Theatre unveils its new-look home

By Beth Allcock on November 13, 2012 10:43 AM |

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A group that forged its existence by creating theatre "with and for" young people in Tower Hamlets has unveiled its newly-refurbished home.

Teenage performers from Limehouse-based Half Moon Young People's Theatre marked the official re-opening of the venue on Saturday, following three months of renovation at the White Horse Road site.

Director Chris Elwell explained the "reconfiguration" of the 19th century interior was the £300,000 second stage in a three-phase plan that started when the group bought the building seven years ago and will conclude with a renovated exterior.

"What the public will see is not only a space that is now three times the size that it was but also, because of the design of the reconfiguration, it is all glass," he said.

"As you come into the space, you will be able to see the whole of the public area in one vision, which allows us to give more public space, more places to sit and more space to wander around.

"We have also been able to put in an art gallery for the very first time.

"It's just going to give the public a much better experience."

Add in new toilets and a new lift, and the building will be fit for purpose when MP Rushanara Ali cuts the red ribbon at a family event on Saturday.

Youngsters aged between 11 and 18 will give visitors a glimpse of their skills on stage with a special performance.

Half Moon caters for young actors to create plays that they perform, coupled with its other function of putting on plays specifically targeted at youngsters, acted out by trained adults.

"The arts are for everyone," said Chris. "Every child should have experience of something creative before them - that's how we work.

"We go out to community centres, youth spaces and to schools to work with the young people in their location to inspire them to think about creative space and working in a creative way themselves.

"And part of it is these children come to the building and see the plays in the building themselves - it could be the first time they have come to the Half Moon or to the theatre at all.

"For many young people it is just the opportunity to engage, to be in a community and to play and perform at a level they can do. For some, it's a stepping stone for a career.

"I have been here a long time and I have had the privilege of knowing the history and knowing of our young people who started at five, six and seven years old who worked their way through the scheme.

"I know there are several who left us who have gone onto future training themselves in different ways and they are now professionally working in the industry."

And with the new art gallery space solely reserved for local artists, different creatives will have their chance to shine, including Stepney-based visual artist John Bunker who will present his Vital Signs exhibition as the first in the gallery.

■ Family event, November 10, from 11.30am to 2pm including the official opening.

■ November 13, from 5.30pm, performance by Half Moon theatre group and private viewing of Vital Signs exhibition, opened by Rob Dickins CBE. Both events are free.

Go to halfmoon.org.uk.

Director Chris Elwell explained the "reconfiguration" of the 19th century interior was the £300,000 second stage in a three-phase plan that started when the group bought the building seven years ago and will conclude with a renovated exterior.

"What the public will see is not only a space that is now three times the size that it was but also, because of the design of the reconfiguration, it is all glass," he said.

"As you come into the space, you will be able to see the whole of the public area in one vision, which allows us to give more public space, more places to sit and more space to wander around.

"We have also been able to put in an art gallery for the very first time.

"It's just going to give the public a much better experience."

Add in new toilets and a new lift, and the building was fit for purpose when MP Rushanara Ali cut the red ribbon at the family event on Saturday.

Youngsters aged between 11 and 18 gave visitors a glimpse of their skills on stage with a special performance.

Half Moon caters for young actors to create plays that they perform, coupled with its other function of putting on plays specifically targeted at youngsters, acted out by trained adults.

"The arts are for everyone," said Chris. "Every child should have experience of something creative before them - that's how we work.

"We go out to community centres, youth spaces and to schools to work with the young people in their location to inspire them to think about creative space and working in a creative way themselves.

"And part of it is these children come to the building and see the plays in the building themselves - it could be the first time they have come to the Half Moon or to the theatre at all.

"For many young people it is just the opportunity to engage, to be in a community and to play and perform at a level they can do. For some, it's a stepping stone for a career.

"I have been here a long time and I have had the privilege of knowing the history and knowing of our young people who started at five, six and seven years old who worked their way through the scheme.

"I know there are several who left us who have gone onto future training themselves in different ways and they are now professionally working in the industry."

And with the new art gallery space solely reserved for local artists, different creatives will have their chance to shine, including Stepney-based visual artist John Bunker who will present his Vital Signs exhibition as the first in the gallery.

■ November 13, from 5.30pm, performance by Half Moon theatre group and private viewing of Vital Signs exhibition, opened by Rob Dickins CBE. Both events are free.

Go to halfmoon.org.uk.