Unashamedly Chickenshed again

In 1974, musician and composer Jo Collins met teacher and director Mary Ward.

They shared a belief that everyone should have the opportunity to perform and create, leading them to establish a theatre company.

Initially operating out of local church halls, they were given the use of a disused chicken shed on vacant land belonging to local benefactor and landowner Lady Elizabeth Byng.

Jo and Mary, together with John Bull, the first Managing Director, created the world’s first truly inclusive theatre company – theatre for ‘absolutely everybody’, as they put it.

Fast forward to 2024 … as I will be writing about Chickenshed again. This year, it is celebrating its 50th anniversary. And there’s a whole tonne of stuff to celebrate. Chickenshed is now not only a theatre company but also an educational institution with a fine record of training students to BTec, Foundation degree and Honours degree level.

In its 50th year, Chickenshed  has set itself the challenge of achieving 50 partnership project links. The noticeboard pictured shows those acquired so far.

Chickenshed costs £1.6m annually to run, and that’s in addition to any income from putting on shows or offering courses.

To mark the anniversary and to raise money, Chickenshed organised its first ever Wonder Walk on 9th June. Nearly 200 people took part, walking either a 5km or a 10km route (or, in my case, with a bad back and hip, 6km). Typically, some participants were wheelchair users or otherwise people with disabilities, but the atmosphere was excited and joyous and the commitment and enthusiasm for Chickenshed, as ever, limitless. Before we set off, there was a 15-minute warmup (see photo).

So far, the total raised from the Wonder Walk is about £17,500, making a serious dent in the aspirational target of £40,000. Retrospective donations are welcome.

Here’s my collection box: https://chickenshed.enthuse.com/pf/ingrid-cranfield-60a19

You can give anonymously if you like, up to and including £1 million, and the more money you give, the fewer questions will be asked about where the money comes from (… just kidding!).

And thanks.

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