The young people of Rotherham are taking back their town and showing they are more than just a negative news story this weekend with a festival of arts and street performance.
Taking Back the Town has been created by Chol Theatre and will see actors, dancers, opera singers and artists take to the streets of Rotherham on Saturday lunchtime.
The event also kicks off Rotherham Arts Festival – a two-month festival that will see more than 25 performances across the town throughout May and June.
The performance comes from The Mix, a group within the theatre that was set up by, for and with Rotherham’s young people in reaction to well-publicised scandals within the council and police force.
The Mix seeks to change the perceptions of Rotherham and document the negative attention that the town has received through the eyes of young people.
Susan Burns, director at Chol Theatre, said: “We are really proud to bring Taking Back the Town to the streets of Rotherham this weekend.
“All too often Rotherham is in the newspapers for the wrong reasons and we wanted to address this – we have a town full of creative young people and the arts is a wonderful way for them to express themselves.
“By encouraging them to share their feelings on all of the negative attention we are showing the town to be a strong community that is coming back fighting.
“They have worked hard over the last three months to bring this show together – writing scripts, songs and staging everything, and we couldn’t be more pleased to present this showcase to the town.”
Young people aged 11 to 25 have worked on the performance since February, including local Youth Parliament member Tom Jackson, who got involved in the project after joining The Mix for a planning session.
The performance will start at 11.45 with a march starting at Rotherham Youth Centre Myplace, making its way towards All Saints Square.
Once at the square, audience members will be taken on the journey’ of four main characters. Travelling around the sides of Rotherham Minster, the performance will continue on to the Minster Gardens on Church Street then the Imperial Buildings, eventually wrapping up in the Old Market Gallery at 2pm.
An exhibition of participants’ art will also be on display at the gallery.
The afternoon will include audience participation during the first dance show Wake Me Up, with dramatic scenes running simultaneously and individual music performances. It will end with a recital of Figaro’s Aria followed by the show-stopping Our Town sung by all of the show performers.
Rotherham’s Labour election candidate Sarah Champion is attending the event and said: “This performance is a testament to the strength and resilience of our town’s young people.
“As a community we are still recovering from last year’s scandal but projects like this prove that by working together we can create a town that we can all be proud of.
“The young performers have shown determination, dedication and creativity and I am looking forward to seeing the finished performance on Saturday.”