Chichester Festival Theatre wants everyone to enjoy the best possible theatre experience regardless of need, which is why it offers a full range of access performances. Its first-ever Dementia Friendly performance took place this summer for South Pacific, while Pinocchio on 23 December will be a Relaxed Performance. And on hand are a team of CFT Buddies, to offer support where needed.
Since its inception in 2017, CFT’s volunteer companion scheme has significantly grown and evolved. While Buddies continue to be available free of charge to accompany individuals to attend any performance or event at the Theatre, thanks to ongoing support from Rathbone Investment Management its remit has expanded well beyond that original concept.
Louise Rigglesford, Senior Community and Outreach Manager, explains:
‘In 2021 we’ve expanded the remit of the Buddies scheme through a growing connection with Chichester District Council’s Social Prescribing Team. If someone goes to their GP presenting symptoms that are best dealt with creatively rather than medically – loneliness, for example – they’ll be referred to the Social Prescribing Team, who have a network of community and wellbeing groups to help combat the issues they’re experiencing.
‘People can be referred to us for monthly tea and coffee visits, to have some social interaction and friendly contact. The Buddies will also support visits to activities anywhere across the district from Petworth and Pulborough down to Selsey.’
Victoria Homer, Client Service Executive and Regional Marketing Co-Ordinator for Rathbone Investment Management, cites the company’s sponsorship of CFT Buddies as the highlight of their six-year partnership with the Theatre and one way in which they are giving back to the community. ‘CFT is our local theatre which is attended by our staff and clients, some of whom would like to make use of this scheme; others may require the Buddies scheme in the future.’
Not simply financial partners, Rathbone are actively involved too; Victoria is one of the Rathbone staff who are themselves being trained as volunteer Buddies.
‘The social prescribing movement values the importance of arts and creativity within wellbeing and people living fulfilled lives,’ says Louise. ‘So for me it’s a natural fit. It’s about connecting our volunteers with people in need through shared interests. This is a place for everyone – yes, we put on fantastic shows but, supported by generous sponsors like Rathbone, this organisation is able to do so much more.’
If you know someone who might benefit, find out more about the CFT Buddies scheme.