A GRIMETHORPE man - whose work won a national theatre award - has benefited thanks a South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority-run scheme.

Gary Clarke, who has over 20 years’ experience as a freelance choreographer, used his home village’s past as the source of his inspiration for dance productions such as Coal and Wasteland, based on working class people in coalfield communities.

When Covid-19 hit, like the majority of artists Gary found his business in a vulnerable position due to the industry effectively being put on hold for almost two years as he was unable to work and put on any productions.

He was successful in securing a grant through Barnsley Council - designed to help artists to bounce back after Covid-19 - but has now secured SYMCA Skills Bank cash which aims to future-proof businesses in the arts sector with planning, finance, marketing and fundraising guidance.

Gary said: “My old business model was fragile as I was working on short term temporary productions with limited funding based on securing small grants.

“I had a lot of time to think during the Covid lockdowns.

“The Skills Bank training has grown my confidence and now I can talk about my business in a much more professional way, as I really understand it.

“My whole ethos is about putting working class culture on the stage and making the theatre a place that is accessible by people from all backgrounds and communities.

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“We are now a business with a long term future - we can take our Wasteland production on tour on a national basis next year and we are looking to create more jobs in the future.”