Appeal to save popular Shakespeare festival in Rotherham

Children at a previous Rotherham Shakespeare Festival.
Children at a previous Rotherham Shakespeare Festival.
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The future of a popular educational programme that engages children in literature is in jeopardy due to a £20,000 shortfall in funding.

The annual Rotherham Shakespeare Festival, run by the Open Minds Theatre Company, has worked with thousands of children in schools across the borough since it was established in 2007.

It uses Shakespeare’s works as a stimulus to raise attainment among children aged four to 18 through high quality teaching, learning and arts provision, culminating in 14 live performances to local audiences at Magna.

But now plans to engage a further 2,800 youngsters from 70 Rotherham schools in the festival in 2015 have been left hanging in the balance due to a lack of funding.

Katherine Fletcher, community director at Open Minds Theatre Company, said: “We run an initiative that is proven to make a difference to the lives of young people and but due to recent cuts we face a shortfall of £20,000 this year, putting the festival in jeopardy.

“We now need help to make sure the Rotherham Shakespeare Festival survives.”

The Open Minds Theatre Company is looking for both individual and business sponsorship to help bridge the gap in funding and enable the festival to go ahead in 2015 and beyond.

Katherine added: “Our local schools and head teachers are desperate for the provision to continue - many consider the festival a highlight on the Rotherham school calendar while communities see us at part of the recovery of the town.

“We work with some of the most disadvantaged young people, giving them an opportunity to shine, raising aspirations and improving motivation as well as significantly increasing levels in reading and writing, which spreads to other curriculum areas.

“The festival programme for 2015 is due to start in a few months’ time to train 90 teachers in drama and English to deliver more than 1,000 hours of in-school provision, so we don’t have much time left to get the money together.

“If every person we have worked with since starting the festival donated just £1 to the cause, we would be safe.”

Businesses and individuals interested in sponsoring the Rotherham Shakespeare Festival are asked to contact Katherine on 07834 341 468, or email Alternatively those wanting to make a donation to the festival fund can text WILL15 followed by either £1, £2 or £5, depending on the amount they would like to give, to 70070.