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© Paul L. McGowan
Tenderfoot Theatre CIC is an ecotheatre company based in Lancashire.
As a collaborative team of researchers, designers, and theatre-makers, our mission is to create bold theatrical works about climate change – with sustainable practice embedded into all we do.
The name Tenderfoot Theatre came from the same place we did – as young makers, entering the world of professional theatre-making for the first time. The word ‘Tenderfoot’ refers to a raw, inexperienced person, one on a new journey of discovery. While we are no longer the novice theatre makers we were as students, the journey into new experience and learning is one we begin again every day – especially when it comes to our planet. And so, as the name suggests, our journey is one that invites you to move with tender, gentle feet – and tread carefully on our great planet.
The Tenderfoot project started in 2019, at Edge Hill University where we were studying Drama. Excited to begin our careers in theatre, we looked ahead to the industry we were to graduate into; as a record summer of climate protests began. Two things became clear – firstly, there is much work to be done to future-proof our industry for generations to come, and secondly – there is a world of incredible researchers and makers already acting to make this a reality, a community we are now a growing part of, and one we encourage everyone to join.
And so the project began. Combining our passion for sustainability with our love of theatre, Tenderfoot began a research and development project which aimed to use theatre to raise awareness of climate change-related issues, while developing new and improved ways to deliver live performance in a more planet-friendly way.
Following an extended break through the pandemic, Tenderfoot restarted our research and practice as a resident company at The Chapel: Ormskirk Arts House. Our debut show was created there as part of the Climate Change Theatre Action Festival 2021, and since then we've developed community-facing works to raise awareness of ocean plastic, eco-anxiety, and family planning in the face of climate change, and the importance of green spaces in communities. In 2022, we took our debut touring production Stop the World, We're Getting Off out on the road for its UK tour which included a two-week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, before winding up the tour at Edge Hill where we would then begin our Arts Centre residency in 2023. Since then, we have gone on to develop a range of works – from short plays to digital pieces, installations and spoken word. You can find out more about our current and past projects here.
Tenderfoot Theatre is an active part of the SustainNET community, in partnership with Edge Hill's Institute of Social Responsibility. Our work with SustainNET includes our 'Test Tubes and Time Travel' webinar delivery, running information stalls, interactive games and performing at the Green Fair in 2022, and developing a new piece 'While You Wait' for the Lancashire Climate Action and Net Zero forum in May of this year. We are also part of the team developing the Ormskirk Flourish Café - a world café initiative aimed at engaging local people with the local environment and gathering climate concerns within the community.
Edge Hill University
We are currently in residency at The Arts Centre, Edge Hill University, where we provide shadow placements and guest talks and lectures. We have partnered with the performing arts department to offer 'The Ecotheatre Lab', our 2-week intensive, experimental ecotheatre making course, working with students from a range of disciplines to devise and create an original piece of ecotheatre around a sustainable theme.
The Ecostage Pledge
The Ecostage Pledge is a new global initiative for the performing arts sector that aims to place ecological thinking at the heart of creative practice. We have taken the Ecostage pledge, as part of our commitment to sustainable working practices.
We use a range of methods to create sustainable and eco-focused theatre, with community and togetherness at the heart of all that we do.
Our costume design takes a three-fold approach: upcycle, repurpose and experiment. In the past, we have sourced costumes from vintage army surplus, made faux leather from kombucha scobies and used waste PPE materials in our designs. We like to step outside the box and inspire curiosity when sourcing materials.
We look to create a 'performance environment' on stage with our set. Our definition of a 'performance environment' is a transformative, sensory setting which blurs the boundaries between stage and audience. We aim to combine lighting, soundscape, physical setting and on-stage preset in a holistic way to create a living performance space. This builds community and breaks down barriers in order to promote sustainable engagement.
When looking to build or source set pieces, we construct with end of life in mind. This means we think about what the item will be after it has finished its journey with us. We do this to avoid anything going to landfill or being unusable for the future. Examples of the next steps for items: donating, composting, keeping or repurposing.
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