THE EXCHANGE, a cultural arts venue and registered charity in North Shields, is aiming to raise the aspirations of young people from areas of high deprivation by offering free spaces at youth theatre programmes, thanks to support from supply chain management firm, The NBT Group.

To kick off its 110th year, The NBT Group will sponsor 110 free places on The Exchange’s youth programmes in a bid to ensure that access to the arts shouldn’t be privilege, but a right. The opportunity will offer young people the chance to grow and improve their confidence in an all-inclusive, encouraging environment.

Eligible for those in receipt of free school meals or families entitled to Working Tax Credits, the sponsored places will cover all aspects of theatre performance to suit the individual youth’s interests, across acting, singing and dancing.

To mark the launch of the event, existing members of The Exchange’s youth programmes joined local actor and presenter Robson Green, as he showed his support for arts and culture in the region and the opportunities that the sponsored places will bring to young people in the North East.

The Exchange, which opened in January 2016, runs a variety of weekly sessions for all ages including its Young Youth Theatre and dance choreography classes as well as supporting the local arts, culture and creativity in the region. Alongside community and professional theatre companies, the venue also plays host to a range of events from art exhibitions and theatre productions to music concerts, book launches and everything in between.

Toby Bridges, who is CEO at The NBT Group as well as a founding member, chairman and acting CEO at The Exchange, has been passionate about inspiring the region to get involved in the arts for over 12 years. Born from his original idea, The Exchange’s intention mirrors that of the overarching purpose of The NBT Group, to support and develop a vibrant community.

Speaking on the free places on offer at The Exchange, Toby Bridges, said: “Due to the contribution from The NBT Group, Karen and the team are now starting to see all of their hard work pay off. We are extremely pleased that we are able to offer support to such a fantastic opportunity that’s close to our hearts and reach audiences from areas of high deprivation that may not usually have access to the arts.

“At The NBT Group we are passionate about individuals growing to reach their full potential and improve their confidence. Children are our future leaders, teachers and creatives and the skills they will obtain from their workshops can be really beneficial for later life, even if the career path they take is completely different to the arts.”

Karen Knox, artistic director at The Exchange, said: “Our youth programmes at The Exchange offer young people the chance to grow and improve their confidence, as well as developing their skills in acting, singing and dancing.

“We strongly believe that the arts should be accessible to everyone and thanks to Toby and The NBT Group, we can now offer places to young people who may not have had the opportunity before.”

On hand to show his support to The Exchange and the importance of arts and culture in the region, Robson Green commented: “If you really want to build an avenue into the arts and you live in the North East of England then The Exchange is the place to be.

“It’s a really great life-affirming story what’s going on here. I see myself in these young people and whether you want to make a living being in the arts, or just use it as a confidence building exercise, it’s the perfect venue to do that.”

To express interest for one of the free spaces, please contact The Exchange directly by emailing or calling 0191 258 411 to arrange a taster session.


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