National Theatre, in partnership with Cast, launches new podcast series Stories To Get Us Through created by the people of Doncaster

Stories to Get Us Through

Launching today, Stories To Get Us Through is a new podcast series featuring stories written and performed by the people of Doncaster, inspired by real life events and created during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 18 short stories are a collection of personal anecdotes, snapshot memories and poetry, and have been created by people from different backgrounds who came together as part of the National Theatre’s Public Acts programme. The series consists of five episodes which explore different themes including imagination, change, fear, friendship and heroes. Muhammed shares memories of his best friend from Gambia and how their lives have intertwined, teenagers Aaron and Beth share their hopes and fears for the future, and Lynn tells the story of finding contentment in her own company.

Stories To Get Us Through is a community performance project through the National Theatre’s Public Acts programme to create extraordinary acts of theatre and community, delivered in partnership with Cast in Doncaster with support from Right Up Our Street. Six community organisations across DoncasterB.FriendConversation ClubEdlington Community OrganisationLGBTQ YouthCast Youth Theatre and darts, have been taking part in the programme and following the postponement of The Caucasian Chalk Circle in summer 2020, are continuing to take part in creative projects remotely. Participants developed their stories remotely, on Zoom, over the phone, and through postal packs with creative writing activities, and recorded the stories at home with professional audio recording equipment. 

James Blakey, Associate Director of Public Acts said, “Stories To Get Us Through is a time capsule of the moment our Public Acts Doncaster community convened around a digital campfire in lockdown to tell their stories to each other and the world. Stories have the power to make us feel as though we’re together, even when we are apart and we can’t wait to share them with you. Despite the challenges and restrictions lockdown posed, we came together as a community to deliver this project and we look forward to when we can create live participatory performances together again”.

Participant Sam said, “I was sceptical at first as I didn’t have a single story in mind that would instil inspiration or start a conversation. But then it occurred to me that there is something I can say, I can talk proudly and push the negative voices down. In sharing stories, we are sharing lives and it is that which gets us through, it’s that you should hold on for. You can learn so much from listening to a person’s story”.

Stories To Get Us Through can be listened to on and is also available on all podcast platforms. 

Stories To Get Us Through is a community performance project delivered in partnership with National Theatre’s Public Acts, Cast and Right Up Our Streetmade possible by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, Garfield Weston Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Mr & Mrs A Mosawi and Wates Foundation.

The Royal Ballet partners with Doncaster for its first ever virtual dance celebration

Royal Opera House

This Summer The Royal Ballet is partnering with Cast and Doncaster Council to get Doncaster Dancing.

Local residents, primary schools, sports clubs, care homes and dance schools will take part in a three-week community digital project to create their own original piece of dance on the themes of lockdown and social distancing.

This project, a first for The Royal Ballet, will culminate in a film that will premiere on Saturday 5 September online through the ROH’s YouTube and Facebook channels and broadcast in Doncaster town centre.

Taking inspiration from Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, local participants will use online resources, as well as remote direction from Royal Ballet dancer and Doncaster local Charlotte Tonkinson, to learn steps and create their own sections of dance exploring themes of loss, love and separation, friendship, family and solidarity.

The project will culminate in a collective performance, which will be edited into a short dance film featuring Charlotte Tonkinson and fellow Royal Ballet dancer Joseph Aumeer as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet to be premiered on 5 September.

Last year the Royal Opera House announced this exciting partnership with Doncaster through Doncaster Creates (Doncaster’s Culture Development programme). Although no longer able to perform live at Cast due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the company was eager to continue its commitment to Doncaster and to bring dance to the heart of the community.

Member of Parliament for Doncaster North, Ed Miliband, helped to establish Doncaster Creates as the region’s first cultural community project to harness and nurture the creativity of Doncaster.

Supporting this first community film to come through the Doncaster Creates partnership, Mr Miliband said: “I am delighted to see our local community bring together The Royal Ballet, Cast and the Local Authority to harness the power of creativity and bring our community together to reflect on the impact of COVID-19 and collectively celebrate the importance of dance. Even despite Covid19 it is wonderful to see the determination that the show must go on.”

Charlotte Tonkinson, dancer with The Royal Ballet comments “It’s a wonderful feeling to bring The Royal Ballet to my hometown of Doncaster.  How exciting to celebrate dance through Doncaster Dances with its first-ever virtual dance project. It is amazing, especially during this challenging time, to feel a sense of togetherness and to share the joy of dance. Working with community groups and school children, I look forward to lifting their spirits and working with the local community to bring this project to life at a crucial time in Doncaster”.

Deborah Rees, Director of Cast adds “The Covid-19 pandemic may have temporarily closed our doors but in the last three months we’ve experienced an outpouring of togetherness, generosity and creativity.  The instinct to dance has brought people together across the globe and this project gives an amazing opportunity for people to dance together from their own homes.  Cast and the Royal Opera House have worked hard to maintain contact with our communities and maintain the spirit of this unique lockdown project.  In doing so, we’ve created a new way of sharing our love of dance. Romeo and Juliet is a story of division, of a community torn in two and brought together by an act of love. The end result of this project – a community film – will allow local people, some of whom have been isolated from the outside world for months, to express themselves and come together once again.”

Cllr Nigel Ball, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure and Culture, said: “It is tremendous that we have teamed up with The Royal Ballet for this unique project. It will give school children, residents, clubs and groups and even those in care homes across the borough the opportunity to learn ballet from the best in the business. Together they will learn a new skill, get active and at the same time help create a highly original piece of dance which will be premiered later in the year.”

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BLOW YOUR TRUMPETS ANGELS: Guest blog by Jeremy Goldstein

Jeremy Goldstein
Henry Woolf and Jeremy Goldstein

Henry Woolf and Jeremy Goldstein Photo: Darren Black

This week I’m getting ready to take ‘Truth to Power Café’ to Yorkshire ahead of Australia and The Netherlands.  The idea for the show grew from a new play I’m working on called ‘Spider Love’  which is inspired by the political and philosophical beliefs of Harold Pinter and his Hackney Gang.  The Gang were a group of six friends who included my late father Mick Goldstein and Henry Woolf who at 87, is the last one alive. In 1955, Harold based his protagonist Len, on Mick in his one and only novel ‘The Dwarfs’, and Henry directed Harold’s first play ‘The Room’ just before ‘The Birthday Party’ opened in 1958.

Last week I went to see Ian Rickson’s West End revival of ‘The Birthday Party’   I was reminded the play is about power and occupation. Stanley is occupied by the external forces of Goldberg and McCann and we, the audience are left to ponder his plight. The last time I saw it was in the late 1980’s. I was 16 and sitting in Harold’s front room in Holland Park.    My hair was bleached blond and I was wearing my Frankie Goes to Hollywood leather jacket.  Harold had invited my father and I to lunch and we ended up watching the BBC TV production of ‘The Birthday Party’ with him in the role of Goldberg.  At the end of the video Mick burst into tears, and Harold roared with laughter as if the play was an in-joke between them.  Maybe they shared Stanley’s secret?  I will never know, but this was the only time I’d ever seen my father cry, and it was a profound and beautiful moment I will never forget.

Ele Pavlou

Ele Pavlou Photo: Sarah Hickson

Just before my father died in 2014 we were estranged and not speaking.  I tried to patch things up, but my letter arrived the day he died so he never got to read it.  I thought our relationship was forever broken, but as time went on, I discovered relationships with our loved ones, continue to evolve even in death, and these projects ‘Truth to Power Café’ and ‘Spider Love’ have become an attempt to reconcile my failed relationship with my father Mick.

In amongst Mick’s possessions I found a play he’d written in 1975.  I knew the play existed as I remember acting out all the parts as a 9-year-old-boy.  Forty years on, I was surprised to discover the play is in fact Mick’s personal response to his friendship with Harold, and what it was like for him to be written into ‘The Dwarfs’ as Len.  While I was reading the play, I visited the Harold Pinter Archive at the British Library, where for the first time I read a treasure trove of original letters between Harold, Henry and Mick. Many of the letters were written in the 1950’s, so it was through these letters, that I got to know my father as a young man for the first time.

In 2015, I arranged to meet Henry who started sending me original poetry in response to ’Spider Love’, the verse of which I’ve been able to incorporate into my own adaptation of my father’s text and which I now perform in ‘Truth to Power Café’.  I also created a part for Henry who appears in ‘Spider Love’ as himself.  We joke it’s the part he was born to play.  Last October, we staged a reading of ‘Spider Love’ to a packed British Library theatre.  The event included an on stage conversation between Pinter’s biographer Michael Bilington and Henry.  Thanks to Carl we’re able to show you the video for the first time.

When we eventually mount our production of ‘Spider Love’ we’ll be able to stage it in the shadow of the brave and courageous souls taking part in the ‘Truth to Power Café’.

This year alone we expect to engage at least a hundred participants.

Everyone taking part in the Café has five minutes to respond to this question before a live audience.

‘Who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’

I talk about my father.

I wonder what Stanley would have said?

‘Truth to Power Café’ is a global platform for speaking truth to power in a theatrical context inspired by the philosophical beliefs of Harold Pinter and his Hackney Gang and presented in in association with Index on Censorship.  Director Jen Heyes. Photography Sarah Hickson.

Upcoming performances include Cast in Doncaster on 8th February and Theatre in the Mill in Bradford on 9th February.  This week the project launches in Australia for Festival 2018  the arts and cultural programme for Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, and in The Netherlands for Leeuwarden European Capital of Culture.

For more info and to sign up visit

The Birthday Party is running at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 14th April