Derby Theatre 2023 Highlights

Published Saturday 30th Dec 2023
2023 has been quite a year for Derby Theatre!

Here’s a rundown of SOME of our highlights, spanning all strands of our work – including professional produced shows, our work with young people, communities, students and schools; artist development, a wide range of festivals and funding successes, including an incredible £10m grant from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) towards the development of our much-loved venue! 
We would like to say a HUGE thank you to our audiences, visitors, participants, communities, stakeholders, supporters, funders and staff for all their incredible support….and here’s also looking forward to a tremendous 2024!


  • Derby Theatre and In Good Company announce a new scheme to support early-career producers supported by the Jerwood Developing Artists Fund
  • In Good Company announces their mid-career commission recipients as Naomi Westerman, a British writer of Middle Eastern heritage, and Hot Coals Productions, an award-winning production company formed of core members, Clare-Louise English and Jo Sargeant. The commissions are to support theatre makers and companies with an established practice, identity and a strong track record of creating contemporary theatre.
  • Plus One, a citywide creative partnership led by Derby Theatre to provide free opportunities for young people in care and care leavers to see and take part in cultural events, wins Digital Project of the Year at The Stage Awards.

A group of creatives who worked on Odyssey holding a trophy and smiling.

“Thank you so much for this. I would also like to pass on my thanks to you guys at both the theatre and the creative workshops. I really admire the hard work and dedication you put in to ensure that the young people have the best opportunities in life. During the time of these workshops running, I have been able to witness them grow in confidence, and I know from speaking to them individually, that the sessions have given them a sense of belonging and a community outside of educational sessions to belong to. You are all amazing”. (Foster Carer) 

  • Derby CAN is also shortlisted for Community Project of the Year for Over to You as part of The Stage Awards.
  • The Theatre receives Festival Enhancement funding for their National Theatre Connections festival, including for our Derby Theatre Ambassadors’ Programme meaning young people will co-create the festival of performances and workshops.
  • A powerful new film is launched for training teachers in the Derby City Inclusion Programme.  Derby Theatre collaborated to create the film with young people from primary, secondary and SEN schools, to give teachers a direct insight into young people’s thoughts about different aspects of school life, particularly those whose voice are often not heard.


  • Derby CAN supports the Prayers for Ukraine Peace Processions in the city through Sunflowers for Hope, creative craft sessions for the community of Derby to make sunflowers with messages of HOPE for Ukraine, and which were carried in the procession.
  • The Theatre plays host to over 100 businesses as part of the Marketing Derby Annual Business event. 
  • Derby Theatre Youth Theatre and Derby Theatre Deaf Youth Theatre create a film inspired by Sound Warriors an educational project, teaching young people about hearing loss and communication methods.
  • Bill Kenwright, Theatre Clwyd and National Theatre tour to our main house with Home, I’m Darling.
  • Told by an Idiot stop off at Derby Theatre with their highly acclaimed, charming production of Charlie & Stan. 


  • Robin Hood and The Major Oak, our 4th British Sign Language integrated and Captioned production, plays on the main stage at the Theatre with high praise from the press and audiences alike. 
    “Sarah Brigham’s spirited and collaborative production showcases the superb multi-talented Deaf and hearing cast in an unmistakeable way” 
    – East Midlands Theatre 
    “Filled with incredibly important messages relating to deafness and deaf awareness” 
    – Limping Chicken Deaf Blog 
    So inclusive and accessible, we absolutely LOVED it” 
    – Audience Comment 

Robin Hood and the Major Oak (2023) Photography by Pamela Raith


  • DANCOP (Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Collaborative Outreach Partnership) and Plus One perform a curtain raiser before selected performances of Robin Hood and The Major Oak around the themes of the story.
  • The Making & Believing project for Early Years came to the end of its 3rd phase with three nursery settings having had creative champions on 10-week residency sessions. Additionally, ten pre-school settings received shows which, in total, was 23 performances for 750+ children in their nurseries and community settings, including Let’s Play Messing Around - a collaboration between Take Art and Derby Theatre which was created by Sarah Argent.

“The project has been like the ‘opening of a door’. It has been an absolute joy to see how she has flourished over the course of the project, In fact, her whole demeanour has changed…she is now smiley, making friends and talking in a variety of contexts.”
(Representative from Rosehill Academy, talking of a child who was finding it difficult to socialise and interact).


  • We present our 7th National Theatre Connections festival at the Theatre, our first full one since before lockdown, with 4 show days, 8 performing young companies, 180+ young people performing, 75 young people involved in a new technical training programme, 10 ambassadors involved in training, programming and delivering front of house wraparound offer, and 6 sell-out workshops.

NT Connections (2023) photography by Chris Webb


  • Derby Theatre and the St. Ralph Sherwin Trust is awarded a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Teacher Development Fund to work with artists to develop oracy in 6 primary schools where there are high number of pupils with English as an additional language.


  • Derby CAN and BBC Radio Derby present the very first DerbyVision at the Ukrainian Centre in the city, our very own version of the Eurovision Song Contest, to champion talent in the local area and to celebrate the wonderful, diverse communities of Derby.  

DerbyVision (2023) photography by Grant Archer


  • Derby Cultural Education Partnership (DCEP) is awarded Arts Council England funding to deliver CANVAS, a Place Partnership Project which harnesses the energies and creativity of young people and families to develop Derby as a vibrant, ambitious city. Derby Theatre will be the lead partner in this projectThe project will meet young people where they are, providing culture on their doorsteps, and also provide pathways into the industry, lifting the lid on unseen diverse talent. 
  • Plus One produce the first ever Fostering Families Festival in collaboration with Derby City Council’s Fostering Families Network.
  • University of Derby student productions, Lore, Love, Loss; Remote, Flatspin and Bretevski Street (in Feb) play to public audiences in the main house and Studio, showcasing and celebrating student talent and the next generation of artists.

Flatspin (2023) photography by Richard Richards Photography.


  • Our Reimagine schools come together to showcase and celebrate their work with young people performing on stage at Derby Theatre. 


  • Derby Theatre Youth Theatre groups present three fantastic double bills of performances with Angry Little Beasts, Bedtime Stories for Evil Children, The Stolen Golden Trainers, Cowboys, Ambulances, Alternate Universes and Batman, plus Chaos and The Door (in July).

Chaos (2023) photography by Graeme Braidwood


  • Derby Theatre and In Good Company announce Kasia Cichocka, Joanna Saw, Kate Spencer and Josie White as the recipients of their Independent Producer Residences, part of the Jerwood Developing Artists Fund, a programme to support early-career producers across 2 years to develop their professional practice.
  • Derby Theatre is awarded funding from the National Lottery Reaching Communities fund to continue our work with different communities in the city (including hubs, dementia-friendly activity and work with sanctuary seekers).
  • Creative Mentoring Marketplace event held at Bustler Derby. 150 young people supported through Virtual School in attendance to take part in creative workshops.
  • The £1.1million Reimagine city partnership programme for young people came to a close with an impressive breadth of work and opportunities created as a result, including:  25 Derby schools awarded Associate School status * Over 2,200 young people * Over 1,300 sessions *  23 young people now working in the industry * 32 performances in local areas and school * 1 festival taking over The Tramshed * 1 Main House production, Home Girl by Nathan Powell * Digital project in lockdown with over 60 young people * 7 main arts partners and the University of Derby * Over 100 artists * 2 co-created shows with 25 schools in the Catholic MAT * 25 schools and key settings * 12 schools and 35 teachers involved in Teachers’ Academy.

Home Girl (2023) photography by Chris Webb



  • We welcome 50+ international delegates to the theatre and the city as part of ConnectUp, European Theatre for Young Audiences project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. The delegates saw work and took part in various discussions, visits and workshops during their stay in the city. 

Astrology Bingo (2023) photography by Chris Webb


  • We present our 11thDeparture Lounge, our summer festival of fresh, thrilling and contemporary performance, industry panel discussions and workshops… and for 2023, we went international, with the line-up of shows including productions created as part of ConnectUp – Pleasant Land, a Derby Theatre and Teatro Elsinor production, a story of identity, belonging and growing up inspired by work undertaken with teenagers and schools across Derby – Footsteps in the Mud, a Theatre Company Pinklec and Derby Theatre production which told the story of Melisa, a 14-year old Roma girl from Croatia– and Cross the Line, a Teatro Elsinor production in collaboration with Teatro delle Briciole Solares Fondazione delle arti and Teatro Comunale di Casalmaggiore. Departure Lounge 2023 also marked and celebrated In Good Company’s 10th Anniversary.

Pleasant Land (2023) photography by Chris Webb


  • Derby CAN and Derby Theatre host Derby Dishes at The Museum of Making, a wonderful evening of eclectic food and entertainment, with dishes suggested and cooked by local people and a guest list of 100 artists, academics and creatives from across the region, UK and Europe.

Derby Dishes (2023) photography by Grant Archer


  • In Good Company secure a grant of from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants to support and enhance their activity for the next 12 months. Ongoing support from our partner organisations and a grant from Foyle Foundation means that £89,000 of ACE’s funding will go directly to paying freelance artists via employment, commissions, projects and performance fees. We also welcome fantastic Midlands-based Producer, Rafia Hussain as strategic consultant to IGC.
  • Plus One present at Social Care Roundtable event for National Centre of Creative Health. 
  • Derby Theatre co-ordinate and deliver the creative programme as part of the launch of the city’s new Family Hubs (formerly Childrens Centres) Summer Programme.


  • Derby Mela and World Music Festival presented as part of Derby CAN on Normanton Park, a two-day festival celebrating the musical diversity of the city, including performances from Punjabi, Roma, Nigerian, Ghanian, Caribbean, Persian, Kurdish, Turkish, Sudan and Ukrainian communities, as well as local performances from Derby home-grown artists.

Councillor Baggy Shanker (Leader of Derby City Council) said:  

“What a fantastic couple of days. So many people from all communities coming together and having a great time. This is something I have said Derby needs, and your teams have pulled it off brilliantly.”  

 “The first international music festival and Mela here in Derby for such a long time…you nailed it and made us all so proud” (Local resident) 

Derby Mela (2023) photography by Graeme Braidwood


  • 2 summer schools offered to local young people to explore, develop and showcase talent, skills and creativity.

Young participant comments included:

“I learnt how to be more confident in myself and how to be more creative”
“I enjoyed making new friends and learning new skills…5/5”

  • We attended the Assitej Festival and Director’s residency in Kristiansand, Norway as part of ConnectUp.
  • Derby Theatre, Children First and Youth Alliance collaborate to offer weekly Youth Theatre sessions for referred young people.

Derby Youth Theatre (2023) photography by Graeme Braidwood



  • 4 Walls, a Derby Theatre production as part of Derby CAN, an exciting new play from local music producer and Hip Hop artist, Rukus plays on the main stage.  
    4 Walls was a high energy multimedia production with live music, performance, dance and large-scale digital projection and was performed by a professional company of actors and large cast of community members. Other creative opportunities were offered to members of the community as part of the production process, including marketing, illustration, backstage and community engagement.

“Really engaging, really beautiful, totally unique” 
“I feel blessed to have seen this show” 
“Explores the beauty of multiculturalism in such an incredible way”
(Audience comments)

4 Walls (2023) photography by Grant Archer


  • Stowe Family Law support our work with communities and young people in the city through a much-appreciated donation, as part of their commitment to supporting charities and young people in the city. 
  • Derby Theatre launch the release of Everywhere, a sensitive and stigma-reducing play about dementia, commissioned by the Theatre in 2022. Written by Nicky Bellenger, Everywhere was the result of a creative and compassionate collaboration between Nicky, attendees to Derby Theatre and Universal Services for Carers’ Carers’ Café and members of Derby Theatre’s Youth Theatre. The play was launched on World Alzheimer’s Dayas part of World Alzheimer’s Month. 
  • New year of our extensive Youth Theatre programmes start, a wide range of sessions for ages 8 – 25 year olds, with 10 groups running at full capacity and extensive waiting list.
  • CANVAS Future Creatives sessions begin, sessions focused around project delivery, social media & marketing and individual support.
  • Nicholson Green tour to our main house with TONY! The Tony Blair Rock Opera, a hilarious tragedy of political intrigue, religion, power and romance, a reckless reappraisal of Britain’s first pop Prime Minister, Tony Blair.


  • As part of the research and development of the script for upcoming Derby Theatre produced show, Welfare (It Were Welfare to Us) by Abi Zakarian, the Theatre embark on a coach trip to Skegness…and invite people from the Derbyshire area with stories/memories of staying at the Derbyshire Miners’ Holiday Camp to join them for free, for an enjoyable day out, connect with others and to share memories.
  • Derby CAN awards 9 local creatives paid film commissions as part of In the CAN which resulted in public screenings of each film at Derby Theatre, QUAD and Déda, enchanting and entertaining evenings celebrating the vibrant storytelling and unique perspectives that make Derby’s creative scene truly exceptional.
A clapper board with the words 'What's Your Story?'

In The CAN (2023) Film Commission


  • Derby-based company, Alverprise continue to support Derby Theatre through much-appreciated donations.
  • 14 Derby Theatre staff are supported to learn British Sign Language level 1 to build and develop their skills to improve their communication with visitors, audiences, artists, colleagues and each other.
  • Brassed Off, the Theatre’s smash-hit, sell-out production from 2015, makes a much-awaited return to the main stage – featuring the award-winning Derwent Brass, a stellar cast of professional actors and incredible community company…and WOWS the press and audiences alike once again.

    “Director Sarah Brigham pays tremendous dedication to the many people these characters represent. I am overwhelmed by the empathy and nuance; they must have felt it compulsory to tell this story with every shade of conviction and fact.”
    – East Midlands Theatre

    “The show saw my spirit soar, sky high, smashing through Derby Theatre’s roof”
    – Derby World

A young boy stands next to an older man wearing a suit riding a bicycle.

Brassed Off (2023) photography by Pamela Raith


  • Partnership and match funding with DANCOP confirmed to secure the delivery of the CANVAS Future Creatives programme for young people and families.
  • Supported LGBTQ+ youth group Sparks, exploring ideas around being a young queer person in a rural setting. A short curtain-raiser of poetry was performed by one of the young people in the Studio.
  • Derby City Council White Ribbon Campaign film produced by Derby Theatre working with young people from across the city and our Youth Theatre members to co-create citywide campaign film feeding into school workshops delivered across ten schools. The campaign is aimed at young men to advocate against domestic violence towards young women and girls. The content has been co-created with Derby City Council’s Youth Council and Youth Mayor. The actors were from our 14 – 18 youth theatre students, filmed at Derby College and involved both Derby County Football Captain and Derby Cricket Captain.
  • tiata fahodzi, Belgrade Theatre and Bristol Old Vic bring their stunning production of cheeky little brown by Nkenna Akunna to our Studio”a beautiful ode to Black society and home” (The Guardian)
  • We partnered with the University of Derby, Baby People and the Race Equality Network to present 50 Years of Hip Hop Saluting our Sisters, an event to celebrate 50 years of Hip Hop, also working with Devon Daley, DY from BBC Radio Derby.


  • Megan Smith announced as a recipient of the Andy Nairn Bursaries in Technical Theatre, bursaries set up by Leicester Curve, Derby Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse in 2020 to support, encourage and enable young people to pursue a career in Technical Theatre. 

The title treatment for the Andy Nairn bursaries Technical Theatre. It is accompanied by the Leicester Curve, Derby Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse logos.

  • Derby Theatre, as part of the University of Derby, is thrilled to be awarded a £10m grant from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) towards the development of the city’s much-loved venue. This significant funding recognises the vision of Derby Theatre, which places civic engagement and learning opportunities alongside high quality entertainment for local residents. The funding will go towards: increasing the performance, community, participation and learning spaces, a new purpose-built Studio theatre, providing an exciting and versatile new space for the Theatre to present innovative work; improved spaces for learners and the community plus improvements to the audience experience for both the main auditorium and new Studio theatre. Derby Theatre: New Horizons also launches with the aim of providing additional investment.
  • Cinderella, a striking new version by Annie Siddons, and directed by Bryn Holding, plays as the festive offer for ages 7+ in the main house – a thrilling theatrical adventure set amidst the Derbyshire countryside. The show includes a multi-talented cast of actor-musicians and a young company of local performers. In the Studio, Derby Theatre, Hiccup Theatre and Polka Theatre present the cheeky and charming Three Billy Goats Gruff for ages 3+, directed by Sarah Brigham and featuring beautiful puppetry, fantastic storytelling, amazing live music and original songs. All performances include integrated BSL, Captioning and integrated audio description. The show features a multi-talented company of Deaf, hearing and interpreting actors and musicians.

“Derby Theatre’s Cinderella is beautiful to watch. You will laugh, cry and applaud till your hands hurt, and that is OK, because this production deserves nothing less”
(Derby World on Cinderella)

“Refreshingly imaginative re-working of the classic fairytale”
(The Stage on Cinderella)

“A raucously knockabout 60 minutes of family entertainment”
(The Stage on Three Billy Goats Gruff)

“The cast integrates BSL, audio description and songs beautifully into the performance”
(All Things Theatre on Three Billy Goats Gruff)

“Inclusive and fantastic – we loved how seamless the audio description and BSL was”
(Audience Member on Three Billy Goats Gruff)

Cinderella (2023) photography by Graeme Braidwood.


Three Billy Goats Gruff (2023) photography by Graeme Braidwood


  • Bucket collections are held after performances of Cinderella and Three Billy Goats Gruff to raise funds to go towards Plus One.
  • Christmas productions for 2024 announced as A Christmas Carol, a Derby Theatre production and new version by Mike Kenny, and Chicken Licken, a Derby Theatre, Hiccup Theatre and Polka Theatre production.
  • Our Plus One Scheme for care-experienced young people forges a new programme with Derby City Virtual School to offer a range of exciting opportunities for post-16 young people.
  • Collaboration with Simon Marshall and Derbyshire LGBTQ+ in working with a youth group who came together to perform a curtain-raiser for Simon’s production of Bonfire that explored themes relevant to LGBTQ+ young people.
  • CANVAS Future Creatives (14-25 years group) had a design workshop with Kevin Jenkins, Set and Costume Designer for Cinderella, they designed the upper foyer spaces to reflect the set on stage and spent 2 full days installing. 
  • 20 Stories High, Graeae Theatre, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and LEEDS 2023 present High Times and Dirty Monsters, a brand-new piece of Hip-Hop gig theatre exploring the ups and downs of being young in 2023.


  • Plus One included in National Centre for Creative Health Care Review.
  • Derby Theatre secures match funding for the CANVAS project from Foundation Derbyshire Tom Carey Fund.