Within the last few years, social, cultural and political divisions across our continent are growing constantly.  It is obvious in all fields of society and is happening in most of the European countries. More and more under-represented social groups such as deprived, ethnic minorities or disabled people are excluded and left behind. If this movement takes control of the younger generations as well, the future of Europe as a united continent is seriously in danger.

We, theatres, festivals and universities from 10 countries, all working in the field of Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA), view this situation with great concern. We asked ourselves what we can do to make our vision of a united society at least within our auditoriums to become reality.

With ConnectUp we will set in place an international cultural initiative for the target group 12+ in order to counteract the process of increasing social and cultural division across Europe. Under the guidance of professional artists, young people of all social classes, cultural backgrounds and abilities will meet, work and share experiences in various theatre processes. Their minds will be encouraged to remain open to other people, cultures and life experiences. The common experience of theatre won’t solve all problems, but there has to be a beginning!

To make our vision become reality we have agreed on four project objectives:


We want to diversify our audience and to include young people from the margin of the societies (cultural & social inclusion). At the end of the four-year period, we want to have them permanently bound to our organisations as part of a new mixed audience on an equal level.


To achieve this, we need to develop a varied artistic offer for the new assembled audience: We will work on new theatre productions based on newly developed plays in close cooperation with the audience (research).


To bind the new audience groups long term, they need to be actively involved in our processes. Therefore, our audience development strategy consists of three parts (mediation, involvement, outreach) and requires the active and reciprocal participation of the young people.


In the dual education “Theatre Mediation” we will train more than 50 theatre / festival employees and teachers from key schools to become Theatre Mediators in two 18-month runs. These study programme will be open for Non-Europeans as well.


The Lives of Others

Following Nelson Mandela’s quote ConnectUp aim to reach the cross section to the society at least within their auditoriums by bringing together existing middle-class audiences with audiences from the margin of the society.

The theme “The Lives of the Others” is ConnectUp’s leitmotiv and runs like a red thread through the project. It describes the curiosity, the tolerance and the respect we want to develop in our work and in the exchange with the young people. It is a thematic inspiration for theatre makers and an invitation to our audience to actively participate in theatre processes as content providers, co-creators and influencers of meaning-making processes.

To achieve our aim of cultural inclusion it is essential to provide opportunities for the target group 12+ to actively engage with different nationalities, cultures and social groups, to discover the reality of “other lives” and to remain open to other people and life experiences. The partners of ConnectUp believe that this is the only way the young people can perceive and understand the benefits and the positive potential of living and working in partnership and in shared responsibility within a global society.

Audience Development

By analysing the current composition of our auditoriums, we have to admit that we are attracting mainly young people from the middle class; audiences from the margin of the society are mostly left outside (cultural exclusion).

Therefore, in ConnectUp, we aim to shift pure Audience Development from economic objectives towards the goal of social & cultural inclusion (“access & diversity”). The traditional “mainstream approach” is to be extended by an approach following our missionary. This approach is focused on attracting non-theatre-goers (non-visitors), especially within groups that are on the margins of society (e.g. physically and mentally disadvantaged, ethnic minorities, migrants, refugees, unemployed & deprived families or excluded by living in rural areas). Successful Audience Development consists of both the approach on our mission to reach a new audience and the mainstream approach, to maintain the relationship with the existing audience. A socially and culturally mixed and engaged audience justifies the financial support given to the companies in times when cultural subsidies are diminishing all over Europe (everyone must benefit on an equal level).

We diversify our audience and open it to young people in the margins of our societies.

Professional Productions

Following the audience analysis, each ConnectUp partner has selected current non-visitor-groups who will be at the centre of their efforts over the next four years. To reach its vision ConnectUp will take the close cooperation of Theatre for Young Audience with schools into account: Schools represent a cross-section of the respective societies. They bring young people together from the widest range of social, cultural and ability backgrounds. Working with schools Theatre for Young Audience has the unique opportunity to access young people from the cross-section of the societies in a direct way.

To engage young people from different social, cultural and ability backgrounds we need to initiate a change in our artistic offers (productions and participation opportunities). We have to attract the new groups with offers, which tell „their” stories in exciting ways and are relevant in content and aesthetics (e.g. language barriers for migrants or refugees can be reduced if non-verbal dance elements are involved in a performance).With new productions we take up the red thread of the project, “The Life of the Others”. The productions must build bridges between the existing and the new audience.

That’s why the partners in ConnectUp are diverse and have different specializations. Each theatre has an expertise either in an artistic or Audience Development field. As an international “union of diversity” we plan to connect our experiences and to cooperate at the European level. All ConnectUp productions will be presented in the repertoires of our partners and at international festival showcases throughout Europe.

We expand our aesthetic-artistic portfolio to permanently integrate new target groups.

Co-Creations with and by Young People

To REACH new audience groups is only half way towards an Audience Development strategy. In the long term, the strategy can only be successful if we actively INVOLVE the young people in our work (active spectatorship). We need to make theatre not just FOR young people, but theatre that interacts WITH them and offers them an (artistic) home. In doing so, we always have to consider two aspects: the new target audience and the existing one. Thus, the audience engagement work with both groups together is an essential contribution to the audience harmonization.

The involvement of young people as co-creators in our artistic portfolio will be new for us and can only be realized with the expertise of Theatre Mediation.

Involvement becomes the core of our work with and for the young audience.

Study Programme: Theatre Mediation

Training and Education for Artists and Decision Makers (teachers)

Audience Development in Theatre for Young Audience (TYA) has to meet special requirements: It is not enough to be attractive to young people because decision makers are mainly adults; tickets for groups are purchased by teachers. Nowhere else are the target group / consumers (young people) and decision makers / buyers (teacher + parents) so different from each other than in cultural offers for young people. TYA always has to balance between these two divergent poles and also connect with the interests of their artists.

It is Theatre Mediation (comparable with terms such as theatre education / pedagogy / engagement) which can effectively moderate and connect the three involved parties (artists – teachers – young people) and unite them as equal partners in theatre processes.

Since there is no Theatre Mediation training in most of our countries and in those, where it is existing, there is no specialization on addressing hard-to-reach groups, we make professionalization the keyword and the leading guideline of ConnectUp.

We will offer a comprehensive professionalization programme for artists and teachers as part of our Audience Development strategy.

It includes formal (certified university training) and informal (peer-group-learning) professional training. The special role of the newly trained Theatre Mediators lies in addressing new audience groups from the margin of society (hard-to-reach) and merging them with the existing ones in artistic processes. This won’t be an easy process and we are aware to provoke a kind of culture clash. It will need a professional mediation to achieve our goal of a mixed and interactive audience.