19 August 2020
Agriculture can often be found as a motif within the Arts, but it is not often that the two intersect physically as they once did. However, in light of the restrictions that Covid-19 has placed upon our lives, theatres are struggling to keep their doors open for the return of awaiting audiences. This is where the outdoor spaces of farms can step in and provide #OnFarmCulture.
Tim Ashton, Masters graduate and more recently research partner and student assessment supporter at Harper Adams, has seen the potential of his farmland space to help those in the local area trying to keep theatres in business. To do so, the Shropshire farmer working at Soulton Hall created an earthen amphitheatre on his land, shaping a space for actors to perform.
Naming it The Sanctuary (after one of the structures near Stonehenge), Tim was inspired to help local am-dram groups, harkening back to a time where any space was a stage; the story of Shakespeare’s troupe, The King’s Men, visiting Shropshire during the plague of 1603 to keep culture alive was particularly influential.
Tim commented: “We are honouring what they did. We are not the only generation to face this.
"There is a serious crisis in live performance and farming ought to lean in and help."
We were just on @BBCRadio2 talking to @theJeremyVine about efforts made here to defend an enable culture and live performance notwithstanding the need for safety and restrictions in the current situation #onfarmculture@EmmaKennedy pic.twitter.com/kiZol4oTMm— Soulton Hall (@SoultonHall) August 6, 2020
Tim's venture so far has been very successful, with a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream set to hit the stage this September, followed by two productions by the National Youth Theatre. Their performances will focus on a response to climate crisis named Melt and a new version of Animal Farm. “In the face of immense challenges and pressure to help restore our precious cultural offering we all have a responsibility to try and make theatre happen,” says Paul Roseby, NYT’s artistic director. “Tim is leading that initiative quite literally from the ground up with his new earth amphitheatre.”
Through his work, Tim hopes to set an example to his fellow farmers and others who may have spare outdoor space that they can offer for the arts, to be enjoyed by the community and connect two industries that may have more in common than appears at face value.
A farmer from Shropshire is building an outdoor amphitheatre on his land, in the hope it can stage performances while traditional theatres remain closed, due to the pandemic. Tim Ashton's confident the structure will be ready to use next month. ?? https://t.co/g1rnQue6vx pic.twitter.com/q5wDSZlSM4— BBC Midlands Today (@bbcmtd) August 12, 2020
To see all of the performances set to be at The Sanctuary, click here. To learn more about the skills that have helped Tim to establish his own farm business and be able to diversify in this way, check out our agriculture courses here.