skip to main content

Proteus celebrates freelance artists, community and young people during lockdown and beyond

28 August 2020

Proteus celebrates freelance artists, community and young people during lockdown and beyond

Back in March, as it became clear the UK was approaching a full lockdown and theatres, creative
spaces and community arts hubs were forced to close their doors, the immediate future for the
Creative arts industries was looking decidedly bleak. Ever resilient, creatives around the country
immediately began to adapt and Proteus was no different. As Tosin Thompson wrote in a recent
Guardian article: “Art evokes our common humanity, and it has been essential for our mental health
during the Covid-19 crisis”, so we quickly set about looking into practical ways we could continue to
support our communities in a meaningful way through the pandemic.

This has taken many forms, from the pure entertainment of rediscovering and sharing archived
productions, to supporting independent artists in their efforts to continue creating. We have
developed exciting new projects with Proteus Youth Theatre groups as a direct response to the
unique situation, and, as a wider team, have been throwing ourselves headfirst into planning for a
myriad of Post-COVID-19 possible futures.

Supporting and celebrating young people

For our team, continuing provision and support for our Proteus Youth Theatre members, a pivotal
part of our participatory and outreach work, from the moment we were unable to continue meeting
all our young participants in person, was a priority.

It was important that our response and support for the groups that we engage with weekly wasn’t
simply just to try and lift sessions into an online environment. We considered the unique needs of
each group in order to create new ways of engaging and being creating, using the skills and
resources available to do what we do best, make art! This has enabled us to create a series of legacy projects that put our young participants at the heart and also create content to help inform future youth theatre projects.

Our 14-16 age group had been devising an adaptation of The Hobbit, and during the zoom sessions
with this group, it became clear that they were motivated and keen to continue with the
performance element. So, we have worked with the group to create a homage to the ‘show that
would have been’, filmed during lockdown. This project will be released across our social media
channels at the end of August.

To engage and interact with our youngest group, we commissioned ‘Conversations with Colin’, an
interactive wellbeing and storytelling collaboration with Scratchbuilt Productions. This was an idea
born out of discussions with local MP Maria Miller about supporting the mental health of families
and children in EYFS during lockdown, and part funded by Cllr Stephen Reid. Episodes were
broadcast weekly on Facebook Live between May-July 2020, as a real-time COVID-19 digital
response project for younger children and families.

Created for parents/carers and children to watch together, each episode was carefully crafted to
give space for younger children express to any anxieties they might have about returning to nursery
or school and about how their world may be different now, sparking those conversations with
parents/carers and siblings. It provided a weekly shared experience with other children who might
experiencing the same emotions and questions about these unusual times, whilst also encouraging
imagination, creativity and play that they would ordinarily have explored in weekly Youth Theatre
workshops with Proteus.

The series was simulcast across multiple Facebook pages and had a wide reaching engagement that extended outside of our most junior Youth Theatre group. Episodes were shared across local
parenting pages, Basingstoke Festival, other arts organisations and groups, whilst several episodes
were picked up by the national ‘Family Lockdown Tips and Idea’ Facebook group (over 1m followers
and national media coverage). * Young Company, our most senior members of Proteus Youth Theatre presented a unique challenge, as this closely-bonded group (most of whom have been participating together for 7-8 years) were due to disband in the Summer, with several members leaving Basingstoke to begin university.

Over the years, the youth theatre has provided a vital resource and safe space for these young people to share ideas, create, connect and grow and we have a holistic responsibility to create a legacy to mark the end of their time with the Youth Theatre.

With the support of funding from the D’Oyly Carte Foundation we were able to work with the group
to create a series of podcasts discussing topics including equality and diversity, friendships and
relationships, the impact on arts and culture, thoughts and fears around careers, work and inevitably
the future, all through the unique lens of young people aged 16-18 during this time.

For this group, perhaps more than any other, all structures and future plans have been thrown wildly
in the air and we felt this age bracket in particular had been left out of the conversations in
mainstream media around the pandemic, despite the enormous impact on their generation.

Due for release in early September, this podcast series is both a snapshot of a generation in crisis and yet puts into sharp focus a deep maturity and understanding of how they can have a positive impact on the future. The final episode tackles the ‘what next’ and is a starting point for our first Post-COVID19 project.*

Celebrating and supporting artists

Our support for artists, particularly those creatives without large organisational backing and/or
freelance artists, is always at the forefront of our consideration, so we are proud to have been able
to support and provide a rehearsal space for the following projects during lockdown:
 Promotional support for the work of associate artist Becky Kitter for her lockdown projects;
digital Musical Bingo events and local balloon modelling delivery service.
 Set build, rehearsal, dramaturgy and filming space for The Beach by Pied Piper Theatre (with
puppets designed by and performed by Associate Artist Nick Ash.)*
 Project development and rehearsal space for The Brownie Club project by Associate Artist
Jessica Andrade, in preparation for a live digital performance commissioned as part of
Newham Unlocked Festival.*

One of the very first responses to the imminent lockdown was to see how we could use our existing
body of work to provide some much needed entertainment as we embarked on potentially weeks
without live ‘in-the-flesh’ performances. This also provided a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the
many talented actors, creatives and productions teams that have worked on previous projects with
us over the years.

Sharing for the very first time full-length video recordings of some of our favourite
shows from the last 10 years that audiences could watch for free and without time constraints in the
lead up to our 40th year felt like an appropriate homage.

Community Art

We also encouraged anyone who had created visual art during lockdown to be part of our ‘Café
Window Street Gallery’ by sending their creations to us either digitally or in person, as a celebration
of creativity in our community and as a reminder that the Creation Space is a local civic space for
everyone to express themselves creatively. From drawings by children as young as two years old, to
illustrations by professional artists, through to those rediscovering their love for making visual art,
we have been equally surprised and delighted by submissions.

We started to notice a pattern of hopeful, whimsical and dreamlike qualities within so many of the
pieces, reinforcing our belief that art in all its forms can inspire, be a release, a reflection of our
times, a response to our environment, a way to promote mental wellness and crucially, can be an
expression of who we are.

 

Find out more about the work Proteus do and upcoming projects here: https://www.proteustheatre.com/