Celebrating Surrey arts festival with Leatherhead's Freewheelers

PUBLISHED: 20:58 16 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:35 20 February 2013

Every month in the lead-up to the Celebrating Surrey arts festival at Loseley Park in June, Surrey Life will be profiling some of those participating. First up, we meet Viv Colvill, the director of The Freewheelers Theatre Company

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2010

The countys first ever, large-scale outdoor festival of arts and culture, Celebrating Surrey, takes place in June at the historic Loseley Park in Guildford. Every month in the lead-up to the event, Surrey Life will be profiling some of those participating. First up, we meet Viv Colvill, the director of The Freewheelers Theatre Company

So tell us about your group...
We are an integrated theatre company based in Leatherhead but working across Surrey. The Freewheelers bring together disabled and non-disabled actors, production teams and the local community, using theatre and dance, wheelchair and voicebox technology and more, to create innovative work. We like to work collaboratively, surprise people and challenge perceptions, and dont like barriers, rules or conventions.

The main company of 15 actors creates innovative theatre and runs weekly workshops in dance, drama and media that are open to everyone and we have annual showings and performances. Everyone is welcome and we are currently looking for new and dedicated performers.

Another massive achievement is that we have recently received the Inspire Mark for some of our dances. This initiative recognises exceptional projects inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games.

What is most worth celebrating about the arts in Surrey?
The diversity. This has been nurtured and encouraged by the Surrey Arts team of Surrey County Council. This festival will bring people together to inspire and learn from each other and it will give us the opportunity to reach new audiences, raising our ambitions even higher.

Is there a Surrey artist or actor who you particularly admire?
Members of our group particularly admire Lucy and Richard Quinnell, of the Fire and Iron Gallery in Leatherhead, as well as the likes of Sir Michael Caine and Dame Judi Dench.

Where in Surrey do you go to seek inspiration?
We are currently working at The Bridge Centre in Leatherhead and we find the grounds around the centre, which are mercifully flat, most inspiring. There are beautiful gardens with thought-provoking sculptures by the Fire and Iron Gallery. The woods behind the centre are shady and beautiful. We have ambitions to film in bluebell woods and meadows, in old woodlands and beside rivers, but we need places that are accessible for wheelchairs. Perhaps readers can help us with suggestions?

Which is your favourite theatre in the county and why?
The Leatherhead Theatre, formerly the Thorndike. Its a wonderful building and has, we believe, the finest auditorium and stage in the county. We perform there often, and the staff are excellent. We are currently working with them to make the theatre more accessible both to disabled audiences and performers. It needs and deserves support.

Finally, will you be creating anything special for Celebrating Surrey?
We are in the early stages of creating a large-scale performance piece for 2012, and some of the building blocks for this will be ready by the summer to show at Loseley Park.

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