Speech from Miranda Thain, Artistic Producer at Theatre Hullabaloo on the opening of The Hullabaloo 11 Dec 2017

11 Dec ’18

As we celebrate our one year anniversary we have been looking back and reflecting on the opening day. As part of the opening ceremony our Artistic Producer Miranda Thain gave this wonderful and inspiring speech and we thought we would share it with you all to enjoy.

Welcome to The Hullabaloo : The Place Where Magic Happens

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all today to The Hullabaloo.

I did, firstly, just want to say a huge thank you to the cast and creative team of Bear & Butterfly, particularly to Director Dani Parr. This was always going to be a pretty high stakes preview, but you absolutely did as proud as you always do, so thank you.

This isn’t a day to talk about the past, because this building in its very essence is about the present and the future. So much so that many of the people for whom it will be most significant, even in the short term, aren’t even born yet. Our seven year journey is no time in terms of a capital project, but it brings it into stark focus when you think that the children with whom we have shared the performance today were all but twinkles in their parents eyes when those conversations first began.

The phenomenon of childhood is both fundamentally special and incredibly fleeting.

But to understand where you are headed, you need to understand where you have come from and the partnership that underpins this building dates back to Theatre Hullabaloo’s time at Darlington Arts Centre. There, with the support of Lynda Winstanley and Darlington Arts Team, we were able to make and present our work and also make some very ambitious things happen for children in the town. For example, we regularly reached whole cohorts of children by creating pieces of work and working alongside schools and nurseries to ensure every child of a certain age could be bussed in to experience it at a cost that was affordable for all.

So, every five year old in Darlington saw a piece of contemporary dance about the five senses called Five. And, of course, in these projects we didn’t just reach every five year old, but also all the grown-ups in their lives, their educators, their carers, their parents, their grandparents. Projects like that effect the psyche of a place and the way it values high quality arts opportunities for its children.

The Hullabaloo is a place for all children and all families and what I’ve described is a model that we will replicate here. What I hope it illustrates is that the partnership between Theatre Hullabaloo and our colleagues at Darlington Borough Council is long standing and has been characterised by ambition and by trust and those are the fundamental things which have enabled us to realise this building and everything it represents together.

It was in the autumn of 2011 that I crept into the back of the studio at the Arts Centre as I often did just as our show, an adaptation of a picture book about a gang of ballet dancing girl pirates, was about to begin. Earlier that term we’d brought every five year old into see Five and the gaggle of kids looked vaguely familiar.As I sat down behind two girls, they turned to talk to me and one of them eyeballed me in that way that only five year olds can and said ‘I’ve been here before. I know what happens here’ so of course I said ‘Do you? Tell me what happens here then’ and she said with a shrug “This is the place where magic happens”

And then the lights went down and she was right, we were all transported to a treasure island where rough tough girl pirates stole the front of a little boy’s house to disguise their pirate ship and steal the treasure from some very silly grown-up pirates.

What struck me about what she said was the confidence in which she felt entitled to that place and to that magic.

Theatre Hullabaloo believes that creativity should be part of everybody’s childhood. I’d go even further and say that the magic she described that takes us out of ourselves should be an entitlement of every child, whatever their background. In 2011, when the first round of austerity hit children’s arts particularly savagely, I wrote in The Stage ‘Perhaps we can no longer afford that precious place in childhood where we have room to imagine?”

This building stands as a beacon for that place of the imagination. It is a building which is proud to recognise how important children are and to offer them spaces and art that is made specifically for them. These spaces will be filled with the best of children’s theatre from around the world, we will attract specialist artists, most of whom have given their lives to developing work and a relationship to their young audience which is as sophisticated as we know children to be. Fundamental to our vision is that The Hullabaloo is the meeting point for artists, children and academics so that we are not just making great art in creative collaboration, but also developing research alongside which will impact on national policy around the place of creativity in childhood.

Today is the beginning of a new part of the journey for Theatre Hullabaloo as we open the doors of our new home and welcome audiences and artists in. It has been hugely exciting for us to enter into new partnerships with organisations and individuals who understand the real impact this building can make both on our doorstep and further afield and we’re delighted that so many of our capital funders are also supporting elements of our programme and coming on the journey with us.

I’d like to thank the children of Rydal and Northwood schools who took part in the consultation around the design of the building. I’d also like to thank architects Carinna Gebhard and David Coundon who have honoured the children’s contributions in the thoughtful design choices they have made and ensured it really is an inspiring place for everyone.

The Hullabaloo is a place of conversation with all stakeholders in childhood, including children themselves. There are real challenges – research tells us that NE teenagers are least likely to believe that they will achieve more than their parents. This building sits within one of the 1% most deprived wards in the U.K. There is real poverty amongst children on our doorstep and there is real poverty of aspiration and opportunity for many too.  Great art does have real social impact and we have a collective responsibility as artists, policy makers, educators, businesses to work together to ensure that this impact is felt by all children.

The question of whether we can afford that place to imagine is defiantly answered within the brick work of The Hullabaloo. Not just that we can, but that we must. Theatre brings us together to entertain, provoke, challenge, delight and inspire us. It gives us ways to think about an increasingly complicated world and our place within it. Education is narrowing just at the time when we need breadth and space for ideas. If we don’t give young people that space to dream of a better world then how can they possibly make it real?

We open the doors with high hopes. High hopes that this building will become a nationally and internationally significant asset for children’s arts, high hopes that the children that come through its doors this week will return again and again with their children and grand children – eager to relive that special experience of taking your grown up to the theatre.

And for me, personally, my hope is that when I am old and grey I will walk down Borough Road, stop a kid on their scooter, point to this building and ask ‘Can you tell me what happens there?’ and he’ll answer with a shrug ‘That’s the place where magic happens’.

Thank you.

Feature Image: Miranda Thain, Artistic Producer at Theatre Hullabaloo and Sharon Paterson, Chair of the Theatre Hullabaloo Board of Trustees