Bronte Appleby

Playwright Bronte Appleby takes active role in breaking down cultural barriers in the arts

  • Playwright talks about impact of covid on world of theatre
  • Work as arts ambassador sees her go out into communities looking for stories

Bronte Appleby has been involved in the Culture for Our Communities programme set up by Greater Manchester’s cultural organisations.

The aim of the project is to spread the word about arts and culture reopening across the north west and making sure everyone’s story is heard.

One of the ways they achieve this is by hosting pop-up events, as well as open meetings for local members of the community, allowing them to express their views.

Bronte said: “I think culture is so important, it naturally happens when no one is looking.

“And that’s why this is so important because if we don’t reflect those cultures, why would people want to come out and see stuff?

“This week I’m going to go work for the youth group and then on Thursday, I’m going to go work with older adults, community group.

“I’m going to be using two completely different sides of me, because their culture is so different. They use their own patterns and routines and the things they share, their experience is so important.” 

Speaking about the role of Culture for Our Communities, she said: “Culture for Our Communities is a project to get people back into cultural venues.

“And so as far as I can tell, it’s kind of headed up by the Royal Exchange and then supported by different theatres, like Contact and Home and other cultural venues. And there are lots of different scenes running through that.

“I thought it was interesting to see if I could make an interactive part of it as well.

“So, I worked with quite a few community groups for all the people where it’s perhaps more appropriate to go in and just have a cup of tea and a conversation.

“Or work with a few youth groups based on arts and youth groups based on English.”

Bronte said there had been a huge impact on the industry from covid.

“It’s definitely lucky to get our cultural recovery package. But there was a big movement that, you know, all these theatres, we’re getting money to support buildings, quite rightly, we need to keep them open,” she said.

“But it’s the freelancers that make the work. If you look at a show at the Royal Exchange, you have the building, of course, and you have set staff, but you know the producers are probably freelance, the directors, probably a freelance photographer, the crew, the actors, the casting director -all those people are freelance.

“And because of the way that things were structured, all these people suddenly not getting paid, because it’s a gig culture.

“And there was no way to prove that you were going to get the next gig. So, there was no way to prove that you had the money that the government could give you money.

“And because of that, so many people have left the industry. And when we have people leave the industry, we lose people from different backgrounds, different socio-economic backgrounds, different ethnicities.

“And it makes the stories that we’re telling obviously far less diverse.”

She stressed the importance of representation, saying “I think the only way that we are going to get interesting stories is if the people we grew up with are represented, but it doesn’t matter who you are and who those people are.

“The more stories we have, the better. T he more voices are heard, the better. For a long time, I think theatre has been known for appealing to a certain class or certain ethnicity.

“And that is not the case anymore, and there’s definitely a movement to try and diversify the voices and the stories we’re telling.

“Because if we tell the same story from the same perspectives, we don’t learn anything.”