Northampton's Royal and Derngate launches 'people's panel' to bring greater diversity to the stage

It is hoped that new perspectives will make the productions more accessible to groups usually underrepresented

By Max Pearson
Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 10:18 am

Northampton’s Royal & Derngate is building on inclusivity and access in its theatres and Filmhouse, by announcing a new initiative.

The “Here To… Listen” scheme has been launched and Emma Ling has been appointed to fill a newly created role of community and inclusion producer.

The scheme creates a “People’s Panel” manned by members of the community, as well as professionals from across the sector to form a “Creative Council”. Both bodies will play a “key advisory role”, in the future of Royal & Derngate.

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Royal & Derngate theatre.

Chief executive Jo Gordon and artistic director James Dacre said: “These past two years have reminded us that the most powerful advocates for the value of a regional theatre are its artists and audiences. Without their support we simply couldn’t have weathered the storm of the pandemic.

"As we continue to imagine our future, we’re excited to do so alongside members of our communities and our wider professional family of creatives and practitioners.”

For the People’s Panel the theatre is looking for a "diverse range of local community members from across the region” to drive change and bring new ideas and initiatives to.

The theatre said they particularly hope to include people from communities that may not have engaged with theatre in the past, including young people (aged 16 to 25), people with disabilities, neuro-divergent people, people from varied cultural backgrounds and languages and people from the LGBTQ+ community.

The scheme aims to foster "meaningful conversations” that can feed into the earliest stages of the planning process and to provide a degree of operational, artistic and programming scrutiny.

Many other creative bodies have tried similar initiatives as they try to reach out to wider and more diverse audiences that might not have had much exposure before.

Emma Ling will be supporting the work of both groups.

Emma said: “We are really excited to be launching our People’s Panel and Creative Council, both of which will be central to the new community and inclusion work that we are undertaking at Royal & Derngate.

"Over the coming months we want to reach out to a wide range of people to highlight the opportunity to get involved, to build on the relationships we already have across the sector and with our many community groups.

"If you are keen to have a say in how your theatre is run we would love to hear from you.”

All members of the Creative Council and People’s Panel will be paid for their time and invited to develop their own initiatives beyond the work of the council.

The recruitment process will start in April, with open sessions being held for anyone who would like to find out more.

The deadline for applying will be July 15, and both panels will start to meet from the Autumn onwards. More information about the roles and the application process can be found on the theatre’s website or by emailing [email protected]