SPID Theatre Company was founded in 1999 by writer Helena Thompson. In 2003 director Rachel Grunwald collaborated with Helena to create ‘Bluebeard’s Wives’ (a multimedia fairytale co-produced by the ICA), and SPID’s central artistic partnership came to life. Helena and Rachel have worked together over the past 9 years to pioneer SPID’s unique aesthetic. From the very start we were inspired by creating stories weaving text with film, dance, performance art, puppetry and new music, and by responding to ‘found’, non-traditional spaces. Our work has always been designed to attract audiences otherwise, alienated by traditionally-staged theatre, especially the young.
In 2005 we were looking for a London home for our hit Edinburgh Fringe show, ‘Open House’. Seeking a non-theatrical space that would reflect the play’s disintegrating urban community, we found the neglected community rooms of the Kensal House council estate in Ladbroke Grove, West London. The show went so well that the council (RBKC) and Tenants Management Organisation asked us to take up residence. During rehearsals children and young people from the estate started knocking on the doors and asking to get involved, and our youth theatre was born. The architecture, social life and location of our home have inspired our work since. We have been commissioned by neighbouring councils, taken our work elsewhere, partnered with Off-West End Theatres such as The Gate, Riverside Studios and The Tricycle, but our heart lies in Kensal House.
The estate was designed by Modernist architect Maxwell Fry in 1937. His belief that architecture could improve the lives of ordinary people was exemplified in his design of Kensal House – in the creche, canteen, workshops and community rooms he put at the centre of the estate. Mouldy, flooded and boarded-up when we found them, these rooms became our home, and we raise funds to renovate and re-invigorate them with every show we create there. Over the past 7 years we have cleaned, cleared and repainted the whole complex, replaced the floor, installed heating and curtains, and set up a fully-equipped lighting and tech rig with state-of-the-art operating equipment. We now have an office onsite, an Outreach Director and a large pool of professional associate artists, and we curate the space as a ‘Community Hub’ for residents. The ongoing revival of the venue goes hand-in-hand with our blossoming artistic practice.
For more information on Maxwell Fry and Kensal House, please click here: