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Open air theatres could give farmers centre stage in saving arts

By Nick Humphreys | North Shropshire | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

An open air theatre has been created in just eight days, and the pioneer behind it hopes fellow farmers could take centre stage in helping rescue the arts industry.

The open air theatre at Soulton Hall

The venue has been built by two men and a digger at Soulton Hall in Wem, and a string of prestigious bookings have already been made including the National Youth Theatre.

The struggles of the arts industry have been well publicised during the coronavirus crisis. Theatres are still closed and are not expected to be back open any time soon, leaving performers and venue staff in dire financial straits.

Tim Ashton, from Soulton Hall, hopes that other farms can follow suit and create spaces for performers to demonstrate their talents and help them claw back a wage.

He said: "This shouldn't just be a one-off on one farm. I think farms across the country could contribute to this. I think they could join in and help.

"I think we have a responsibility to help another sector.

"We were doing a bit of soil engineering anyway around the barrow and we had been talking about this idea for a few years. When the opportunity came, we thought, we have to do it.

"About four weeks ago we hadn't even decided, but now it's built and we have the National Youth Theatre coming. It's a big deal for a major London company to come and perform in the mud in Wem."

Evidence suggests that William Shakespeare performed in Shrewsbury with The King's Men in the late 1500s, and Tim believes this could be another occasion where Shropshire plays a part in bringing performance to a national audience.

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He added: "I think we want generations to come to look back on this pandemic and think 'yes, they handled it well'.

Tim is promoting the campaign using the hashtag #onfarmculture.

On August 30 there will be a performance of Two Gentlemen of Verona and on September 5, A Midsummer Night's Dream will be performed a the site.

A date is also expected to be confirmed soon for the National Youth Theatre's visit to Soulton Hall. They will be performing Melt - an environmental epic in response to the global climate crisis.

Nick Humphreys

By Nick Humphreys
Senior Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star focusing on Shrewsbury.

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