Members of The Garage talk about what the Norwich arts venue means to them
07:00 06 September 2014
Thousands of people have been inspired by music, dance and theatre through their experiences at Norwich arts venue The Garage over the last decade.
The former Theatre Royal scenery store in Chapel Field North was transformed into a youth arts venue in 2004 and has gone on to achieve great things - championing young people, becoming a great hub for creativity and performance, and more recently branching out to reach people of all ages while keeping young people at its heart.
It has become a place that means a huge amount to the special community it has created.
In the second feature of a three-part series celebrating the venue’s 10th anniversary, we ask six people about their part in The Garage story and what the centre means to them.
Aspiring singer-songwriter Dano Homer first took part in The Garage’s open mike Slam nights in Norwich and Sheringham two years ago.
The 18-year-old Access to Music student from Sheringham came to The Garage because she wanted to develop her skills, meet other musicians and learn more about becoming an artist, and she joined The Garage’s Young Musician’s Development Programme.
“The Garage is a fun, friendly environment – somewhere you can meet other people interested in the same things as you, learn new skills and have new opportunities,” she said, adding that her experiences have helped her improve her vocal range, be more confident, and take every opportunity given to her.
Dano has performed with The Garage at the Bernard Matthews Youth Awards, Norwich’s Lord Mayor’s Celebration, the Royal Norfolk Show, and Holkham Hall as part of the Young Norfolk Arts Festival.
“I would recommend the Garage to anyone who is into the creative arts, from all ages and all walks of life. It’s a great place to meet people and get a step up to reach your goal, whatever that may be.”
Dance artist Katy Dunne has been involved in The Garage since it first opened and has taught an array of classes there.
She currently teaches the inclusive D4Dance performance company and D4Dance seniors, as well as junior movers.
D4Dance is a group for young people and adults with learning disabilities and Katy says the members’ enthusiasm makes them great fun to work with. She said D4Dance aims to give its members independence, a sense of belonging and a creative outlet to show what they can do, and D4Dance has performed everywhere from Norwich Playhouse to outside the Forum in Norwich.
When asked what The Garage means to her, Katy, who is 33 and lives in the Golden Triangle area of Norwich, said: “It’s a really special place where you can access really good quality dance and good community dance and go to the theatre to see great shows. I go there with my children (three-year-old Felix and five-year-old Martha) too - there’s some great children’s theatre.
“It’s a brilliant creative hub and I think The Garage is really important for Norwich.”
Sixteen-year-old Jake Harrison has been coming to The Garage for five years, and was most recently seen playing Akela the wolf in The Jungle Book.
He has taken part in NT (National Theatre) Connections projects at The Garage and also joined the venue’s youth theatre company. A regular performer in the summer productions, Jake has played Prince Charming in Vintage Cinders and Captain Hook in Peter Pan. This summer he reinvented the Jungle Book’s Akela for the 21st century, complete with hairy sideburns, funky dance moves and a sharp suit.
Jake, who is studying A-level drama at college in Gorleston, hopes to pursue a career in acting or directing.
He credits The Garage with helping to inspire him, develop his skills, and build his confidence, and said that The Garage feels like family to him.
Twenty-seven-year-old Nick Doig has been coming to The Garage for the last 10 years.
He is a member of D4Dance, a group for young people and adults with learning disabilities, as well as inclusive theatre company Total Ensemble and Slanted Dance Creative Performance Group, and he is also an office volunteer.
“D4Dance is an amazing group and I really love it,” said Nick, who lives in Norwich.
He loves dancing and improvisation and having an audience, and said that he loves that he can be a “proper actor and dancer” when he comes to The Garage and that for him Total Ensemble is “wonderful and like my second family.”
Nick’s family have said The Garage has given him independence and confidence. He can make his own way to the venue and always feels welcome and supported. He goes to The Garage to do what he loves and it is a crucial part of his life.
Theatre tutor Rebecca discovered The Garage in 2008 and said her first impressions were of an “exciting and vibrant young venue.”
“When I first walked into The Garage I thought, ‘what an amazing, cool and vibrant kind of place for young people.’ I was really pleased to see something so contemporary and also so friendly,” she said.
Rebecca started teaching the junior theatre group and now teaches the senior theatre group. She has also been involved in the summer productions, including directing The Jungle Book and Peter Pan.
Prior to moving to Norwich, Rebecca, who is in her 40s, worked with London-based Chickenshed Theatre which inspired her to set up something similar in Norwich. She said The Garage was really supportive when she started inclusive theatre company Total Ensemble and that the group uses The Garage for some of its rehearsals.
When asked to sum up the essence of The Garage, Rebecca said: “It’s a very inclusive, accessible place, that’s what I love about it. It’s just incredibly energized all the time, it’s always busy.”
She said it was a great champion for young people, and added: “The Garage really makes sure young people are heard.”
Maxine started taking part in an adult beginners ballet class at The Garage seven years ago and she has been dancing at the venue ever since.
“I love the discipline and structure of ballet. It’s something I’ll never completely master and there’s something wonderful about that,” said Maxine, who lives in Norwich.
Alongside adult ballet, Maxine’s other activities at The Garage include doing pilates and being part of Connect Dance Company and the adult dance summer school.
Maxine said she feels it is rare to find a really good adult class where you can progress and be taken seriously as a learner. She said the classes at the Garage have a “lovely atmosphere,” that there is never any competition, and that everyone is in it together.