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Bristol Old Vic takes on inequality of access to arts in the city for The Big Give Christmas Challenge

This December, Bristol Old Vic will once again be part of The Big Give Christmas Challenge, an annual week-long campaign where all donations made to the theatre via The Big Give website from 1-8 Dec will be doubled.

Bristol Old Vic is internationally well-known for its West-End transfers and five-star productions, but the ground-breaking work it does to bring creative opportunities to young people in every postcode in the city is less well-known. Throughout the pandemic, Bristol Old Vic’s resources have been decimated and its income wiped out overnight, but the connections and relationships it has with young people across the city are as strong as ever.

Bristol Old Vic’s Engagement team work tirelessly across Bristol to help young people harness their imaginative powers, gain confidence and find their voice for the future. But the opportunities across Bristol have not been equality open to all. For example, currently only 54.1% of people in Hartcliffe & Withywood participate in cultural activity, while the city average is 84.3%.

This year, The Big Give Christmas challenge provides the opportunity to address this imbalance with Young Company:City – a new initiative which will bring creative opportunities into some of the areas of Bristol with the lowest provision for the arts and address some of the economic and geographical barriers that exist for the individuals affected.

Funds raised through The Big Give will allow Bristol Old Vic to work directly with partner organisations and communities in specific areas such as Hartcliffe and St Pauls with this pilot project, which if successful, will be implemented elsewhere across the city. Young Company:City will run drama workshops in the community with professional facilitators and theatre-practitioners from Bristol Old Vic, provide mentoring schemes and wellbeing programmes for children involved, while also providing access to refreshments at each of the sessions.

The funds raised through The Big Give will also go directly towards funding travel into the city, removing the current economic and geographical barriers to young people accessing a range of productions at Bristol Old Vic. This way, young people who may not ordinarily visit Bristol Old Vic have the opportunity to discover the theatre for themselves.

We will also provide access to our newly-formed library, which will be a free resource for Bristol’s communities to engage with theatre and writing from a range of voices and experiences within the artistic sector, and empower future generations of artists.

Donations to The Big Give Christmas Challenge could help with:
£5 covers the return travel to for a young person to come and see a performance at Bristol Old Vic, or to get to-and-from their drama session.

£10 means a group can have printed scripts for their rehearsals.

£25 ensures our young people can have something to eat during an after-school workshop.

£100 buys all the resources for an after-school group, including hand-sanitiser, props and materials.

£500 lets Bristol Old Vic run a whole day of arts activity in a school.

£1,000 transports every young person taking part in the project to Bristol Old Vic for their end-of-year performance.

£5,000 pays for an entire school to have a whole year of arts activity.

To support Bristol Old Vic’s Young Company: City, and to make double the difference, please visit:


Further information:
What Creative Opportunities Can Do:
Opportunities provided by Bristol Old Vic Young Company have transformed lives, including those of Bristol-based director Julia Head. We want to make these opportunities open to even more young people from across the city through Young Company:City.

Julia’s involvement with the Young Company started after seeing Sally Cookson’s adaptation of Jane Eyre at Bristol Old Vic. “I had dyslexia and ADHD and I would have laughed in your face if you told me I was going to be making theatre. But seeing that production made me feel alive, and I decided I wanted to be in rooms where I could be a part of that feeling.”

“I owe the Young Company so much – they fostered me, supported me and gave me so much time, attention and knowledge to grow into the artist that I am today. Now I work as a director in Bristol with the Engagement department, making theatre with a group of students who, two years ago, had never seen a play before. The reason the Young Company is so valuable is that no matter where you’re from, no matter your background, they treat you first as an artist. There is no way I would be where I am now if it weren’t for the Young Company. Fact.”