£50,000 to Theatre Royal from GeeWizz to help fund Non Verbal Youth Theatre

GeeWizz handing over a cheque for £50,000 to the Theatre Royal. Photo: Theatre Royal.

A new partnership has been forged between Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and the GeeWizz Charitable Foundation, which focuses on supporting children and young adults in Suffolk and Norfolk who suffer from life-threatening conditions, a disability or cancer.

Today, Tuesday, September 14, the foundation handed over a cheque for £50,000 to the theatre to secure a new Non Verbal Youth Theatre groups until 2025.

The new groups, launching this month, are an extension of the theatre’s already successful Youth Theatre programme.

The new Non Verbal groups will support young people who are learning disabled or neurodivergent.  These interactive sessions will build their confidence, help them to make new friends and encourage participation in non-verbal creative play. By using a non-verbal delivery style, this will allow all young people (verbal or non-verbal) to take ownership of activities facilitated by the Theatre Royal’s team of skilled practitioners, and express themselves within a creative process that is accessible to their creative differences.

Gina Long, founder of GeeWizz, and now an ambassador of the theatre, has been a voluntary fundraiser and charity campaigner for more than 45 years. During that time, she has helped raise over £7 million for national and local charities. Most recently she created the Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk Legacy Auction working closely with John and Imogen Sheeran. Their legacy global online auction raised £506,000, of which £50,000 has been pledged to Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre Inclusion project.

She said: “We all personally know of many local families who will benefit from a much-needed project like this. With support from our Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk Legacy Auction we can fund very important legacy projects that are going to help so many, for years to come. We are delighted to support Theatre Royal’s Non Verbal Youth Theatre Programme too. Working in conjunction with the fabulous work of education providers Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre Non Verbal groups will enable young people to make friends in a supported and friendly environment with a team of experienced practitioners. This is so important in helping them feel more able to direct or manage their lives and express themselves and engage with activities and matters that affect them and GeeWizz is proud to be able to help.”

Theatre Royal’s Creative Learning Manager, Hayley Murrow, added: “We are so grateful to GeeWizz, that we will be the only professional theatre company offering provision of this kind in West Suffolk. The new groups will enrich the lives of children and young people using theatre and performing arts techniques designed specifically with them and their needs in mind. Youth Theatre Non Verbal will support our young participants in building self-esteem, increasing confidence and developing a positive sense of who they are and what they can achieve.  By being able to create quality art, reflecting and celebrating their unique creativity, they can explore theatre making in an inclusive and responsive environment.”

Theatre Royal Youth Theatre Non Verbal will provide new youth theatre groups for children and young people aged eight to 18.

There will be two groups held at the theatre during term time: Tuesday 4pm to 4.40pm is for eight to 12-year-olds and then 5pm to 5.40pm for 13 to 18-year-olds. Bursary places are available and can be applied for by contacting education@theatreroyal.org

Full term dates and session times can be found at www.theatreroyal.org/education/youth-theatre/

The first year of the Non Verbal groups (2021/22) are funded by St Edmunds Trust.

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