Banbury's Cherwell Theatre Company launches crowd funding campaign to help it though COVID-19 pandemic

The Cherwell Theatre Company based in Banbury has launched a crowd funding campaign to help keep it going through coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
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Cherwell Theatre Company (CTC) creates an environment where young people can be themselves, make new friends and feel a real sense of value.

Tristan Jackson-Pate, the artistic director of the theatre company, which is also a charity, said: "We're running this crowdfunding campaign as, like many in the youth and charity sector we have lost a great deal in income from providing services, fundraising events and the postponement of planned projects like "The Changing Room" (supported by Cherwell District Council and the Tourle Foundation,) which would have seen our young people take over Woodgreen open air pool to create an immersive musical production."

The charity has raised £800 of its £3,000 target.

Anyone who would like to contribute to the fundraising compaign can use the following link to their crowdfunding page: https://www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk/covid-19-online-rTristan added: "We took the decision not to furlough our staff as we were deeply concerned for our young people, many of whom live in vulnerable circumstances rely on our workshops to stay creatively engaged, make positive friendships and feel less isolated.

"We knew at the start of the pandemic they had no way to connect with each other and take part in group activities. This also applies to children of key workers, those in phased return and other vulnerable young people attending our five partner schools in Banbury.

"Unlike others providers, we didn’t transition online immediately, obtaining funding from Oxfordshire Community Foundation, Cherwell District Council and Banbury Town Council to conduct a three-week research and development project with 26 participants who collaborated with six facilitators through planning, delivery and evaluation.

"We’ve now developed new safeguarding procedures, shared with Oxfordshire networks and strengthened our brief with facilitators, re-developing our practice and code of conduct to ensure the safety and quality of experience for participants and staff when working online.

Cherwell Theatre CompanyCherwell Theatre Company
Cherwell Theatre Company

"It is difficult to know how long social distancing measures will remain and whether restrictions will vary, though we are certain participatory arts will play a crucial role in the well-being of communities.

"With this in mind, CTC mustn't create a temporary solution, but sustain a dynamic new model of working which excites and gives purpose to young people, breaking new ground with the practitioners they know and trust to find ways to meaningfully engage from a distance.

"Our staff are working incredibly hard to secure grants to keep the organisation alive, but the truth is, we need our community to support us too.

"Many families of our participants have made generous donations to our continued work and our crowd funding total is already at a staggering £800, but in order to secure match funding from the kind folks at Aviva, who are hosting the fundraiser, we need to raise a great deal more.

"I would ask the Banbury Guardian readers to consider donating via the link, or if they are unable to, we'd be really grateful if they could head to social media and share our campaign far and wide.

"I love living in Banbury and greatly admire the thriving community scene in the town - so many groups do such wonderful things. I know we can rely on local residents to help keep us afloat."

During this challenging time the theatre company has made their weekly sessions free for all to attend to support families who's income has been adversely affected by coronavirus.

Tristan added: "We've been pleased to have engaged around 3/4 of our members already in weekly sessions where we play drama games, set creative tasks and sometimes host 'theatre watch-along' parties, where we watch a play online and then meet to discuss it virtually afterwards.

"Our young people have already created self-filmed and edited time capsule videos, staged their favourite films in 60 seconds and recently completed some radio adverts, which thanks to an in kind advertising rant from JACK FM are currently being broadcast on the station."

The charity plans to soon annoucne its online 'play in a week' projects, which will take place in August for ages 7-12 and 13 plus.

Through participating in the workshops the charity hopes young people will:

- Stay engaged with extra curricular activities, keep a sense of purpose in these difficult, isolated times.

- Have an increased sense of connection with others during isolation periods.

- Learn new skills; vocal technique, devising and improvisation skills, script writing, video editing etc.

- Have an increased sense of value and well-being from taking part in positive group activities.

As the project develops later in the year they will also:

Work with partner schools to help vulnerable children, those whose parents are key workers, and those in phased return, providing support to teaching staff and children.

Support freelance creatives and their families, sustaining cultural aspirational links in danger of decimation.

Continue to support the families of our participants by providing structure and a consistent, high quality, youth led programme of work for our members in this difficult time, whilst they are learning from home.

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