Why are there so many children in the UK who haven't been to the theatre and what can we do to change that?

Jacqui OHanlon, 7 October 2012

1. There can be assumptions in schools that children and young people won't want to go to the theatre when in fact they do.

2. Adults can make assumptions about the things children and YP will and won't like. Sometimes they are wrong.

3. Should we be making more ‘ageless theatre’ - that is not defined by the age of its audience.

4. Adults can want to make theatre ‘child appropriate’. Whereas children can work quite happily with gore, death, extremes. We shouldn't necessarily model theatre for children on adult theatre forms.

5. In terms of why CYP don't come to theatre, it's not just about the cost. We know that you can get more for your money at theatre: it's an experience whereas cinema is passive.

6. Are children and young people more likely to listen their peers saying in public ‘theatre is a great experience - come and get involved, come and try it out’ as opposed to adults trying to encourage them. We think the answer is yes (!) and yet we don't have enough forums or mechanisms currently to enable this to happen.

7. First experiences of theatre are key for securing future audiences. Early years experiences are important, they set the tone for what happens in the rest of a child's life.

8. Should run theatres adopt the concept of having a designated space for work for children and young people. E.g. along the lines of Bath Theatre Royal's The Egg.

9. Consideration should be given in anycase to the environment theatres hold work for CYP in. E.g. a bar isn't necessarily the right space.

10. There is an issue about how much new work we can create and sell for CYP. What titles will parents and schools take a risk on? It's more likely to be known work.

11. There isn't enough work for the middle age range of 8 - 11 years olds. We have work for early years and teenage audiences but not enough in KS2 age range.

12. It's important that theatres ensure YP have a REAL voice in shaping and making work and opinion forming.

13. Is there is an issue about the age range of performers taking work into schools?

Are there ways we can enable young, emerging performers to take work directly into schools and play to their peers? Lots of issues to overcome, but it can be a more powerful experience for audiences to see themselves reflected directly in the performers.

14. We need to help CYP understand how theatre happens. It doesn't detract from the experiences, it enhances it. Thinking more about ‘the making of the play’, like a DVD extra, helps appreciation of the performance and the craft.

15. More children than we think have seen theatre, we just haven't called it that.

Perhaps theatres need to think more flexibly about where theatre happens and how.

16. It's a big ask to get children and young people to come out of their homes or familiar environments to come to the theatre. The journey itself can feel off putting and too risky.

17. We could make theatre more of an ‘EVENT’ for CYP - It is! And CYP will get really engaged by that.

18. We can change our relationship with schools, they connect us with an audience that we may not be able to get to otherwise (both in terms of CYP, but also mums, dads and local community).

19. Bringing theatre into a school is really important. We all need to keep doing that.

20. We need to build bridges between existing theatre audiences and potential audiences. Can we help audiences of different ages integrate with each other better?

Young people may be more vocal in their response - surely that's ok. Beware of creating ‘Rules for Schools’ visiting theatres. They can be patronising. Schools often won't want to come to matinee performances in the school day. They want to bring students to experience the ‘real event’ in the evening.


children, emerging artists, CYP, Education, audiences, children and young people, children's audiences, emerging performers, building bridges, early years, KS2, work for children, stage craft, education, Schools, Emerging Artists, Young People, new work, schools, young people, New work, Audiences