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Liverpool Theatre Festival has been hailed a triumph for the troubled industry amid Pandemic
Photographs by David Munn...

Wide panaramic shot of church showing the seating in daylight - credit David Munn

LIVERPOOL Theatre Festival attracted almost 3,000 live performance fans across 9 days for its inaugural staging; with calls for it to become an annual event.  St Luke's Bombed Out Church in the heart of the City Centre provided the perfect backdrop for the 1st festival, which featured 19 show stopping performances of 12 productions.  Liverpool Theatre Festival was created by Liverpool theatre producer Bill Elms, whose mission it was to reinvigorate and boost the City's live performance and creative arts sector after a devastating 6 months due to Coronavirus and lockdown, with restrictions continuing further.

The Covid Secure venue followed stringent Government guidelines to ensure patrons felt safe in their surroundings.  The festival ended with a comedy performance by acclaimed Liverpool actor Andrew Lancel, in Swan Song, from award winning City playwright Jonathan Harvey, directed by BAFTA award winning director Noreen Kershaw. Swan Song was produced by Liverpool Theatre Festival, in association with Bill Elms Productions and Quarry Street. Originally written for a female lead, Jonathan Harvey adapted the play specially for Andrew Lancel to play the solo role at Liverpool Theatre Festival. The play is planning future productions across the UK to socially distanced audiences.

LTF20 lighting and stage during preformance within the Church - Credit David Munn

Liverpool Theatre Festival ran for 9 days, from 12 September to 20 September 2020, with some days hosting 4 live performances. The inclusive programme featured musical theatre, drama, comedy, cabaret, monologues, and children's shows.

Liverpool Theatre Festival programme opened with:- A Fairy Tale Journey Across The Mersey and Laughterhouse Comedy, and was followed by:- The Very Best Of Tommy Cooper, Sweet Mother, Shakers by John Godber, Deathly Confessions, Matinee Musical Classics, Music Of The Night, Judy and Liza, Hurrah For The Pirate King!, Something About Simon, and Swan Song.

LTF20 Daniel Taylor Tommy Cooper - Credit David Munn.

Producer and artistic director Bill Elms commented:- "The festival showed the public appetite for live theatre and entertainment is strong. People used the festival as escapism from these difficult times; it was the glimmer of hope we needed. A truly unforgettable and magical experience, and we were blessed with fabulous weather throughout. I'd like to thank every festivalgoer for their support and spreading the word far and wide. They put their trust in us to provide a safe environment and comfortable experience, and totally shared our passion and vision to bring back live performance.  The programme was packed with Liverpool talent including writers, performers, creative's and technicians. The teams behind the 12 productions were incredible for jumping on board at such short notice and adapting to meet festival guidelines. It wasn't easy and the changing guidelines proved testing, stacking the odds against us, but together we made it work and collectively made the inaugural Liverpool Theatre Festival a resounding success. St Luke's Bombed Out Church was the perfect setting; welcoming, fun, and dramatic at times with incredible lighting. We have been asked by festival goers and reviewers to make the festival an annual event so this is something we are already looking into, watch this space. Theatre is back."

Covid Secure measures, at St Luke's Liverpool, included:- temperature checks prior to entry; social distancing; hand sanitiser stations; reserved seating restricted to social bubble groups; and an app to order refreshments delivered to ticketholders at their seats. Audience capacity was reduced to ensure socially distanced seating; shows were limited to 1 act performances of no more than 75 minutes to minimise audience movement; maximum of 4 performers per production; cast and crew socially distanced and were temperature checked.

LTF20 Church Interior 2 - Credit David Munn.

Kate Jones from St Luke's Bombed Out Church added:- "We were extremely proud to host the very first Liverpool Theatre Festival. St Luke's was showcased as a stunning backdrop for audiences of all ages to enjoy live performance in the open air, it was special to see audiences settle in, take in the atmosphere and their surroundings, and lose themselves in a variety of fantastic shows. I'm extremely proud of our team's hard work to ensure our venue was completely COVID Secure. Ensuring bubbles were safely distanced, sanitising chairs before and after use, and taking drinks directly to customers all hugely contributed to making customers feel they could safely return to theatre. We thoroughly enjoyed working with Bill Elms on this hugely popular festival, and look forward to seeing more productions at St Luke's Bombed Out Church."

Visit:- LiverpoolTheatreFestival.Com for the latest news updates.

RNIB works with the LEGO Foundation to bring LEGO® Braille Bricks toolkits to children in the North West

Lego Braille Bricks - 19 NTRO

CHILDREN with vision impairment in the North West of England are set to benefit from LEGO® Braille Bricks toolkits thanks to the Royal National Institute of Blind People's (RNIB) work with the LEGO Foundation.

The toolkits have so far been distributed to:- Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Stockport Sensory Support Service, Cumbria County Council, Lancashire County Council, Salford City Council, Oldham Council, Inclusion Solutions Ltd (Lancashire), Wigan SSET, Halton Sensory Impairment Service (Cheshire), Wirral Sensory Services, Warrington Borough Council and Trafford Council.

LEGO Braille Bricks introduce a new way to help children with vision impairment develop tactile skills and learn the braille system. The kits are made up of approximately 300 LEGO bricks that are specially moulded so that the studs on top reflect individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet. The bricks also feature printed letters, numbers and symbols so that they can be used simultaneously by sighted peers, classmates, and Teachers in a collaborative and inclusive way.

LEGO Braille bricks on a gray base plate, along with a kids hand

The kits are being brought to the UK by RNIB, which worked with the LEGO Foundation to develop and test the Braille Bricks and will distribute toolkits to Schools and home Schooled children in the North West of England, from September 2020.

RNIB Director of Services, David Clarke said:- "We are excited to bring the LEGO Braille Brick toolkits to UK classrooms to help children learn how to read and write braille in a fun and engaging way. Braille is an important tool and these inclusive toolkits will make a real difference to children with vision impairment, allowing them to play and interact with their sighted classmates."

RNIB has also trained Teachers and support staff working with children with vision impairment in the teaching concept. Although the toolkit is intended as a playful introduction to braille for younger children aged from four up, it has also proven to have learning opportunities and benefits for children in Secondary School.

Senior Play and Health Specialist at the LEGO Foundation, Stine Storm, said:- "We are thrilled to launch the 1st wave of the LEGO Braille Bricks program and get the toolkits into the hands of children. With LEGO Braille Bricks, students and educators can tailor their activities in countless different ways to meet their needs and learning goals in a fun and inclusive manner. The possibilities for learning through play are endless, and we look forward to seeing how LEGO Braille Bricks can inspire children of all ages along their journey to learn braille."

The UK is 1 of several countries that LEGO Braille Bricks will launch in this year. The toolkits, or sets of bricks, are not on general sale and can only be ordered by heads of service from local sensory services. Heads of service can also nominate an education professional from Schools for children with vision impairment, or a QTVI (qualified Teacher of children and young people with vision impairment), to place an order on behalf of their area. For more information visit:- RNIB.Org.UK.

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