Find out how Carl Woodward tackled the lack of national reviews for the regions and equipped young critics with the skills needed to succeed.
There had been much debate about whether theatre criticism was in crisis. Arts organisations in the regions were struggling to get anything reviewed by national critics. The arts sector was being very vocal about its frustrations and new critics were struggling to forge paid careers.
I saw an opportunity to address the lack of reviews in the regions and equip young critics with the skills needed to succeed.
We launched Young Critics as a pilot project at Theatre Royal Wincester in March 2015, in partnership with A Younger Theatre.
The scheme gives aspiring critics aged 18 to 25 the opportunity to participate in masterclasses with some of the foremost figures in theatre criticism and journalism. Lyn Gardner, Donald Hutera and Michael Billington have all delivered sessions.
Participants attend six masterclasses and review three shows across the South West, with the opportunity to receive feedback from the experts. The scheme costs just £90 for all the sessions and two free bursary places are made available for those in receipt of means-tested benefits.
The professional critics also review shows in the venues where their masterclasses take place, providing national coverage for regional theatres.
Pitching the scheme to participants
I went and talked to youth theatres before we launched and worked closely with the theatre marketing team. We pitched the scheme to young people as something they would have the opportunity to develop. We offered them the chance to improve their writing, develop transferable skills and learn from experts but it was important to give them a sense of ownership over how the programme evolved.