Liverpool’s Free Theatre: Making The Arts Accessible


The pleasure of a trip to the theatre, with its limited tickets and overpriced ice-creams, is often an expensive hobby that leaves working-class communities behind. This exclusivity is not helped by the fact that, over the last decade, the arts have been consistently neglected on a national level. From creative arts subjects being culled in secondary schools, to the slashing of the Arts Council budget, this integral part of UK culture has been undermined.

The National Campaign for the Arts’ Arts Index Survey revealed earlier this year that, since 2008, public funding for the arts per head of population fell by 35%. The survey, compiled in association with the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) and King’s College London, also found that local government investment has decreased by 43%.

In a bid to encourage visitors from under-represented audiences, trailblazing production company The Purple Door will be launching the UK’s first “truly free theatre” in Spring 2021. The revolutionary venue will open in Liverpool- a city immensely proud of its working-class citizens and rich culture. The theatre will be subsidised by bar sales and social impact funding and will also be supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, named after the publisher who championed accessible arts.

We’re thrilled to be announcing the planned opening of the new performance space in Liverpool. This will not only provide the UK with an opportunity to recognise and realise the untapped creative potential outside of London, but it will also provide crucial opportunities for people from all backgrounds to achieve beyond antiquated and outdated social constraints.

Karl Falconer, General Manager, Purple Door

To ensure that the free theatre really does benefit those who need it most, The Purple Door will be showcasing productions that champion “the next generation of talented writers, directors and actors from a diverse spectrum of working-class backgrounds”. In an industry where the well-connected rise to the top, it is refreshing to see a breakthrough opportunity for the next Shelagh Delaneys and John Osbornes. The theatre programming decisions will be much more holistic than what we are used to, as the traditional Artistic Director role will be replaced by a community artistic board.

While the initiative will no doubt be subject to criticism given the country’s precarious economic situation, the place of the arts cannot be underestimated. Theatre allows for a much-needed, momentary escape to a world where anything is possible. With proper funding and accessibility, UK theatre can provide a platform for aspiring working-class actors to tread the boards and hone their craft.

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen devastating permanent closures of beloved theatres across the country, and largely in deprived areas. It is vital that we keep the industry alive with new and innovative ideas. Whether you prefer Waiting for Godot to Waitress, or The Marriage of Figaro over Fame, supporting your local and national arts scene is more important than ever.

Words by Tayler Finnegan.

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