A TOURING theatre company based in Hexham has said they would not have been able to carry on without vital recovery funding.

Théâtre Sans Frontières (TSF) is among the organisations in Tynedale which have recently received funding in the latest round of the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.

The Culture Recovery Fund was established to help cultural organisations and heritage sites survive the pandemic - a time where they were forced to close their doors to visitors and audiences.

TSF has received £18,038. Last year, they also received over £25,000 from the second round of the Culture Recovery Fund.

Sarah Kemp, joint artistic director of TSF alongside John Cobb, said the majority of the money has been used to maintain the stability of the company.

The funds were used to ensure they could meet their overheads costs, including their Hexham office, at a time when they had no income, while also helping the company to build up its reserves. The money has also been used for fundraising and marketing.

It has however also allowed them to continue to work on projects.

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Throughout lockdown, Sarah worked with a group of older women from Northumberland to make a film.

They initially worked online, but were able to meet for masterclasses last year when Covid measures were eased.

"That was really nice," said Sarah. "Older people and younger people I think particularly experienced that isolation through Covid, and it's really important for older people to connect and stay active and involved."

Last summer, the company also made a show for primary school children to celebrate the Tokyo Olympic Games. It was meant to take place the year before, but was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Some of the money went to additional costs incurred from putting on the show at a time when Covid measures were still in place.

"Because of Covid still being very prevalent last summer, the schools could only have children in bubbles, so instead of performing to 150 pupils we were often just performing to 30/40/50 pupils," explained Sarah.

"So that meant the income was down, and then also we were running workshops with the children so we had props and costumes.

"It meant that we needed to covid-proof everything so we were able to ask the designer to make two sets of costumes, and two sets of props, so that if we were doing two workshops in the day, you had separate things for each group and then they could all be cleaned at the end of the day."

Sarah added: "For most of the schools it was the first live theatre, often the first visitors they had had into the school. I remember there was a school in Blyth where the teacher said to me, 'This is the most fun these children have had all year'."

She said without the money they received from the Culture Recovery Fund, they wouldn't have been able to continue.

"We had no income, and our reserves weren't huge in the first place," said Sarah.

"It has had a huge impact, both on us being able to keep going during that time, and helping us begin to put down those roots to move forward and make stuff as audiences are coming back.

"It has been absolutely vital and fantastic to have that."

Looking forward, TSF hope to tour their production Sherlock Holmes again, including potentially in the Canary Islands, and are also working to develop the shadow puppet film they made under lockdown into a live performance to show to primary schools in the North Tyne.

Hexham's Forum Cinema, Allenheads Contemporary Arts, Mortal Fools and Satellite Films have also received money from the Culture Recovery Fund.

TSF was founded in 1991. The company has toured over 50 multilingual, physical and highly visual theatre productions to arts centres and schools across the UK and abroad.