In 1974, musician and composer, Jo Collins, and Mary Ward, a teacher and director started a theatre company in a chicken shed. As time went by church halls replaced the eponymous shed and more members joined. In the early 1980s the company included a boy with cerebral palsy for the first time. John Bull joined the company and, through his pioneering work on integration, Chickenshed became the first truly inclusive theatre company, open to everyone.
In 1988 Lady Rayne became Chickenshed’s President and introduced their work to The Princess of Wales who consequently became their Royal Patron.
In December 1994, the company moved into a beautiful flexible space and in 1995 Chickenshed made their first national tour.
Chickenshed’s core value is that diversity and inclusiveness should be a way of life. Every piece of theatre created at Chickenshed shouts out the same thing: anyone can thrive in an environment where everyone is welcome.
Today Chickenshed runs Children’s and Youth Theatre workshops for 600 people, education courses for over 100 students, community outreach projects and a satellite of ‘Sheds’ across the country. It has created and produced more than 1,000 performances from full scale productions to intimate studio pieces, original works, adaptations of classic plays and dance. Chickenshed uses an inclusive creative process to create theatre, not only as art but as a catalyst for change. The company brings young people from all social and economic backgrounds, races and abilities together to study creatively alongside each other.
In January 2011, the Trustees of The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation agreed a one off donation to fund students in need of additional support on the Chickenshed BTEC National Diploma in Performance. The Trustees are extremely impressed with Chickenshed and consider that this funding for students fits well within their charitable objectives.