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Ian McKellen - "Back at the Belgrade"

Ian McKellen visit raised £13,800 for the theatre's community work

Posted on 29 September 2011

Ian McKellen’s Back at the Belgrade show, which was both a celebration of his 50 year career and a fundraising event for the Belgrade, raised a staggering £13,800 that will go towards supporting the theatre’s work with young people in the local community.

This one-off performance brought Ian McKellen back to the Belgrade’s Main Stage fifty years to-the-day after he performed there on 4 September 1961, in a Belgrade production of A Man For All Seasons. In fact, he uttered his first lines at the exact same time they were spoken on that day 50 years ago.

Throughout the show he recalled his time in Coventry and his subsequent career on stage and screen and answered a range of questions from the audience. At the end of the show he invited around 100 audience members on stage to help him perform a scene from Shakespeare’s Henry V, before exiting through the auditorium and into the foyers where he stayed to meet members of the audience and to personally collect donations totalling £1,200.

The Belgrade Theatre has been a registered charity since 1963 and all proceeds raised from the event will go to support the theatre’s work in the local community, including its work with young people in Coventry which is carried out via the Belgrade Community & Education Company, and staging new, home-produced shows.

The Belgrade Theatre’s Artistic Director, Hamish Glen said: “We were extremely pleased to welcome Ian McKellen back to the Belgrade to celebrate this milestone in his acting career and incredibly grateful to him for holding the event as a fundraiser in support of the Belgrade Theatre and our work with young people.”

He added, “Last year our Community & Education Company provided 518 workshops and nearly 9,000 participation opportunities for young people in the city, many of whom are from disadvantaged or under-represented groups. Amongst other things, the fantastic amount of money raised will help us to continue to offer this life changing programme of work and also help us to continue to create and stage new and interesting plays for our diverse audience.”

The Community & Education (C&E) programme is central to the theatre’s work in the city raising levels of access and participation, particularly targeting disadvantaged or under-represented groups. Workshop programmes are run in venues across the city, community performances are taken out into community venues, and a targeted programme of work looks to engage the city’s Black and Minority Ethnic Communities.

In 2010/11 the Community & Education Company produced nine new stage productions of original work and three film shorts made by and for young people. Projects included the third In Our Own Words community festival, made up of six short plays written by participants of the Critical Mass, which aims to establish a ‘critical mass’ of black playwrights, the company’s first especially commissioned production, all the moves by Theatre Absolute’s Chris O’Connell and Promise, a Theatre In Education (TiE) production that helps deal with the transition from primary to secondary school, which toured 36 schools across Coventry.

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