Susan Jamson from Chickenshed Theatre on why help is needed to secure its future
It was with great sadness that we had to close our beautiful theatre building in the middle of March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
We put all our usual activities on hold and launched ‘Virtual Chickenshed’ so that we could continue to connect and support the children, young people and adults who participate in our many programmes both at our theatre and through our outreach projects.
At Chickenshed, we provide workshops, education, mentoring and a place to belong for more than 1,000 children and young people. We also reach a further 5,000 young people every year from London and areas of identified disadvantage through our outreach programmes. Over 60% have experienced isolation and exclusion because of mental or physical ill-health, disability, bullying, gang pressure, interactions with the care system, or being a young carer themselves. It is often a combination of these things.
We have made sure that we are always there for these children and young people, and the thousands of others who, over 47 years, have considered Chickenshed their ‘second home’. They tell us it is the place they can be safe to be who they really are.
During the last few months we have been delivering all our workshops and lessons virtually and have provided mentoring sessions to ensure that our young people feel cared for and valued. We have seen their needs become more complex and the risk of isolation has increased.
We are now looking beyond lockdown and making plans for the future. These plans are based on continued uncertainty and changing government guidelines. Two weeks ago our local MP, Bambos Charalambous, kindly raised Chickenshed’s situation at prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, which resulted in Boris Johnson committing to support Chickenshed. We are hopeful that this cross-parliamentary advocacy will be converted into actions – but we can’t be complacent and assume that support will come along
The uncertainty of receiving any arts and theatre funding, together with vulnerability of charities in general, means that we have to look for other ways to protect our activities and programmes. We are concerned about our capacity to retain the resources to nurture our young people both virtually and in person as the unknown impact of Covid-19 continues into the future.
With this in mind, we have launched an urgent appeal. We have already reached out to some of our closest community members and have raised just over £50,000 so far. We now need to raise a further £450,000 this year to provide the security to continue running our programmes. We are asking for your help – any help at all will make a such huge difference to children who, without our safe and welcoming care, can and do fall through the cracks.
You can support Chickenshed by sponsoring a virtual seat from £50 upwards with our ‘Take Your Seat’ campaign via chickenshed.org.uk/take-your-seat; you can donate to us directly via justgiving.com/campaign/keepChickenshedsafe; or you could join in with your own fundraising challenge! We already have 30 people who have taken on mini-fundraising challenges – it is incredibly easy to organise, just get in touch.
Chickenshed has always been about ‘us’ – our amazing Enfield community. Thank you for your support and friendship.
Get in touch with Susan to discuss your own fundraising ideas:
Call 07736 956 662
Email [email protected]