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Red Ladder Theatre Company


The Shed Crew at Leeds Central Library

We are delighted that Leeds Central Library will be hosting a conversation with Rod Dixon (Artistic Director of Red Ladder Theatre Company) and Kevin Fegan (writer of the stage production THE SHED CREW) plus special guests.

Rod and Kevin will be discussing the subjects and wider issues depicted in the play, and there will be the opportunity for the audience to ask Rod and Kevin questions.

Kevin formed a close relationship with Bernard Hare (author of Urban Grimshaw and The Shed Crew), and his playscript has been inspired by Bernard’s original memoir, set in 1990s Leeds in the area of East End Park.

Rod has been at the helm of Red Ladder for over a decade, but this project is a unique challenge for the company, both in scope and scale. Rod is extremely excited to bring this incredible, poignant, and vital tale to a new audience, to be performed in the unusual and atmospheric surroundings of Albion Electrics Warehouse, LS10.

Kevin is also launching a production of ‘The Ruck’ at Lawrence Batley Theatre on Friday 15 September 2017, before the show embarks on a regional tour. He also has “Down The Line” and “Bess – the Commoner Queen” opening at The Guildhall Theatre, Derby before commencing on a national tour.

Wednesday 27 September 2017 at 1pm in Room 700, Leeds Central Library

This event is free but advance booking is required. 

Book Here>>

The Damned United Heads to London!

We are thrilled to announce that following a stomping month-long run at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe (2 – 28 Aug, Pleasance Courtyard), THE DAMNED UNITED continues its UK-wide tour this autumn with a week-long run at Pleasance Islington, in the heart of London.

Down the stairs… Along the corridor… Round the corner… Into the dressing room… HIS dressing room. Hateful, hateful place Spiteful, spiteful place. Dirty, dirty Leeds. 1974. Brian Clough, the enfant terrible of British football, tries to redeem his career and reputation by winning the European Cup with his new team. Leeds United. The team he has openly despised for years, the team he hates and which hates him. Don Revie’s Leeds. Adapted from David Peace’s brilliant and ingenious novel, The Damned United takes you inside the tortured mind of a genius slamming up against his limits, and brings to life the beauty and brutality of football, the working man’s ballet.

More Details Here>>

And why not spend 3 minutes with author of the critically acclaimed novel (of the same name) that inspired Red Ladder’s stage adaptation, David Peace. Six Questions for David Peace>>


Presenting The Shed Crew!

A stage play in verse by Kevin Fegan; adapted from the book URBAN GRIMSHAW AND THE SHED CREW by Bernard Hare

21 September – 1 October: Albion Electric warehouse, Leeds, LS10 1PR.

Age guidance: 16+


We were totally off the lead, we took care of our own needs and we grew like rampant weeds in the financial flower-bed of the North. Yes, we were Thatcher’s illegitimate bastards but we didn’t need saving, we were children of the rave scene and we knew how to party in the graveyard of Leeds.’

Take a trip back to the techno-thumping 1990s and join THE SHED CREW in Ashtrayland, home of the damned, in an immersive large-scale performance unfolding all around in the vast Albion Electric warehouse. Author Bernard Hare’s ground-breaking 2005 book Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew is adapted for the stage for the first time by playwright Kevin Fegan, as Red Ladder Theatre Company supported by West Yorkshire Playhouse present this darkly funny memoir about former social worker ‘Chop’ and his remarkable bond with The Shed Crew.

When Chop meets charismatic Urban – an illiterate 12-year-old but with a real talent for words, and a penchant for glue-sniffing and firebombing – he’s brought into the inner-circle of The Shed Crew: a posse of dispossessed kids: runaways and joyriders, seeking sanctuary in a shed from the mean streets of their inner-city estate. When mum’s a junkie, your dad might as well be dead and grown-ups are all nonces, grasses and greedy-bastards, The Crew is the only family you need.

Award-winning playwright Kevin Fegan (OBAMA THE MAMBA/SLAVE) has adapted Hare’s searingly honest memoir into an ingenious new play which captures the explosive energy of this extraordinary story.

He says, “Chop and Urban’s relationship is like a buddy movie: a strange pairing of a middle-aged man and a 12-year-old boy who go on a wild trip, with the Shed Crew as its chorus. Their story explodes like a firework, and I needed to capture the energy of these feral kids. It’s the warts and all honesty that I most admire, and the humanity that you warm to – Bernard Hare tells the good and the bad in his book because that’s the truth; he includes himself in that. It’s not about how we can go marching in and help – it’s what we can take from these kids and their experiences. There’s a lot in The Shed Crew for the rest of us to learn.”

THE SHED CREW is directed by artistic director Rod Dixon and performed by a company of eight northern actors: Jamie Smelt (Chop); Adam Foster (Urban); James Lewis (Sparky/Frank); Lladel Bryant (Skeeter/Sam/Shed Crew); Shireen Farkhoy(Thieving Little Simpkins/Pixie/ Teezer), Tanya Vital (Pinky/Greta), Leanne Rowley (Molly/Stella/Kara/Natasha); Liz Simmons (Trudi).  

Author Bernard Hare is the son of a mining family, and returned to his home estate in Leeds in the 1990s after becoming disillusioned working as a social worker in London. It’s here that he met ‘Urban’ and was introduced to The Shed Crew – a group of dispossessed children who had fallen through the cracks, let down by the system. Often colluding in their wildness – but the only grown-up that they trust –  ‘Chop’ became their unlikely mentor, introducing these kids to the arts, and learning far more from them in return. Hare wrote Urban Grimshaw and The Shed Crew after Fergal Keane shot a notorious BBC documentary in the area; inspiring him to write his memoir to show the reality of life for people that had been socially excluded, and giving a voice to the voiceless.

Twenty years on from the events of the book, Red Ladder Theatre Company is presenting the world premiere staging of this acclaimed work of literature. It is partnering with Simon on the Streets and working with the Leeds Poverty Truth Commission to work with communities and start a conversation about extreme poverty. An artistic outreach programme is taking place and Red Ladder is making THE SHED CREW as accessible as possible, tailoring some performance times around the specific needs of community groups.

Rod Dixon says, “There have been massive leaps forward and huge changes since Bernard Hare’s book was written, and we’re not looking back to the past in bringing this incredible artwork to the stage. As one of Britain’s leading radical theatre companies this story is one that Red Ladder still needs to tell – as vast sections of society across Britain exist in extreme poverty; forgotten communities living parallel lives in austerity against the glossy veneer of commerce and consumerism.  We’re thrilled to have the Albion Electrics warehouse as a venue in which we will immerse people into this world; one from which we can all learn about ‘survival’ and family and the power of humanity and the arts.”

Tickets for The Shed Crew go on sale today (Monday 17 July, 11am) and can be booked through West Yorkshire Playhouse on Tel: 0113 213 7700 /

Red Ladder will re-enter Arts Council England’s National Portfolio

We are delighted to announce that Red Ladder Theatre Company will re-enter Arts Council England’s National Portfolio.

Artistic director, Rod Dixon, says,

“This is fantastic news; the best possible outcome as Red Ladder heads into our 50th year. We see this as a great vote of confidence from Arts Council England in what we’ve achieved through a challenging time – but one in which we’ve thrived; through passion and dedication for what we do, and with the overwhelming support of our fans and peers.

Through project grants, creative partnerships and the backing of donors and creative collaborators, we’ve realised our ambitions and delivered a really successful body of work. We now have the funding to build on this with a bold and exciting new programme of work, taking us into our 50th year as a radical arts company that is committed to making theatre for the many, not the few.

We intend to further our touring work, taking new writing into communities where there traditionally is low engagement with the arts; and we have a number of productions in the pipeline as we commission and produce relevant plays that highlight injustice and drive social change. We remain committed to nurturing diverse artistic voices by removing barriers that far too often prevent new talent from developing in the arts. With this four-year funding and with the continued support of our fans, collaborators and Ladderistas – who are so vital to what we do – we’re looking forward to putting these plans into action for our milestone year, and our future.”

Red Ladder looks forward to delivering its artistic programme as a National Portfolio organisation once more, and to announce plans for its 50th anniversary in 2018.

Ladderista Membership Scheme Launch!

Come and join us as we launch our new fundraising membership scheme: the Ladderistas!

The Ladderistas initiative is looking to build upon the success of our 2014 Save Red Ladder Campaign and help us reach our 50th year in 2018. So, Thursday 2nd March from 7.30pm we will be at the Black Swan on Call Lane, Leeds to tell you all about the scheme and what we’re planning leading up to our birthday and how you can get involved! There will be refreshments plus, you will be able to catch a performance of Wrong ‘Un!

In 2015 we very nearly ceased to exist, so by becoming a Ladderista, you would be helping us to reach our 50th year and to continue to make great, necessary theatre long beyond it.

Entry is free but to help us gauge refreshment requirements it would be great if you could let us know if you were coming via the Eventbrite link but it will be possible just to turn  so come and join us to find out more. But places are strictly limited, so please click here to reserve your place!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Book Here>>

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Red Ladder receives 2016 BAC Cataloguing Grant!

We are delighted to have been announced as winners of The Business Archives Council cataloguing grant for business archives related to the Arts, 2016. The Arts grant was launched in 2013 to support an under-represented area of business archives and to complement wider initiatives for archiving the arts by The National Archives and the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives.

The judges were very impressed with the high standard of the applications that were received from across the country, but ultimately decided to present the award to Special Collections, Leeds University Library & Red Ladder Theatre Company for the cataloguing of our company archives.

The grant will fund the cataloguing of our records, dating from 1971 to 2014.  These contain board minutes, tour plans, articles, scripts, set drawings and publicity materials. Currently, the lack of hand or box lists means that the collection is inaccessible and so the project to catalogue it in-depth will make a clear difference.

 ‘The judges recognised that the Archives of Red Ladder Theatre Company could be not only a strong research resource for theatre and performance (a subject strength within special collections at Leeds University Library), but also in the under-represented area of radical theatre. As the company has focused on disadvantaged communities and multiculturalism, and working with living playwrights, it also has the potential to open new avenues of research into the arts and performance in West Yorkshire and beyond. “Red Ladder were and remain absolutely pivotal…, being, now, the longest lasting of all the groups that came out of 1968. Their history is also the history of alternative and community theatre over the past 40 years, and so it offers a unique and irreplaceable perspective.” (Dr Bill McDonnell, Senior Lecturer at Sheffield University).’

After a vigorous recruitment campaign by the University of Leeds we are delighted to announce that Fiona Gell, Special Collections Team Assistant and Coordinator of the Leeds Big Bookend Festival was successful in her application to work on the Red Ladder Archive. 

More Info>>

Wrong ‘Un is Back!

Wrong ‘Un continues its amazing never ending tour with a couple of new bookings in the diary at The Square Chapel in Halifax on Saturday the 26th of November and at The Queen’s Hall in Hexham on Friday 9th of December. It will be part of a double bill, called Convicts and Lunatics, exploring one hundred years of wayward woman with dangerous ideas! As part of the double bill we are delighted to be showcasing a fantastic new piece from Gracefool Collective about what it means to be a woman today.


Wrong ‘Un


Set in February 1918, after several decades of protest and four years of bloody war, Parliament is poised to grant what the suffragettes have demanded and fought for – votes for all women.  Join the brilliantly talented performer Ella Harris as she tells Annie Wilde’s fascinating story through acappella song, words and music.

Part of the ‘clog and shawl’ brigade, Annie is just one of the thousands of unseen working-class women who dedicated themselves to the suffrage movement. As humourous and uplifting as it is thought-provoking, ‘Wrong ‘Un’ explores class, privilege and hope in wartime England and honours the many women who dedicated themselves to transforming the political landscape for the generations who followed.


This really is too much


Outlandish, theatrical and highly entertaining, ‘This really is too much’ delves into a world of farcical stereotypes and preposterous power struggles. With irreverent physicality, four characters wrestle with restriction, gender and performance of identity, trying desperately to work out which box they fit into.

Amusing and thought provoking in equal measure, this dance theatre performance reveals the downright absurd realities of what it means to be a 3-dimensional, high definition, water-drinking, salad-eating, moisturizing WO-man in modern society.


Halifax Tickets>>

Hexham Tickets>>

Leeds Lads Screening Event

Relive Leeds Lads on the big screen at Carriageworks Theatre, Millennium Square, Leeds as we invite you to a cinematic version of the stage show – a kind of Red Ladder Live!

The film screening of our latest production Leeds Lads, will take place at The Carriageworks Theatre on 12 October at 7.30pm.

If you are interested in coming along to this free screening event book online here >>

Thank you to all of the funders and supporters who made Leeds Lads possible including; Leeds InspiredLeeds City CouncilArts Council EnglandThe Carriageworks Theatre and Leeds Civic Arts Guild.

Strategic Tour Funding

Red Ladder Theatre Company has been awarded £186,463 by Arts Council England to deliver a programme of work in clubs and pubs across Yorkshire.

We will work with West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Civic Barnsley and Cast Doncaster to tour eight  exciting, challenging and relevant productions to fifteen non-traditional venues such as pubs, rugby league and sports & social clubs to maintain and develop new audiences across the region over the next two years.

Shows include Rabbitskin, The Life and Soul, Playing The Joker, Wrong ‘Un and We’re Not Going Back together with some brand new work.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan visits Carr Manor School Drama Group

Leeds Rhino’s Jamie Jones-Buchanan recently visited the Carr Manor School Drama Group, who are creating work inspired by our upcoming community project Leeds Lads.

A group of 14 students from Carr Manor Community School have been working on a devising project alongside Leeds Lads and examining the themes of the play. Their 15-minute piece called 104 Questions, will be performed before Leeds Lads on the Carriageworks stage on Monday 20 June at 7pm, press night for the show.

Jamie visited the school to talk to them about the challenges of acting, the character he will be playing and some information about the production. Students were then given the chance to ask Jamie anything they wanted to know about his acting experiences before Jamie himself led them in a warm-up exercise.

Speaking about preparations for the play Jones-Buchanan said: “Rehearsals for Leeds Lads are fantastic. Each cast member moves through the rehearsal with a real focus, like playing rugby, there’s a physical projection in acting and the communication is every bit as important as in a big game.  Every member works hard as an individual for the purpose of serving the team as a whole. The Director, Rod Dixon, like my coach Brian McDermott, has a huge amount of emotional awareness and knows how to produce an environment in which we can thrive as a group…  I am fortunate to be working with an extremely talented and diverse group of men and women.”