WHEN Theatr Clwyd appointed Gwennan Mair Jones as their first director of Creative Engagement in 2017, she had no illusions about the challenges ahead.

Gwennan moved to Mold from Cwmni'r Frân Wen, a theatre company on Angelsey that creates exciting, challenging and inspiring theatre for young people.

But with Theatr Clwyd's Creative Engagement team working with more than 45,000 young people and 120 schools every year, upholding the theatre's high standards while promoting the transformational power of the performing arts would be no easy task.

"The role is all about making theatre accessible to our community and find new and creative ways of engaging with people who might not see theatre as being for them," explains Gwennan, 26. "We find that quite often, creativity has not been a part of people's lives before and we try and introduce it in a really safe and fun way to all ages. It's there for anyone who wants to give it a go!"

Throughout the summer holidays. Gwennan leads the theatre's Summer School programme with courses on theatre making, dance and creative play on offer for children and teenagers aged from six to 17 years. More recently the Theatr Clwyd Schools Festival Finale saw local schools work with the venue for 12 weeks to create a piece of dance theatre.

"We've really grown as a department since I joined and now have eight core team members working in the creative department, along with around 20 freelancers who work with us weekly and there's now about 200 young people who come into the building weekly," she continues. "We also work with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board on the 'Arts from the Armchair' programme, which helps people with early onset memory loss and we have just set up a pilot project with MIND and Flintshire County Council helping people with mental health problems. I really believe theatre can be something that can spark something new or help someone build their confidence, make friends and learn a new skill."

Gwennan points out that with Theatr Clwyd's reputation as being one of the foremost producing theatres in Wales, the opportunities open to people are not just about acting and performing.

"There is so much going on," she says. "It's not just about the 'jazz hands' but also about the making side of things. Whether it's costumes or wigs or set design, we can encourage people to get involved."

According to new research, almost a quarter of young adults never go to the theatre, preferring to stay at home to watch TV or use social media. A 2018 study of 2,000 18 to 30-year-olds found that 24% of respondents said they never attend theatre performances, with this figure higher among men than women. And 20% of respondents said they go once a year, with 27% attending two to three times a year. Of those surveyed, 51% said they most enjoyed watching TV in their spare time, compared to 11% who chose going to the theatre. More respondents chose using social media (36%) over a trip to a theatre production and of those who never went to the theatre as children, 65% have never gone as adults.

"It's really difficult in education at the moment," admits Gwennan, who studied at Sir Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. "Schools and teachers struggle with time, money and resources and they are under a lot of stress. There's a place for us, a big venue, to have that responsibility and go out into the community and schools and we want to create long-term relationships with schools.

"It's incredible to work with an artistic director like Tamara Harvey and an executive director like Liam Evans Ford because they truly put worth in the community work that we do and it doesn't feel like an afterthought, like it can do in other theatres. The three of us think collectively about how we programme all our community work to really match our professional work."

This October sees Theatr Clwyd stage its first major community production, Mold Riots. A community cast of 100 will take over the streets of Mold and retell the story of the riots that took place in1869. 2019 marks the 150th anniversary, which saw tension between English and Welsh miners erupt in a series of disturbances which left four people dead.

"There's actually 106 in the community cast," laughs Gwennan. "We've also established all sorts of groups behind the scenes, including knitting, costume making and theatre making which is full of directors and writers. They will all help us make a fully immersive, sight specific production in the centre of Mold, which is so exciting for us because taking the theatre off the hill and into the town is really important."

Add in a family arts weekend and four weeks of summer schools which are directed by Gwennan and there is no let up at a time when most people are looking forward to a break.

"My vision with our summer schools is that we've shifted a bit, especially with our older group," she says. "We will create a show in two weeks which I will be directing and I have no idea what it's going to be yet! My way of creating shows is to give the power to the participants rather than me telling them what to do. I want to look at what is important for young people and what themes would they choose. We will take over a couple of spaces in the theatre and see what happens!

"There's something so important about introducing creativity at a young age, especially if they are not getting it at home or school and what's interesting about the theatre during the summer is that we take a bit of a breather from producing, so the kids can take over the space. If we want to do a masterclass on the main stage, we can, so it's a really beautiful time for them to be here."

Unsurprisingly Gwennan is a bundle of energy as she talks about her role and the benefits she hopes it bring to the surrounding community.

"It is a pleasure being part of this building," she adds. "I get to try new things and sometimes they don't work, but it's all about helping to grow the reputation of the theatre in the community."

For more information on Theatr Clwyd's Summer School programme go to