This case study explores Our Space, an innovative and inspiring program at Theatre Royal Plymouth, UK.
The case study was first published on AMAculturehive (culturehive.co.uk), 2019. This post was written by Sara Baldwin, Engagement Manager at Theatre Royal Plymouth, with additional posts from practitioner Lee Hart and participant Clive Rowe.
What is Our Space?
Our Space began life with a simple invitation. In 2009, Theatre Royal Plymouth invited people sleeping rough outside the theatre and using drugs in the toilets to come in and have a chat with us over a hot drink.
Now it its tenth year, it has developed into a creative programme for adults with multiple and complex needs. Its members come from all walks of life and may have faced challenges involving homelessness, mental health issues, re-offending, substance misuse; or they may feel isolated for other reasons. The project continues to evolve and respond to the needs of the community.
Our Space offers three levels of engagement:
- community hub drama workshops held in partnership with local services and organisations;
- weekly workshops in drama held at Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Production and Learning centre at TR2;
- Project X – a bespoke training programme for longer standing members to make work together and gain further skills that are transferable to everyday life.
Our Space offers members a place to go where they feel welcome. It provides regularity and routine with people they become familiar with and get to know. It offers the opportunity to build positive social networks, with genuine and on-going support. This framework enables people to build trust, they start feeling valued, start to regain and rebuild their self-worth and through this are able to recognise who they are and what they can contribute. As Jason Brownlee, who has been through Our Space and Project X says,
“we’re all together in a safe environment where we can create something amazing.”
Person-centred and co-created
Our Space is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. We are currently in year two of four in this iteration of funding. The project has gone from strength to strength over the course of 10 years because it continues to be rooted in a person-centred and co-created approach that relies on building meaningful relationships with partners as well as participants. This way of working takes time, as you need to gain trust and allow time for change to happen; the journey is different for each person.
"It’s a bit like my lifeboat. Any time I’m not feeling very well, I just think pitch up at the theatre, think theatre, and the nasty thoughts drift away."
- Clive Rowe, participant
Across 10 years we’ve worked with 41 partner services to provide 544 individuals with opportunities as part of the Our Space programme. In April 2018 Our Space became a social prescription through the Wolesley Trust, working with 28 primary care providers across Plymouth. We couldn’t run the programme without building and maintaining strong partnerships with local organisations and services.