New beginnings - Autumn with Derby Theatre's Learning team

The end of Fresher’s week feels like a good time to punctuate what is, for many, the beginning of an exciting year ahead. The anticipation and buzz was certainly felt around the theatre this week. It was such a joy to see the main theatre fit to burst with first year University of Derby College of Arts students on Monday, and then to meet the new technical theatre and performance students at the end of the week. With new friendships forming and creative collaborations beginning – there was an air of ‘anything is possible’.

As someone also fairly new to Derby, it’s been good for me to observe just how much of a positive impact the university students have on the city. The transition from summer holidays to Fresher’s week certainly injected a different energy back into Derby, and it’s great to start seeing students around the theatre again.

And there are countless other exciting ‘beginnings’ lined up for the next few weeks. As everyone was soaking up the summer sun, Derby Theatre has been having a bit of a makeover, and it has of course been the team’s duty this week to test the café’s coffees and cakes before opening to the public... I know, it’s tough, but someone had to make sure the flat whites were up to par.

The Youth Theatre term has kicked off with some new members and the launch of some very exciting new projects, as well as celebrating the success of our 8-10’s group passing their Explore Arts Award last term. 12 brand new aspiring theatre technicians are about to begin our Young Technicians course. The success stories of last year’s group have been played out this week, with one of our members starting on University of Derby’s Technical Theatre course, and a lovely thank you card and gift from another member who has just started the Technical Theatre and Stage Management course at RADA. It really is a pleasure to work in a theatre with learning at its heart, and stories like these are a great reminder of why this is so important.

Workshop auditions are currently taking place for our new Actor’s Ensemble group, which is due to launch in October, and an eclectic mix of talent rocked up to audition for Limelight over the weekend – a grand charity gala here on Sunday 6 November which will help to raise funds for Plus One and the Derbyshire Children’s Holiday Centre.

I’m now looking forward to my first experience of Derby Festé at the end of the week. Judging by the programme of events, I’ve no doubt this will breathe yet more energy into the city. I’m particularly looking forward to Sarruga Dragons followed by the party on the Market Place, as well as getting involved with the headline act: Transe Express’ MÚ.

Oh, and not to mention the fantastic shows lined up for this season! The Studio Season Ticket, new for Autumn 2016, is a clever way of getting access to some excellent contemporary theatre. There’s also the opening of Sweeney Todd at the end of the month and the build up to rehearsals for Alice in Wonderland, both causing further excitement in the building. I recommend getting involved with our free Theatre Unwrapped sessions for a unique opportunity to learn about what’s going on behind the scenes.

So, the time has come to wave goodbye to the summer. But let’s not be sad as we start to pull out our autumn jumpers, for this is the beginning of bright and brilliant things to come!

Nicola Bellenger, Creative Learning Associate