Derby Theatre announce new city-wide project DERBY RISES

Syndicated interview with Artistic Director and CEO of Derby Theatre, Sarah Brigham 

An overview of Derby Rises 

Can you describe what Derby Rises is? 

In simple terms, it’s a series of participatory community events which combine the popular pastime of baking with some in-depth and inclusive conversations around our future. This is all put into the hands of performance makers who will transform our dreams into newly commissioned short pieces of theatre. 

It marks the city easing out of lockdown. I say “easing”, because that’s what’s happening. I think back in March, we all imagined this would be over in a few months and we’d have a big spectacular show with all the trimmings (and fireworks…I definitely imagined fireworks!) to celebrate us returning back to ‘normal’. The curtain would rise, the audience would flood in, and it would be standing ovations in every theatre in the country. But that’s not how it’s working is it? It’s not about “celebration”. There is a lot of loss and grief for us to get over as a community, there’s a need to heal and there is still lots of uncertainty. Lockdown has slowed us down. And whilst sometimes that’s been a difficult thing to come to terms with, there is also a benefit in that: in pausing, in reflecting and in considering what we want this “new normal” to really look like. 

One thing the last few months has highlighted, is that our community is strong, as are its ideas and hopes for the future, and that maybe there could be new ways of doing things. So rather than just ‘bang out’ the same type of show to reopen the theatre, we knew we wanted to put the voices of our community front and centre, and especially celebrate those voices that are so often ignored and not given centre stage. 

Can you explain how it aligns with Derby CAN, its ambitions, aims and objectives? 

Derby Creative Arts Network is hoping to develop a whole city way of working which puts the artist, the audience member, the venue and the community participant all on an equal platform. We want to interrogate what words like “co-creation” mean and put the community at the heart of the work. This is just the first step – we are trialling lots 

Sensitivity: Internal 

of things – especially in terms of how the partnership works – but it’s the first step on an interesting journey for the city. 

How does Derby Rises involve the theatre, partners, artists and members of the community? 

All of the city’s performing arts NPOs are involved – whether that’s by nominating artists, developing the graffiti wall element, ensuring the digital streaming happens or producing the event. Our partners are involved in the recruitment and hosting of the workshops they identify with and the artists are borne from those communities, and working with them to produce their final product. 

What significance and impact do you think Derby Rises will have on Derby Theatre, the partners and the communities of Derby? 

I think this is just the first step in a conversation. We are doing things differently in Derby and this is the first baby step towards that.