“Any Theatre should be a community theatre.”

90% of children aged fourteen and upwards who have embraced The Old Vic’s community-engaged projects say they feel it is ‘their theatre.’ Old Vic New Voices taps into the mantra set by Prince Albert, embodied in this theatre 196 years ago, for easy access to education in the arts and sciences ‘for the many not the few. ‘

Although not specifically directed at children, The Old Vic with her New Voices community projects has had, and continues to impact positively upon, the children of our nation. With 3,200 primary school students engaging with Vic’s  diverse projects, and a further 34,000 children attending as audience members, it is fair to write dear Old Vic and Al would probably agree this to be an appropriate adaptation into current community cohesion. No longer do we live in an age where children are ‘seen and not heard.’ With this theatre children are loud and proud annunciating to the back of the room dear.

As a community-engaged theatre driven by the people for the people, located in the heart of London’s South Bank The Old Vic like very few other professional theatres of its global standing, continuously engages new audiences with many far-reaching initiatives. Directed at uniting, inspiring and nurturing audiences, communities and talent alike the Old Vic New Voices team blaze a trail for community cohesion which was instigated with Vic and Al’s dreams and visions for London 143 years ago. Then to be immortalised in stone at this theatre by Charlotte in 1816, spearheaded by Ema, continued by her niece Lilian in conjunction with Ninette and brought forward in our twenty first century globe by Sally in collaboration with Clemmie and Alex of the Old Vic New Voices team. A theatre without Arts Council Funding, previously feared to be turned into a bingo hall, a pub or a lap dancing club, I mean really? Like the grandmother of Europe before her this theatre continuously strives to honour that age old mantra ’ the show must go on.’ And on it certainly does go.

With nine new plays commissioned in 2013, 20 emerging actors mentored, 69 development spaces offered to theatre companies, 20 new projects funded, a London-wide theatre company launched, five community playwrights discovered, 4,800 student tickets given away, a plethora of free workshops and talks offered to hundreds of community members and 5,000 people engaged directly, 2013 was a showcase year for the productivity this theatre radiates across London and our globe. Moreover, the initial goal instigated by dear old Vic and husband Al shares similes with the sheer determination and love of arts affording community cohesion that Clemmie and Alex, along with others, rise each new day to play again. One participant in the playwriting initiative ‘24 hour plays,’ launched to find new talents to bring from the page to the stage, recounted how they felt ‘this fantastic opportunity has transformed my life.’ 

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"It was incredible to ask such honest questions and get such honest answers’ from professionals currently working in the business we call show."

Government recognition that the ‘Arts and culture strengthen communities, bringing people together and removing social barriers. Involving young people in the arts increases their academic performance, encourages creativity, and supports talent early on’ adds an extra layer to the visions this theatre has been championing for nearly two hundred years. It seems therefore, a historically succinct line can be drawn between this government assertion, made in 2014, and the diversity of initiatives and plays performed by and at The Old Vic throughout its long history. The mirrored curtain originally installed with sixty two mirrors reflecting the faces of onlooking audiences in 1821.

The dedication to never surrendering during the first and Second World Wars as Lilian Baylis collaborated with Ninette Valois to form The Vic-Wells Ballet Company. Managing to find strength in their beliefs to maintain an open stage door against very real potential for closure, The Old Vic not only inspires hope, but, like many a true believer in the power of theatre to unite societies before her, The Old Vic with her New Voices team strive tirelessly to provide ‘great experiences for everyone.’ On this note, it is worthy of a mention that as London UK is currently home to 270 different nationalities, with over 300 languages spoken, it is initiatives championed by dear Old Vic which are gaining a growing history of excellence in uniting these communities. It is after all, an historically accurate- in-theatre-world fact. Greek Theatre of the BC’s did precisely this, amongst other things. United what were then different islands of inhabitants who only came together as one community to embrace the latest Aeschylus, Euripides, or Sophocles play.

Figures published recently show 40 % of Arts Council England funding is spent in London. A statistic taken five years ago in 2009 shows commercial theatre - which is unsubsidised theatres such as The Old Vic and others – contributes £2.5 billion pounds per year to the UK economy, and growing. The Old Vic with her New Voices is tirelessly striving to capture a diverse and transformative array of initiatives focused largely on maintaining an open stage door. Amidst economically austere times showing in very real terms how, although not a subsidised venture, Vic’s fibres within the brickwork of the theatre, and all who play within her, are continuously striving for growth in community cohesion and embracement of the wonders of worlds within words played on a stage.

‘It was incredible to ask such honest questions and get such honest answers’ from professionals currently working in the business we call show.’

‘It gave me a chance to believe in myself.’ 




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