Playwright and theatre publicist Laura Horton took action when she learned Plymouth’s famous Theatre Royal could be hit by pandemic-forced redundancies.
She started collecting and sharing stories about the ways people had fallen in love with the theatre, and what it means to them, as a way of campaigning for support.
Now she has launched Theatre Stories, a digital campaign to collect the stories of people across the UK who love their local theatres but rarely get the chance to say so, and why.
Workshops and appeals will help the group to share stories through social media and the press, in the hope of changing public perceptions about who theatre is for.
The power of the stories led Horton to contact producer Lizzie Vogler and several theatres to help extend the campaign’s reach. Laura has now started working with theatres including Plymouth, Derby, Northern Stage and Theatr Clwyd, using their substantial community programmes to share more stories, and is looking for others to join them.
The project has already attracted a £15,000 grant from the Arts Council, which has helped to create a campaign website and a presence on social media.
“Media stories about the importance of theatre are often led by celebrities, and while I understand the importance of this, I also think we need to hear from other people engaged in theatre,” she said.
“Many theatre companies and buildings run incredible community outreach programmes. I want to shine a light on community voices through Theatre Stories, in the hope we can expand current narratives about the arts industry and who it exists for.”
As well as an online presence, the campaign will run community workshops at each theatre – initially through Zoom, but soon in person.
Horton’s activism was recognised by her inclusion in the 2020 Stage 100 – the annual list compiled by The Stage newspaper of the people working hardest to support the future of theatre.