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Former Melksham resident awarded BEM for services to theatre and young people

FORMER Melksham student, Chris Elwell, who is the director and CEO of Half Moon Theatre in London, has been recognised with a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for services to theatre and young people.

Chris, who was educated at George Ward in Melksham from 1976 to 1982, is a director, writer, trainer and theatre producer, specialising in professional theatre for young audiences.

He joined Half Moon in 1997 and it is now the UK’s leading small-scale young people’s venue and touring company, committed to supporting artists and young people at every stage of their creative development.

He has directed over 30 pieces of work for family, teenage and community audiences and is also the curator of Exchange for Change, a development programme that challenges perceptions of theatre for young audiences.

Reintroduced in 2012 to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the British Empire Medal is awarded to people who have made a significant difference for their ‘hands-on’ service to the local community.

Chris said, “It is humbling and totally unexpected to have been nominated, and subsequently awarded, this magnificent honour in the Queen’s Birthday List. It is an award for the entire Half Moon community, past and present, and it is a privilege to have worked with so many talented people over the years.

“By accepting this award I honour the young people, parents, carers, core and freelance staff, artists, theatre makers, trustees and other members of the wider community who make Half Moon such an inclusive and progressive organisation. Thank you.”

Julian Sutton, the chair of Half Moon said, “Chris is a tireless champion of young people’s arts. He is a representative voice for an audience which has no voice on a national platform. Few theatre directors work so hard on behalf of their audience to ensure that they are recognised and heard. We all want to make an impact with the art we produce, but Chris has done this not only on an artistic level, but also on a social level.  He has benefitted countless individuals, but more than that, quietly, diligently and steadfastly he has impacted the entire children’s theatre sector.”

He has a strong track record in the development of work with an emphasis upon social and disability inclusion.