Recover, Restart and Reimagine in 2021

An actor sits on the floor holding a mic. Text says

The start of this week saw restrictions on the toughest lockdown yet ease for the first time in months, coinciding with a spell of unseasonal warm weather. For the first time in a long time, it feels like we’re heading towards something that might look like life after the pandemic. Touch wood.

As a theatre company that has been working from home for the past year and exclusively online, we could come out of one of the most challenging years of our lives full tilt. However, from speaking with many of the freelancers who are part of the extended Middle Child family, such as at our recent Imagine the Future discussion, it’s clear that not everybody has the energy just yet.

People have varying degrees of confidence about the months ahead: some people are chomping at the bit, while others may have reservations. Let’s not forget that the pandemic isn’t actually over yet. For others, spending a year or more within the same few walls has worn away at mental health and the ability to be creative. There’s a lot of mental and physical muscle memory to start flexing again and it’s going to take time.

So what are Middle Child going to do about it?

On Tuesday we learned that we’ve received £76,065 from the second round of the Cultural Recovery Fund. It’s a huge sum of money and we take seriously our responsibility to use it to benefit our wider theatre community – both artists and audiences – here in Hull, an already deprived city that has been especially badly hit by the pandemic.

Given all of the above, it’s clear that many theatre makers in Hull need the time, money and resource to Recover, Restart and Reimagine. So that’s what we’re going to do over the coming months, with a bespoke programme of work aimed at supporting our workforce and local freelancers to re-adjust at their own speed, in a way that is safe and sustainable.

That includes putting money into freelancers’ pockets to attend and benefit from workshops, residencies and sharings, as part of our largest ever artist development programme. There is also a programme of work that will see us return to the stage in 2021, which will employ theatre makers as well as once again provide audiences with unforgettable live experiences.

Furthermore we are excited to be able to return to Hull city centre with a new pop-up arts space in the summer, following the closure of our creative hub, Darley’s, last year, while we continue to locate a permanent home in the longer term.

We’re not quite ready to share all the details just yet – we’ll make a proper splash about all of that soon enough. However we are certain that this approach will have a huge impact on the long-term future of Hull, sharing skills and resources to build resilience and confidence in both our workforce and freelancers, acknowledging that we simply cannot be sustainable without you.

It’s an unprecedented situation and we’ll do our best to get this right and respond to any changes around us, putting people’s health and wellbeing first. We are committed to being open about our plans and acknowledging our shortcomings as well as shouting about our successes. Our door is always open and we welcome thoughts on how Recover, Restart and Reimagine, as well as our wider work, can better help people in Hull.

We also remain aware of the challenges our industry continues to face and wish to express solidarity with those organisations who did not receive funding this week. We will do all we can to share resources and support both individuals and organisations in the continued fight for survival. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to talk further.

The life after the pandemic that we mentioned at the top cannot look like the life many people lived before. We remain a company committed to creating greater equity in who makes and enjoys theatre and will use this investment to continue to work towards a more inclusive and representative industry.

We are also delighted to hear that our local partners Hull Truck Theatre, Hull Jazz Festival, Artlink, the John Godber Company, the Adelphi Club, Wrecking Ball Press, Northern Academy of Performing Arts, ITSL and HPSS were also successful in their applications to the Cultural Recovery Fund.

We look forward to sharing full details of what we have planned in the coming weeks.

With love and solidarity,

Middle Child x

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