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New work by John Godber and Told by an Idiot among Sky Arts’ first £1m Brexit commissions

John Godber directing his recent play This Might Hurt. The writer will tackle Brexit in a new work for Sky Arts' Art 50 project. Photo: Amy Charles John Godber directing his recent play This Might Hurt. The writer will tackle Brexit in a new work for Sky Arts' Art 50 project. Photo: Amy Charles
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Sky Arts has announced the first commissions of its £1 million project to make 50 artworks exploring post-Brexit Britain.

Creations from John Godber, Told by an Idiot, the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and DanceXchange are among the 15 newly announced Art 50 commissions, which take place over the next two years and span theatre, visual arts, music, dance and spoken word.

They all explore “what it means to be British in a post-Brexit Britain”.

Godber will pen a new play, Scary Bikers, which features a Yorkshire couple with opposing views on Brexit who set off on a tandem ride through Europe. It will run at Theatre Royal Wakefield in February starring Godber and his wife, the actor Jane Thornton.

Midlands-based dance organisation DanceXchange is collaborating with Gary Clarke on a contemporary dance piece exploring the 50:50 voting split between Leave and Remain that emerged in Birmingham’s referendum result. It will premiere as part of the city’s International Dance Festival in June.

The Barbican, one of three partner venues on the project, will present a new piece by Told by an Idiot that explores the lack of diversity on British stages. It is devised by 12 performers, six of whom have a disability.

The London venue will also host New York-based performance duo Split Britches, for a piece inspired by the 1964 film Dr Strangelove, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

Other commissioned artists include poet and playwright Simon Armitage, composer Alex Groves, director Rebecca Hanbury and playwright Martha Barnett, who is writing a play set in Northern Ireland.

The Citizens Theatre will present five performances of music and spoken word exploring what it means to be both Scottish and British.

The Art 50 project is being funded with £1 million from Sky Arts’ Amplify Fund, set up to encourage arts organisations to collaborate on new ideas.

It will culminate in a series of television programmes about the making process, which will be shown on Sky Arts when Britain formally leaves the European Union. A festival exhibiting some of the finished works will also take place at the Barbican and the other two partner venues, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and the Sage, both in Gateshead.

Entries for the first commissioning round were judged by a panel including musician Roger Daltrey, dancer and choreographer Kenneth Tharp, journalist Vick Hope and London’s former deputy mayor for education and culture Munira Mirza.

Sky Arts director Phil Edgar-Jones said: “The cultural voice of Britain is as mixed as its people, and Art 50 is amplifying that loud and clear as we prepare ourselves to exit Europe.

“In this first round of commissions, the soul of our nation is undergoing a creative makeover up and down the country, with Wales, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Yorkshire just a few examples of where we can expect to see and hear what it means to be British in a post-Brexit world.”

A second commissioning round is now open until January 12, 2018.

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