Lizzie Crarer, 5 February 2015

I called this session because theatre productions seem like an obvious and beneficial use of the under-used sacred spaces at the heart of almost every community in this country. I wanted to find out what kind of precedent there is for these kinds of activities, what the difficulties are, and whether there is any scope for making the practice more widespread.


Emma Rucastle from Riding Lights [email protected] Sarah Dean [email protected]
Tom McDonagh [email protected]

(I arrived late to the session, so there were some other people in attendance, whom I have missed!)


- Left Bank Leeds This is now a full-time Arts Venue but began with secular and religious uses.
- Riding Lights. A northwest-based theatre company which tours to churches regularly. The company have a Christian ethos.

- There seems to be quite a precedent for Quaker Meeting houses opening their doors to touring theatre productions
- Comedian Paul Karensa toured ‘Comedians and Carols’ to various churches


- Churches have particular resonance for those who attend regularly, and so a heightened degree of sensitivity is required re. content.
- Devising in a church venue can be difficult because those who own the building may want to control the artistic process
- Acoustics can be a problem
- The atmosphere of a church is completely different from other venues, and this really affects the way a piece is performed and received.
- The physical space might be a problem: one person related a story in which a theatre group had to re-stage a whole section of their show because a woman complained after they performed in the Lady Chapel where her dead husband was buried.


- Approaching the church diocese/larger organisation doesn’t necessarily work – there’s too much beauraucracy involved. Better to build a relationship with an individual vicar, who could potentially recommend you to other buildings in the area. - People’s experiences were positive on the whole: vicars want people to come

through the door and use the space in diverse ways.
- What was key was developing very clear communication with the vicar concerned, and ensuring that s/he created a dialogue with her/his congregation in the period leading up to the event, to avoid offence/misunderstanding.
- Touring productions was easier than devising in-situ, but it was imperative to ensure that the vicar had provided a detailed technical specification beforehand.

Theatre in Churches? CONCLUSIONS

Yes, it’s totally possible, it seems that there’s an appetite from those who run the buidings and a positive response from those who attend; and it’s a way of reinvigorating the spaces and it’s a way of promoting dialogue between secular and non-secular aspects of the community by encouraging more people to appreciate and use these central parts of our cultural history.


Touring, churches, sacred, christianity, Community, community, Sacred, touring