Performing Arts Fund: A year of theatrics

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As the BBC Performing Arts Fund’s year of theatre draws to a close, I am finally able to share with the world the 77 successful grant winners from across the UK. From a live performance inside the Scottish Parliament to a theatre production by housebound performers on Skype to supporting the development of writers, producers, directors, theatre-makers and even a dramaturg, the final list is exciting, diverse and truly inspiring.

The BBC has a long history with the theatre world. Many of the BBC’s key talent started their careers in the theatre and often they combine careers in both broadcast and the stage. Recently the BBC’s Writersroom hosted an event that highlighted ways in which the BBC and theatres can collaborate, engage and think about new ways of innovating and working together in the future.

The BBC Performing Arts Fund (PAF) is passionate about supporting the next generation of theatre-makers and the way we do that is through awarding Fellowships to allow them to work with a host of theatres and theatre companies like Third Angel, The Royal Exchange and Tinderbox.

One of the Fellowships is awarded to Alex Bulmer, a visually impaired writer looking to develop her playwriting for young audiences. Writers with disabilities are under-represented in theatre for young people and, following an online application process and an interview, Alex now is the recipient of a £10,000 grant from the Fund.

“I am delighted to be awarded the Fellowship from the BBC,” Alex says. “I will spend the next year working with Theatre Centre [in Shoreditch], a company with an exceptional history of creating essential new work for young people.”

Alex’s year with Theatre Centre will allow her to be supported and nurtured so that she can develop her voice to reach young audiences.

All in all we are supporting 19 theatre Fellows and 58 community theatre projects with over £430,000 spread right across the UK. 78% of those supported are based outside of London.

Community theatre projects who have received 2013 Fund grants range from clowning and street theatre workshops in Northumberland to puppeteer training in Devon; from a brand new Welsh-language play in Gwynedd to a musical staged on the Sefton coastline.

The incidental revenue accumulated through phone voting on BBC entertainment shows like Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice is being used to award grants such as Alex’s, which will help foster the next generation of performing talent in Britain.

It’s been an amazing year. And in 2014 we hope to turn our attention to dance. For a full list of the grant winners and their projects, visit the Performing Arts Fund website.

Miriam O’Keeffe is Director, BBC Performing Arts Fund

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