The founders of a Coventry-based theatre company have spoken about their lockdown collaborations with artists, writers and local communities. 

Award-winning Theatre Absolute was founded by Chris O’Connell and Julia Negus in 1992. Together, they then established Shop Front Theatre in 2009. 

During initial lockdown, Chris, Julia, and project co-ordinator/performer Lisa Franklin created artwork for the Shop Front Theatre windows, which allowed them to 'respond to the crisis as artists and performers, and in part to support their own wellbeing through the process of creativity.' 

The window exhibition, titled Meanwhile, is now on display and provides a new perspective for passers-by as they begin to return to the city centre.

Supported by funds from Arts Council England and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the company has also been developing other initiatives, including ongoing zoom and mentoring sessions to enable young people - particularly college leavers and new graduates - to make sense of the impact of the crisis as they start their careers in the creative sector.

The company has also been running a series of micro-commissions and an online programme of writing sessions as part of its City Voices writing development work in partnership with City of Culture Trust.

Another writers’ initiative is Theatre Absolute’s new partnership with Ola Animashawun - a dramaturg who runs Euphoric Ink and also works at the National Theatre in London. Both Chris and Ola offer one-to-one sessions for writers at all levels who may want some direct feedback on plays they have in progress.

As lockdown eases, Theatre Absolute has also offered its Shop Front Theatre to artists to experiment with text and narrative in its Theatre Labs.  

Talking about the company's goals, Chris said: “The creative sector is facing huge demands, and with the recent government support, there is a tangible sense of relief for some. Our goal here at Theatre Absolute, as always, is to reach out, connect and support where we can, and in doing so continue to demonstrate the positive impact smaller theatres and organisations can have for the future of theatre and the wider arts ecology.”

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