In May 2015 I was lucky enough to be at the opening of the Brighton Open Air Theatre, or BOAT as it is known. It was a moving, humbling and inspiring night. BOAT has opened thanks to the generosity and hard work of a few local people who persisted with determination in making this dream a reality. It has not had a penny of public subsidy. You can read the full story of how it came to being here.
The BOAT is a magical space. During the opening night I had a strong sense that I wanted to do something to build on the community-led way that it came into being. I wanted to do something to enable children and young people to feel like this space belongs to them too.
So, I came up with an idea to set up a children and young people’s festival of outdoor theatre in July, once the exams have finished but before the schools break for summer.
I set up an open meeting in July 2015 and another in September 2015 to see if others liked the sound of the idea. Just over 50 people came along. They were a mixed group of head teachers, drama teachers, youth theatre workers, arts development workers, theatre companies, theatre makers, directors, producers, writers, funders, other theatres and festival programmers.
There was a fantastic atmosphere at both meetings and the people who attended had loads of expertise and experience of similar initiatives. I was thrilled that there was unanimous support and enthusiasm for the idea of a festival of theatre for, by and with children and young people in the BOAT. Many of the theatre-makers present had ideas for shows they would like to create specifically for this magical space.
You can download the full report of the first meeting here: Report from the first meeting to discuss a possible Children and Young People’s Outdoor Theatre Festival at BOAT – 21st July 2015-2 copy.
And you can read a blog about the first meeting by Richard Freeman from Always Possible, here.
I set up a programming team to provide advice and support to get the festival off the ground with these fabulous people:
Julia Box, Brighton and Hove Council Youth Service, Linda Dupret, Head Teacher St Paul’s Primary School, Claire Raftery, BOAT Trustee, Donna Close, BOAT Trustee, Debbie Fitzgerald, BHASVIC Drama Teacher, Dulani Kulasinghe, Banyan Tree Theatre, Emma Edwards, Facepack Theatre, Jackie Alexander, Theatre Royal Brighton, James Turnbull, The Old Market, Bex Fidler, Brighton Dome and Festival, Janette Eddisford, ACT, Anne-Marie Williams, BOAT Manager, Richard Freeman, Always Possible.
Thanks to financial support from the Arts Council and a shed load of hard work, we got Starboard up and running for 2 weeks in 2016.