February 2022 – Written by Naomi Albans – Principal of HMTS and Outreach Manager
It has been just a year since we got the keys to our brand new Community Hub. It had long been an ambition of the theatre to be able to provide a space that not only serves our theatrical community – with rehearsal spaces and workshops – but also our local community, and encourage new audiences to be able to discover the joys of theatre!
The Hub is situated just a short walk from the theatre, along Pollard Street, so was a perfect space for us. Thanks to our amazing donors we spent February and March of 2021 refurbishing the space to make it fully accessible and ready for use. A dance floor and mirrors were installed, all the doors were widened and the toilets made accessible.
The Hub is now the permanent home to our Theatre School. Will and Joe have long wanted to be able to provide affordable training to local children, so my first job as the new youth outreach manager was to make the School a reality. We opened our doors for two trial sessions in May 2021 and we now have around 50 students. We currently have our Main School (7-18 yrs), Mini Cogs (4- 6 yrs) Tiny Cogs (2 -3yrs) and Cognition Workshops (18+). In addition, we offer Private LAMDA lessons, Singing lessons and Ballet/Tap/Jazz classes. The students performed at Hope Fest in July and Hope Mill at Christmas, and they are currently working towards a fully-staged version of Annie.
50% of our places are fully funded and we are passionate about making it as inclusive and accessible as possible. It has been amazing to see our students grow so much over the last 7 months, not only developing their performance skills, but growing in confidence and courage. With some of the older students we were recently able to put on a production of Dungeness, as part of Turn On Fest – our annual LGBTQIA+ Arts Festival. The piece they performed was beautiful – and being able to provide a space and rehearsal process where young people could be themselves was very special!
We are committed to ensuring that the space serves our community, so consultation with local residents as to what they wanted from the space was vital. We held Zoom consultations in April 2021 which was a great way to find ideas for the space and meet local residents. This led us to set up our Community Choir and Yoga classes. Yoga is on a Tuesday morning, with Jackie, and the Choir, which meets on a Monday evening, is run by our amazing choir leader, Loz Kaye. Focusing mainly on musical theatre, the choir did their first concert in Christmas 2021 and we are really excited to see both groups grow!
Part of my role is to work with schools and to provide drama workshops for them. We have had several schools and Home Education groups visit the Hub and take Dance, Singing and Drama workshops. Thanks to ACE funding we were able to invite some schools to have WIZ Dance workshops with members of the cast and provide these to our audiences as well.
The newest addition to the programme is our Amateur Dramatic Company – who are currently in rehearsal for Legally Blonde – which will be performed in April. With loads more classes planned for 2022 – please do get in touch if you’d like to join any of the activities or suggest a new group you’d like to see here at Hope Mill. It has been an action- packed year and we cannot wait to see what 2022 has too offer!