Primary schoolchildren in the London borough of Southwark will receive a free visit to the theatre every year as part of a new £500,000 scheme.
Southwark Council has pledged to ensure every child aged between five and 11 gets a free visit annually, in recognition of the role culture plays in “creating and sustaining” the borough. The council said more than 20,000 pupils would be supported through the scheme,
In particular, the new initiative will work with schools that do not have a history of visiting the theatre and those in “areas of higher deprivation”.
“Resources will be focused on these non-active theatregoing schools ensuring they benefit and are financially supported where needed,” it added.
The scheme will create a resource enabling schools to access free tickets to shows in Southwark and surrounding areas. There are 19 theatres in Southwark, including the Blue Elephant Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Bridge Theatre.
A “branded digital platform” will be launched, to provide information for schools, matching them with free and discounted ticketing schemes. Schools will also be offered information about free travel schemes, and help schools determine which productions best suit their students.
Rebecca Lury, cabinet member for culture, leisure, equalities and communities, said: “We are extremely lucky to be a borough that benefits so much from its creative community. From Shakespeare’s Globe and the Bridge to Theatre Peckham and the Blue Elephant, the cultural landscape in Southwark is incredibly rich and reflective of the diverse communities they serve.”
She added: “With more than 20,000 primary school-age children in our borough, we are playing our part in opening the doors to them to new experiences and broadening their horizons.”
News of the scheme comes as Newham Council announced a consultation on the future of an initiative offering young people the chance to attend a theatre production free of charge.
Southwark Council acknowledged this scheme had not reached every schoolchild and said its approach would “offer a more flexible approach, allowing schools and theatres the space to build new and long-term relationships”.