A Portstewart-based theatre company has been helping local businesses boost trade through the arts, thanks to a grant windfall from Culture for All.
The Big Telly Theatre Company is one of 21 groups across Northern Ireland awarded grants totalling almost £156,460 from the Big Lottery Fund and Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Culture for All programme.
The Big Telly Theatre Company, formed 26 years ago, received £10,000 towards a range of arts events, including its Big Sunday festival and a project to counter isolation among older people in the Portstewart area.
“The premise of our work with the funding was about getting the local community to think creatively about developing a celebratory culture around certain dates,” explained Zoe Seaton, Big Telly director. “The Big Sunday event, for instance, involved us working primarily with local traders to revive what used to be a traditional trading event,”
“We managed to get a range of local businesses to open on a Sunday who would not normally trade then but the idea was to organise the day as a special family event, a vintage day - so, for instance, we had a local hairdresser’s offering 1920s and 1930s hairstyles and a butcher’s selling a retro-style menu.
“The day was a phenomenal success with traders reporting a 50% increase in their business. It was about being able to support the community so that they can carry on organising this event, and others like it, in future years without our support. Another element of our work with this funding involves older people in the Portstewart area. In the past we have worked with a Derry group of older people called the Spring Chickens and they are very pro-active in getting involved with the arts.
“We’re planning to bring this group to Portstewart to meet a group of local people and engage with them to show them the kinds of things they might want to be involved with in terms of performance arts.
“Older people have so much to offer in this respect but put them on a stage when they’re in the lights and under pressure to remember lines, for instance, and they’re just not themselves.
“We will be bringing in two actors to work with the older people but we want them to retain ownership of the project so it will be more about improvisation rather than learning set scripts. That way, the real personalities of the people come across and confidence is built.”