Our Community Engagement project, generously funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, aims to strengthen our relationship with the local community in Leeds and to open up our wonderful art form to people who may have barriers which would usually prevent them from engaging with us.
The project is constantly evolving but includes the following areas of work:
1. Encore (for community groups and organisations)
2. Community Partners
3. The Bravo Club (for individuals)
4. Taster performances and workshops
Encore is a scheme for community groups and organisations that work with people who have barriers which prevent them from engaging with us. There are currently more than 90 groups/organisations in the scheme.
Encore members are offered free or heavily subsided tickets to Opera North’s work in Leeds (both operas on the main stage and Howard Assembly Room performances), plus access to workshops and taster performances in the community and invitations to bespoke events. We have had over 6700 attendances at 138 performances at Opera North via the Encore scheme since it began in November 2013, and 2429 attendances at 82 events, taster performances and workshops.
Wonderful, lovely, great — the members said that they had a fabulous night out and that they haven't had a night like that for years. They are still talking about it now.
— Staff Member from Trinity Network (Community Group)
My mum is sick and I am her carer full-time. Going to the theatre was a lovely experience because it stopped me thinking of my mum. I want to go again and would love to take my mum also so we could both forget about her illness.
— Group member from Dales BID (Community Group)
Our Community Partners come to planning meetings, receive exclusive offers, and are given the opportunity to host taster workshops and performances in their own venues.
2014/15 partners: Leeds Together Women Project, Emmaus Leeds, Little London Arts, Leeds Irish Health & Homes, Meeting Point and RETAS
2015/16 partners: The Bridge, GIPSIL, Haqooq, Leeds Refugee Forum, Making Space and Space2
2016/17 partners: Cloth Cat, Leeds City of Sanctuary, Right Choices, Sawan Vihar, Womens Health Matters and Zest Health for Life
There is something quite remarkable about taking a group of individuals to the theatre for the first time. The Grand Theatre is a visual spectacle to any new eyes, but if you are destitute this experience is something really quite special. Eyes and ears open, opera has the ability to transport one to a different place. For our beneficiaries, the experience goes far beyond entertainment, enabling them to escape for a time from their often chaotic and unstable lives. I see the difference in their mood and spirit after the performance and this remains with them for days if not weeks after the performance itself.
— Staff member from Meeting Point (2014/15 Community Partner)
People have been able to address their social isolation. They have felt valued and felt they have been treated equally and with respect. This has supported people to feel better able to cope with some of their mental health difficulties, feeling less lonely, and having the opportunity to develop a social life that they did not have previously to joining the theatre group and accessing opportunities with Opera North.
— Staff member from Making Space (2015/16 Community Partner)
The Bravo Club is an initiative designed for individuals who may face barriers engaging with Opera North’s work, but who are interested in coming along to performances (on the main stage and in the Howard Assembly Room), finding out more about our work, taking part in workshops and discussions, and socialising with like-minded people.
Taster performances and workshops in community settings give us a way to creatively introduce our work and productions to the people we meet as part of the project. These are often hosted by our Community Partners, but are also offered to other Encore groups and to communities with whom we are keen to engage.
I felt well fed up when I came in today. Even though I didn’t understand the language there was something about it that lifted me.
— Client from St George’s Crypt
One of our young participants crying as she had no idea that a singer’s voice could sound so wonderful.
— Staff member from Space2 (2015/16 Community Partner)
We provide access to Opera North performances for those with visual impairments with audio-described performances and touch tours. We are also improving our services for people with hearing impairments including signed and captioned performances.
It was my first time at the theatre. I watched the signed performance of Carousel. I never go out, I don’t have any friends. I am deaf and live alone. The evening was very special. I would love to go again – I had never imagined I would go to the theatre – I never knew they did signed performances… Thank you so much for inviting me. I will keep the programme forever as a memory.
— Group member, Dales BID (Community Group)
For more information, including performance dates, visit the Accessibility webpage.
For more information about our Community Engagement project, please contact Madeleine Thorne, Community Engagement Manager.