THE West End is coming to Batley – and you could have a starring role!
A special production of the hit musical Les Miserables will be performed at Blakeridge Mill this summer, as part of a celebration of the life of Jo Cox.
The performance of Cameron Mackintosh’s famous story will feature a cast and crew of local young talent and will commemorate the life of the former Batley and Spen MP.
The major project, which has the backing of MP Tracy Brabin and chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire Sir Gary Verity, is being spearheaded by award-winning West End director Nick Evans, who has worked on shows such as Billy Elliot, Mary Poppins and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Les Miserables was Mrs Cox’s favourite musical and the cast for the performances, due to take place in the second week of August, will be made up entirely of students and young people.
A new group, the Batley and Spen Youth Theatre Company, will give local youngsters the chance to work alongside some of the leading names in the industry.
Batley & Spen Youth Theatre will be working with local organisations to produce the schools edition of the show and is calling on young people in Kirklees to audition, with the first workshop events taking place next weekend.
There are roles for singers, actors and dancers, as well as plenty of off-stage opportunities including crew, designers, costume makers and stage managers.
Nick Evans said: “To make this amazing we are looking for brilliant youngsters.
“We are making an impassioned call on all young people between the ages of 13-19 to get involved and tell us what they have to offer.
“You might be happier sewing costumes than singing a solo. You might be happier selling programmes than standing on a barricade.
“Whatever you want to contribute, we need you to be involved.
“This is an event that will change Batley and Spen forever; and it might just change your life into the bargain.
“Les Miserables is a piece about change, passion and standing up for who you are, so it is no surprise it was the favourite show of Jo Cox.”
Ms Brabin said: “This is a phenomenal opportunity for Batley & Spen and I know our young people are going to grab it with both hands.
“It’s no secret that I’m incredibly passionate about the arts and the career opportunities they bring. Culture can be a powerful force for change.
“It doesn’t matter who you pray to, what clothes you choose to wear, the colour of your skin – when you’ve a play to get on, that’s all that matters.
“I hope participating in this will be an enriching and enlightening experience, a confidence booster and potentially, for some, the first step in a long and fulfilling career in the arts.
“I have complete faith in our local organisations and Nick’s professional team and I’m going to work hand in hand with them to enable the project to happen.”
Jo Cox’s family are also supporting the event.
Kim Leadbeater, Jo’s sister, said: “The performance of Les Mis at the heart of Jo’s constituency, using local school children, will be something of which she would have been very proud. It is very touching and well thought-out and our family would like to thank all involved.”
Anybody who is interested can attend an initial workshop weekend on March 11 and 12 at St Mary’s Social Club and Parochial Hall on Melton Street, Batley (10am-5pm).