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Industry risks ‘losing a generation’ of theatregoers, warns Sarah Frankcom

Sarah Frankcom, artistic director of Manchester's Royal Exchange. Photo: Jonathan Keenan Sarah Frankcom, artistic director of Manchester's Royal Exchange. Photo: Jonathan Keenan
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Sarah Frankcom has warned that the industry is in “danger of losing a generation” of theatregoers, because young people do not have enough access to the art form.

The Manchester Royal Exchange artistic director was speaking at the launch of the Manchester International Festival, where she unveiled her production of The Skriker starring Maxine Peake.

Frankcom’s comments come in the wake of figures published in the Warwick Commission report on the future of cultural value, which showed a 23% decline in drama teachers between 2003 and 2013.

A separate government report last year claimed that children aged five to 10 were experiencing less theatre than ever before.

Speaking to The Stage, Frankcom urged theatres to forge better relationships with schools because drama “isn’t being taught in the same way”.

She added: “We need to relook at how we engage young people, and how we create the right kind of pathways and opportunities for them. Because we’re in danger of losing a generation who simply don’t actually get access to us. And that worries me hugely.

“Now, there are fewer young companies and there has been an incredible drop in the number of drama teachers working. And that seems to me to be a fairly urgent thing that theatres need to be talking and lobbying about.”

Frankcom also called for more action on diversity.

She added: “I think everyone’s talking about diversity, and I think it feels long overdue and a really urgent and important conversation. But I guess the thing that worries me is that it needs to not just be a topic of our conversation for a bit, it needs to be absolutely part of our practice.”

The Skriker, which is directed by Frankcom, runs at the Royal Exchange from July 1 to August 1.

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