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Guest Blog: Farewell to the greenroom

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After falling victim to the Arts Council’s NPO funding review back in March, Manchester’s greenroom closed its doors for the final time this weekend, after almost 25 years as an integral part of the city’s arts scene. As an audience member, a project participant and an artist, the loss of an organisation that was always risk-taking, open-minded and brave is one that weighs heavy.

Those who have visited the venue will know that greenroom’s commitment to programming new and truly experimental work is what sets it apart from other theatres across the city. A rare platform for live art to sit alongside devised plays, stand-up and music, greenroom has always been unafraid of blurring the lines between art forms, instead encouraging risk and experimentation within performance.

Besides showing pioneering theatre, greenroom has been dedicated to enabling its creation, supporting new and emerging companies and artists with innovative ideas and providing the means to make them a reality. As a founding member of Manchester’s Eggs Collective (www.eggscollective.com), I can say whole-heartedly that without greenroom, some of our more fantastical projects would never have seen the light of day.

When we said we wanted to lead a mass public Conga down the neon-lit Oxford Road to the strains of Black Lace, they said ‘go for it’. When we said had dreams of leading 100 people dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and a beat-boxing Toto through the city centre on a busy Saturday afternoon, they said ‘no problem’. These have been joyous occasions where we have been supported and encouraged as a company to make performance that is surprising and engaging. Greenroom have actively facilitated this by allowing us to dream big and expand our imaginations.     

As a city, it always felt like Manchester had the arts scene covered. The closure of greenroom leaves a gaping hole for both the artistic community and audience members. A quick browse through the legacy site www.greenroomutd.org highlights the bold diversity in programming that was greenroom’s hallmark.

Where else audiences will find experimental work and live art on regular basis in Manchester remains to be seen. Does Contact’s recent programming of Bryony Kimming’s hugely successful ‘Sex Idiot’ suggest that they might pick up the baton? It is true that these shows don’t have the mass appeal of say Dickens at The Library, Shakespeare at The Royal Exchange or The Sound of Music at The Palace, but they are part of an all-encompassing, vibrant arts scene, something that Manchester will have to carefully rebuild in the future.

For me, the closure of greenroom brings a real sense sadness to the colossal and political debate on arts cuts. Manchester, its theatre-going public, its arts communities and, of course, greenroom staff have suffered both individual and collective losses. These are tough times for the arts, but the determination to power on through is strong. The outpouring of solidarity on greenroom’s tumblr page (www.greenroomarts.tumblr.com) is a testament to this, and to an organisation that has a lasting legacy that will be carried by the thousands who have passed through its doors. 

Farewell to the greenroom - gone but never forgotten.

- Sara Cocker


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