One Year of Northcott at the Barnfield: Celebrating Creativity, Community and Culture

In September 2022, we re-opened the city centre Barnfield Theatre, having taken over management of the historic building earlier that year.

Our mission? To protect its rich heritage and unlock its potential as a cultural hub for the people of Exeter and Devon.

Now, a year into this exciting journey, let’s revisit some of the highlights from this story of renewal, creativity, and community-building.

Transforming Local Culture

This new phase of the Barnfield’s life began with The Story of Us festival, where close to a thousand people came together from across the South West to celebrate the cultural connections between Devon’s Caribbean, Hindu and Polish communities.

I didn’t imagine having this space in Devon and I didn’t know I needed it… it’s been quite emotional really.” – The Story of Us festival visitor, Barnfield Theatre

The festival was a platform for Encompass, a Northcott group made up from members of these communities, to explore their creativity and re-redefine cultural representation in Exeter and Devon.

Read more about Encompass

Futures Shining Bright

Barnfield Theatre auditorium. A mixed group of young people talk to each other while standing on the Barnfield Theatre auditorium stage. They have their backs turned to the auditorium seats, which are empty.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead

Encompass weren’t the only group to find a new creative home at the Barnfield. People of all ages discovered a space where they could enhance and expand their performance skills.

Local schools engaged in technical skills workshops and drama sessions, peeling back the curtain to reveal the magic that happens behind the scenes.

All aspects of the day have been absolutely brilliant. I’ve learnt new things I can take back to the classroom. It brings the learning they’re doing in the classrooms to life. It is unmeasurably valuable.” – Drama teacher, Uffculme School

Read more about our Creative Schools Opportunities

The Barnfield hosted two festivals as part of our Northcott Futures programme, giving emerging South West artists the opportunity to showcase their work to new audiences as well as industry producers and regional and national organisations.

To be able to say, here’s a bunch of work that artists in the South West have been working on, and to be able to share and present that… just made me feel really connected with others, really grounded, not just in the South West but with other artists and producers in the region.” – Northcott Futures participant

Café Theatre, a Northcott Community Associate company who create work with people over the age of 60, performed a series of comedy sketches during an  interactive afternoon tea at the Barnfield, shining a light on often overlooked experiences of older generations.

Read more about Northcott Futures Read more about Cafe Theatre
Cafe Theatre workshop. A white-walled dressing room, with sheets of green and yellow paper attached to the rear wall. (Left to right) A man wearing a blue T-shirt plays guitar; A man wearing a denim shirt and light blu trousers raises their arms outstretched in the air; two women curl their arms in triumph.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead
Behind-the-scenes production photo from Exeter Northcott Theatre and the Northcott Young Company's co-production Studio on the 3rd Floor. A TV control room. In the foreground, audio mixers, headphones and a computer keyboard on top of a large black flight case, acting as a desk. Jacob Blackburn (centre-right), a young man with brown hair wearing a navy polo shirt, gives direction to three young performers sat around him. They are all looking to the left of the frame to something in the distance, smiling.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead

Our Northcott Young Company, through weekly sessions and holiday schools, made work together with guest artists like Le Navet Bete, and even cooked up a side-splitting and technologically groundbreaking TV spoof in collaboration with our creative team, Studio on the 3rd Floor. The production premiered in early September – the perfect way for us to round-off and celebrate our first year at the Barnfield.

I’ve been with NYC for I’d say about three maybe four years now and I can honestly say I don’t know what I’d do without it. Everyone is so friendly and inclusive, and I honestly feel like they’re my second family. Not only do we put on incredible pieces of theatre (if I do say so myself), but we also have so much fun with it.” – NYC participant

Read more about our Northcott Young Company

A New Home For Innovative Theatre

Studio on the 3rd Floor wasn’t the only piece of innovative theatre performed at the Barnfield over the last year.

We hosted a diverse range of world class artists: Scratchworks returned to their Exeter roots with enchanting witch comedy Hags; Tangle Theatre radically re-imagined William Shakespeare’s Richard The Second through their distinctive Southern African Township style; and Four of Swords’ invited audiences to don their deerstalkers for Madame Thespia’s Murder Mystery Cabaret, seamlessly moving from an open mic variety show celebrating emerging neurodiverse, LGBTQA+ artists into an immersive, unpredictable murder mystery adventure through the Barnfield backstage.

A young man in a wheelchair with a yellow feather hairband is performing on stage
Photo by Jacob Blackburn

Looking Forward To The Future

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Barnfield Theatre. The stage is set for more creativity, more community engagement, and more unforgettable moments as we continue to nurture this cultural gem.

Take a look below at some the exciting events we have coming up!

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