This article is in todays Western Mail, thanks to the Western Mail and Karen Price for supporting Arts activity in Bridgend.
As the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama launched its new facilities on Thursday night, another new theatre was opening just a few miles away. Guy O’Donnell considers what the Sony Theatre means for young people in Bridgend
TWO nights ago, singer Rhydian Roberts cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the Sony Theatre.
The two-tier venue is a new addition to Bridgend College.
And its launch comes at a time when the town is developing a real reputation as a cultural hub.
Among other new developments are the introduction of the Young Critics’ Scheme (part of Bridgend’s Arts and Community Development Department) which encourages young writers to visit theatres and cast their critical eye over performances.The department, funded by Bridgend Council, urges participation in the arts in a bid to improve economic and social development. Among the projects we support are Bridgend Youth Theatre, which is based at the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl and the Berwyn Centre in Nantymoel.With more than 500 members, it’s run by Roger Burnell, the former Porthcawl Comprehensive School drama teacher whose past students include Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon and Jason Hughes.
The department also continues to support Roger’s It’s My Shout scheme, which encourages young people to produce short films.They also work in partnership with educational establishments, such as Bridgend College, to maximise any opportunities for those who live, study and work in the area. Arts opportunities in Bridgend have now taken a giant leap forward with the opening of Bridgend College’s new Sony Theatre.
Comprising a full stage and 312-tiered seats on the ground floor, all of which can be easily withdrawn to further open up the space, it is the perfect facility for young people to hone their creative skills.
There’s a further 104 seats, again tiered, on the first floor and the sophisticated technology means that 3D facilities are available with a simple flick of a lens.
Mark Jones, the principal of Bridgend College, said the theatre launch was a “real celebration” for the town.Its opening marks the end of the college’s £11m investment over the past couple of years.
“We very much hope that this state-of-the-art 400-seat theatre will not only be used by staff and students but also by local organisations and community groups and in so doing this college can create even stronger links with our local communities.”
Evidence of community links can be seen in the new Young Critics’ Scheme, which has recently received funding from the Arts Council of Wales.The scheme aims to develop and showcase the voices of young people, encouraging them to think critically about the arts in Wales.This scheme was kick-started by National Theatre Wales who performed Love Steals Us from Loneliness in Hobo’s nightclub in Bridgend last October.The production brought together young people from throughout the area and had a great deal of support from Bridgend College and its students.The nationwide scheme is open to young people from across Wales aged 12 to 25 and it’s working very successfully in partnership with a range of venues and companies, including National Theatre Wales, Sherman Cymru, National Dance Company Wales, Literature Wales, Wales Millennium Centre and Welsh National Opera.
John McGrath, artistic director of National Theatre Wales, has been impressed by the quality of the reviews produced by the young critics so far saying it was
“great to have young people’s voices at the centre of the debate about theatre in Wales.”
And the young critics seem to be relishing the chance to get their voices heard.
Among them is Chelsey Gillard who said:
“Being part of the Young Critics’ Scheme has really broadened my horizons. I have seen everything from opera to interpretive dance, from time-tested musicals to new, innovative studio theatre.“It has really opened my eyes to the wide range of careers available in the creative industries. I have developed a whole host of new skills including journalism, web-design, and blogging and editing. Joining the scheme has given me the confidence to embark on a university degree in English and drama.”
Now, as well as being a stage for young actors to hone their skills, the new Sony Theatre is another venue where the young critics can also develop their writing.
In a nutshell, the Sony Theatre provides an opportunity to create a lasting cultural legacy for generations of Bridgend’s communities.
And the links which are being developed between Bridgend College and the Arts and Community Development Department can bring together three fundamentally important areas – the arts, education and community – to build a strong sense of identity and pride in what Bridgend has to offer.
Guy O’Donnell is arts development manager for Bridgend Council
To get involved in the Young Critics’ Scheme, contact Guy on 01656 642727, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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