In 2019, we supported the Royal Exchange Theatre to develop and deliver its Local Exchange programme, securing this community engagement programme for the next five years. Alongside support for Local Exchange, the grant underpinned the design and build of The Den, a travelling theatre space for use in community settings by Greater Manchester residents.
The Den is a sustainable, lightweight, 180-seat travelling theatre designed to be transported, built and dismantled by communities. It provides an informal space for people to create, learn and perform, and also to see quality work from the Royal Exchange Theatre, in their own community.
The Den sits at the heart of Local Exchange; combined, they form a proven community engagement programme that enables the Theatre to be resident in neighbourhoods across Greater Manchester that are least well served by the arts, and where there is the least opportunity to engage with a theatre. The physical space that is The Den is constructed at the beginning of each local programme by members of each host community in a local building. They then become its ushers, its box office, technical team, cast, and audience. Read more about The Den at Stalybridge Civic Hall here.
Local Exchange takes an asset based, partnership approach to reach people whose arts engagement is limited by a host of obstacles. It engages with artists and cultural practitioners from the communities in which it works to build relationships, share skills and experience, and enable both communities and practitioners to reap the benefits of cultural engagement.
Targeting specific neighbourhoods in turn, Local Exchange is initially a three year programme which enables dialogue between the Theatre, residents, grassroots organisations, artists and public services. Time and resources are invested in consultation with residents, co-design and co-delivery of programmes and evaluation, and ensuring a long-term legacy in each community.