Downtown Pompey receive £500 grant from Tesco Community Grant Scheme to support work at New Theatre Royal Portsmouth

Community Interest Company Downtown Pompey have received a £500 grant from Tesco community grants scheme to support their project True Colours at New Theatre Royal last year. 

True Colours (working title Colouring Queer) was a series of workshops and a final performance run by Downtown Pompey and held at New Theatre Royal with young people in the LGBTQ+ community in 2022. The workshops and performances were an opportunity for young people to meet local artists whilst giving them the freedom to explore themselves without judgement and using colour, performance and autobiographical work to talk about identity. 

 Downtown Pompey encourages anyone to participate – whether it’s making work or coming to see the work that others have produced. The ultimate goal is to help young people to understand and embrace who they are and create ideas for stories and performances by having conversations around identity and queerness. “It’s interesting when you are working with young people in this capacity how they are able to launch straight into it once you give them a safe space and opportunity to tell their individual stories” says Josh Breach of Downtown Pompey. 

Downtown Pompey and New Theatre Royal share the belief that theatre and performance can be used to tell stories as well as help the spectator to hear, listen, learn and develop through storytelling. 

The workshops involve specialists who would work on performance-based practice as well as someone – usually with a background in social work – to facilitate making it a safe space for the young people to express themselves.

Participating in the workshops is not just tokenistic. Once the workshops are finished the legacy of the work is continued and participants are given ongoing support.

The project had between 30 and 40 participants. Including the schools that hosted workshops too, the project boasts over 200 participants across the city. 

When speaking on the New Theatre Royal, Josh Breach enthused that it’s the perfect space in the city to do exactly what they envision, describing the theatre as “the beating heart of our city”.

Josh has been working with New Theatre Royal for some time and is one of their Associate Artists. Josh “can’t imagine it being anywhere else. We want people to feel that this venue is part of their cultural fabric.” New Theatre Royal shares the ethos and values of Downtown Pompey and Andy Sheppard, Head of Marketing at New Theatre Royal, feels that “people – especially young people – should have the ability to express themselves whoever they are and be in a safe space when doing so”. 

The money received from Tesco community grants scheme will go towards fostering the relationship with New Theatre Royal as Josh says “they give us a lot for free”.

Gemma Morrison, Community Champion for Tesco Fratton Park, is committed to creating partnerships within the city that benefit local communities and give them opportunities. She is passionate that “we should live in a society where no one is judged” and that “the ability to perform is a release, enabling you to express how you feel”.

Amy Edwards, musical theatre and arts development student at the university of Chichester, wrote the grant application for the theatre. The story and journey of the project inspired her and she says “helping with this project has really made me understand the need for funding…it has also furthered my love for musical theatre and fundraising”.

Pictured left to right: Lucy (Tesco Community Champion), Leah Rees (New Theatre Royal), Sarah Brandon (New Theatre Royal), Josh Breach (Downtown Pompey), Andy Sheppard (New Theatre Royal).