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Katie Mahon

Setting out with a mission to increase access to opportunity in the arts among working class communities, Katie Mahon founded Bradford-based Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company in 2014.

Katie grew up on the Thorpe Edge council estate in Bradford. She suffered with anxiety from a young age and realised that theatre enabled her to become somebody else on stage.

It was her own experience of facing barriers to higher education that inspired Katie in her work, with the aim of tackling the stigma of being working class within the arts community so that people like her could enjoy the benefits of the arts without feeling excluded or judged.

Now in its 9th year, Bloomin’ Buds runs the Rockwell Community Centre as an arts and cultural hub and provides a wide range of support to the local community, including food parcels, debt management and housing support, as well as events, plays and poetry nights.

Katie works tirelessly to tackle the stigma of being working class within the arts community and the organisation employs 12 people from working class backgrounds with a team of around 10 volunteers, offering intern and academic placements for disadvantaged young people within a professional theatre environment. Known locally for their intergenerational work, the team regularly creates short performances which see children from the drama club and elderly members of the singing group performing side by side.

Actress Jane Danson from Coronation Street presenting Katie Mahon with her National Lottery Award
Actress Jane Danson from Coronation Street presenting Katie Mahon with her National Lottery Award

The company’s latest production, Where is Love, tells the coming-of-age story of a Bradford woman and her brave fight against the cycles of domestic abuse. It was premiered at Bradford Literature Festival in June and was staged at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, along with two other productions from the company. Last year, the team took a programme of working class shows to the world-famous festival.

With artistic director Katie leading the way, Bloomin’ Buds packed weekly schedule is geared towards positive community impact and support. The team runs a mums and baby group, as well as a male mental health project, which it works on in collaboration with charity Mantality.

The team also runs a project offering affordable costume hire which allows other community organisations to hire a package of costumes and props to help them put on performances more easily. Covering themes from ‘50s’ and ‘Christmas Gear’ to ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Little Shop of Horrors’, the aim is to open doors for even more grassroots groups and the young people they work with to access the arts and experience its many benefits.

Around 200 people from the community attend arts and culture events with Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company on a weekly basis.

Katie Mahon holding her National Lottery Awards trophy
Katie Mahon holding her National Lottery Awards trophy

“I just can’t believe it. It feels incredible to be recognised for all of the amazing work that the Bloomin’ Buds team does within the community. Our mission is to make the arts more accessible for working class people, and we just couldn’t do it without the support we receive from The National Lottery."

"Winning this award will help us to create even more opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to break down barriers so that the arts can be enjoyed by all.”

Photography credit to Nick Calini Photography and Videography

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