BARN was a collective theatre initiative, facilitated by Take Art, that supported Somerset’s emergent theatre-making sector to develop, test and showcase new work in a predominantly rural context.   

It was inspired by the North American rural tradition of barn-raising: in our case, the collective action of a theatre-making sector to build and sustain Somerset’s theatre infrastructure.  

With support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, BARN Phase 1 ran from 2017 to 2019. In 2020 we ran an emergency support programme, followed by a further programme in 2021/22. 

BARN Phase 2 (2021/22)

Thanks to further support from Esmée Fairbairn, BARN Phase 2 ran until March 2022, informed by the profound impact that Covid-19 had on us all. 

It included:

  • BARNfest open air showcase event at Strode Theatre, Street in August 2021; 
  • Growth Fund to support the making of 11 new theatre shows; 
  • Activity to support regional infrastructure development, including Task Group workshops, a Steering Group to develop an action plan and a revised Routes In South West resource; 
  • Venues South West Symposium at Taunton Brewhouse focusing on gender and artist support; 
  • BARNfest, a two day festival showcasing theatre made in Somerset and the South West, in partnership with Taunton Brewhouse in March 2022; 
  • Ongoing business, producing and access support, seed fund, advice and networking opportunities. 

BARN Interim Year (2020) 

During the pandemic, we were delighted to receive an offer of emergency funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. This, in turn, enabled us to create our own modest emergency fund for Somerset’s theatre-making community. 

In partnership with Theatre Orchard (now Super Culture), we were able to support individuals who weren’t eligible or hadn’t received funding from other emergency funds. 

The fund also enabled us to sponsor Emma Bettridge to become a member of the National Freelance Task Force, a collective to help ensure that the 70% of the theatre/performance workforce who are self-employed or freelance can be better represented in vital conversations about the sector’s response to the current crisis. This led to the creation of The Big Freelancer Report, which is already informing our thinking. 

We also supported the One Minute Theatre Festival, a commission of 35 short films produced by Somerset theatre-makers over lockdown. 

BARN Phase 1 (2017-19)  

Phase 1 started a long-term development process to address grassroots issues arising from an historical lack of critical mass and investment. The programme featured several activity strands that included an Ideas Fund; access and business support; work in progress events; showcase platforms; and an annual BARNfest.  

A few years on, based on evidence reported by theatre-makers, companies and feedback from events such as BARNfest, Somerset’s theatre infrastructure feels healthier, more connected and better supported. But there’s always more to do!  

For further information about BARN, contact:

Mark Helyar – Director of Theatre, Take Art


Tel: 01460 249450