LLLC’s Emma Clarendon chatted to Playbox Theatre Associate Artist Calum Finlay about the theatre’s CHATTERBOX series.

Hi Calum, for those who don’t know about it could you explain a bit more about CHATTERBOX? CHATTERBOX is an online and interactive interview series with famous actors and industry leaders – aimed at young people! There are 3 ways for young people to get involved: they can register to ‘take part’ in the interview and pitch their questions live to the guest; they can watch the live stream on Facebook; or, they can catch-up on demand at youtube.com/playboxtheatre. All for free! For this series we’ve partnered with youth theatres, schools and participation departments all over the country so that they can co-stream the content to their Facebook Pages for their individual members to enjoy free of charge. You can take part every Friday at 4pm. Last week we had George Mackay (1917) and we’ve got Olivier nominated writer Laura Wade and the Shadow Culture Secretary Tracy Brabin booked for future episodes.

How did the idea for the project come about? I’m an associate artist at Playbox Theatre, the youth theatre that produce CHATTERBOX. As has
happened to youth theatres all over the country Playbox had to, very suddenly, stop running workshops, cancel shows, freeze memberships and shut their cafe. We wanted to create something that would remind young people that the arts are still there for them and, given the situation, we
knew it need to be interesting and inspirational to engage with. We called in a lot of favours to get Series One off the ground but now we’ve got a bit of momentum behind us we’re persuading some incredible guests to get involved!

You’ve had some great guests on so far – is there anyone who you would really love to take part? I’d love Michaela Cole to take part! I saw her razor sharp, unsentimental, solo show Chewing Gum Dreams when it was at The Shed at The National Theatre back in 2014 and have been continually
awed by her work since. As well as being an incredible actor, she writes and creates a lot of her own work and she strikes me as someone who would speak candidly about all aspects of the industry – good and bad. Michaela, if you’re reading this and you’re up for it, get in touch! It would also be fantastic to hear from people involved in other aspects of the performance arts as well. We’d love to speak to composers, directors and producers. So Tim Minchin, Kwame Kwei- Armah and Sonia Friedman… check your inboxes.

How important do you feel it has been to keep young people engaged with the arts during this time? Incredibly. The arts – and particularly youth theatres – are radical communities where young people
get to come together and reflect on the world they see. They get to challenge that view and think about the world they hope to see in the future. Through the art they create they get to be heard and listened to. That’s important, ordinarily, because most of the time someone else is telling you when to go to bed, or what to eat, or what books to read. It’s even more important now, because those communities are fractured. We need to remind young people that the arts are there for them and that we’re listening.

Why would you say that young people should become more involved with the arts? Because there’s nothing quite like the feeling of seeing a play, reading a poem or hearing a piece of music and understanding that you’re not alone in the world – that the path ahead is trodden and
safe.
How can people be involved with CHATTERBOX if they are interested? 
The best thing is to ask your local youth theatre/school/arts group to get in touch with us via: chatterboxpartners@gmail.com. By becoming a CHATTERBOX Partner (for free!) they’ll be able to stream the interviews live to their Facebook Pages for you to enjoy. We also send our partners
bonus content and behind the scenes info every now and again. If you’re a young person who isn’t part of an organisation we’d still love you to be involved! You can sign up to take part in the interviews each week (check-out Playbox Theatre’s social media for weekly info) or you can watch the live stream at facebook.com/playboxtheatre every Friday at 4pm.

How do you think we should support youth theatres in the future? 
Who knows what the future holds for youth theatres. There needs to be greater support for the arts at a governmental level. More people go to the theatre every year than premier league football, it brings in more money for the economy than the oil and car industry combined and we are the world leaders when it comes to theatre. At the moment, it needs investment and the government should be supporting that. On a personal level, give your local youth theatre a call or drop them an email and ask them what
you can do to help. It might be fundraising, it might be helping to sterilise studios between workshops or it might be that they just need someone to reach a hand out and show them how valued they are. Youth theatres are such important parts of local community – we need to preserve
them however we can.

By Emma Clarendon

To find out more about Playbox Theatre and CHATTERBOX visit: https://www.playboxtheatre.com/