stf Theatre | Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory
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Statement on the future of stf – 14th October 2021


Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory (STF) will no longer produce plays. It is using its remaining funds to establish a small annual bursary for theatre students. 


For 21 years, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory (stf) has produced plays by Shakespeare and other classic authors at Tobacco Factory Theatres in Bristol. 


During this time, our large-cast productions, mostly directed by founder Andrew Hilton, have gained praise from national media and developed new audiences in our South Bristol home. We have worked with guest directors including Sir Jonathan Miller, Polina Kalinina, Richard Twyman and Elizabeth Freestone.


Since 2013 we have undertaken an annual touring schedule across the UK and internationally, visiting Germany for four consecutive years and Romania in 2016. Our tours have been generously supported by grants from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, by supporters of our Touring and Education Circle, with funding from trusts and foundations and a generous donation from a patron and charity member.


From 2018 we worked with director Elizabeth Freestone and a company of local, national and recent graduate actors and creatives. Our tour of Henry V in 2018 was our most ambitious to date, opening at the Ustinov Studio, Bath Theatre Royal for five weeks, heading overseas to Germany, followed by four weeks at Tobacco Factory Theatres and a seven-week UK-wide autumn tour. 


In March 2020, we were forced to postpone our production and tour plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We refocused our efforts on securing grant income from two rounds of the DCMS Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to offer freelance employment, participation and audience opportunities, both in-person and digitally. 


The CRF award allowed us to present a new production of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, working with a local creative team and the University of Bristol. We also developed a podcast series, ‘What would Shakespeare do in a pandemic?’


However, during the past two years it has become clear that we will not be able to develop our large-cast touring productions without substantial grant funding. It is therefore with some sadness that we would like to share the news that the company will no longer be developing theatrical productions.


We are nevertheless still keen to support aspiring artists and theatre professionals and are pleased to be able to be establishing a small annual student bursary that will be offered through the Quartet Community Foundation in Bristol. This bursary is a fitting next step for the charity, supporting our aims to encourage and foster an appreciation of the performing arts; to enable people to realise their ambitions in theatre; and to promote greater access and diversity for actors and theatre creatives. Details are still being finalised, but we expect to launch the fund by the end of 2021 and will provide further details in the coming weeks on our website.


Stf Chair of Trustees, Kerrie Hunt, said: “Over the past 21 years, stf has done far more than merely fulfil its mission to bring great theatre to the public and grow support for the musical and performing arts. 


“Stf has supported new talent in Bristol, providing roles for actors, producers, musicians and technicans, which granted them national and international visibility. We are indebted to the talented and dedicated actors, freelancers and management teams with whom we have worked so closely during this time and proud to have helped to foster the next generation of Shakespearian theatre professionals.


“It’s been a pleasure to support the charity as a Trustee for 11 years and to contribute to such innovative, powerful productions of Shakespeare plays. From my first experience of a production with Andrew Hilton’s Richard II to Elizabeth Freestone’s Much Ado About Nothing, our plays have been a joy and a revelation of what can be achieved with clarity, vision and a wonderful ensemble company. The organisation has always brought new talent into the theatre and, whilst it is with a heavy heart that we have taken this decision to bring our touring productions to a close, we are delighted that our new bursary will continue to support actors and creative practitioners in Bristol and its surrounds.”


Stf’s website and social media accounts will continue to stay open and our trustees will remain in place to oversee the bursaries. 


We will update this page soon with further information about applying for a bursary and how to support the annual bursary fund.