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Calling all drama queens and kings

Dancing in the kitchen, reciting the Bard in the bath or crafting like Kirsty Allsopp. Let your talent loose at the Corn Exchange's funky new Learning Centre. Creativity runs deep here for all ages.

red and black staging of a youth theatre production at the Corn Exchange in Newbury

Who needs the West End, when we have fantastic regional theatres to entertain and inspire future Idris Elba’s and Billie Piper’s in the business of show.

It always amazes me at how much our local theatres do for the community. And how diverse they have become. It’s so much more than the annual panto (oh yes it is! – sorry too early for panto banter). You’ll find great comedy, amazing dance shows, top notch touring productions, film screenings, coffee shops, restaurants and, in the case of the Corn Exchange in Newbury, a brilliant new Learning Centre as well.

Geometric design on the outside of the Learning Centre Newbury part of the Corn Exchange

Cool new digs for the Youth Theatre and creative courses

What was the old Ladbrokes bettng shop on the corner of Market Place, is now home to the Corn Exchange’s educational hub. It’s proximity to the theatre is perfect for kids and adults alike wanting to make friends, learn new skills from the pros and perform in public.

The Youth Theatre is at the heart of The Learning Centre – everyone’s welcome, there’s no audition – just a willingness to participate. There are classes available for the Youth Thearte from reception age right up to 19.

What else will be on offer? I’m glad you asked. There is a real lack of arts for the under 5s and this is something The Learning Centre is keen to address. One of my favourites is the music sessions with Nick Cope.

britpop musician Nick Cope playing the ukulele with spectacle wearing kids

Britpop’s Nick Cope doing it for the kids

Nick’s not your average children’s musician – he was lead vocalist and guitarist in Britpop band The Candyskins. Not heard of them? Look them up on YouTube and check out them out. Although the band had limited success, compared to the like of Radiohead and Supergrass, they were one of the seminal early bands of the Britpop era.

Rock’s loss is our gain, because his kids music sessions are brilliant – interactive and light relief for parents who won’t to endure the musical cosh of yet another hour singing about Jack and Jill or Humpty Dumpty.

There’s also a Toddlers Dance session for kids to bust their funky moves – and you can polish your parental halo as it also helps build confidence and co-ordination through fun activities. Throw in Sensory Stories and Infant Massage, and there’s plenty for ankle biters to enjoy.

Elaborate horse lantern leads the procession at the annual Newbury Festival of Light

Want to make a lantern for this year’s Festival of Light?

The fun doesn’t stop there either. One of my favourite outdoor events in Newbury is the Festival of Light. This annual lantern procession is a cracker and is becoming a brilliant modern Christmas tradition. Better still, you can take part.

Yup. Workshops are being held to make your own lantern, and for the really brave, you can create something super fancy for this year’s procession. Then stand back and listen to the oohs and ahhhs as the Christmas throng admire your skills.

Caricature artwork of a pantomime fairy godmother

Wave your magic wand and create the artwork for panto… oh yes you can!

There’s even more opportunity to join in and find your creative efforts form part of a professional Corn Exchange production. You can join artist Simon Jardine to create artwork for this year’s panto. Simon’s an incredibly talented professional caricaturist and with his help, you’ll provide the backdrop for this year’s Beauty And The Beast (it’s behind you).  

Want to learn a new skill? No problem. As I said this a creative hub, so workshops will run to scratch your creative itch. Adult dance, choreography as well as art-based activities working with glass, wire or clay.

man and woman perform dance routine in black and white

Moves that have no place in the kitchen

It’s worth checking out the full programme as there really is something for everyone.  From Baby Massage to Choir 55 – a singing group for the over 55s in West Berks. It’s only a matter of time before Gareth Malone discovers these senior songbirds.

The Learning Centre opens on Monday 18 September,  but the courses and Youth Theatre will be really popular, so book ’em up now and get show Berkshire that you;ve got talent.

Find more ideas here


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