Imagine a space where children and young people can access the arts and culture in a bespoke setting with them at the heart of it. With some child size doors and child height windows, a bijou stage and auditorium and creative making space for arts activities, as well as an outdoor classroom and amphitheatre where a family can enjoy a picnic in the park whilst attending a cultural event, the reality is one step closer. Stiltskin Arts & Theatre CIC have just received confirmation on their planning permission for the Soapbox Theatre and Stiltskin Studio in Devonport Park, one of the only children’s arts centres.
The project is a real boost for children and families in Plymouth. With high aspirations for bringing excellent quality national and international projects into the area, as well as building local cultural provision, Stiltskin aim to engage children and young people and their families in a range of arts and cultural events within the park.
The planning will enable a disused, unattractive building to be developed into a thriving hub that will nurture children and their creativity. As it is based in one of the most deprived areas in Plymouth, the project will support healthy lives and minds and encourage cultural provision in the area. The next steps are for Stiltskin to raise the funds to make it happen.
Iain Slade, Business Director tells us:
“We are looking for people and companies to invest in this project. By doing so they will be investing in children and young people’s futures supporting them in our aim to raise attainment and aspirations, giving children who are below the poverty line opportunities to experience cultural activity, and supporting children who suffer from or are near to someone who suffers from mental illness; a health problem that can affect anyone no matter what their background. And of course our door will be open to all children and their families bringing theatre, dance, art workshops, yoga, storytelling, festivals and so much more into the park.”
Plans for the Soapbox Theatre (Credit: Research + Design)
A Fishy Tale (Credit: Guy N Harris)
Local architectural practice Research + Design are designing the project. Director Robert Bedner who has worked on the project since April says:
“Designing a children’s theatre in a WWll heritage asset building in one of the oldest city parks – it really doesn’t get much better than this for people in architecture and design. The combination of the way children see the world through the Stiltskin theatre and putting this all together in a building that also has its own story in a beautiful park setting. All the ingredients were here to make something really special. From the very beginning when Stiltskin initially crowdfunded this project, the momentum has kept growing. It began as some ideas about putting a roof on the stage and the old water tower becoming a fly tower over a children’s stage, then expanded with the development of a really primal amphitheatre space and the passive haus idea of the building being “child powered”. The treatment and design of the facades, the idea of the green wall as a backdrop behind the stage followed from this and the aspiration of endeavouring to get the children to really connect with the parks nature. It’s one of those rare projects where the design fell into place in a very natural way. At a certain point the project and the design took on a life of its own. It’s crucial that this life is supported and that the momentum keeps going and developing and we look forward to the day when the theatre opens for its first rooftop production!”
Wild Tribe Children’s Festival (Credit: Guy N Harris)
Jacqueline, Artistic Director says:
“When we took on the building we had a vision and initial ideas on how we wanted to transform it, with the bijou storytelling theatre in the boiler house and a creative making space, as well as the rooftop stage and amphitheatre outside. During our Crowdfunding campaign Robert Bednar from Research plus Design contacted us and we collaborated with him. What we liked about Robert was his approach to biophilic design, linking buildings with the environment, which was very apt for our setting within the park. The design puts children at the heart of the building with child sized doors and dome shaped windows where they can sit and look over the grass or up at the sky as if they are floating in a bubble. We are now designing projects for children with the support of the RIO Challenge Fund which is core funding from the Arts Council for the next two years. This will enable us to create projects such as Caterpillar which is an immersive theatre piece for 0-5yrs. It is already a sell-out success.”