News from the Geopark

Exciting season of creative and cultural events for Paignton

3 Aug 2023

A major series of creative events has been announced for Torbay. The four-week programme titled Open Season is part of Torbay’s Cultural Development Fund project focused on Paignton Picture House.

Artists will collaborate with Paignton’s cultural and community partners in a series of events between 23 September and 22 October 2023. The creative and cultural programme is co-ordinated by local producing house Filament, with activity on the ground engaging local communities and visitors.

Open Season forms part of a substantial programme of work focused on capital improvements in Paignton. Centred on Paignton Picture House, it will eventually see the successful reopening of the historic grade 2-star listed landmark in 2025. The building is one of the earliest purpose-built cinemas in Europe which was popular with Torbay-born thriller writer Agatha Christie.

Torbay’s Cultural Development - Paignton Picture House is a collaboration between Torbay Council, Paignton Picture House Trust, South Devon College, Torbay Culture and the Agatha Christie Festival Limited. It is supported by the Cultural Development Fund, a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) fund, administered by Arts Council England.

The project has been made possible after Torbay Council (on behalf of the consortium) made a successful application to the government's Cultural Development Fund, securing almost £3million.

This funding, together with funding from the Future High Streets Fund, and grants from Historic England, the Architectural Heritage Fund and others is supporting the conservation, construction and fit-out works at Paignton Picture House. The town centre building has been a beloved landmark in Paignton since it opened in 1914, and its restoration will preserve an important part of the town's heritage.

The aims of the programme are to improve the attractiveness of places through culture, and to support cultural leadership, local skills and the economy.

'Murmuration' by Suzie West with Sound Communities. Photo credit: Marco Kesseler

Five new artistic projects have been commissioned to culminate during Open Season 2023, providing the focus for a range of exciting cultural events in Paignton town centre, with other planned projects currently in development with local cultural partners.

Choreographer Richard Chappell returns to his hometown of Paignton, bringing together professional and intergenerational community dancers to co-create a series of contemporary dance duets that explore time, age and our relationship to place. His project, ‘Vast Rocks Revisited’ draws inspiration from Dartmoor and Torbay’s coastline, their vast timelessness and how families experience them over generations. Dancers from Richard Chappell Dance will perform alongside young dancers in training and older community dancers, at indoor and outdoor locations in central Paignton in late September.

Rob Mennear is a dance artist based in Cornwall who creates immersive worlds for audiences and performers. Working with producer Suzie West, artists and technologists, ‘Moving Portraits’ will explore the relationship between people’s stories and public architecture. Combining live performance and multimedia, this project will delve into archives of local structures and the memories they hold and explore stories from today’s residents about their lives in Paignton. These forgotten spaces in central Paignton will become immersive storytelling environments for audiences at performances during Open Season weekender 20-22 October.

Moor To Sea Music Collective will collaborate with interdisciplinary artists, early years children and young people with additional needs to create an immersive play experience combining sensory, participative music making and storytelling. The project builds on existing participatory work in Paignton, including Moor to Sea’s long-term partnership with Doorstep Arts and early years groups locally. The space created will be open to the public during Open Season weekender 20-22 October in central Paignton.

Steve Sowden is a neurodivergent artist working across music and multimedia to draw out stories in his hometown of Paignton. In collaboration with composer and musician Emma Welton, his project, ‘Paignton Lights’ draws on childhood memories of Paignton Picture House as a beacon of imagination and window into other worlds. Involving live music, sound, film and community voices in song, a multimedia performance will capture the dreams gathered with Paignton’s residents and visitors - performed over Open Season weekender 20-22 October.

Kelly Bryant will create an immersive sculptural installation that reflects the layered history of Paignton Picture House and the stories held within its walls. Using found materials, surfaces and textures from the building before it closes for re-development, Kelly will capture the Picture House at a key moment in time. Stories, images and sounds from residents collected by Kelly and Sound Communities, will be shared through a 3D sculptural ‘screen’ which audiences can interact with during Open Season weekender 20-22 October in Paignton.

Over the summer, artists and cultural organisations will be collaborating on these exciting projects alongside community events and activities planned for Open Season 2023. Paignton Picture House, Sound Communities, Palace Theatre, Tonic Creatives, Doorstep Arts, Libraries Unlimited, Lucky 7 Club, Filament and others are supporting new creative activities for people of all ages to explore and enjoy.

Cllr Chris Lewis, Cabinet Member for Place Services and Economic Growth for Torbay Council, said: "We are delighted to see this ambitious and exciting cultural programme involving the community and leading local artists come to life. There will be events for all ages to enjoy as we celebrate the restoration of this important building and mark a significant step forward in the regeneration of the area."

Jacob Brandon, Chair of Torbay Culture, said: "Torbay Culture Board is pleased to be working with partners from across Torbay to put Paignton's Cultural Development Fund project at the heart of redevelopment in the town. A cultural programme launching this summer with a farewell to the Picture House before works commence, will, over the next two years, celebrate Paignton and its communities, showcasing the contribution of culture to health, wellbeing, and prosperity for our towns."

 Further details about Open Season will be announced over the summer. You can keep up to date visit the Paignton Picture House website and news pages of Torbay Culture website.