Lynette Linton: Why does the industry treat community work so lightly?

Our Artistic Director Lynette Linton discusses the birth of our Young Companies, making work with our community on the main stage, and the way the industry has responded. She also welcomes Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo as a new Young Company ambassador.

During the disruption of COVID the Bush originated its Young Company. It was obvious that young people in our area of London had a need to engage with each other in a safer space and when we put out a call for members we were deluged. Last summer, determined to braid our community work and talent development with the productions on our main stage we presented HORIZON and ANTHEM. We were blown away by the talent on show, the dedication of the Young People to the project and the effect it had on our building, bringing fresh audiences, who have in the last twelve months been persuaded to make theatre going part of their lives.

But there was very little industry interest outside the four walls of the building. Those agents who did come along were astonished at the talent involved, but many didn’t make it. The press and critics largely stayed away, some not even listing two productions which we saw as central to our 50th birthday season.

“My hope is that the industry catches up on an exciting aspect of our work and reassesses how important our next generation is.”

In the last few months there has been discussion around the funding of community work and a suggestion it should be separated from the mainstream. I’d see this as a backwards step. Surely to ensure new talent comes through and to engage new local audiences and get them coming to the theatre, community and young people’s work should be a seam that runs through all that we do and funded accordingly.

The Bush has this week been awarded a major grant from Jerwood Arts’ Developing Artists Fund, Staged by Jerwood. this is on the understanding that some of the money will be directed into developing work with the Young Company. It’s heartening that they share our values.

This August I have co-directed one of the Young Company shows. It is an honour to be co-directing with Katie Greenall, bringing Kit Withington’s As We Face The Sun to the Bush’s main stage. Kit came to our attention as a member of Bush’s Emerging Writer’s Group and so we’re matching a writer and performers who I know have a bright future.

I’m also delighted to welcome Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo on board to join Malachai Kirby as a Young Company ambassador, an actor who has experienced first-hand the transformative experience our young people have enjoyed.

My hope is that the industry catches up on an exciting aspect of our work and reassesses how important our next generation is. We look to invest in young people in all areas of our building and enjoy the fresh perspectives they’ll bring to theatre.

As We Face The Sun plays in the Holloway Theatre until 26 Aug.

Photos by Danny Kaan. @danny_with_a_camera