Government cuts inspire politically-charged new season at the Yard

The Yard Theatre

The Yard Theatre - Credit: Archant

Still in its formative years as a theatre, The Yard has quickly built up a reputation around Hackney Wick. The community driven project has already received two Empty Space Awards and produced a play that’s gone on to show at the National Theatre in the form of Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum Dreams.

The anticipation therefore has been palpable around its latest series of shows, N.O.W.’14 – a new politically-charged collection devised by the theatre’s founder and artistic director, Jay Miller.

“I think more and more people my age are getting angry with current affairs,” says Miller, 29, “whereas before there was a lot more apathy and confusion. Now the effects of the government’s actions are beginning to materialise and the cuts are starting to bite. It’s made everyone angrier, but also more aware of the world we live in and I wanted to create a collection that reflects that.”

The project’s name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the popular Now That’s What I Call Music CD series. As Miller adds, they share a similar ethos of bringing a diverse group of artists together under one umbrella.

Showcasing 20 young, upcoming playwrights from the local area, particular highlights include Rachael Young’s The Way I Wear My Hair– a satirical biography of the writer’s hair which explores identity and label - and The Femmes Fatales, a Riot Grrl-inspired collective of women masquerading as a punk band.

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Having graduated just as the recession struck, Miller explains how his own political experiences formed the very basis of the theatre itself: “Arts funding was being cut left, right and centre. It got to the stage where I was so frustrated, I thought it’d be easier to open a theatre than get shown in one.”

Managing to obtain funding from the Arts Council, he found the empty Queen’s Yard space and set about transforming it into a working theatre with a group of volunteers. Three years later and the theatre now employs eight staff and runs workshops around Hackney.

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“I don’t differentiate between the artists and the audience,” Miller says. “The reason we do workshops in local community centres is because I want the audience to become the people who also make work on our stage.

“I’m still learning on the job, but we’re pretty good at spotting what might be the next big thing. The people you work with are key – it’s important you trust them and respect their vision.”

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