Stoke’s B arts explore the idea of the Art City

Stoke based theatre company, artist collective, and co-creation experts B arts are celebrating after securing funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation this month.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation have supported the organisation’s Art City project with a grant of £300,000, funding a three year programme of new commissions, an alternative art school that supports people discovering creativity at any stage of their life, and a series of research and development projects by emerging artists. Thia follows on from the company’s previous Art City programme, which ran 2014-2019.

The funding is a major investment in the city and confirms B arts place at the heart of Stoke-on-Trent’s art community, recognising the company’s experience and excellence.

It will enable B arts to use No.72, the Stoke-on-Trent warehouse complex they leased in 2014, as a centre for learning, training and research in participatory arts and theatre, and to study the transformational change this work has on places and the lives of people who live in them.

Founded 40 years ago by women and for women, radical theatre company B arts has worked across the UK and internationally from its base in North Staffordshire. In the programme for their first production, the women who founded B arts pledged to teach other women the skills they had, and that commitment has remained central to B arts work for nearly 40 years. The company are known for delivering both formal and informal training, alongside ad hoc mentoring and support which has seen B arts act as a nursery slope for the wider community theatre and participatory arts sectors.

The company has always practiced what is now called ‘co-creation’, working with local people to make popular events like Newcastle Lanterns, Little School of Improbable Cooking (devised with local mothers), and for the last 6 years their Christmas show The Lost Post Office. B arts have also worked extensively with refugee and migrant groups in the area.

They also run community bakery Bread In Common, a waste food café on Fridays, a monthly Climate Café, and give space in their building to other arts and community groups for events, workshops, and meetings.

For the new Art City programme, B arts Artistic Director, Susan Clarke will work with partners to build and share the story of Stoke-on-Trent as a centre of excellence for co-created culture and arts.

She says: “Culture brings communities together, and for 40 years B arts have shown that it also gives opportunity and visibility to people who may otherwise be marginalised. We’re very excited at the new opportunities that Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s support gives to us and to local people.”

Creative Producers Rebecca Frankenberg, Emily Andrews and Kath Stanway will focus on new community partners, projects and emergent artists as they co-create new arts and cultural projects, with a focus on supporting test projects that would not otherwise happen.

And Learning Lead Dan Thompson will create a new programme to capture, embed, and share the ways B arts work.

He says: “The ideas behind B arts and the way they work was groundbreaking 40 years ago, but has been widely copied and has become commonplace now. With this new funding, we’re ideally placed to make sure Stoke-on-Trent’s innovative spirit is recognised.”

B arts will be planning the new programme, and will make announcements about events, workshops, and new commissions in January. In the meantime at No.72,
B arts programme of public events include; a Christmas Makers Market on Sunday 6th November and a Climate Café on 12th November. Both events are free and open to all.

B arts annual Christmas show for families with children of all ages, The Lost Post Office, runs from 12th-17th December.

Shine On Kidsgrove takes place on 26th November and Newcastle Lanterns – Seas of Change, takes place on 3rd December, with community lantern-making workshops running up to that date. See B arts social media for workshop and event venues and details.

For more information about the company’s history and current work, visit


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