Red Ladder: Axe falls on Leeds theatre company

VALUABLE WORK: Christine and Ian Wightman view their grandaughter Milly's work as part of the Red Ladder Theatre Company's Global Justice Project ' Little Worlds, during a visit to Lady Elizabeth Hastings Primary School, Collingham.

VALUABLE WORK: Christine and Ian Wightman view their grandaughter Milly's work as part of the Red Ladder Theatre Company's Global Justice Project ' Little Worlds, during a visit to Lady Elizabeth Hastings Primary School, Collingham.

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Radical theatre has been a voice of rebellion against authority for centuries.

In medieval times street actors with their thinly-veiled lampooning of monarchy, aristocracy and religion risked having their tongues cut out and pinned to the church door. That’s one of the reasons why actors wore masks.

Today the powers that be don’t cut out tongues. They cut off their funding.

Red Ladder Theatre in Leeds has been poking fun at the privileged and attacking authority for 43 years. Born in London, it came to Leeds in the 1970s.

Under the latest swing of the axe by the Government, via the Arts Council, its funding is to be cut by 39 per cent.

It means that vital areas of its work – particularly in schools – will be abandoned.

Rod Dixon has been Red Ladder’s director for the last five years.

“Today we’re going to a primary school in Collingham doing some work on global justice and child labour,” said Rod, who originates from Liverpool and has spent his adult life in and around theatre. “We’re showing what it’s like to be an eight-year-old working in the sugar fields, which is illegal, but which goes on in Columbia. We are doing work about that with 10-year-olds.”

Red Ladder relies for its existence on the Arts Council, which is itself funded by the Government. The Government has cut Arts Council funding by £100m, or 30 per cent.

In turn the Arts Council is axeing the grants it makes to hundreds of artistic organisations including theatre companies and orchestras.

For Red Ladder it means a reduction in its grant from £253,000 in the financial year 2010/2011 to £160,000 in 2012/2013. Although remaining within the “national portfolio” of regularly funded organisations, the percentage cut is one of the largest to an arts organisation in the Yorkshire region.

Red Ladder’s school work has included a performance about racism which targeted extremists.

Another Red Ladder production to be dropped is highly relevant to Leeds and its industrial history – a large-scale community play telling the story of Tom Maguire, an influential socialist and trade unionist from Leeds, who campaigned for the five day week and helped lead the Leeds gasworkers’ strike of 1891.

Jobs too will go – four part-time workers, and jobbing actors.

For information on Red Ladder contact Jane Verity on 07854 759 480 or email: jane@redladder.co.uk

Date:  20th May 2015. Picture James Hardisty, (JH1008/67c) Richard Flint, Chief Executive of Leeds Based Sky Bet & Gaming.

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