Connecting Coventry: Belgrade builds up Between Stages programme

With 18-24 May marking the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week, the Belgrade Theatre has announced a range of lockdown activities to help people stay connected during our shared isolation.

Aimed at bringing the community together and inspiring creativity, these new projects will form part of their Between Stages programme, which already includes a wide range of educational resources, videos, podcasts, blogs and shows to enjoy while the building remains temporarily closed.

Public-facing activities include #CityWarmUps, a series of videos that will be shared on the Belgrade’s website and social media at 8.30am every Monday, to help people get their week off to a happy and healthy start.

Each week, local creatives including actors, singers, drama practitioners and dancers will take audiences step-by-step through the warm-ups they use to prepare for workshops, shows and rehearsals. Viewers are encouraged to follow along at home and share their thoughts and photos using #CityWarmUps.

Belgrade Theatre Creative Producer Hannah Barker said: “These sessions are aimed at warming up your body, mind and voice ready to tackle work, lessons, rehearsals or anything else you might be facing. We hope that they will leave you feeling energised and focused, ready to start your week, as well as building a sense of community and camaraderie by bringing people together for a shared activity.”

Artists interested in getting involved in the project and sharing their own warm-ups should get in touch by emailing [email protected].

Then on Monday evenings, a free online playreading group with be running via Zoom as part of Nick Hern Books’ national #NHBPlaygroup initiative. Every Wednesday, the publisher is making one of its extensive catalogue of plays free to read online for a week, before releasing a Q&A podcast with the writer.

Those interested in taking part in the Belgrade’s online group will have the weekend to read through the plays online before collectively reading and discussing extracts via Zoom at 6pm on Wednesday evenings. For more information, please visit the Belgrade Theatre’s Facebook page and check out the “Events” tab.

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes, Belgrade staff are also working on ways of connecting creatively with their established community drama groups.

Belgrade Young Company – The Tempest (2016)

Launched on Tuesday 12 May, Telling Stories on (the Small) Screen will bring participants from the Belgrade’s various youth theatre groups together to explore how Zoom might be used as a medium for developing new creative work. This nine-week project will offer up to 20 participants the opportunity to learn about writing, acting and directing for the small screen, culminating in the creation and performance of a piece of digital theatre.

Hannah Barker said: “We have developed this project in response to feedback from participants, as a means of creating connection, motivation and a channel for imagination during this period of lockdown. We will be encouraging the young people to step into the unknown with us and learn what the possibilities of the platform might be for developing their creative ideas. It is entirely an experiment, but one that we hope will allow us and the participants to get better at making work in collaboration online.”

Telling Stories on (the Small) Screen will offer another way for young people to stay connected, in addition to the previously announced Coronavirus Time Capsule project, which the Belgrade is currently running in partnership with local charity Grapevine.

Asian Youth Theatre

Part of a national initiative started by London-based youth theatre Company Three, the Coronavirus Time Capsule provides a platform for teenagers to explore and share their experiences of lockdown through a series of videos published each week.

Ned Glaiser, Artistic Director of Company Three, said: “We know that the shutdown is particularly difficult for teenagers, living with all that the pandemic has brought and missing out on key rites of passage in their education and emotional development. So we wanted to provide something to provide support, connection and a space to be heard – and a chance to connect with teenagers in similar situations all over the world.”

Each week, the two organisations will share a new video offering a window into the worlds of 20 young participants, exploring topics such as home life, school, exercise and friendship. By the end of the lockdown, the group will have created a cumulative time capsule for anyone to watch – and for the participants to look back on and remember this extraordinary time.

For more information and to stay up-to-date with the Belgrade Theatre’s online programme of activity, please visit its Between Stages hub at www.belgrade.co.uk/between-stages.

Main Image: Issy in MYT’s Fake News show – RAW 2019

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