A round of applause for this talented theatre company returning to its creative roots…

Roald Dahl and the Imagination Seekers

This coming Saturday (October 7), a new programme of accessible family theatre kicks off at the Civic Centre in Southborough. Julie Oliver from the Applause Rural Touring troupe, who are curating the bill, tells Eileen Leahy all about this new initiative in association that’s happening in association with Southborough Town Council…


Applause Rural Touring is a Tunbridge Wells-based cultural charity and this year it celebrates its 25th anniversary. Its spokesperson Julie Oliver explains a little bit more about what it’s all about…

“We’re dedicated to bringing culture and communities together by collaborating with performers and the local community. We are an Arts Council England-funded cultural charity, working with professional performance companies to bring work to rural and underserved communities,”
adds Julie.

“We commission new work and support tours in community spaces across the South East and work with local voluntary venues who host the work and events to promote excellent, accessible arts events on your doorstep.”

It all began here in Tunbridge Wells in 1998, following a rural touring trial initiated by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and a wider West Kent Arts Development Consortia.

Since then, Applause has toured shows all over the South East and launched an open-air offering – Applause Outdoors – as well as partnering with various local authorities in order to perform at prestigious events including the 2012 Olympics and The Turner Prize.

And now the charity is returning to its roots by launching a new season in Southborough – something Julie says she and the Applause team are very excited about.

“We can’t wait to introduce Southborough Presents! It is a new family theatre programme that kicks off this coming Saturday (October 7), in partnership with Southborough Town Council and will be partially funded by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

“Our first show, ‘Roald Dahl and the Imagination Seekers’ by Get Lost and Found will take place at the Unity Hall in the Southborough Civic Centre, which is the venue for all of the shows running for the rest of this year and into 2024.”

Director of Applause Dawn Badland adds: “Along with support from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, it’s fabulous to form this partnership, which will help make some great family theatre super accessible.

“We are usually working across the region, bringing fantastic touring shows to rural communities and so we are delighted to be developing a sustainable programme for our base here in Southborough for both residents and the wider community.”

The carefully curated selection of shows exemplifies the finest in children’s touring theatre and there will be a fantastic selection of affordable family shows to follow on a monthly basis.

Dianne Hill, Mayor of Southborough and High Brooms told the Times: “We’re thrilled to be working with Applause to bring family shows to Southborough. The intended use of Unity Hall within the civic centre is to bring events to Southborough that benefit the community on their doorstep.

“Thanks to Applause’s experience in the arts, we can be confident that as well as being affordable, the shows will be of a high quality. We can’t wait to welcome families to these events.”

Julie says that all ages are welcome, but target-age suitability is stated for each show, so it is best to check the Applause website before booking.


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