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Our Pay It Forward Christmas Campaign: A Day in the Life

A magical invitation…  

Over the 2023 festive period, 2072 young people came through our doors to see a show for free. Generous donations to our Pay It Forward Scheme allowed us to facilitate five weeks of cultural engagement, theatrical joy and sock-induced-mass-hysteria (if you didn’t see Cinderella: A Fairytale, you missed out!).  

But how do you ensure that 2000 young people who may not have been to the theatre before feel welcome in our building?  

Due to the variety of groups we welcomed, every day was different but each one was filled with a sense of delight, all thanks to the generosity of our donors.  

Your carriage awaits 

Each morning our team waited expectantly for the first group to arrive, making the most of the calm before the storm. In a flash the groups arrived, and the foyer was full of the buzz of hundreds of young people excited for the show ahead.  

Our expert Front of House team were on hand to ensure that the whole process ran smoothly, helped by our Welcome Volunteers. For the first time this year Northern Stage, with thanks to the Volunteer Futures project, were supported by an enthusiastic team of volunteers. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Amanda, Liv, Roderick and Susan for their time. Volunteering at Northern Stage is a brilliant opportunity for you to help us engage with our audiences, meet new people and see shows for free. You can read more about the roles we have on offer here.  

Meanwhile in the auditorium, the lights dimmed, the audience hushed and the show began.  

We’re going to the dance!  

We know that if you haven’t been to the theatre before, you might have some preconceptions about how you should behave there. Formal dress, no moving about during the performance and definitely no getting involved. That certainly wasn’t the case at Cinderella: A Fairytale. At Northern Stage we always strive for our audiences to feel comfortable during our shows and share information in advance of performances with our house rules, which we hope ensure our audiences and performers feel both welcomed and respected.  

During Cinderella: A Fairytale, our audiences were actively encouraged to participate, from helping Cinderella darn all the socks in time to get to the ball, to being approached by the Prince on his search for the mystery girl who left a shoe behind at his party.   

It was brilliant to hear the animated audience responses throughout the show all the way from our third-floor admin office. Anyone who was working at the theatre during this time can tell you we all could tell the moment during every show where the evil stepmother (in keeping with the original Grimm Brother’s story) chopped off Sister’s toes to fit them in the sparkly boots.

Feedback from a child who visited thanks to Pay It Forward Donations

Child's drawing of stepmother chopping off Sister's toes

A drawing sent to us by a child who visited thanks to Pay It Forward

A night to remember 

As the actors took their bows, the groups left the auditorium elated by the experience. But, for two of our Pay It Forward groups, the magic continued as the young people from St Oswald’s Hospice and Smile For Life charities (pictured below) got to meet the cast of Cinderella: A Fairytale and get hands on with the iconic sparkly boots. 

It’s been brilliant to hear the overwhelmingly positive response to the show from young people and their grown ups. One group leader told us:  

We were so thankful to be given the opportunity to bring a group of young people who would not have been able to attend through your Pay It Forward scheme. The group were largely SEND and had the best time, laughing, dancing and full of wide-eyed wonder. It was a joy to be able to do that for them, thank you.  

For many children, a Christmas show is their first introduction to theatre. We know young people carry those memories with them for many years and for some it has a truly transformative effect on their lives. 

A group of young people smiling with actors
An actor shows a sparkly shoe to a young person and their adult

Spreading the magic  

The story of Pay It Forward isn’t just of the young people who attended our performances, but also the hundreds of audience members who donated to the appeal. We were absolutely blown away by the generosity of our audiences; through donations throughout the year we raised a whopping £17,753.  

Thank you also to our donors from The Hoult Family Trust, Ward Hadaway, R. W. Mann Trust and the Barbour Foundation, who generously donate year after year and whose donations have come to mean a great deal to so many young people. 

However, none of this would be possible without our Supporters, whose regular donations ensure that we are able to continue the Pay It Forward scheme, as well as our other Young People’s and Community projects. 

If you already donate to the theatre, or are interested in getting involved further in Northern Stage, then you might be interested in our Supporter Scheme. Our Supporters get exclusive access to backstage activities, insights into how we work and priority booking, along with discounts on tickets and in our café bar. Your annual donation will support us in making exciting new theatre, co-creating projects with the local community, and nurturing the next generation of North East theatre makers.

A lovely thank you letter sent to us from Byker Primary School