Coronation Street star helps Lancaster theatre celebrate National Lottery funding

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A Coronation Street legend is helping a Lancaster theatre celebrate National Lottery funding which will help older people tread the boards

The Dukes Theatre has been awarded £141,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, to provide free weekly creative arts workshops including drama, art, poetry, song, movement, and dance for older people living in Lancaster and Morecambe.

The Prime Time sessions will centre around mental wellbeing and providing a space for creative expression and will support participants over the age of 65 to develop creative skills, strengthen social ties and fill a gap in local provision.

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Around 50 people will attend the sessions each week , with plans for a monthly film club and an Older People’s Creative Symposium to celebrate work with older people across other cultural organisations in the North West. There are also plans for the group to work with members of the theatre’s Young Company as a way of improving inter-generational relationships in the community.

Staff at The Dukes in Lancaster with Julie Hesmondhalgh (bottom right).Staff at The Dukes in Lancaster with Julie Hesmondhalgh (bottom right).
Staff at The Dukes in Lancaster with Julie Hesmondhalgh (bottom right).

Alongside staff at The Dukes, the new funding is also being welcomed by one of the theatre’s ambassadors, actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, most famous for her role as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street as well as roles in TV dramas The Pact, Happy Valley and Broadchurch.

As a star of both stage and screen, Julie has a meaningful connection to Lancashire, having been born and raised in Accrington, and has been a supporter of The Dukes for many years. She jumped at the chance to attend an In Conversation Event there recently to celebrate the launch of Prime Time.

A recent Prime Time pilot showed that eight in 10 of the older participants reported increased mood and a better outlook after taking part in the creative sessions, and nine in 10 reported an increased sense of confidence.

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Julie said: “Over and over again I see the difference a funded, vibrant local theatre like The Dukes makes to the cultural ecology of a town, and to the sense of civic pride and wellbeing. And crucially it also brings jobs and visitors to the area, which in these dark times, is a beacon of hope.”

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Carl Woodward, Head of Creative Communities at The Dukes, said: “We remain committed to delivering a vibrant cultural offer for Lancaster and Morecambe, the county and the region, providing inclusive activities and entertainment at the heart of our community.

"Our work with older people across the district is a key part of our activity and with the help of this new funding, we look forward to learning from each other and creating a meaningful impact across the county over the next three years.”

Gillian Halliwell, Head of Regional Funding for the North West, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, The Dukes can continue to be a vital source of social interaction and creative expression for older people in the Lancashire area who may otherwise be struggling with issues such as loneliness.

"Our funding plays a key role in helping to foster support networks and it is great to see groups like this making such a positive difference and continuing to support their communities to thrive.”