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EXETER NORTHCOTT CELEBRATES ONE YEAR OF CREATIVITY AND COMMUNITY-BUILDING AT THE BARNFIELD THEATRE

Exeter Northcott Theatre is celebrating its one-year anniversary of re-opening the beloved city centre Barnfield Theatre this September.

Exeter Northcott took over management of the Barnfield in January 2022 with a three-step plan: protect the historic building, broaden its range of creative activities and people engaging with them, and transform the Barnfield into a vibrant cultural hub for the people of Exeter, Devon and beyond.

Exeter Northcott re-opened the Barnfield to the public in September 2022, welcoming nearly a thousand people through its doors on its first day. Exeter Northcott and the Barnfield’s shared journey has since been marked by significant highlights, including:

Ensuring sustainability

Between January and September 2022, Exeter Northcott carried out essential maintenance at the Barnfield. These works expanded the venue’s performance capacities, improved accessibility around the building, and refreshed interior and exterior areas to feel more welcoming. Exeter Northcott is currently planning the next phase of Barnfield re-development.

Expanding community engagement

In September 2022, Exeter Northcott re-opened the Barnfield with The Story of Us festival, where close to a thousand people from across the country came together to celebrate the cultural connections between Devon’s Caribbean, Hindu and Polish communities. Encompass, a Northcott group made up from members of these communities, co-created the event with the Northcott to explore their creativity and transform cultural representation in Exeter and Devon. In May, the group followed up The Story of Us with Flavours of Us, a guided experience looking into each community’s relationship with food.

Café Theatre, a Northcott Community Associate company who create work with people over the age of 60, performed a series of comedy sketches during an interactive afternoon tea at the Barnfield, shining a light on often overlooked experiences of older generations.

Enhancing educational outreach and youth development

Exeter Northcott expanded its educational activities at the Barnfield. Primary and secondary school students took part in drama sessions and technical workshops, gaining hands-on experience and insights into the world of theatre.

The Northcott Young Company (ages 7 – 21) developed their performance skills in collaboration with guest artists like leading physical theatre company Le Navet Bete, and devised a technologically ground-breaking production, Studio on the 3rd Floor, with the Northcott team.

Increasing support for local artists

Exeter Northcott hosted two festivals as part of its Northcott Futures artist development programme for emerging South West theatre makers. Futures participants performed work created on the programme to new audiences and networked with industry professionals, as well as regional and national organisations.

Creating a new home for innovative South West theatre

Exeter Northcott confirmed its commitment to enrich culture in the city by programming innovative South West artists at the Barnfield: Beyond Face showcased global majority stories with its kaleidoscopic music experience Bigger Than Lyrics; Scratchworks returned to its Exeter roots with local history-inspired witch comedy Hags; and Four of Swords transformed its open mic variety show celebrating neurodiverse and LGBTQA+ artists Madame Thespia into an immersive murder mystery backstage adventure.

Looking forward to the future

Exeter Northcott’s first year managing the Barnfield is just the beginning of this shared journey. The arts charity organisation has successfully achieved or advanced its three objectives during its first year of management, and is excited for a future brimming with more creativity, more community engagement, and more unforgettable moments for all audiences.

Lisa Hudson, Head of Creative Engagement at Exeter Northcott, said:

‘It’s been so rewarding to see the programme of activity at the Barnfield filling up with such a diverse range of events. The Barnfield is a natural creative space which is accessible to community groups, emerging artists and young people. The versatility of the spaces creates opportunities for groups at all different stages of their development. From newly formed South West theatre companies to established professional touring artists, the space enables artists and creatives to share a range of exciting work.

Someone once said to me that a good building is a learning building. The past year has been just the start of us maximising the potential for this wonderful venue. I look forward to seeing more schools groups learning about technical theatre, more workshops and programmes for emerging artists, more opportunities for existing and new community groups, more young people building their confidence in the safe space that is the Northcott Young Company and Young Creatives. The ambition for us is that the Barnfield truly does become that training and learning space.’

For more information about Exeter Northcott and the Barnfield, and upcoming events at both venues, please visit www.exeternorthcott.co.uk

Forthcoming Barnfield event highlights include MAST Mayflower Studios’ radical re-imagining of Sizwe Banzi is Dead (16 – 17 October), Devon-based Northcott Associate Artist Documental’s learning disability community musical Mary & The Matrons (19 – 21 October), and Christmas family treat Dear Santa Live (13 – 24 December; BSL-interpreted performance on Saturday 16 December; relaxed performance on Sunday 17 December).