Claire Murray reflects on past and future changes at Sheffield Theatres.
Over the last two weeks change has been on my mind a lot.
Two weeks ago we were awarded £150k as part of Arts Council England's Changemakers scheme. This funding will support us to work with and attract more Black, Asian and other minority ethnic audiences, artists and administrators, so that we, and the people who experience our work, look and feel even more reflective of the community we're part of. Of course, to some extent the change has begun. In the last 18 months our casts and creative teams have become more diverse - Pride & Prejudice's multi-racial Bennetts are probably the most obvious example of that; our programme has become even more expansive with work from a wealth of different cultures and experiences taking to all of our stages and we've reached new people to be part of Sheffield People's Theatre. However, this is just the start and there is much more to do, which is why investment of time and money is going to help to accelerate the change.
Soon thanks to Changemakers, we'll be joined by Javaad Alipoor as an Associate Artist. Javaad is a talented writer and director who is Artistic Director of Northern Lines in Bradford. Javaad brings a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective to Sheffield Theatres. I'm excited to see what we can achieve together in the next two years.
As I reflected on the prospect of this change, some sad news reached us. Colin George, the man who founded the Crucible, had died. I had the good fortune to meet Colin a couple of times over the last seven years. He was a great man - passionate, wise and infinitely entertaining. My first experience of Colin was as he returned to us to perform on stage in Othello; a huge undertaking for a man of 80, and one that he relished! In the months leading up to the Crucible's 40th birthday, I learned a great deal about the beginning of this iconic building because we were writing a book. I was lucky to learn some of it from the man who made it possible. Colin faced great opposition to his proposal to build a thrust stage, but with huge determination he achieved his dream - and what a dream it was! This building, and the incredible stage within it, is a gem - for the city and indeed, for the country. Colin fought hard for change, undeterred by the naysayers. He also established Vanguard: the second outreach team in theatre history. Colin a great visionary, and he was a man who believed in the importance of the connection between the theatre and its local community.
Thinking about Colin reminded me how vital it is to have people and institutions that drive forward change. His courage and passion have ultimately made a huge difference to thousands of people over the last forty years and now, with Changemakers, we enter a new chapter of change and I, for one, can't wait.