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Winter Wonders 2024
Audience Development Strategy

Establishing a New Space and Programme

Autumn 2024 - Spring 2025

Spun Glass Theatre is an award winning theatre production company based in Hastings, East Sussex. Spun Glass Theatre blends ground-breaking theatre making with excellent community engagement and creates bold, visual theatre productions for all ages. The performances and workshops we run and host utilise a range of theatre skills, including movement, puppetry, storytelling, and visual theatre devices. 

Mini Playhouse - a prototype venue to explore Early Years access

Christmas Spirits Performance at Mini Playhouse Hastings

our vision

Created and run by Spun Glass Theatre, Mini Playhouse aims to inspire a whole new generation of little theatre-goers in Hastings and St Leonards. 

Mini Playhouse is a creative hub that brings babies, toddlers, children, siblings and parents together, while immersing them in the magic of live performance, art and culture. 

Parent and Baby at Firsts enjoying Mini Playhouse Hastings

Project Description 

Winter Wonders - a season of programming by Spun Glass Theatre (SGT) for families with very young children aged 0-4 living in Hastings, East Sussex - an area of high deprivation where a quarter of children live in poverty. This season of diverse programming for over 4000 audience members and participants brings magic and wonder during cold winter months and enables us to improve accessibility of our new venue The Stade Hall for Early Years audiences.


Through this project we will take the first steps to move our fully accessible for early years audiences prototype venue Mini Playhouse to the Stade Hall, using our learning from this project to expand and improve our offer. We will move current Mini Playhouse activity such as Pheebs Sing School, Pitter Patter Dance, and Nightingale Music to Stade Hall, joining adult-focused work like belly dancing and craft fairs to widen our community offer.

Parent quotes in support of a continued warm space for families to experience culture in the winter months:

"Mini Playhouse is a safe; warm and creative space where I feel welcome and supported and see my baby develop and learn." - Becky 


"I've loved having a welcoming; warm; relaxed space to share some of the challenges of parenting; with a group of people who can relate but also support with friendship; solidarity and laughter. The space is comfortable; cosy and welcoming; and I love seeing how much my baby gets out of it." - Hannah


Belief in our community is what drives us. We have recently taken over the management of Stade Hall, a community venue in the heart of Hastings Old Town and, under the creative direction of Ross Drury and Dan Hutton, have begun programming early years theatre and family-oriented work alongside regular hires. According to Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019, Hastings ranks as the most deprived lower tier local authority in the South East by almost all measures. As such, we have a responsibility to explore best ways to create down to earth opportunities for people to engage with subsidised culture, blending groundbreaking theatre making with excellent community engagement.

Building on the work of Hastings’ Culture Led Regeneration Strategy 16-21, Stade Hall and Mini Playhouse encourage community cohesion and social engagement through accessible & diverse cultural activity and grows the creative economy by providing a high quality year long cultural programme. Co-creation is important to us and a strong methodology of participation is worked into our projects at all levels of delivery - from planning through to performance.

Our mission is to increase access to excellent Early Years live performance. We believe that the use of space is key to doing this. Theatres are built for adults in mind. Very young children do not understand theatre etiquette eg sit down, be quiet. Very dark studio theatres with open space are dangerous as toddlers move around they trip and fall. Mini Playhouse was a prototype project to explore Early Years access funded by ACE, East Sussex County Council, local funders and donations.

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After two years of successfully providing early years performance and creative activity at Mini Playhouse, Spun Glass Theatre will move to the larger, more accessible and sustainable Stade Hall.





After theatricalising the space and in partnership with local stakeholders, we’ll programme and deliver a series of varied, high-quality creative events for young audiences & families. This will help SGT to grow its audience, develop audiences for the future, and provide long-term options for theatrical provision in the heart of Hastings Old Town.

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“By making work for and with the very youngest audiences and their grown ups we are inviting people into a lifetime of enjoyment of the arts. We want Spun Glass Theatre to be a company which grows with you, inspires you, and comes full circle - so we welcome back children as they grow from our workshops to performances, and ultimately, one day, one of the babies we met at First returning as a parent themselves.”

Jessica Cheetham, Chair, Spun Glass Theatre

Spun Glass Theatre bio

We are a new charity based in Hastings, East Sussex creating family theatre and arts events to inspire heartfelt magical moments between children and caregivers.


In 2017 we mounted a national tour with Princess Charming a cabaret for kids gently exploring gender stereotypes. A co-production with Ovalhouse, we toured to Tobacco Factory Bristol, Cambridge Junction, ARC Stockton and 14 other venues across England and Wales, funded by Arts Council England.


Spun Glass Theatre shifted to a local, place based focus during Covid, levelling up with larger project management and an ambitious realisation of creative parent and baby groups five days a week across South East region with launch of First. Seeing how important space is to Early Years access to the arts we collaborated with designers Emma Chapman (Paines Plough Roundabout designer) and Graphite Design to co-create Mini Playhouse and a blueprint for a tourable accessible venue. We now have charitable status with mission to benefit the very young children in Hastings, 25% of whom live in poverty. 


"Mini Playhouse has been a warm and cosy port in the storm as I navigate the weird and wonderful world of new parenthood! It's been wonderful to see the babies gawp at the fun and interactive decor; share life chats with other parents; and have a lovely cuppa!" - Jenny 

Our ambition is to create a ripple effect of good Early Years practice for Hastings - standing as a beacon for Sussex - the place to go if you have small children and want to experience live performance. We are already seeing this effect with relaxed music performance by Ellie Westbrook, attracting performances of high calibre, creating partnerships with NPOs, Home Live Art and Hastings Contemporary looking to us for good Early Years practice.

Target Audience/Community Profile


Local family audiences - Families in Hastings, particularly those from low socioeconomic backgrounds with children aged 0-5. Since opening Mini Playhouse in 2022 we have welcomed over 1000 parents/carers, young children and babies through our doors. We have focussed on supporting children aged 0-4, particularly those from single parent households, with parents aged under 25 or claiming Universal Credit. 


"Mini Playhouse has been so important to me in building my parent community. It is such a welcoming and warm space and crucially provides an opportunity for mums to share and support each other." - Josie 


For Winter Wonders and the new seating bank configuration at Stade Hall, we’ll target our usual community of low income families in Hastings including families in Baird and Tressell wards which include areas which rank within the top 1% most deprived in England. By making performances PWYD and providing an open, inclusive experience when audiences arrive, we hope to attract these families back and invite others to join them.


Industry Audience


Industry audiences - Arts industry peers interested in innovating and diversifying Early Years performance. With Mini Playhouse and Stade Hall, we are the only venue specifically exploring Early Years accessibility in the region, so can provide learnings and networks for other early years practitioners and theatre organisations. During a launch event and when disseminating our learnings, we will engage with artists and arts professionals across the South-East, showcasing our learnings and answering their questions.

getting creative with ribbon at Firsts,

Hastings Old Town audiences

Although Stade Hall sits at the heart of Old Town, with its connection to the fishing fleet, the space and its management has historically been treated with suspicion by local residents. The Classroom on the Coast - a training kitchen housed within Stade Hall and also part of our management lease - was built in partnership with the fishing fleet to teach fish preparation and cooking, but after a short period of use and a change of management goodwill dissipated. In Stade Partnership meetings and in communication with other community members, it has become clear that the way to engage Old Town audiences is by opening the doors, making sure the space is clean and used, and providing a variety of events and performances throughout the year.

"As a visiting company to The Stade Hall, I fully endorse Spun Glass Theatre's plans to purchase adaptable seating banks. Stade Hall is currently a fantastic community space, but configurable seating would elevate how successful performance events can be in the space, and show a mark of quality for local communities. There is a strong need for flexible touring spaces to be able to host a wide range of events, so this asset purchase will be great value for money for Arts Council England, with a strong benefit for touring theatre, dance and music performance for years to come, as well as for audiences in Hastings." Stephanie Weller, Producer, PlayWell Productions

In order to deliver these objectives we have built strong partnerships with organisations of different scales who share our mission and purpose to bring excellent, entertaining theatre experiences to those least likely to engage:


  • Brass Bee Marketing 

  • Hastings Borough Council - working with councillors, who can we connect with to achieve these objectives, and the Council Estates team

  • Foreshore Trust

  • Stade Partnership organisations

  • Local nurseries/schools

  • Local artists and organisations who will hire Stade Hall Applause Rural Touring - building on this supportive relationship drawing on their many years of developing community performance spaces

  • Soundcastle to ensure we are reaching families from areas of high deprivation in Hastings.


Audience Development Objectives - Winter Wonder Season

  • Explore what it means to make theatre and performance in the local area meaningful and relevant for our target audiences with at least 75% of audience members rating events as ‘relevant/important’


  • Assess access requirements of target audience (children aged 0-4) in relation to their visit to Stade Hall, identifying improvements


  • Build Spun Glass Theatre’s reputation in Hastings and across the South East as leaders in Early Years performance making and venues.


  • Transform Hastings residents opinion about Stade Hall and increase Spun Glass Theatre’s visibility among our target audience


  • Increase engagement with 100 more audience members for this season overall than the Sail Away summer season


The Ceiling Canopy

The ceiling design for The Stade Hall is informed by the canopy created by Emma Chapman and Graphite Design for Mini Playhouse. Coloured strips delight very young children in a soft gentle way, not overwhelming with colour light and texture. We will seek to recreate this effect for the ceiling fabric design at Stade Hall

The adaptable seating banks

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The seating banks are safe, adaptable for any workshop or performance configuration and contain storage for Early Years resources and blankets/cushions. 

Without seating banks

Here are some photographs of our Christmas production Tales of Betwixtmass at Stade Hall in December 2023.While the Hall is atmospheric, without seating banks the presentation is flat and sight lines are an issue.  

Further detailed Audience Development Actions

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Make Your Mark

Make Your Mark workshops are key audience development activities, providing a space for free engagement with arts and culture in the centre of Hastings. Beginning in May 2024, the sessions have been well attended, designed by Early Years Specialist Abi Horn. The free sessions run Monday - Friday 2pm-4pm

Parent feedback includes: 

“It’s lovely to have something that is free”

“It’s so lovely and relaxed”

“great to find an afternoon activity”

"My little boy, who’s been quite shy, came in today with real confidence as he felt comfortable and familiar."

"My children have attended on a Tuesday every week since mark making started and love every week!"

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