imagine if theatre was founded in 2015 to instigate real change in people’s lives through theatre. It is run by founding Artistic Director, Francesca Joy and is based in Armley, Leeds. Our work aims to actively improve disadvantaged people’s lives through theatre and we work predominantly with prisoners and people with convictions who have a range of disadvantages including: mental health issues, homelessness, victims of abuse, low literacy levels, unemployment and low socio-economic backgrounds.
imagine if has a strong track record of working in prisons nationally and with prison leavers in the community, with a geographical focus spanning across Yorkshire. Over the last 5 years, we have worked in 26 prisons across the UK and USA, engaged with over 4,000 prisoners and continue to support prisoners when they are released into the community, for as long as individuals require support.
“It was the only thing that was inspiring in prison. Because of Bird on the Wing, I got a job within four weeks of getting out and I have remained in work since” Bird on the Wing Graduate, 2018
We have demonstrated that theatre is a powerful tool that can be used to reach out and connect with people from all areas of society. We create thought provoking theatre about real and challenging societal issues, focusing predominantly on the causes and consequences of social and economic disadvantage, covering topics such as domestic abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues. The theatre we create is based on the world around us comprising real stories from real people. We aim to create work that is inspiring, entertaining, thought provoking and unashamedly honest for intimate audiences. All our productions are rooted in truth and we have toured to over 20 theatres across the UK including a month long run at The Pleasance at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We have performed to over 3,000 audience members receiving critical acclaim in the press and have also been supported by Sir Ian McKellen.
“The scripting is as sharp as the performances. Francesca Joy has an obvious talent for creating poignancy from the ordinary. The abuse cycle is real and we’ve seen it portrayed in soap opera abuse storylines. Yet the physicality of the performances and the nuance in the writing make it all feel heartbreakingly new.” West End Wilma on imagine if’s production, You Forgot the Mince, 2017
We have also worked internationally, most recently working in prisons in America with several companies, including with Tim Robbins and his company ‘The Actor’s Gang’ in Los Angeles. We have also worked in India in slums, orphanages and with Bangalore-based theatre company ‘Yours Truly’.
We aim to be truthful in our artistic processes and productions, as authenticity is ingrained in our work. We also engage with those who have direct, personal experience of social problems in Britain through our theatre productions and prison interventions. Consequently, we place those without a voice at the forefront of each imagine if production.
We show excellence in the way we engage with artists, audiences and participants, making an active difference to their lives through theatre. We do this through supporting those most excluded from society and delivering art to make a long-lasting positive impact.