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A large community ensemble onstage all lifting candles and dressed in white and cream colours

Creating extraordinary acts of theatre and community

Public Acts builds sustained partnerships with theatres and community organisations across the UK who share our vision of theatre as a force for change.

Since 2017, we have been working in partnership with organisations delivering visionary work in their communities, in Greater London, Hornchurch and Doncaster. Our community members take part in regular workshops, theatre trips and creative social opportunities. Through our partnerships, and in collaboration with theatre artists and professional performers, the community comes together to make ambitious large-scale productions.

To mark the fifth anniversary of Public Acts in 2023, a new journeying production of The Odyssey was told in five episodes by community companies across the country: at Restoke in Stoke-on-Trent, Cast in Doncaster, Trowbridge Town Hall in Trowbridge, Sunderland Culture in partnership with Sunderland Empire Theatre in Sunderland and at the National Theatre in London.

Our Values

We believe:

  • Theatre making is a powerful form of community building
  • Everyone is an artist and has the right to artistic expression
  • We do our best work when we learn from one another, as people and organisations
  • Our core values: Open, Generous and Brave

We hope:

  • To give people the space to come together and see ourselves and the world differently
  • To connect people, ideas and places
  • To create space for discovery, difference and joy
  • To build community and make great theatre


The Odyssey was the five-episode story of Odysseus’ epic journey, created by and performed at our partner organisations across the UK. The journey of Odysseus, the most resilient of heroes, told a universal story of endurance, loss, healing and of finding a way forwards together. We are so proud of our collaboration with communities from across the country who told this story of hope as one united national company.

Each part of The Odyssey was written by a local writer: Gabriella Gay for Stoke-Upon-Trent, Tajinder Singh Hayer for Doncaster, Florence Espeut-Nickless for Trowbridge, Lindsay Rodden for Sunderland, and returning writer Chris Bush for Episode 5 in London, who was also dramaturg for the whole story.

The Galley

Journeying alongside the productions, The Galley appeared in public places including markets, local beaches and parks to collect messages of remembrance from the local community.

A 10-metre-long ship crafted from sustainable materials including bamboo and rope, The Galley represented Odysseus’ epic voyage and the nationwide connection between the communities who told the story. After each of the episodes, The Galley transformed into the stage of a closing ceremony to pass the baton of the storytelling forward.

A wooden boat covered in ribbons being carried into the sea by six people

Photo © Joseph Lynn

Our Odyssey partners

We work in partnership with organisations delivering visionary work in their communities across the country.



Outer East London and South Essex

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
Tribe Theatre House's logo.


Trybe House Theatre and National Theatre
A photo of the frontage of the Restoke building in Stoke-on-Trent



What we’ve made together

An amazing experience – life changing, and in some ways life affirming, seeing so many people from so many backgrounds working together.– Hornchurch Community Member

The Magic of Wild Heather

A community cabaret with food, music and storytelling, created at Cast by the people of Doncaster.

A portrait of different individuals, with actors Susan Wokoma and Anita Dobson at the front
Play Video

We Begin Again

A musical for 2020, with a multi-generational cast of over 100 of our Public Acts community members from Doncaster and London.

Community partners

The impact of Public Acts

We worked with the Public Acts community members and Professor Helen Nicholson on research into the benefits of the programme.

Ayesha Dharker as Simonida with cast, surrounding a Maypole, in Pericles
Play Video

Public Acts: A Story of Hope

Participants from the first two years of Public Acts, Director Emily Lim, and lead researcher Dr Helen Nicholson share what the impact of the programme has been for them and their communities.

Finding community

At the heart of the project is the simple idea of connection, between people, community organisations, and theatres. Public Acts creates conditions for individuals to overcome isolation and builds community and cohesion among participants from a wide range of backgrounds.

I’ve never had conversations with so many different people and have them share parts of themselves, their stories and their experiences. That completely transformed me as I’d never been around such diverse people. Seeing how brave other people were made me brave.– Layla, Participant, (August 2019)

Feeling confidence

Almost all participants in Public Acts reported significantly increased confidence and a sense of achievement as a result of taking part in the programme, with many taking up new creative interests. For many participants this change translated positively into their wider lives, including areas which are directly subject to social spending, from improved physical and mental health to resuming training or finding employment.

Public Acts really changed my life. I’ve found the confidence to apply for a job, and I’ve got a job – for seven months now. I didn’t have the bravery to do that before. Performing is the one thing that I really enjoy and feel confident in and Public Acts has really helped me. I never went out much before and I’m now much more adventurous.
– Rowanne, Participant (August 2019)
A large community ensemble onstage all lifting candles and dressed in white and cream colours
Play Video

Making Pericles, our first Public Acts production

Delivering for community partners

Public Acts delivered workshops tailored to meet the social aims of community partners. All community partners increased their high-quality arts and cultural activities as a result of Public Acts, reconsidering the role of creative activity in delivering their core aims and values. The programme developed staff confidence in approaching arts and cultural organisations for future collaboration and increased understanding of the skills and resources needed to undertake successful partnership work.

Catalysing change for theatres

For the two theatres, the opportunity to build a sustained relationship over two years with participants and community organisations led to deep and often lasting partnerships that are shaping new agendas. The involvement required from staff across all departments to support the programme facilitates wider changemaking, from audience diversity to strengthening inclusive theatrical practices.

Enthusiasm for Public Acts was infectious and spread across the theatres to include many staff in different parts of the organisation. Theatre professionals learned about inclusive working practices in workshops and rehearsal, and discovered the limits and potential of their theatre buildings to accommodate such large and inclusive

Public Acts has informed conversations about inclusivity in theatre and its role in social justice and the health of communities across the nation.

Welcoming new audiences

Although audience research was not the primary focus of the first two years of Public Acts’ research, our findings showed that both productions attracted significant numbers who were new to theatre and new to the National Theatre and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch.

Their positive experience of both Public Acts productions inspired people to attend more regularly and take part in theatre themselves. Public Acts connected theatres to wider audiences, placing theatre at the heart of local and national communities, paving the way for new forms of audience development that are inclusive, co-creative and socially responsible.

Read the full Public Acts research report

Read the short version of the Public Acts research report

Our funders

Theatre Nation Partnerships is generously supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund and Garfield Weston Foundation.

Public Acts is supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The CareTech Charitable Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Mosawi Foundation, The 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust and Susan Miller and Byron Grote.

Find out more about supporting our work

The Public Acts team

Emily Lim
Ros Terry
Senior Producer
Lara Taylor
James Blakey
Senior Associate Director

As You Like It photos © Camilla Greenwell
The Doncastrian Chalk Circle
photos © Robling Photography
The Magic of Wild Heather 
photo © Sam Taylor
photos © James Bellorini

Cynthia DuBerry
Associate Producer
Hollie Smith
Project Manager
Amy Sutters

If you would like to get in touch with the Public Acts team please email