Farming helping the performing arts industry

There is a crisis facing live performance because of Covid-19 and farming can help, says Tim Ashton

Shropshire Member Tim Ashton, of Soulton Hall - home to the first longbarrow constructed in Shropshire since neolithic times - says that there is a crisis facing live performance because of Covid-19 and that farming can help

He says; "In July the scale of threat facing live performance and all the jobs and experiences it represents became clear. Certain things cannot be changed about the constraints of gathering people together safely, but we can work around, respond creatively, salvage some things, make alternatives work, and even provide some opportunities for valuable legacy/infrastructure.

"We have been building a ritual landscape at Soulton Hall from stone and earthworks for some years now, and we decided to bring forward and revise some of those plans in order to lean in and help.

"So, with help from friends and a digger, we raised a circular stage, mounded soil banks into tiers for seating, and decided we were also happy to open the gardens here for performance. Alongside this we reached out to the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and others to offer these spaces for use. We are now going to support at least five productions, with at least three more in talks the moment.

We have been building a ritual landscape at Soulton Hall from stone and earthworks for some years now, and we decided to bring forward and revise some of those plans in order to lean in and help

soulton hall midlands.jpg
Initial construction of the outdoor theatre at Soulton Hall, Shropshire

"With insurance, basic infrastructure, risk assessment, and local authority licencing support is in place, performances can be done very rapidly on many farms in Dutch Barns, in open fields, on bales. What has been done here means hundreds of experiences of performing will go ahead which otherwise could not. It also represents opportunities to work for revenue and performance that the performers involved otherwise could not access.

Tim says that farming has a good record of helping rapidly and creatively in a crisis, such as Forage Aid, and we can look at doing this in this setting for another sectors. The idea is that a farmer signals they are interested in this on social media by using the hashtag #onfarmculture identifying their location.

Performers can then efficiently find farms whom they can potentially work with. It would not take many farms to signal they were prepared to help in this way for a significant national difference to this problem to be made.

Tim Ashton has spoken about his unique venture on BBC Midlands Today and BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show.

For further information visit http://www.soultonhall.co.uk/news/122/emergency-theatre-.htm

Key contact:

Mike Ashton
Mike Ashton Midlands Regional Communications Manager