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A unique partnership between a regional theatre and social housing


Post by Jenny Hughes

In this two minute clip, Roddy Gauld summarises the partnership between the Octagon Theatre – a major regional theatre – and Bolton at Home – a social housing provider responsible for 18,000 homes across Bolton (a town in the North of England).

Roddy describes the responsibility of organisations that ‘take the public shilling’ to engage communities that reflect the socio-economic diversity of their areas. He celebrates theatre and the arts as providing a means for people to stay in touch with each other in times of austerity – and in a way that culminates in the town becoming ‘more than the sum of its parts’.

The Octagon Theatre’s partnership with Bolton at Home has several dimensions – including a free theatre ticket scheme and a range of community activities, with theatre clubs now running in several Bolton neighbourhoods. The housing association gives £20,000 annually to the theatre to pay for 1800 free tickets for Bolton at Home tenants a year, which are distributed via Bolton at Home’s Percent for Art Officers. Percent for Art is a nationally – if not internationally – unique scheme, whereby 1% of the housing association’s capital revenue annually is allocated to arts activity. For more information, see previous blog post ‘Humanising our public spaces’).

The money that goes to the Octagon does not come from tenants’ rents. Instead, it is raised from the ‘right to buy’ scheme – a government supported scheme that gives council housing and housing association tenants the right to buy their home at a discounted rate.

At Bolton at Home, the first £20,000 from the first sale under this scheme annually is allocated to REALL (formerly Homeless International) – a UK-based international development organisation dedicated to improving living conditions and providing housing and basic services for the urban poor living in ‘slums’. The second £20,000 goes to the Octagon, to cover theatre tickets and make a contribution to the theatre’s work in the community.

For the full interview with Roddy Gauld (available in two parts) go to the Poor Theatres map and database, and select ‘Bolton’ in the ‘region box’. Click on the flag in the centre of Bolton and follow the links from there …

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