The groundbreaking venue will tour Greater Manchester, opening with a new arts festival this month

It’s been an eventful summer for the Royal Exchange theatre: not only have two new artistic directors joined its team following the departure of Sarah Frankcom, it’s also launched The Den - a groundbreaking pop-up theatre - thanks to a £1 million gift from the Oglesby Charitable Trust. 

The Den officially launches on Tuesday 13 August in Stalybridge Civic Hall with a ‘festival of theatre, workshops and family fun’

Created with award-winning architectural studio Haworth Tompkins, this roving venue will tour Greater Manchester as part of Local Exchange; an ambitious long-term programme that aims to bring communities together through theatre, with a new residency every three years. 

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The Den can be built and dismantled by its audience

Working with everyone from housing associations to libraries, food banks to arts organisations - alongside local ambassadors, professional artists and the team at Royal Exchange - Local Exchange will develop tailor-made events for each community. Past projects have already uncovered a wealth of interesting stories; from the ‘hidden Cheetham Hill neighbourhood where only retired fairground workers can live’ to Jessie ‘The Cropper,' who used to cut people’s hair in exchange for a brick. Former collaborations are equally diverse, spanning Dukinfield Pantry to Abraham Moss Primary School and the Jewish Museum. 

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Local Exchange will create workshops, performances and happenings that are tailor-made to each community

Designed to sit within a larger found space, The Den was designed for maximum creativity and minimum environmental impact. With co-operation at its heart, it’ll be constructed and operated with the residents of each community - who’ll also become its ushers, box office, technical team and audience. 

Haworth Tompkins director Roger Watts said of ‘this exciting and crucially important project’ that it’s “architecture for our changing times: where communities are under pressure; where energy and resources are precious and where finding common ground across barriers of difference is essential. As architects, engineers, designers and theatre makers, we hope our team can rise to the challenge of creating a very-low carbon, super-lightweight, 180 seat portable auditorium that is capable of being built and dismantled by its audience.” 

Following two weeks of Den-related activities with Dukinfield residents, The Den officially launches on Tuesday 13 August in Stalybridge Civic Hall with a ‘festival of theatre, workshops and family fun.’ Opening with A Tameside Story - a truly intergenerational show created with local youth groups, Age UK Tameside and the likes of carnival organisation Global Grooves -  it’ll continue with everything from There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (a Royal Exchange show based on the Luddite Rebellion) to dance, poetry and children’s storytime.

The Den’s next venue will be Spinners Mill in Leigh, where it’ll take up residence in 2020. Find out more at