New Popular

Our Towns

Awards of £500-£5000 to create new theatre in your town

*DEADLINE EXTENDED* New closing date for applications is 15 February 2021

We want to celebrate the towns of the South East and invest in the artists, performers and makers who live in those towns.

The South East is made up of more small towns than any other region. From coastal and semi-rural to more urban areas on the edge of our cities, some are historic market towns, others new towns with new names. They are part of our character; they shape the way we live and are often overlooked by powerful metropolitan and rural interests.

We’re inviting proposals from those who want to create artistic work where they live, with and for their town community.

We are looking for ideas that are enticing and relevant. This might encompass site-specific work or theatre that doesn’t look like theatre; it might be based in variety, comedy, magic, street games or maybe roller skating!

The work could take place in market squares, care homes, cafes or the local theatre, but it should be work that celebrates, brings a little joy and can rekindle an appetite for contemporary, popular entertainment.

It would be great to hear ideas for our smaller towns or those with fewer cultural venues and arts activity.


Our investment will be made to artists, arts companies, performers or makers for work to be made in their town or a town they have a very close relationship with.

Applicants should be able to describe the audience they are hoping to work with and the town partners they will be connecting with. These could be local authorities, arts venues, community groups such as allotment societies, amateur theatre groups, residents’ associations or the local vicar and netball coach. The opportunity is open to any town in the South East, excluding London.

We’re looking for promising, bold, mischievous yet considered ideas that have the potential to result in a compelling theatre experience which contributes to the town community. We want to support projects that can begin under current restrictive circumstances and have the flexibility to adapt to changing public performance conditions.

We are hoping to support a range of different approaches working with local emerging makers to experienced, international artists. We expect to be making around six investments of £500-£5000 and are happy to consider projects of all sizes and at various stages of development. We’d hope to offer continued support to the best of these showing the potential to visit further town locations.


Making a proposal

Fill in the short proposal form here

Alternatively, download a a document version of the form here and submit by email to:

If you wish to make a video application, ensure your video addresses the questions and statements in the form and keeps below 7 minutes, and submit by email.

Closing date for submissions is 9am Monday 15 February 2021

Proposals will be shortlisted by a small curatorial panel, and we expect to fund 6 projects in total.

Decisions will be based on:

  • The creative idea
  • the approach to engaging its audience, both its practicality and authenticity
  • the ambition of the project and the depth of its potential impact and legacy in the town.

Short listed applicants will be contacted by Monday 02 March 2021

Those short listed may be asked for further information at this stage, a small fee will be paid for your time to prepare and supply this detail if it is required.

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 Emily Davis, Assistant Producer

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.



Previous awards from New Popular 

Farnham Maltings awards £30,000 seed funding to the development of new theatre projects in the South East.

In February of this year, an open call out to artists, venues and arts promoters was issued. All projects were required to have community partners on board and demonstrate a desire from all to create something new together. The response was fantastic, and the four successful proposals articulate quirky, unlikely alliances between theatre makers and their local communities.

Each of the four 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.

The four commissioned projects:

A-line Art working with The Spring and Shoppertainment

A-Line Art will create a brand new playful, interactive environment for The Meridian Shopping Centre in Havant called the ‘Wriggle and Scribble’ playground. The design will be developed and created with community groups from The Spring Arts & Heritage Centre. The ‘playground’ will encourage families to have a shared connected experience as they jump, wiggle and dance whilst keeping socially distant in this new world we are living in. The model will be tested with plans to recreate in Surrey locations later in 2021.

Dante or Die working with Ideas Test and South Street Arts Centre, Reading

Celebrated site-specific theatre company Dante or Die, will work in Chatham, Kent and Reading, Berkshire with partners Ideas Test and South Street, to pilot a new touring community engagement programme, ‘Odds On’. The project will culminate in a sharing of scenes from a new production to take place in betting shops. The project will engage with those affected by gambling through interviews and workshops, to explore the role of bookmakers within small communities. The aim of this pilot is to create a programme and site-specific production, which can be toured to other communities across the UK in the future.

Fuel in partnership with Slung Low with Market Place Creative People and Places

‘Izzy, BOSSS and Fractal’ is an imaginative and immersive touring production aimed at children aged 5+. Through the characters of Izzy, a young scientist working to clean plastic out of the oceans and Fractal, an alien who does the same on another planet the production will explore ideas of global collaboration and citizenship. In a shipping container (or similar structure) which pops up in school playgrounds and public spaces, children will journey to the moon and back in a highly participatory production. The show is being developed in partnership with Slung Low with Alan Lane directing, Börkur Jónsson designing and Keisha Thompson developing the script, produced by Fuel.

Sara Clifford for Inroads with Newhaven Town Council and Goldsmiths University

Thomas Carlyle said –“No ghost was ever seen by two pairs of eyes…” None of us believe in ghosts, of course. But everyone down the pub has a story: we all know and tell ghost stories and delight in them – even as we scoff at them. After all, don’t we secretly enjoy those spine-tingling moments – and maybe, in the end, some things just can’t be explained? ‘Two Pairs of Eyes’ will begin this summer by gathering stories and interviews for a new community story and performance for Newhaven in 2021 with plans to visit other communities at later dates.

“We are delighted to be able to invest in new theatre in these very uncertain times for our industry. All these projects will explore how we safely create alongside our communities in these new, uncommon times and celebrate the connection of coming together as audiences to experience something new and different, yet fondly familiar… We are seed funding ideas which have placed the audience at the very start at their creation and have considered how to reach that audience through their form, location, content and style, the more mischievous their approach the better!” – Katy Potter, Producer of 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.