County youth theatre links up with Festival Theatre

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WEST Sussex County Youth Theatre is to join forces with one of the top theatres in the country.

The decision to work with Chichester Festival Theatre has been approved by Peter Griffiths, the West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Education and Schools.

The youth theatre will be known as the Chichester Festival Youth Theatre - West Sussex.

Mr Griffiths said: “I really do believe that the partnership will bring about some exciting opportunities for young people across the county.”

The partnership option emerged because the county council’s £79 million budget savings programme meant that it could no longer fund the West Sussex County Youth Theatre, which set-up in 1989 and was costing £116,000 a year to run.

The partnership will see the theatre extend its satellite operations to at least three or four new areas such as Billingshurst, Burgess Hill, Crawley, Storrington, Steyning, and East Grinstead, prioritising those parts of the county with ‘little or no provision’.

The report says that by the end of 2013, there will be an additional 200 young people taking part in weekly professionally led youth theatre sessions across the county.

It adds: “In addition to participating in local activities, young people will also have opportunity to rehearse and perform in professionally-led productions, and audition for the major CFYT annual productions.”

Mr Griffiths said: “Coping with such a big reduction in government grants has meant taking some difficult decisions, but this new development again shows that wherever possible we try and find alternatives to simply cutting services.

“Parents of young people interested in the performing arts will know the reputation of the theatre, and the quality of its Learning and Participation programme, and I hope they will agree this is a good way forward.

“My decision also says that our Learning Service will undertake to develop partnerships to assist in the extension of the programme.”

The current Chichester Festival Youth Theatre is open to any young person between 10-19 years, and currently extends in a 50 mile radius of the city with 88 schools and colleges represented in its membership. There are specialist activities for young people with disabilities which are held weekly.

The theatre is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary season featuring acclaimed actors including Penelope Keith and Derek Jacobi.

Its 2011 production of the musical Singin’ In The Rain recently opened in the West End to rave reviews. Productions of Bingo, Sweeney Todd, South Downs and The Browning Version also transfer to the West End this year.