Co-op Juniors Christmas Spectacular becomes a Covid casualty
- Credit: Archant
All the Co-op Juniors productions have been rescheduled due to the ongoing restrictions facing theatres during the Coronavirus lockdown. But, the young performers are investing in further training during their enforced downtime and launching an appeal
If we needed any further confirmation that 2020 was the year that nothing happened, then comes the news that one of Suffolk’s biggest, most glamorous and uplifting events has been cancelled this year.
For the first time since 1980 the Ipswich-based Co-op Juniors will not be staging a Christmas show. The creative team at the young people’s arts company have told performers and parents this weekend that The Co-op Juniors’ annual Christmas Spectacular at Snape Maltings Concert Hall has been postponed until December 2021,
After presenting award-winning Christmas productions and musicals at the Ipswich Regent, the New Wolsey Theatre and other venues for the past 40 years, three productions — Cats, The Little Mermaid Jr and Christmas Spectacular! — have been postponed until 2021, together with four Theatre Academy showcases.
But the largest youth musical theatre group in the UK plans to bounce back by launching a major £50,000 Appeal Fund, a new Creative Warehouse Project to continue developing skills and talent, and new classes for almost 400 students in the theatre company and academy.
The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company last year celebrated a record-breaking 15th anniversary and a total audience of more than 100,000 at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. It is now planning to turn the postponement of shows into a training opportunity to support the young people who represent the creativity and passion of the group.
Two of their directors, Oliver Brett and Lucy Allen, with musical director Jo King and other members, are taking the lead for the innovative Creative Warehouse Project.
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Explained Ms King, “Following latest Government guidelines for schools, we plan to work in smaller groups on a broad range of skills and techniques that we don’t usually have a chance to explore when we’re rehearsing for shows.
“These include all forms of dance from jazz and tap to street, vocal technique, drama, musical theatre, choreography and much more. We’ll be videoing key parts of the process to give everyone a record of what they achieve.”
“It’s a unique opportunity,” agrees Oliver Brett, who was in the middle of directing Cats when rehearsals stopped on March 20. “We’re turning disappointment into a chance to explore, innovate and have a creative autumn.”
Lucy Allen, who was busy planning Christmas Spectacular! rehearsals this September, added: “It’s a new direction for the company. We’re excited to offer an amazing autumn for our young cast, packed with workshops run by our own creative team and other industry professionals.”
The Co-op Juniors Appeal Fund has also been launched this weekend and aims to raise £50,000 by the end of the year. Stephen Skrypec from the management committee said: “Inspiring and training students in dance, music and drama has been our mission for over 75 years. We have alumni working in major ballet and entertainment companies across the world. With all stage productions paused, we have to continue our creative work with almost 400 students.”
The new Appeal Fund will secure the future of the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company and Academy, and its important role for Suffolk’s young people and the arts. “As a charitable co-operative run by volunteers, we’re determined that students can continue to develop their performance skills.,” added Mr Skrypec, “The disruption to their school work has been dramatic and many extra-curricular activities have stopped completely.
“The Co-op Juniors have always been innovative and resilient, but we now face an uncertain future with no income from shows or hiring costumes and props. We recognise there are many demands on people’s income but supporting young people and giving them a creative outlet and training is still important.”
In the Ipswich warehouse provided by East of England Co-op, major changes have been made by the Juniors so their rehearsal studios are safe for when the company returns in the autumn.
Alan Ayres, the group’s technical director, said: “The ambition and scale of the Creative Warehouse Project and our Academy classes has given us a new impetus despite not being able to perform in front of audiences.
“We’re asking people to donate so that we can continue to provide a high level of training for our students in a safe environment. We’ve been entertaining Suffolk for almost eight decades, so we hope that people will agree that the Juniors are worth supporting. The whole team is energised by what lies ahead.”
You can donate to The Co-op Juniors Appeal Fund at this website
The rescheduled dates for The Co-op Juniors production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats will be from May 21-23, 2021 and will be staged at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr is at the Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge on June 13 with Christmas Spectacular! — Magic of the Movies postponed to December 3-12, 2021 at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. All ticket holders will receive an email from the ticket office. For more information visit the website