Travelling Light is a jewel in Bristol’s theatrical crown, known for creating high quality theatre for young people both at home and nationally.
But did you know they also have a youth theatre that’s been bringing affordable sessions to over 1000 of the city’s children and young people for 20 years?
The group is celebrating two decades in action from their home in the Wellspring Settlement community centre at Barton Hill. It’s a step up from the Portacabin they started out in at St George School on Russell Town Ave – now the City Academy Bristol.
The youth theatre has expanded its reach to bring accessible sessions to the city’s youth, with groups for those aged 7-19 years of age as well as dedicated groups for disabled people.
One of the company’s most famous alumnus Travis Alabanza, is a non-binary performer, writer and theatre maker who has been making waves in the industry.
Travis grew up in Hillfields with the youth theatre being the only local activity their family could afford.
Since then, Travis’ debut show Burgerz, won the Edinburgh Fringe Total Theatre award in 2019 and they are now currently promoting a new book.
“When Burgerz came out, people said ‘congrats on your first show’ and I’d always say nope, when I was 17 there was a show with Travelling Light,” They said.
“Along with my friend Ruby, who is now working as a theatre director, we got to write, direct and cast our own show – and it launched at The Fire Station then Tobacco Factory theatres. I remember it vividly because it felt like a huge deal to be able to put on our own work.”
It was the opportunities Travelling Light offered them that set them on the road to success.
“At the time, I was going to school on the outskirts of Bristol, where I often stood out,” Travis said. “Travelling Light helped me realise that isn’t always going to be the case.
“I hadn’t ever really been around artistic people, or creativity in that way, and it helped me realise that it was allowed and that there were different people in the world.
“I am so grateful for my time at Travelling Light, and it was literally the only place we could afford for extracurricular activities. It’s so important for our city to have accessible arts spaces for young people, and I’m grateful to Travelling Light for creating them.”
The theatre group’s ethos is about everyone being welcome. There’s no need to have any previous experience, with groups being an inclusive safe space for young people able to express themselves each week.
Travelling Light’s youth and community officer, Louise Betts said: “Professional theatre company Travelling Light was able to launch a youth theatre in the early 2000s as a result of government funding for Barton Hill, one of Bristol’s most deprived wards.
“Acclaimed south west storyteller Martin Maudsley ran our very first session and it was such a success, we quickly added a second group. In 2022, we are now operating four separate sessions each week. These groups are often over-subscribed, but this term some places have come available for new members to join.”
Bristol theatre goers will be able to enjoy a co-production between Travelling Light and Bristol Old Vic, with Belle & Sebastian playing at the Bristol Old Vic from 02 December – 08 January 2023.
For children and young people interested in getting involved with the youth theatre, weekly sessions are available for the 7-10s, 11-13s and 14-19s. The company also operates a group for young disabled people aged 7-15, called Louder Than Words.
For more information, email Louise Betts at email@example.com or call or text 07305008789
For more information about Travelling Light, visit: www.travellinglighttheatre.org.uk