History of Access Theatre

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In the begining…

Access Theatre was formed in September 2005 by a local practitioner Becky Allen who began a weekly drama class for Launceston Day Centre. In 2006 Access Theatre moved to Sterts Centre where it had space to include participants from across South-East Cornwall. With Becky, Access made films, devised and performed a pantomime, a  murder mystery, worked on Shakespeare, participated in the Cultivate Project for RIO, and performed their own “dinner” theatre piece.

When Becky Allen moved to London to work as a professional actor, theatre practitioners Andrew and Liz Hawkins took over the artistic direction company. During this time the company took part in regular Sterts productions as well as participating in other exciting projects such as the community-wide collaborative project with the English Touring Opera at the Hall for Cornwall, called One Day, Two Dawns. In 2008 Access was commissioned to make  “Walking Tall” for a performance at Eden project as part The Brandon Trust conference on independent living.

July 2008 was a big year for Access Theatre.

We said goodbye to Liz and Andrew Hawkins who emigrated to Australia and welcomed exciting young dance and theatre practitioner, Lauren Davey, to be our Artistic Director. By this time the company had outgrown Sterts’ facilities and made the decision to move to a new venue in Launceston where we could expand and make full use of the hall, stage, bar and kitchen facilities. Although the move to Launceston Town Hall cut down on our costs we still had to find a way of making the company sustainable and with the help of Sarah Pym from The Works, Dance and Theatre Cornwall we became constituted as a charitable association. This would give us the ability to fundraise independently to meet our costs. The company as a whole makes decisions about projects, staffing, policies and projects together and it was after considerable discussions that we reluctantly decided to introduce a membership fee as well as the weekly session fees.

At Launceston Town Hall we have gone from strength to strength, becoming involved with the Charles Causely Festival and with a new logo, designed by company member Martin Tillier, reflecting the town’s history. Lauren Davey has connected us in with many new opportunities – working with Attik Dance and performing at their community dance platforms in Plymouth, taking part in the Funky Llama Festival in Plymouth has enabled us to develop a new relationship with Theatre Royal. We also have a strong relationship with Gorfenna, the care farm and crafts centre at St Ive, where we have run outreach workshops with funding from Cornwall Community Foundation’s Wellbeing and Prevention fund.

In 2009 we were commissioned by Cornwall Public Records Office to perform Money for Old Rope, the true story of the notorious Lightfoot brothers hanged at Bodmin Gaol. More recently we have run workshops for Plymouth University Medical School Occupational Therapists and Doctors in training from Peninsula Medical School in Truro.

Raising funds….

We have continued to raise money through tickets sales for our shows and for other fundraising events such as Race Nights and Cream Teas. We’ve also been able to secure grants from the Clare Milne Charity, BBC Performing Arts Fund, Cornwall Community Foundation, Comic Relief and Arts Council England. These have helped us take ambitious steps to work with other artists from companies like Rogue Theatre and Oddbodies to perform Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” and Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. We have performed a dance piece at Port Eliot Festival and a cabaret piece at Funky Llama.

Access Theatre is in regular contact with a number of collaborators around the region including Funky Llama, Far Flung Dance, Animate Theatre and Shallal.

Becoming a registered Charity

On 5th January 2016 the company became a registered charity. We are now ACCESS THEATRE CIO Registered Charity Number 1165050. What a great way to start the New Year.

New chapters…

Greece Lightning was Artistic Director’s Lauren Flook’s last show with Access Theatre in August 2016. Lauren is now studying full-time for an Occupational Therapy degree and since she joined Access has married and had two baby boys.

Paul Morel began as Artistic Director in January 2017. Paul (Oddbodies) brought new skills and opportunities to Access including the use of film and animation. Access achieved an ambitious learning, film & performance Heritage Lottery Funded project called ‘I am the song’ to celebrate the centenary of Launceston’s famous poet Charles Causley working with other artists Tanya Morel (Film& Animation) and Barbi Ackroyd (Ceramicist) and Meier Williams (Costume designer/maker). The company produced a film of the ‘I am the song’ project which was distributed locally and screened publicly at Launceston Film Club during the Charles Causley festival.

Access Theatre received Arts Council England funding for “About Me About You”, a year long project based on the company members own stories. Throughout 2019 the stories have been devised and  performed as several informal sharings, a Christmas Cabaret, a short outdoor piece for the Funky Llama festival and a film. The funding enabled us to work with writer Ann Gray, dancer Lois Taylor and film-maker Tanya Morel.

Paul Morel leaves Access at the end of July 2019 to tour Oddbodies one -man King Lear and we wish him the best of luck! Another exciting new phase for Access with a new lead Practitioner will begin in September 2019.