Utopia Theatre Secures New Premises to House New Youth Academy

Sheffield-based African theatre company, Utopia Theatre, has secured dedicated premises for its recently launched Youth Academy which will also help to breathe life into empty commercial space in the steel city.

Utopia Theatre has secured a 171 square metre former hairdressing shop unit on The Moor in Sheffield and is planning to move in over the coming months. As a charitable organisation, Utopia Theatre has been working with Leeds-based Hammond Associates, a company which specialises in making empty commercial property available to artists, arts and community-based charities, to secure the space.

It means that Utopia Theatre will be able to host workshops and performing arts classes for 9 to 19-year-olds alongside a programme of mentoring and training in one dedicated space. Utopia Theatre will be fitting out the premises in the coming weeks, creating inspiring workshop and rehearsal spaces designed to stimulate creativity. The Youth Academy launched earlier this year and has since been running at St Mary’s Church on Bramall Lane.

In the deal brokered by Hammond Associates, the new premises have been made available rent and service charge free on a temporary basis by landlord NewRiver Retail.

Founded by CEO and artistic director Mojisola Kareem-Elufowoju in 2012, Utopia Theatre is also a resident theatre company at the Crucible Theatre. It will maintain its base at The Crucible, as this relationship continues to be critical to the development of the organisation and its performances.

Mojisola Kareem-Elufowoju, CEO and artistic director of Utopia Theatre, said:

“I’m absolutely thrilled to secure a dedicated home for our Youth Academy. This will allow us to put a stamp on a building which is now destined to create even more opportunities for the next generation of creatives. It’s important that our Youth Academy members, alongside our brilliant team at Utopia Theatre, feel a sense of belonging and ownership and I’m confident this will provide a fantastic collaborative, supportive and vibrant workshop and rehearsal space.

It’s also important for us to be able to play our part in the regeneration and re-use of The Moor in Sheffield, so bringing a new lease of life to this area of the city is a real bonus. We are immensely proud of our Sheffield roots and it’s brilliant to be able to play our part in shaping the future of the area by making use of commercial space which is otherwise unused.”

Utopia Theatre is now looking at opportunities for businesses and individuals to sponsor and support areas within the new building, helping to forge tangible links between the local community and the theatre group.

Paul Hammond, Director of Hammond Associates, added:

“We’re so pleased to have supported Utopia Theatre. High streets right across Yorkshire have changed hugely in recent years with the rise of online shopping and continued dips in consumer confidence. Charities like Utopia Theatre bring a vibrancy to high streets which is lacking when the shutters are down and the units empty.

NewRiver Retail realise that empty commercial properties do not enhance an area and are pleased to be opening up these premises to a charitable occupation, albeit temporary. Not only does this continue to regenerate The Moor, but it also boosts opportunities for the local community. We wish Utopia Theatre every success in fitting out and utilising this space as they continue to thrive. ”

Utopia Theatre’s Youth Academy provides opportunities for young people of African and Caribbean descent, as well as those from other minority groups. It is expected to support 100 young people – nurturing skills with African oral storytelling and performance techniques, including talent development, career advice and opportunities; in particular targeting children with lower levels of engagement. Training takes place via interactive theatre, workshops, performing to peers, and undertaking work placements.

Arts Council England (ACE) recently put Utopia Theatre on the UK map for the work it produces as a National Portfolio Organisation. It received significant funding to expand its work and was one of just 25 South Yorkshire organisations to be awarded a share of the combined £21.2m ACE funding for the region.

Anybody wishing to partner with Utopia Theatre on transforming the space or joining the Youth Academy should contact the team on info@utopiatheatre.co.uk

Photo credits: Utopia Theatre

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