How Chickenshed found a welcoming home in Enfield borough

Susan Jamson from Chickenshed on how the theatre arrived in the borough and a recent event held to launch its 50th anniversary year

Chickenshed kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations with an event called 'A Place of Our Own'
Chickenshed kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations with an event called ‘A Place of Our Own’

Chickenshed launched its 50th anniversary celebrations with an event called ‘A Place of our Own’ last Saturday (24th). 

The afternoon was a celebration of Chickenshed in Enfield – the borough that provided us with a home where we can sit alongside so many other fantastic organisations which share our commitment to fostering a more inclusive world. 

We wanted to especially highlight the support that Enfield Council gave to us during our second decade when they found land for a ‘place of our own’ and seconded John Bull with the unenviable task of seeking support and funding for us to build our own theatre.

In the early 1980s, Chickenshed’s young members asked the founders, Mary Ward and Jo Collins, why there was only one person with cerebral palsy in their group. 

Mary and Jo saw this vital question as the way forward for Chickenshed and approached John Bull, a social worker who ran Cheviots Children’s Home. At that time he was looking for an out of school activity for his Cheviots children. They quickly realised their common
commitment to inclusion.

John soon became Chickenshed’s first managing director and together with Mary and Jo the world’s first truly inclusive theatre company was created!  

In March 1988, our first ‘A Place of our Own’ event marked a turning point. Enfield Council’s chief executive, Brian McAndrew, pledged to find a home for Chickenshed after seeing our performance in a local church hall. His dedication, including personally rallying support
within the council led to the confirmation of land at the side of Saracen’s Rugby Club – our new home.

Finally, in 1994, Chickenshed moved into its purpose-built theatre in Southgate, North London – a truly historic milestone. Subsequently, Chickenshed embarked on national tours, showcasing the power of inclusion to audiences nationwide.

Since opening our building over 4,000 children and young people have been part of the Children’s and Youth Theatre programme; many of them staying for over ten years. We’ve had 1,500 full time students studying on our further and higher education courses and over
1.1 million people have been to see our shows. 

Last Saturday, we shared a deeply moving afternoon as we welcomed Enfield politicians, council staff, partner organisations, esteemed alumni, and dedicated volunteers from our decade-long journey. Mary, Jo, and John shared insights into their collaborative vision for
inclusion, accompanied by performances from current participants and partners such as Write 2 Speak.

Speeches from young trustee Theo Sergio and councillor Chinelo Anyanwu emphasised the importance of creative inclusion and Chickenshed’s positive impact in Enfield, reaffirming the council’s commitment to supporting Chickenshed for the next 50 years and beyond.

Within all of our 50th anniversary activities we will keep our vision focused on the future, whilst celebrating the past. We are excited to welcome our community to join us for our many celebratory events throughout 2024.

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