The second Theatre Critics of Wales Awards went off without a hitch on Saturday 25th January, 2014, due to the hard work, commitment and support of a great number of people and organisations, and I was honoured to once again be part of it.
Masterminded by Guy O'Donnell and his Young Critics in 2012, the TCWAs were set up as a way of celebrating the achievements of theatre in Wales each year, giving commendation to those who have created innovative, outstanding productions, including as many elements of the theatrical process as possible (lighting, costume, directing, acting, digital and online content, etc.), as voted for by a panel of both amateur and professional critics currently reviewing Theatre in Wales.
I joined the Young Critics scheme almost three years ago and thoroughly enjoyed broadening my theatrical horizons by visiting a wide variety of productions and performances throughout South Wales. An amateur critic with admin and events experience, I was keen from the first conversation about the awards to be part of something that feels more like a Movement than an annual event.
Our second year has been praised as much as the first, with the professionalism of the event and the vibrant, positive community atmosphere heralded above all; something we could not have achieved this year without the support of dedicated sponsors and organisations willing to lend a hand and a give a few favours, in what has been our first year without any funding.
I completely agree with the assertion, made to me by a number of attendees on the night, that the event is more than just a chance for people to win an award, but also a way of building further the community for artists, technicians, media experts and creative organisations in Wales and the vibrant theatre scene it has. Of course, it is also fantastic for a company or individual to be awarded as a winner, and we hope that the accolade is something all nominees and winners can be proud of, and perhaps even use to help promote their work in the future. But the awards, like the Young Critics and now 3rd Age Critics scheme, will hopefully also help to further the creation of links between organisations and individuals, and engage new or lapsed audiences to a culture that is increasingly more diverse and daring, though constantly under the threat of cuts.
For me, every bit of involvement I have with Young Critics and the awards has and will continue to be invaluable. As well as opening my eyes to diverse performance such as contemporary dance, opera, and site specific work that I was otherwise blind to, being involved with Young Critics and, more specifically, the TCWAs has given me a plethora of unique opportunities. I have sat at a table with professional critics and debated the merits of productions; I’ve worked behind the scenes at a state-of-the-art theatre; featured on a radio show; met and made links with professional actors, directors, producers and technical staff; worked and shared a dressing room with BBC broadcaster Nicola Heywood Thomas!; drafted in sponsorship; and, most importantly for me, I’ve helped to organise and coordinate two high profile awards ceremonies under the direction of an extremely experienced and encouraging arts and engagement professional.
This just goes to show that getting involved with Young Critics can give a person a whole lot more than free theatre tickets and a better understanding of critiquing (though of course those things are hugely beneficial too). The scheme has had a very positive impact on me, encouraging me in my role as Co-Founder and Co-Director for blossoming company, Bridgend Arts Ltd, to imagine more creative ways to stage events, arts engagement activities and performances in my own town.
Now established under the company name 'Response Wales', I can only hope that it will continue to gain support and, hopefully, funding, in order for the scheme to continue to grow, and for the awards to get bigger and better year upon year. I can’t wait to see what the TCWAs 2015 have in store!
If you’re interested in becoming a Young or 3rd Age Critic, or want more info on the scheme, head to http://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/about/
And you can follow all the action on Twitter @ResponseWales | @Young_Critics
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