun Ryder when he took part in one of our ‘An Audience With…’ events. Since their first gig here, the guys have gone on to play in some impressive venues, including The Cavern Club in Liverpool and Bolton Arena. Their latest single, ‘A Better Life’, reached number 8 on the iTunes Alternative Charts and number 38 on the normal iTunes Chart.We’re so proud of Stanleys for everything that they’ve achieved and excited for the whirlwind of success that’s currently surrounding them. We asked them how they believe The Old Courts has supported them along the way:‘The Old Courts have enabled us to go from playing in our front room to having opportunities like playing in places like London and Manchester, and it has helped us craft a sound and performance that we now benefit from so much. We owe The Old Courts A LOT!We think the best thing The Old Courts has done for us is believe in us even at times when we might not have ourselves. From a few amazing gig opportunities to support and feedback from staff, and a place to practise, it really is a gem of our town. As homegrown talent, Stanleys are a great example of the success local bands and artists can have when supported by venues where they can showcase their talent and have access to a community to build a fanbase out of. With this in mind, we asked the guys how important places like The Old Courts are to the town:‘The Wigan music scene at the minute is at the forefront of everything good in the industry and there’s no doubt that the help of a central music hub (The Old Courts) has helped this to happen. Good venues are the bread and butter of the music industry and to find one that puts on so many young starting out bands is amazing. We are very proud to be from Wigan and see The Old Courts as a home from home.’The Old Courts will continue to support local bands and up and coming artists, and Stanleys will always have a home here with us.
This month at The Old Courts we hosted Barney Farmer, Dave Windass, Andrew Pearson, Martin Barrass & Alan Williams for a week of rehearsals and R&D in The Apex, our dedicated on-site space for talented folk from anywhere and everywhere to immerse themselves in their projects. The Old Courts team already know Andy and Dave well from our time together as partners in The Collaborative Touring Network which gave birth to Wigan Arts Festival. The ‘CTN’ sends carefully chosen, excellent theatre shows to the various partner organisations across the UK. Drunken Baker, the will-be theatre show from (in my opinion) the absolute jewel in The Viz crown is a proper exciting thing. The mini residency from the Hull-based theatre makers culminated in a rehearsed reading on Thursday 13th February in our theatre space. If I’m honest, I was unsure how this might be about to pan out from a legendary comic strip to the stage but thankfully it was ace. In fact there were belly laughs, poignant monologues and a genuine feelgood vibe. If you’re familiar with the comic strip trust me, you’ll be amazed how this takes it to the next level. If you aren’t familiar already, just get ready to enjoy something refreshing, gritty and just funny as. It was also great to see a really healthy audience turnout and from both the laughter and the volume of people who hung around after the reading to speak further, it clearly went really well. Thanks go to the for choosing to spend this week with us in Wigan and to the many who turned out to enjoy the reading. Cannot wait for the next bit……it’s been a pleasure! Jonathan Davenport Script: Barney Farmer with Dave Windass Director: Andrew Pearson Performed by Martin Barrass & Alan Williams Illustrations by Lee Healey Based on the novel Drunken Baker by Barney Farmer Supported by Arts Council England.
The Old Courts is much more than just a venue – We are a proud member of The Collaborative Touring Network, a national network of producers working in areas of cultural deprivation who are dedicated to providing access to the arts for everyone. Formed in 2013, The Collaborative Touring Network (CTN) is a partnership between Battersea Arts Centre and eight national partners, including us here at The Old Courts. Our vision is a nation where everyone has inspiring art and culture on their doorstep. Over the past five years, the Collaborative Touring Network has produced, presented and promoted diverse events to feed an appetite for culture in underserved communities across the country. Our partners on this project are producing teams based in Battersea, Hull, Darlington, Gloucester, Thanet, Torbay, Peterborough and Medway. As a network, we support and develop artists locally and deliver two festivals a year packed with inspiring touring work, home-grown talent, music, workshops & feasts. Occupying parks, community centres, boxing gyms and nightclubs; the network imagines new contexts for performances that inspire audiences and artists alike. To date we have presented work in over 170 different spaces. Shows that have toured with CTN previously include Christopher Brett Bailey’s This is How We Die, Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Ballad of the Burning Star, Victoria Melody’s Major Tom, The Paper Cinema’s Odyssey, Touretteshero’s Backstage in Biscuitland, Foreign Radical by Theatre Conspiracy, Ground Control by Non Zero One and Rendezvous in Bratislava by Miriam Sherwood. Shows that toured as part of the Spring 2019 season of festival included Paper Cinema's Macbeth, Lost Dog's Juliet and Romeo, Caroline Williams & Reem Karssli Now is The Time to Say Nothing and FILSKIT THEATRE’s Kaleidoscope. Our national partners: Battersea Arts Centre Battersea Arts Centre believe that everyone is creative. Their purpose is 'To inspire people, to take creative risks, to shape the future'. They feel that everyone has the potential to be an artist, whether they make that their professional practice or not. They are excited by the creativity of everyone in their local community, across London, the country and the world. Doorstep Arts
a non-profit arts education organisation based in Torbay. They run 14 drama groups across Torbay at key doorstep sites – youth clubs, church halls and schools. They are also the creative education company in residence at the Palace Theatre, Paignton. The young people who attend these groups range in age from 0-25. They write their own stories and songs, and they explore original ideas through drama process, play, and imagination. The groups provide safe educational spaces to experiment with what it means to be an artist and to explore your own voice. Luxi Based in Darlington, Luxi produce, promote and present prestigious arts and theatre with artists and audiences around the world. They are specialists in audience experience and are particularly interested in exploring people’s relationship with place, people at a stage of transition and authentic connections. In many tailored ways, they work to share their ethos and learning. E52
Born in Hull in the North of England, E52’s reach extends nationally and internationally, with their experienced vanguard of artists and associates. Delivering and managing large and small-scale projects, E52 also make live performance for found spaces and unusual places and produce beautiful and engaging work with E52 Films. E52 are responsible, political and social and believe entertainment, creativity and the arts can be truly transformational for audiences, business and participants. Strike A Light
Hailing from Gloucester, Strike A Light create events that people never imagined would or could happen in their city. They tell people’s stories through performance and create brilliant participation opportunities for young people. They believe that the arts can change lives and that everyone, regardless of background and circumstance, should be given opportunities to watch, make and participate. Looping the Loop Looping the Loop was set up in 2012 by a consortium of producers based in Thanet. They make festivals, projects and pop up with their street theatre actors, creating mayhem, joy and beautiful contemporary live performance. Jumped Up Theatre Company Jumped Up Theatre Company, based in Peterborough, has been producing theatre events around the UK since 1993, taking productions into pubs, churches, community gardens, museums and front-rooms, and quite a few theatres. The audience is at the heart of their work. They want to empower and enrich theatre-makers and audiences by curating a responsive programme of events, performances and opportunities that cultivates ambition, curiosity and vital communities. Lyrici Arts Lyrici Arts is a Medway based organisation which works in partnership with local organisations and authorities to address diversity inclusion via arts programming. Founded in 2016 by Keely Augustus, the name Lyrici means ' Of Literature, Art or Music, Expressing the writer's emotions in an imaginative and beautiful way.'
MEET THE ARTISTS: SAY HELLO TO THE NOISE NEXT DOOR
Hi! We’re the Noise Next Door and we’re from Brighton! (Audience woop and cheer) Or... We are Tom, Sam, Matt and Robin and we’re from all over the place. (Audience mutters in confusion) Do we need to go to our Graham for a quick recap? How did The Noise Next Door start? We met at university many years ago where we all studied useless subjects like drama and film. In our spare time we started teaching ourselves improvisation... Which led to occasional shows at student bars... Which led to occasional shows at regular bars. The first time someone offered to actually pay us to do a show was the moment we realised we might be able to take this a little further. What got you all interested in Improv? Initially we fell for improv by watching old episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway on YouTube. It seemed chaotic and clever at the same time - and that really excited us. The great thing about improv comedy is that there are things that appeal to everyone. As such, different things drew each of us in further. Matt loves the outrageous characters, Robin likes the chance for physical comedy, Sam is a fan of the world-play, and Tom enjoys the story telling elements. How would you describe an Improv show to someone who has never been to one? The improv show essentials: The performers ask the audience for suggestions, then the performers turn those suggestions into funny scenes, songs and jokes. And we... Are really good at it. We saw you were in Manchester for NYE. What did you like about it and have you visited Wigan before? We were! We love performing in the north west. The audiences are so warm and always up for a laugh. But we’ve never been to Wigan! We are very much looking forward to it. Where can people see you in 2020? Wigan. Let’s focus on Wigan. We’re also on tour for the whole year, all over the country. But that’s less important than Wigan. Finally, what will the people of Wigan and beyond get from your show at The Old Courts? They can expect to laugh. There’s no big message, we’re not trying to tackle the big issues. It’s jokes. We just want to give people an evening to escape into laughter. Thanks! No, no... Thank you. See The Noise Next Door perform at The Old Courts Theatre on Wednesday 4th March 2020. Tickets available here #improv #improvcomedy #wiganimprov #theatre #liveentertainment #comedy
NATIONAL LOTTERY SUPPORT FOR OUR EXCITING NEW CHARITY
We’ve secured National Lottery support for our exciting new charity. Read the full, official story here: Arts at The Mill CIC, locally known as The Old Courts, has received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £88,900.00 for an exciting project, Awakening Wigan’s Sleeping Heritage. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project focuses on creating Wigan Arts Trust for Culture & Heritage, a new charity that will be set up to help look after some of our town’s most prized heritage buildings such as The Old Courts, Wigan Pier and The Royal Court Theatre. Supported through The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project aims to reawaken a local love for our old heritage spaces, times gone by and spark new uses. It will provide new jobs, training and opportunities for the new Wigan Arts Trust for Culture & Heritage to consult with the community. The Old Courts is a Grade II listed former Magistrates Court, built in 1889, still retains many of its original features. It is vastly important to our local area - currently voted #1 thing to do in Wigan on TripAdvisor, and regularly receives positive comments of people sharing memories of their experiences of the building from its time as a Magistrates Court as well as recent memories from shows, experiences and arts events. With the help of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the team behind it are looking to harness the learnings and successes of The Old Courts into a charitable trust that will look after more heritage spaces in the area. These are: The Royal Court Theatre: this disused Grade II theatre was built in 1886 and in its 1920’s heyday, this stage was graced by icons such as Charlie Chaplin. Since then it’s become a bingo hall and nightclub before it became derelict seven years ago. This major restoration project has gained national television, and printed, press coverage from the likes of The Stage and BBC News. Wigan Pier: an unlisted but nationally significant heritage site which sits in the Heritage Action Zone. Made famous by George Orwell’s 1937 seminal book, The Road to Wigan Pier, documented the plight of the working classes in Northern England in the 1930's. In the 60's it became the home for the underground Northern Soul music movement attracting people from all over the country to take part in cultural activities. With Heritage Lottery Funding support the building was received into a Museum & Education Centre which was active from the last 80’s till the early 00’s. Commenting on the award, Rebecca Davenport, Director at The Old Courts said: “We are thrilled to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players and are confident the project will support the new and exciting Wigan Arts Trust for Culture & Heritage to grow, thrive and to connect with our community.” #RoyalCourtTheatre #WiganTheatre #RoyalCourt #WiganPier #WIgan #Wiganculture #nationallottery #nationallottery25
MOVING ROOTS TOURING NETWORK - OUR NEW PROJECT WITH BATTERSEA ARTS CENTRE
We are delighted to be working with Battersea Arts Centre - BAC on a brand new project called Moving Roots Touring Network. Moving Roots will take place over three years and we will be working alongside some fabulous producers in Peterborough, Medway, Blackburn and East Cardiff, to deliver co-created projects to generate positive social changes. The co-created projects will have live performance at their heart and will be a vehicle for local people to engage with their communities’ most pressing needs. 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗖𝗼-𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗜 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝘀𝗸? Co-creation seeks to push beyond the narrow model of participation that asks people to “come and join in with what we do,” and instead champions a model which invites people to “come and create.” Co-creation delegates leadership to participants and invites a wider range of voices, encouraging dialogue that continues beyond the immediate life of the project itself. It challenges old hierarchies in which the arts can be seen as the authority, and community members as learners or beneficiaries, instead giving individuals agency to shape the project, with the cultural partner acting as the facilitator to help them achieve their vision. In order for the work of national companies to have more resonance with communities, we believe that it needs to be co-created with, or led by, those communities. Watch this space for ways to get involved : ) Becky
I attended the opening night of the ‘Major Conversations’ exhibition at The Turnpike in Leigh. It’s a fascinating exhibition bringing together pieces by the late, great Theodore Major alongside the work of contemporary artists from across the North of England. It was chocca and great to see the hard work paying off once more for Helen Stalker and co who are constantly leading by example in Wigan’s visual art world. The exhibition is very accessible and the work on show is deep, quirky, memorable and loads of it is based on Wigan. What’s not to like?!? Jonny #TheTurnpike #Gallery #leigh #wigan #MajorConversations #TheodoreMajor
"LONG AFTER TONIGHT IS ALL OVER" REHEARSED READING OVERVIEW
Back on the 11th September, I watched the rehearsed reading and Q&A with the actors of ‘Long After Tonight Is All Over’ written by playwright, Mick Martin. Mick is one of our associate artists here at The Old Courts and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with him on this project so far. Mick approached us in 2018 with an idea about writing a follow up play to his smash hit stage play ‘Once Upon A Time in Wigan’ which celebrated the world-famous Northern Soul nights of the 70’s. We supported him through the bid writing stage and provided support with Mick’s research and rehearsals. We have thoroughly enjoyed hosting Mick and the project at The Old Courts these past few months and It was great to be at the scratch performance/ reading of the play, I loved the story and thought the characters were really intriguing. Overall I feel that Mick has done a stellar job thus far. The script was gripping and really funny in parts. I felt the show was really accessible for the people of Wigan and I’m really looking forward to the next stage of development for this project as I think it will make a really sterling show when it is fully developed. Keep your eyes peeled for further announcements and follow Mick Martin on Twitter for updates: @MickseyM
Acaprov will be performing twice at The Old Courts this October. We wanted to get to know them a little better before their visit! Have a read of the interview below and find out more about their upcoming events at the end. Why don't we start with you introducing yourselves? Hi! We're an Improvised A Capella Musical Theatre Company based in London. How did Acaprov come to exist? Lee and Lisa (of London's split-narrative improvised musical : Multiverse) had a late night conversation in Edinburgh about the sound of voices in a capella harmony being 'the best sound in the world', and wondering if they could improvise whole musicals completely a capella. Lisa then applied for a Nursery Theatre Orginals grant and founded the group with Lee as Co-Director and Co-Producer in April 2018. How long have you all been doing improv? There are 20 of us, we have TopTrumps on Insta; but when we arrive in Wigan we'll have people with experience improvising from just one month to 10+ years! We train professional triple threats in improv, but we are also lucky enough to have improvisers from Hoopla, Monkey Toast, Second City, Free Association, The Oxford Imps, The Groundlings, and The Nursery What is something you would say to someone who’s never had the pleasure of seeing an improvised musical or improv in general? YOLO! Come and give it a go! There's something very special about being there at the moment something is created on the spot, you either witness something truly amazing happen, or you're totally in on the in joke of it going very wrong in hilarious fashion! I don't think there's a more exciting improv show to watch, it's a white knuckle ride roller coaster, with a huge heart, and a seriously talented cast. What advice would you give to those getting into improv? DO IT. There's no other community as supportive as the improv community, it helps everyone improve, not only as performers but as people. If you've already started our mantras are: 'You are enough' and 'dare to be lovely' It's all about making each other look good (no ego) if we all do that, everyone comes off great and feels supported. 'Come on with nothing' is particularly important for our actors turned improvisers; as actors are trained to devise; but coming on with a whole show in your head can block your listening, so LET IT GO AND LISTEN then you discover magic together that's grounded in the truth and chemistry of the two spectacular real people on the stage. We are a relationship focused long form show. Fondest memory from a show? The first opening number we ever attempted, it was set in a B&Q Warehouse, and Lee and I were like 'Holy s**t, it actually works!'. It started with a soundscape of shoppers and power tools, with a hammer clinking metal all the way through, keeping time, that last clink of the hammer after the final chord was ruddy triumphant!!! Can you answer the age - old question - How to sell a show that is improvised? Reviews help, though we haven't had any for this show yet, we'll be inviting them to Wigan! When we flyer, we say 'improvised a capella musical' and the person listening will remember whichever of those 3 words they're interested in: Improvisers come to see us because they know how difficult it is to do it a capella; a capella fans come to see if we can in fact improvise whole songs; and musical theater fans come to watch a touching and uplifting musical! Word of mouth is your best friend in the industry. We do a lot of international festivals, and that really helps us gain fans and build buzz. What’s your views on the improv scene and is there differences up and down the country? Despite several of our players, and our founder being northern, this is our first show up north. So we are looking forward to checking out your improv scene and reporting back! Some of us have done improv in the US where its much stricter training, almost with a Drama school feel. But the London scene is a melting pot of different schools, each with thier different focuses and styles. A few years ago the only improvised musicals there were Olivier Award winning SHOWSTOPPERS! and 5 * Comedy Musical - MusicBox (which Lisa is a member of); now London is saturated with musical Improv and rap groups - daring to be a capella helps us stand out. I'd say we are most influenced by TJ and Dave and The Nursery's style 'naturalism in improv,' with HOOPLA's 'Follow the Fun' joy! Favourite improv game? 8 things. It cleanses your brain and reminds you not to try and be clever, because your mistakes are beautiful, and hilarious to justify. How was Edinburgh Fringe? We haven't performed there yet, Lee's CSI: Crime Scene Improvisation is a mainstay and sells out its 200 seat venue annually, so we are in very good hands. We sold out our Brighton Fringe run earlier this year, and are looking forward to applying for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2020 Have you ever done an improvised song that has been so catchy you find yourself singing it in the shower? Multiple times. Lee - 'clap, clap, clap SEAWORLD' (Seaworld based Musical) Lisa - 'I'm nuts about you' (Squirrel sanctuary musical) Rory - 'Chocolate Mmmmm' (Chocolate shop musical) It more often happens from songs created in rehearsals when everyone's more relaxed, so many earworms, it's heart-breaking you can't get them on Spotify! What are you looking forward to on your visit to Wigan? We're all different: for some it's Northern family members finally getting to watch; for others it's pies; for others it's the low priced beer! But we're all excited to play with Casino Improv and perform in such a fab large venue to new people.