In the late 1980s, in partnership with Tower Hamlets, the company identified a suitable building (the former Limehouse Board of Works) on White Horse Road for a permanent base for Half Moon Young People’s Theatre. Following the acquisition of £1.3m funding to enable building modernisation from London Docklands Development Corporation and European and Social Regeneration funds, the organisation moved into the building in 1994.
Chris Elwell has been the Director of Half Moon Theatre on White Horse Road since 1997. He talks about the importance of the White Horse Road building as a home for the company in the heart of the local community and re-claiming the name, Half Moon Theatre. Interviewed by Kavana Joyett.
Deborah Bestwick was Director of the Half Moon Theatre young people’s company in the late 1980s and became Director of Half Moon Young People’s Theatre in 1990. She talks about the establishment of Half Moon Young People’s Theatre and the opportunities and challenges, including the new theatre on White Horse Road. Interviewed by Aimee Thompson.
Liselle Terret had been a drama teacher in a special needs school before she joined Half Moon Theatre in 1998. Here she talks about her excitement to develop this new role, describing how she worked with other artists and disabled young people on a production called Yeh Hsien. Interviewed by Elsa Loker.
Adam Annand was Associate Director at Half Moon Theatre. Even before he arrived at the company he was aware of the bi-lingual work the company had done in the 1980s, in English and Syhleti spoken by many people of Bangladeshi heritage living in Tower Hamlets. Interviewed by Alexia-Pyrrha Ashford.
Shamim Azad was Writer-in-Residence at Half Moon Young People’s Theatre in the early 1990s. She talks about training as a playwright with the company and the importance of the bilingual work the company was doing at the time. Interviewed by Georgina Da Silva.
Paula Manning was Associate Director at Half Moon Theatre in the late 2000s, with a particular responsibility for the early years and special needs work. She talks about how the company moved towards immersive theatre experiences for the very young and those with special needs, by placing the participant at the centre of the experience. Interviewed by Toni Tsaera.
Vishni Velada-Billson was Education Officer at Half Moon Theatre on White Horse Road in the late 1990s and became Associate Director in the early 2000s. Vishni discusses the open access policy of the Youth Theatres at the theatre and the diversity of the groups. Interviewed by Daisy Snooks.
David Belshaw was Theatre Team Director at Half Moon Young People’s Theatre in the 1990s when the company was moving into the new theatre on White Horse Road. He recalls one of the builders finding an enthusiasm for the desire to make the building totally accessible and how his knowledge of Braille was very useful. Interviewed by Rio Puffett.
Alice Bigalow was a former arts worker with Tower Hamlets Council, who became the project manager responsible for moving Half Moon Theatre into White Horse Road in 1994. She recalls this as a difficult time for the company, as the main Half Moon Theatre had gone into administration in 1990. Interviewed by Toni Tsaera.
Mikaela Spitieri had a long involvement with Half Moon, from when she joined the Youth Theatre and went on to work as an usher during her teens. She did an A Level performance exam in the building. Here she reflects on changes to the building and its reputation locally. Interviewed by Lasairiona O’Baroid.
Monica Forty is a Headteacher who has been involved with Half Moon Theatre for thirty years, including as a youth worker and Trustee. She remembers when Half Moon Theatre went bankrupt and the Young People’s Theatre was saved, but had to move to temporary premises before moving to its current home on White Horse Road. Interviewed by Caitlin Ralph.
Jenny Sealey was an actor and member of the Half Moon Theatre’s young people’s company in the 1980s. She talks about the opening of the White Horse Road building in 1994. Interviewed by Rosie Vincent.
James Wakefield joined Half Moon Youth Theatre at the age of 17 in the late 1990s. Then he went on to work Front of House and recalls how that changed his whole outlook on life. Interviewed by Toni Tsaera.
Actor and Workshop Facilitator Debra Baker talks about her association with Half Moon Theatre, from her childhood to the present day and the theatre’s role within the local community. Interviewed by Georgina Da Silva.
As a teenager Cyd Folan was a Youth Theatre member and an usher with Half Moon Theatre in the 2000s. She credits these experiences with shaping her career in theatre. Interviewed by Rio Puffett.
Steve Harris was Associate Director at Half Moon Theatre in the 1980s and as such was responsible for the young people’s programme and policy. Steve talks about identifying the White Horse Road building as a new home for the company. He was interviewed on two separate occasions on this subject.
Amit Sharma is an actor and director who worked at Half Moon Theatre at White Horse Road in the late 1990s. He talks about how the company has always been ahead of the game in terms of community engagement and with the types of work created and presented at the building, which continues to this day. Interviewed by Toni Tsaera.
Theatre historian, Susan Croft describes how Half Moon Theatre programmed British Asian Theatre Company and work by female playwrights in the mid 1980s, but was slow to produce such work in-house. The exception was the Young People’s Theatre, which championed bi-lingual work and the diversity of the local community. Interviewed by Alexia-Pyrrha Ashford.
Rosemary Harris is a spoken word artist who has collaborated with Half Moon to produce four shows, including a trilogy about child migration. Here she talks about the value of the opportunity to tour work through Half Moon Presents, the producing arm of the company. Interviewed by Beccy Allen.
Half Moon Theatre Trustee and Tower Hamlets’ teacher, Julia Williams, talks about bringing her family to see some Half Moon Theatre productions aimed at younger children. Interviewed by Toni Tsaera.
Paula Manning was Associate Director at Half Moon Theatre in the late 2000s, with a particular responsibility for the early years and special needs work. She talks about the multi-sensory outreach programmes which accompanied the professional theatre productions for early years audiences and the broader social impact this had. Interviewed by Toni Tsaera.
Youth Theatre member Chrystal Vidal was an usher at Half Moon Theatre, where she had the opportunity of watching lots of productions. Here she talks about the influence of Half Moon Theatre on her decision to teach children in early years. Interviewed by Cara Smith
Creative Learning Producer, Beccy Allen talks about the ethos and strengths of Half Moon Theatre on White Horse Road and describes how the professional theatre and participatory programmes are treated equally within the company. Interviewed by Toni Tsaera.
Designer, Alison Cartledge describes how Half Moon Theatre on White Horse Road involves people from the whole community and how the company is a springboard for many people. Interviewed by Toni Tsaera.
In autumn 2014, Half Moon celebrated the completion of its capital refurbishment project, the heritage of its 150 year old home at 43 White Horse Road, and the building’s 20 years as a young people’s theatre with a series of free family events under the banner of #LimehouseLandmark.
In the late 1980s, in partnership with Tower Hamlets, the company identified a suitable building (the former Limehouse Board of Works) on White Horse Road for a permanent base for Half Moon Young People’s Theatre. In the following four years, Lin Coghlan came on board as Writer in Residence and began a long association with the company. When Deborah Bestwick left in 1993, David Belshaw became the new artistic lead, at a time when participatory arts had a growing importance. Following the acquisition of £1.3m funding to enable building modernisation from London Docklands Development Corporation and European and Social Regeneration funds, the organisation moved into the building in 1994. Initially there were no public performances at the building, only workshops and youth theatre groups, whilst the company continued to tour plays into schools. With the appointment of the present Director, Chris Elwell in 1997, the company underwent a radical re-focusing of operations, which was followed by significant increases in core funding from Arts Council England, opening the building as a public venue in 1998.
Chris Elwell and his team established positive relationships with schools and members of the wider local community, putting young people at the heart of the company’s work, with the participatory programmes and professional theatre work informing each other. The professional theatre focused on two age groups, very young children and teenagers, and the company toured work to other venues around the UK. The plays for teenagers were human stories about teenagers’ experiences growing up in East London, including Yeah, Whatever! by Ashmeed Sohoye, Cutter by Sean Burn and Begin/End by David Lane.
In 2003, the company began a series of six bilingual shows for young children in English and British Sign Language, including Baa Moo Yellow Dog and Igloo Hullabaloo. The company’s artform development programme was formalised in 2004 as Exchange for Change, which focused on cross arts work by Black and Minority Ethnic and/or disabled artists. Latterly Half Moon has introduced a focus on collaboration; co-producing shows with other companies and launching Half Moon Presents, a producing arm which supports small companies and individual artists – including those from other artforms, such as spoken word – to tour work for young audiences.
The Creative Learning programme and its inclusive integrated approach is crucial to the success of the company and is made up of signature projects, including Youth Theatres and projects both within and outside of formal education. Careers in Theatre, which has run in various forms since 1996, gives teenagers practical experience of the various technical and artistic careers available in theatre. The company delivers multi-sensory and cross arts work in early years settings and uses drama to help primary schools deliver areas of the National Curriculum, such as maths and literacy.
The future of Half Moon Theatre was secured in 2008, when the company purchased the freehold of the building. In 2012, a three year £1m programme of capital works included upgrading and refurbishing the public areas of the building, repairs to the roof and gutters and renovation of the beautiful Victorian façade. The theatre is now established as a beacon for young people and artists for many years to come.