New Popular

New Popular

This five-year project, supported by Esmée Fairbairn, will invest in the testing and creation of new theatre with the ambition of reaching broader audiences in new places with new experiences.

Working across the South East of England we will be developing partnerships with communities and theatre makers who are curious to play with form. This might encompass site-specific work, theatre that doesn’t look like theatre, work in village fetes, care homes, high streets and sea fronts; work that rediscovers an appetite for contemporary, popular entertainment.

ANNOUNCEMENT 11/02/2020- New Popular call out for proposals

Awards of £3000-£8000 to test a new theatre idea for towns of South East England

The South East is made up of more small towns than any other region, they are part of our character, shape the way we live and are often overlooked by powerful metropolitan and rural interests.

Our towns vary from coastal, semi-rural to more urban areas on the edge of our cities. Some are historic market towns, others new towns with new names.  Many do not host a professional cultural venue.

We are looking to invest in work which is created for and with our town communities.

We are looking for work that is enticing and relevant; work that plays with new forms, which addresses the priorities and ambitions of people living and working in our towns.

This might encompass site-specific work, theatre that doesn’t look like theatre, work in market squares, care homes, high streets, cafes and work that rekindles an appetite for contemporary, popular entertainment.

We are making around six investments of £3000-£8000 that seed ideas for new pieces of theatre and plan to support the best of these to full production and to visit further town locations.


Our investment will be made to partnerships, forged by shared ambitions to reach new theatre audiences. We expect lead applicants may be theatre makers or venues but we encourage applicants to create project proposals with non-arts partners ranging from local authorities, housing associations to community groups such as allotment societies, amateur theatre groups, residents associations, playgroups and hairdressers.

We may be able to support you to find the right partner for your project, please contact us for more info.

We’re looking for the most promising, bold, mischievous yet considered ideas that have the potential to result in compelling theatre while furthering the ambitions and expectations of all partners. We are hoping to support a range of different approaches working with theatre makers from local emerging companies to experienced, international artists.

Making a proposal

Please download and complete the proposal form here.

All proposals should be accompanied with an outline budget and submitted by email to:
Closing date for submissions is 9am Monday 23 March 2020

Proposals will be selected by a small curatorial panel and decisions will be based on:

  • the artistic idea
  • the approach to engaging new audiences, both its practicality and authenticity
  • the depth of the partnership and how far the project supports mutual ambitions

Successful proposals will receive a response by Monday 17th April 2020, and projects will be posted on the Farnham Maltings website.

Get in touch

If you would like to talk though your idea with us at any stage, we would welcome that conversation; contact Katy Potter, Producer on 07798 812548 Mon-Thurs (office hours) or



Previous awards from New Popular 

Back in February Farnham Maltings issued an open call out to artists, venues and arts promoters to propose new theatre projects which would be developed alongside the audiences they are hoping to reach. All projects were required to have community partners on board and demonstrate a want from all to create something new together. The response was fantastic and the 6 successful proposals articulate quirky, unlikely alliances between artists and football fans to shopping centres, grandparents, day centres and local mums groups.
Each of the seven projects have been offered seed funding to test their ideas and develop the work, the best of these Farnham Maltings hope to support into full production and share in new locations with further audiences.

Wearing Mum’s Make Up:  New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth working with Josh Breach

Wearing Mum’s Makeup is an innovative community project for mums across the city, which will culminate in a new model for telling their stories in an entertaining and popular format. The project is a new collaboration between New Theatre Royal Portsmouth and Josh Breach, helping to explore new methods of creating popular and accessible theatre in the UK.
Lexi Walsh, Programme Manager at New Theatre Royal said, “It’s a community project that doesn’t guess at what the outcomes might be, but is shaped by mums for mums. There are three stages, with each stage being bigger and reaching more mums than the last. We’re making it really accessible, working with Family Hubs and providing childcare so mums can more easily get involved.”
Josh Breach, ASSOCi-8 Artist of the New Theatre Royal said, “This all started when I felt like I needed to make a show for my mum, and has developed into a project creating a whole new vehicle for all the mums who keep our city ticking. We’re passionate about doing this across the city, not just in the city centre where most activities already happen. We’re creating a new vehicle for mums to express attitudes, beliefs and preoccupations.”
Donna Carter, a Portsmouth based artist who is involved in the project said “There’s a frustration that too many arts projects draw on existing audiences. We look forward to joining some dots on this project, particularly through the Family Hubs. It’s important that everyone can take part in Portsmouth’s contemporary cultural journey.”Wearing Mum’s Makeup runs from September 2019 until March 2020.

The Desire Paths: Slough. Third Angel and HOME Slough

“If you could rename a street of your town after a hope, dream or ambition for the future, what would you choose?”

Theatre company Third Angel will take up residence with HOME Slough and draw a giant street map of the town centre onto the floor, spilling out on to the High Street. Gathering and sharing stories, memories, hopes and dreams from the public, they will rename the streets of Slough to create an archive of ambitions for the future. (5)






Mannequin: Miss High Leg Kick working with Colchester Arts Centre

Mannequin is a new Miss High Leg Kick project inspired by Japanese Kabuki Theatre, the vocaloid Hatsune Miku and the 1987 film Mannequin. It explores the idea of “Mannequin” – a shop dummy – transitioning from a prop into a performer. Mannequin in Shop Window is a variety show of quick-changing window displays, performed by Mannequin and a group of live artists including Steve Nice, Abi Cunliffe and Miss High Leg Kick. Each act features a moving tableau taking in different shop departments, building the identity of the shop mannequin with the help of ‘window-dressing’ Kuroku helpers (similar to Kabuki stage hands). A fun, accessible show suitable for all.

The Great and the Grand: Dynamite Island working with South Street Arts Centre, Reading

Great&Grand brushed script

Inspired by their ‘grandad cabaret’ Rendezvous in Bratislava, which toured to Battersea Arts Centre and around the UK in 2018, Dynamite Island will work with South Street Arts and Reading residents who identify as 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation migrants to create a playful, cross-cultural documentary music theatre performance featuring stories of their own grandparents, performed by the participants themselves.

Over the course of this commission, Dynamite Island will develop a toolkit of musical and storytelling devices, a Great and the Grand framework that will be able to tour to cultural centres and community groups all over the South East and the UK.

Dynamite Island is live music composer and music theatre-maker Thom Andrewes, electronic music composer Will Gardner and documentary theatre-maker and producer Miriam Sherwood. Formed in 2019 after many years of working together in music theatre events and performances, they combine live music with elements of participatory art, theatre, cabaret, radio and more, looking for new ways of telling stories and exploring the places where music, theatre and real life bump up against each other.


Coney working with Theatre Royal Margate

Coney will land in Margate this Autumn, for the first phase of a brand new project The Arcade. The Arcade is a suite of games devised and delivered for by and with the people of Margate, creating a meaningful exchange between different groups of people. It is a reflection on leisure and place, and the future of a seaside town. Coney spark change through play by landing in new places and getting to know them. We’ll make relationships with residents to find out about local stories and local people. We’ll sit in cafés, drink cups of tea, have lunch on benches and shake hands with strangers – and follow where conversations lead. Then together we will celebrate the local distinctiveness and loveliness of the place – through a version of the good ol’ pub quiz, and an invitation to take part in something a little more secretive and playful too. Live locally? To get involved in advance, give us a knock. The Arcade will be made in collaboration with Theatre Royal Margate, with the R&D phase We The People (of Margate) taking place in Margate this September and October.

The Future is Unwritten working with Whitehawk Football Club

Theatre FC


Theatre FC is an initiative from The Future Is Unwritten, in partnership with Whitehawk Football Club, to make work for football going audiences who normally wouldn’t attend established arts venues. The project will both seed the development of a new show, “The Miracle of Castel di Sangro”, and establish a network of football clubs in the South East interested in future collaborations. “The Miracle” will use pantomime, borrow (extravagantly) from Commedia dell’arte and steal (brazenly) from Dario Fo, to tell the story of a village football team who somehow make it to the top, money bags league. Interrupted by ‘turns’ from local performers, the show plays with themes that are important to the audiences: belonging, community and solidarity.